Saudi Arabia, Iran, and their Forty-Year Rivalry: Does a New Administration Make a Difference?

Watch Event Recording Here

Date : 11/4/2020

Speaker Name: Kim Ghattas

The day after the U.S. Presidential Election, the Fares Center hosted Ms. Kim Ghattas to comment on how the Middle East’s dynamics could shift under a Biden administration. As the results were yet to be finalized at the time of her talk Ms. Ghattas also touched on what four more years of Trump might mean for the region – and how the administration has shaped the dynamics of the Persian Gulf since 2016. 

Ms. Ghattas stated that dealing with the Saudi Arabia -Iran rivalry will be a first order of business for the Biden administration. While both Iran and Saudi Arabia may benefit from ending the long-standing feud, Biden has explicitly announced his goal of rejoining the JCPOA, as well as his intention to halt support of Saudi Arabia’s campaign against Yemen. She further pointed out that Saudi Arabia may indeed prefer another four years of Trump, as there is little desire in the Kingdom for Iran to become a stable, western ally in the region. Should this possibility occur, Saudi Arabia will lose it’s special status as America’s “best friend” in the Gulf. She underscored this point by elaborating that the Kingdom itself is technically “more of an ally than a partner” to the United States.

Ms. Ghattas also emphasized the fact that the Trump administration’s actions in the region will continue to plague President-elect Biden, especially as Trump has placed layers of sanctions on Iran and turned a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations. Biden will be forced to answer for the Kingdom’s transgressions – particularly regarding the jailing of female rights activists – while simultaneously accepting the fact that he cannot “move the embassy back from Jerusalem.”

After noting that Biden will not accept the human rights violations of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Sulman in the same way Trump has, Ms. Ghattas offered our audience a final analysis: Saudi Arabia has not been harsh on the West due to its wish to fall under the U.S. umbrella of an anti-Iran camp. It seems that Biden will not follow President Obama’s determination to rush out of the Middle East, and instead seeks to involve the U.S. in the Persion Gulf’s regional affairs – much to the chagrin of Saudi Arabia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.