Kim Ghattas | February 17, 2021
On February 17, Professor Bruce Jentleson joined Kim Ghattas, former BBC reporter and current Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on a conversation about her new book Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East. Ghattas began the discussion by outlining the motivations for the book, namely countering misconceptions about the history of sectarian conflict, intolerance, and rivalry in the region. Her desire was to portray the region as diverse, complex, and more interesting than it is often understood. The discussion then turned to Saudi Arabia and Iran in particular. She explained the parallel struggles the countries were facing in the latter half of the 20th century, as they dealt with rapid modernization and traditional conservative values. This culminated for both states in 1979, with the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the Siege of Mecca; as a result, Iran became an Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia became more conservative and deferential to the clergy. The tensions between the two countries solidified.
The discussion then turned to other current issues in the region. Ghattas spoke about the Arab Spring, noting that it is a work in progress, but it should provide lessons to other countries such as the U.S. to think more broadly about policy and how to promote good governance. She also spoke about Lebanon and the issues that it faces, and suggested that the U.S. should look to Lebanon as a policy priority given its geopolitical position, relationship with Syria, and the existence of Hezbollah. She finished the discussion with the assertion that stability at the expense of justice and accountability is unwise policy, and without accountability democratic norms will erode. Accountability is needed for both Saudi Arabia and Iran, and engagement with either country should not come at the expense of accountability and justice. During the Q&A, she addressed questions relating to roles of Tunisia and Morocco, the Abraham Accords, how foreign involvement has interacted with the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and Iran’s nuclear program and expansionist goals in the region.
Event summary coming soon.