Middle Eastern regional rivalries

The complexity of Middle Eastern politics plays into terrorists’ hands. Detente between Iran and Saudi Arabia is required before Gulf States are likely to share western priorities in Syria

The World Today Updated 11 December 2020 Published 11 December 2015 4 minute READ

Jane Kinninmont

Policy and Impact Director, European Leadership Network

It seems that every country in the world – including all the powers in the Middle East region itself – agrees that Islamic State is to be condemned, and yet its few tens of thousands of fighters have been able to take over half of Syria and large parts of Iraq. So why has the anti-Islamic State coalition not yet been able to root the group out?

One of the reasons is that the countries involved are divided among themselves over their broader strategic aims for Syria and the region. Opposing Islamic State is the lowest common denominator among them. To work together more effectively, they need to reach a broader consensus on the political outcomes not just for Syria, but for the wider region, including at least a basic détente between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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