ANTONIO GRAMSCI by Antonio A. Santucci
THE WORLD WE WISH TO SEE: Revolutionary Objectives in the Twenty First Century by Samir Amin
WHEN MEDIA GOES TO WAR: Hegemonic Discourse, Public Opinion, and the Limits of Dissent by Anthony DiMaggio
FOOLS' CRUSADE: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions by Diana Johnstone
HUMANITARIAN IMPERIALISM: Using Human Rights to Sell War by Jean Bricmont
THE POLITICS OF GENOCIDE by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson
THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF GROWTH by Paul A. Baran
THE UNKNOWN CULTURAL REVOLUTION
Life and Change in a Chinese Village by Dongping Han
CHINA AND SOCIALISM: Market Reforms and Class Struggle
by Martin Hart-Landsberg and Paul Burkett
CHE GUEVARA: His Revolutionary Legacy by Olivier Besancenot and Michael Löwy
ING THE VENEZUELAN REVOLUTION: Hugo Chavez Talks to Marta Harnecker by Hugo Chavez and Marta Harnecker
The Race with Iran:
Saudi Arabia's Sectarian Card
by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett
Four months ago, we returned from a trip to the Middle East and wrote that "the main question engaging people with respect to the Arab Spring is no longer, 'who's next,' but rather how far will Saudi Arabia go in pushing a 'counter-revolutionary agenda' across the [region]." Since then, something of a discussion, if not a debate, has arisen among Middle East analysts as to whether Saudi Arabia is, in fact, pursing a counter-revolutionary strategy and what it is really up to in the region.
In this regard, Gregory Gause published an interesting article, "Is Saudi Arabia Really Counter-revolutionary?" on ForeignPolicy.com earlier this week. Greg's bottom line answer is that Saudi Arabia is not really counter-revolutionary; it is, rather, out to best Iran in an ongoing battle to shape the regional balance of power. Sometimes, this means that the Kingdom looks like it is acting in a counter-revolutionary way, as when it "sent troops to Bahrain to put down popular protests." But sometimes, in Greg's view, "counter-revolutionary" is not the right adjective to describe Saudi Arabia's foreign policy initiatives -- as with the Kingdom's recent recall of its ambassador in Syria and King Abdullah's public demand that Syrian President Bashar al Assad "stop the killing machine," thereby appearing to put Saudi Arabia on the side of Syrian protesters.
We might still argue that "counter-revolutionary" is an appropriate description for Saudi foreign policy in a number of contested regional venues, including not just Bahrain but also Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. But, leaving that quibble aside, we think that Greg makes some important points about the drivers of current Saudi diplomacy. What does this mean for U.S. policy toward the region? We were struck that our former colleague John Hannah, now at the neo-conservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, recently argued that,
Against this, Greg Gause offers what we think are some compelling cautionary observations.
On this basis, Greg argues that "Riyadh would be better served by encouraging a common Arab identity that overcomes sectarian differences and emphasizes the foreignness of Iran in the Arab world while marginalizing sectarian extremists like al Qaeda and its sympathizers." But this is part of the Saudis' problem, which leads them to take what we describe as a counter-revolutionary approach: when regional publics look at their situations in terms of a common identity, this does not re-enforce an Arab-Persian divide. Rather, it directs attention to the ways in which the United States, Israel, and others trample on regional interests and sensibilities -- something that plays powerfully to the Islamic Republic's advantage. The Saudis really have no other option but to play the sectarian card. We remain intensely skeptical that this will be a winning play, in the long run, for Saudi Arabia or for the United States.
Flynt Leverett directs the Iran Project at the New America Foundation, where he is also a Senior Research Fellow. Additionally, he teaches at Pennsylvania State University's School of International Affairs. Hillary Mann Leverett is CEO of Strategic Energy and Global Analysis (STRATEGA), a political risk consultancy. She is also Senior Lecturer and Senior Research Fellow at Yale University's Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. This article was first published in The Race for Iran on 12 August 2011 under a Creative Commons license.