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In recent years, the concept of a ‘Cold War’ has been revived to describe the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two most...

In recent years, the concept of a ‘Cold War’ has been revived to describe the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two most influential states occupying positions of geopolitical importance in the Persian Gulf, who lay claim to leadership over the Islamic world. In the years after the 1979 revolution in Iran, the two states became embroiled in a rivalry that risked consuming the region, dividing it along religious lines. Although latent for a good number of years, the rivalry has erupted in Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen, since the Second Gulf War, and with devastating consequences in the region as a whole. As a consequence of its escalation, a number of scholars have begun to explore this increasingly fractious rivalry. The latest piece of work has been undertaken by the prolific Indian émigré journalist Dilip Hiro, a long-time expert on Near and Middle East politics and the author of a large number of books and opinion pieces on the topic, among others. In Cold War in the Islamic World: Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Struggle for Supremacy (Oxford University Press, 2019), Hiro offers an analysis of the cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, exploring their interaction since the turn of the twentieth century. Spread across sixteen chapters. If one is looking for a well-written and convincing narrative of the rivalry, that demonstrates a solid awareness of history, then Hiro’s book is for you.


Charles Coutinho has a doctorate in history from New York University. Where he studied with Tony Judt, Stewart Stehlin and McGeorge Bundy. His Ph. D. dissertation was on Anglo-American relations in the run-up to the Suez Crisis of 1956. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written recently for the Journal of Intelligence History and Chatham House’s International Affairs. It you have a recent title to suggest for a podcast, please send an e-mail to Charlescoutinho@aol.com.