The blockade, Islamism and intra-sectarian tensions: Explaining Saudi-Qatari tensions

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This article is featured in the ORIENT III 2021

The article argues that the Saudi-Qatari rivalry, culminating in the severed diplomatic ties in 2017 for three years, does not evolve or emerge out of Qatar’s support for Iran, but rather from competing visions of the role of Islam within the construction of a regional order in what we view as a form of intra-Sunni, or more specifically intra-Wahhabi, sectarianism. Indeed, as Saudi Arabia and Qatar sought to exert influence on regional politics, they enacted their contrasting positions over the role of (political) Islamism(s). The analysis traces differences in diverging paths of state formation and the role of religious scholars and the relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Simon Mabon is Chair in International Politics at Lancaster University where he directs SEPAD, funded by Carnegie Corporation and The Henry Luce Foundation. Mabon is the author of a number of books on the contemporary Middle East including: Houses built on sand: Sectarianism, revolution and violence in the Middle East (Manchester University Press, 2020); Saudi Arabia and Iran: Soft Power Rivalry in the Middle East (IB Tauris, 2013); and The Struggle for Supremacy: Saudi Arabia and Iran (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). He has published in a range of Middle East and International Relations journals including: Review of International Studies; Middle East Journal; Middle East Policy; British Journal of Middle East Studies; Politics, Religion and Ideology; and Third World Quarterly. He regularly consults with governmental agencies and for international news outlets including the BBC, CNN, CNBC, Sky, Al Jazeera, Al Arabiyya, France 24, Deutsche Welle, and others. He tweets @profmabon.

Mustafa Menshawy is a Post Doctoral Fellow at the Lancaster University’s SEPAD (Sectarianism, Proxies and De-Sectarianisation). His work focuses on Middle East Studies, politics of authoritarianism, and regime-society relations. He is the author of State, Memory, and Egypt’s Victory in the 1973 War: Ruling by Discourse (2017) and Leaving the Muslim Brotherhood: Self, Society and the State (2020). He wrote articles for Politics, Middle Eastern Studies and Religions. He worked for the University of Westminster and the London School of Economics. Menshawy worked as a BBC reporter before moving into academia.

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