Saudi Arabia and Iran: Friends or Foes?

Now available for purchase online from Amazon and from major retailers. Arabic edition now available at Dar AlSaqi; Persian edition now available at Zarir Publishing.

In a riveting narrative based on accounts of her interactions with Saudi and Iranian politicians and rich archival material, a leading scholar on the Middle East unravels the mysteries of a contentious relationship. This seasoned observer of political and diplomatic worlds shatters the myth of the inevitability of sectarian conflict and that the diplomacy between Saudi Arabia and Iran is exhausted. Instead, Banafsheh Keynoush argues that it has yet to be explored, by recasting the partnership from a US-centered point of view to one based on how Saudi Arabia and Iran see their roles. Who is to blame and how to fix it is part of this penetrating historic account which captivates readers through accurate, non-sensational, and objective analysis. Keynoush recounts it all: the fears, misunderstandings, prejudices, and ambitions that have hobbled efforts to build a lasting partnership, creating a work that is important to both the expert and the layperson.

Published by Palgrave Macmillan


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“As a striking number of nations remain mired in conflict disrupting the delicate balance of peace and stability, Banafsheh Keynoush's timely book Saudi Arabia and Iran: Friends or Foes? is an engaging approach to invigorating a fresh Sunni, Shia dialogue. I am thrilled to endorse this book which will allow the reader to move beyond political and theological differences among Shia and Sunni Muslims and embrace a common vision of hope and prosperity.”
- Daisy Khan, Founder and Executive Director, Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality

 “Banafsheh Keynoush is a child of the violent era that began with the Iranian revolution of 1978-79.  She witnessed the terrible outcome of Iran’s long war with Iraq, and she established her credentials at the United Nations as a simultaneous Persian English language translator in the last decade of the century when solutions to the violence in the Gulf region were regularly debated in the UN. This enabled her to meet high level Iranian and Saudi Arabian officials who were exploring peaceful relations during the turn of the twenty-first century… Upon the basis of this unique background she raised a question of great importance about the trend of current relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. She has an answer to her question. Readers will find it more than provocative. ”
- Andrew Hess, Professor of Diplomacy, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, USA

“From a Norwegian foreign affairs vantage point, where balancing a reputation as international peacemaker, giant oil producer, and close US ally is the main task, this book offers a refreshing view of the strategic importance of allowing Iran and Saudi Arabia to regain a balanced partnership in pursuit of security and lower ideological tensions. . . a carefully argued revelation.”
- Tone Bleie, Professor, University of Tromsø, Norway, and Director of the International Research Group on Reintegration of Ex-Combatants (IRGR)

“Dr. Keynoush's book makes a timely intervention towards understanding the delicately poised Saudi-Iranian relationship. Extensively researched and historically nuanced in approach, it provides a much needed corrective to studies that view the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran through the sectarian prism in the main. By foregrounding the role of external actors like the United States in the region, and the shifting logic of power politics, the analysis effectively reframes a relationship that remains critical to the stability and security of the Persian Gulf region. A welcome addition to the literature on contemporary politics and international diplomacy, the book ought to be read by students and policy makers of the Middle East."
Ayesha Jalal, Mary Richardson Professor of History and Director, Center for South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies, Tufts University, USA, and author of The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics