The Dynamics of Future Saudi Arabian-Iranian Relations in Context

All is not well in Arabia and the Gulf. The further unraveling of security and stability in Iraq has exemplified this and more to the increasingly beleaguered government of Iraqi Arab Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad, the country’s capital. The accelerated breakdown of law and order in the land between the rivers has also rattled the governments and political dynamics of Iran, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Yemen, and the six member-countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. 

Among these countries, Saudi Arabia and Iran are of out-sized importance. Greater information, insight, and knowledge about how these two competitors for regional prominence perceive, interact with, and analyze and assess the likely intentions of the other – not just regarding Iraq but also Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon – is essential to understanding key trends and indications in Arabia and the Gulf at the present time and where the region is likely to be headed in the days to come. 

It is in this context that the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations is privileged to present the essay that follows by National Council Distinguished International Affairs Fellow Dr. Imad Kamel Harb. Dr. Harb recently returned to Washington, DC after spending the previous seven years working as a researcher and analyst in the GCC region. 

Dr. Harb previously worked to help rehabilitate the Iraqi higher education sector as a Senior Program Officer for Education at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). There he authored a USIP Special Report on “Higher Education and the Future of Iraq,” published in 2008. 

Since earning his PhD from the University of Utah, Dr. Harb has been an Adjunct Professor at San Francisco State University, the University of Utah, Georgetown University, George Washington University, the University of Maryland, and the Middle East Institute. 

Dr. John Duke Anthony


By Dr. Imad Kamel Harb

June 12, 2014

Download As PDF

Recent diplomatic overtures emanating from Saudi Arabia about possibilities for a thawing of relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran are unlikely to produce their desired results. Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal’s recent invitation to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to visit the kingdom was tepidly received at the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

A potential visit by the former Iranian President, and former Chairman of the Assembly of Experts, Ayatullah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, itself originating from an invitation by the new Saudi Ambassador to Tehran, Abdul-Rahman bin Ghorman, still awaits the approval of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatullah Ali Khamenei.

Myriad contentious issues from Bahrain to Yemen to Iraq, and from Lebanon to Syria have had the two countries’ leaderships at loggerheads and made anentente improbable. Indeed, Iranian-Arab acrimony promises to be the state of affairs for the foreseeable future, negatively affecting regional peace and inter-communal relations between the Gulf’s Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

Continue reading »

Bloomsburg University MAL Students Visit Lebanon, Saudi Arabia

Read about two students from Bloomsburg University (Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania) who parlayed their experiences in the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ Model Arab League Student Leadership Development Program into Council study abroad visits to Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.


Click to access 2014-05-01-Model-Path-to-the-Middle-East.pdf

Malone Fellow Linda Pappas Funsch on Lebanon

Professor Linda Pappas Funsch (far right) and a student delegation from the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations visits the remains of the great forest of cedars of Lebanon, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

From June 21-July 3, 2012, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, in partnership with the Lebanon Renaissance Foundation, organized and escorted ten students on a study visit to Lebanon. The delegation was led by National Council Malone Fellow and Model Arab League advisor Professor Linda Pappas Funsch, who lived in Beirut for three years in the 1970s while working for the Ford Foundation. Professor Funsch contributed several stories about this summer’s visit to the Frederick News-Post, which can be access through the link below.

Linda Pappas Funsch, “Lebanon,” The Frederick News-Post, 2012.

Professor Funsch previously contributed a series of stories to the Frederick News-Post on Oman drawn from her experiences participating in the National Council Malone Fellowship Oman Cultural Immersion Program.

Linda Pappas Funsch, “Oman Rediscovered,” The Frederick News-Post, 2006.

NCUSAR Student Study Visit to Lebanon, Summer 2012

From June 21-July 3, 2012, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, in partnership with the Lebanon Renaissance Foundation, organized and escorted ten students on a study visit to Lebanon. The delegation was made up primarily of alumni from the Council’s Model Arab League Student Leadership Development Program. Through the study visit the students gained direct personal experience in Lebanese culture, society, and economics, and came away with a more deeply informed knowledge of Lebanon’s strategic aims and requirements as they pertain to Lebanese-U.S. relations and Lebanon’s role in regional and world affairs.

Student Study Visit to Lebanon, July 2012