Temporal Observatory – Iran & Saudi Arabia

Our Foresights and Insights

Iran and Saudi Arabia

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Through a strategic foresight and warning analysis of the relationships between Iran and Saudi Arabia we aim at improving how to handle time (anticipation of onset of events and their duration) in SF&W and risk management.

Our focus question is: “Within which timeframe could we see full cooperation or, on the contrary, war occur between Saudi Arabia and Iran?”

At the latest 2 June 2016 OPEC summit, Saudi Arabia and Iran failed to reach an agreement on oil production level (e.g. Terry Macalister, The Guardian, 2 June 2016). Different needs as well as tensions between the two countries are at stake. Yet, a few analysts have also underscored a slight improvement in the relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran (Liam Halligan,  “Opec is very much alive as Saudis learn to tread softly“, 4 June 2016).  What should we thus expect? Should we trust that a warming of the relationships is indeed underway, or should we expect a potential stiffening of positions considering the current offensive led by Shia governments in Syria and Iraq (e.g. Alex MacDonald, “Sunni fighters say militias, not army, should liberate Fallujah … Continue reading Tempobs – Balance of Power Formation for Iran and Saudi Arabia

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Early 2016 has witnessed a succession of dramatic developments that have inflamed the already contentious Iran-Saudi relationship, bringing it to the forefront of global governmental and media attention. These have included: Riyadh’s decision to break diplomatic relations with Tehran at the beginning of the year, the accelerated decline of the price of oil deeply affecting both countries’ economies, the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal leading to Iran’s reinsertion into the global economic system, and a reversal of fortune in the Syrian civil war with Iranian and Russian-supported regime forces scoring major advances against the Saudi-backed opposition. We shall survey these developments (deferring, however, discussion of the fast changing situation in Syria to a later post) with the aim of … Continue reading Tempobs – Things Come Together: Saudi Arabia and Iran

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As the tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia has recently risen to new heights (e.g. Paul Iddon, “Was Saudi Arabia’s execution of Sheikh Nimr calculated or reckless?“, Rudaw, 8 Jan 2016; Jon Schwarz, “One Map That Explains the Dangerous Saudi-Iranian Conflict“, The Intercept, 6 Jan 2016), and has regional if not global repercussions, the focus question of our project, i.e. “Within which timeframe could we see full cooperation or, on the contrary, war occur between Saudi Arabia and Iran?” is even more relevant. Warren, with the previous article, started addressing the “stances” of Iran and Saudi Arabia towards each other. Here we shall continue mapping out the two possible future outcomes and the two countries’ relations, i.e. war at one end of the spectrum and cooperation at the … Continue reading Tempobs – Iran, Saudi Arabia and the “Shadow of the Future”

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Let’s get started on mapping the Iran-Saudi relationship. To recapitulate our method, we shall build upon the intuitive model introduced in the previous two posts (“Mindfully Mapping a Middle Eastern Morass – Saudi Arabia and Iran” & “Mapping an Interactive Network for Iran and Saudi Arabia Relations“) that conceptualizes the two countries’ behaviors as outcomes of the interplay of various influencing forces (e.g. political, economic, security-focused) at the domestic, bilateral, regional, and international levels. Drawing upon analytic commentary and event reporting in the news and academic media, we will identify the most significant forces relevant to our focal question—movement toward war or cooperation—and the direction in which these forces are driving behavior. The map will serve as a framework for … Continue reading Tempobs – State(s) of Mutual Hostility: Saudi Arabia and Iran

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This post is the fourth of our temporal observatory project (Tempobs) and related series focused on the future of the relationships between Saudi Arabia and Iran and aiming at improving the handling of time-related issues in strategic foresight and warning, risk, or more broadly anticipatory analysis. It answers and builds upon Dr Warren Fishbein’s (hereinafter Warren) previous article (Mindfully Mapping a Middle Eastern Morass – Saudi Arabia and Iran), as we designed the series as a dialogue where we progressively build the understanding related to the foresight issue by mapping the corresponding conceptual network, continuously scan the relevant literature and news, which will allow us, finally, to assess the future, to use Warren’s apt presentation of the work involved. Here we shall present the new tool (best on desktops … Continue reading Tempobs – Mapping an Interactive Network for Iran and Saudi Arabia Relations

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To summarize Helene’s introductory post, this project aims to develop a time-sensitive approach to strategic anticipation and warning, using the evolving relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia as its substantive framework. But how does one undertake strategic anticipation within the context of the complex, chaotic, fast changing politics of the contemporary Middle East? Just over the past few months, we have witnessed an extraordinary series of surprises in or strongly affecting the region, such as the plummeting price of oil, the Saudi intervention in Yemen, the deployment of Russian forces in Syria, and, most recently, the emergence of fears of widespread sectarian warfare. Referring to the last development, but offering a judgment of more general applicability, the Middle East politics … Continue reading Tempobs – Mindfully Mapping a Middle Eastern Morass – Saudi Arabia and Iran

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Considering the beginning of Russian airstrikes in Syria, and, notably, the increased risk to see it perceived as fanning an already difficult situation in terms of sectarian, Shi’a versus Sunni, tension (Helene Lavoix, “Russia at War with the Islamic State in Syria – Perceptions of Strikes“, RTAS,  12 Oct 2015), understanding and foreseeing the relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia has become crucially important. Indeed, it could very well be that, fundamentally, without appeasing completely this sectarian tension it will be impossible to end the war spreading in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. It is within this framework that is now located our new project to enhance strategic foresight and warning, risk, or more broadly anticipatory analysis’ handling of time-related issues. As explained previously, we … Continue reading Tempobs – Saudi Arabia and Iran, towards War or Cooperation?

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How can we protect ourselves from risks is one of the key questions that so many actors, from citizens and the corporate world to governments are asking themselves and trying to answer. It is the main question with which the World Economic Forum (Davos) opens its video launching the Global Risk Report 2015. As a whole and generally, our abilities – if not willingness – to identify threats, and the assessment of their likelihood and impact improve. Nonetheless, one component of threat and risk assessment remains unconsidered, unnoticed, and neglected: time. Time, the crucial orphan dimension In the collective imaginary, space – as well as the search for specific individuals – attracts much more attention than time. How many films, of anticipation or not, depict … Continue reading Enhancing Strategic Foresight and Risk Management with the Temporal Dimension

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