Know Your Enemy — Iranian and Saudi Perspectives on ISIL

Event Report | April 27, 2016

In fall 2015, the EWI center in Brussels, in collaboration with the Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient (CARPO), initiated cooperation to develop a format for confidential dialogues between Iran and Saudi Arabia. With the rise of ISIL in the Middle East, there is a rising urgency to set up Track 2 channels to foster and facilitate dialogue and find common ground between these two key players in the region. A brief by Adnan Tabatabai and Kawa Hassan, EWI's MENA program director, describes the conversation and highlights points that could be grounds for possible partnership.

Executive summary of the brief:

To successfully contain and defeat ISIL, the deeply fractured and war-torn Middle East needs to be stabilized. This strategic goal cannot be achieved without functional relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Against the backdrop of recent escalating tensions between the two countries, a newly developed emphasis on shared interests and common challenges between Tehran and Riyadh is more crucial than ever. To this end, CARPO and the East West Institute (EWI) brought together experts from both countries in the fall of 2015 to exchange respective views on the regional threat posed by ISIL. Both sides agreed that a comprehensive strategy against this terrorist group needs a focus on root causes and must entail: (1) addressing socio-political grievances that create conducive environments for the flourishing of violent extremism, (2) undermining the ideological oxygen that feeds terrorism, (3) targeting internal and external financial resources, and (4) dismantling the bureaucratic, infrastructural and -8state' capacities of ISIL. While fostering regional cooperation, Western states need to adopt a balanced approach that abstains from playing out regional actors against each other. The regional responsibilities of Iran and Saudi Arabia must be addressed and shared interests emphasized, in order to pave the way for an effective and long-term campaign against ISIL, led by the two regional powers.

The entire report can be downloaded here.


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