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In the 1960s, Malcolm Kerr described the polarization between radical and conservative regimes (let by Egypt's Nasser and the Saudis respectively) as 'The Arab Cold War'. Today, the region is in the grip of another Cold War, with temperatures rising steadily. In fact, multiple Cold Wars are flaring up. There is the Cold War between Iran and allies on the one side, and Saudi Arabia and its allies on the other. This one is a partial replay of the old Cold War, since Russia has taken Iran's side. But there is another Cold War, this time, between Saudi Arabia and its closest allies (UAE, Bahrain and Egypt) on the one side, and Qatar and Turkey on the other. The stakes here are the fruits of the Arab Spring, which the Saudi camp want extinguished for good, while the other camp is holding to its flickering flame. 

And of course there is the ever-present Israel, where new unexpected alignments are taking shape. And as befits proper Cold Wars, the US and the Western alliance are playing their part. How each of these wars end will determine the future of the region for decades to come.

In this seminar, we hope to shed light on the dynamics of these multiple conflicts, the motives of each camp, and speculate about the likely outcome(s).


Saeed Barzin, Iranian author and former BBC analyst
Huseyin Mercan, Istanbul University
Abdelwahab El-Affendi, University of Westminster