Kim Ghattas

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

PATRON EVENT: Unraveling the Middle East: The 40-Year Rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran 

About the Topic

Three events in 1979 launched a rivalry between former allies Iran and Saudi Arabia: the Iranian Revolution and the taking of U.S. hostages, the siege of the Holy Mosque in Mecca by Saudi extremists, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan sparking the first jihad of modern times. “The bitter rivalry that emerged that same year…[was] born out of Khomeini’s desire to upstage the Saudis as leaders of the Muslim world,” explains Ghattas. As Tehran and Riyadh battle for control of the Islamic world, they have created a "black wave" of oppression and violence across the Middle East. Deadly extremes range from the Shia Revolutionary Guard and its proxies to the Sunnis of Al Qaeda and ISIS. "What has happened to us?" is the question Ghattas hears as she travels the region. Looking at how life has been blunted since 1979, young Saudis and Iranians are asking their parents, "Why didn't you do anything to stop it?" How are the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Iran responding to growing dissatisfaction? Are there signs of moderation? Is there any role for the U.S.?

About the Speaker

Kim Ghattas is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and writer who covered the Middle East for twenty years for the BBC and the Financial Times. She is currently a non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Born and raised in Lebanon, she has also reported on American politics and the U.S. State Department. Ghattas is the author of The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power (2013). Living between Washington and Beirut, she has been published in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and Foreign Policy. Her latest book is out the day she addresses OTR: Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Forty-Year Rivalry that Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East.