Cold War in the Islamic World

Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Struggle for Supremacy

Dilip Hiro

The foundational schism between Sunni Arabia and Shia Persia manifests itself in geopolitics, as Kingdom and Islamic Republic compete.

Bibliographic Details
Cold War in the Islamic World Hardback
September 2018£25.00

Request Press Review Copy
Request Inspection Copy

For four decades Saudi Arabia and Iran have vied for influence in the Muslim world. At the heart of this ongoing Cold War between Riyadh and Tehran lie the Sunni–Shia divide, and the two countries’ intertwined histories. Saudis see this as a conflict between Sunni and Shia; Iran’s ruling clerics view it as one between their own Islamic Republic and an illegitimate monarchy.

This foundational schism has played out in a geopolitical competition for dominance in the region: Iran has expanded its influence in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, while Saudi Arabia’s hyperactive crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, has intervened in Yemen, isolated Qatar and destabilised Lebanon. 

Dilip Hiro examines the toxic rivalry between the two countries, tracing its roots and asking whether this Islamic Cold War is likely to end any time soon.


Dilip Hiro is the author of more than thirty books, including After Empire: The Birth of a Multipolar World; Inside Central Asia; and Apocalyptic Realm: Jihadists in South Asia.


‘The contemporary great game playing out bloodily between oil-fired theocracies in Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran is the subject of Dilip Hiro’s latest book. He tells the story with relish.’ — The Financial Times

‘Ambitious, impressive, original, and important. Hiro explains the roots of the current rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia in historical terms, examining how developments in the recent past have shaped their differences and similarities’ — Mehran Kamrava, Professor, Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, Qatar, and author of Inside the Arab State

‘An excellent book… extremely engaging. Hiro explores the various geopolitical aspects of the Saudi-Iranian rivalry since 1979, weaving startling and revealing anecdotes into the analysis.’ — Kristian Coates-Ulrichsen, Baker Institute for Public Policy, Rice University, and author of First World War in the Middle East