Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Research Student: Dr Simon Mabon

The impact of identity incongruence upon regional security

Photo of Dr Simon Mabon

My research examines the impact of an incongruence of identity upon regional security, with particular focus upon the bi-lateral relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia post the Iranian revolution of 1979.

Across the Middle East are myriad identities, existing at different levels of the international system, (state, sub-state, and trans-state), many of which are in direct competition with each other. The interaction of these identities can be seen in the Gulf region, where strong ethno-national and religious identities reside, often engaged in zero-sum competition with each other. Indeed, within both Iran and Saudi Arabia exists an incongruence between national, religious, and ethno-tribal identities. These identities threaten the ideological and territorial integrity of the regime, while also challenging the legitimacy of ruling elites. This thesis considers the impact of this identity incongruence upon the bi-lateral relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia post 1979, focussing upon competition within ideological and geopolitical spheres.

Given the threats to ideological and territorial integrity of the state, identity incongruence can be understood as an internal security dilemma. The thesis argues that these internal security dilemmas lead to an external security dilemma, referred to here as the Incongruence Dilemma. The Incongruence Dilemma builds upon a Classical Realist position, but by giving credence to internal dynamics it challenges several of the assumptions held by Realists. The move from internal security dilemmas to external security dilemmas occurs as ruling elites seek to remove the threat posed by internal security dilemmas by referring to rhetoric and narratives of a nationalist and religious nature. The history of the Persian Gulf contains a record of conquest by both Arab and Persian armies, along with a legacy of intra-Islamic competition, which engendered a shared normative environment. Thus, in attempting to resolve internal security dilemmas through the use of religious and nationalist rhetoric, the state becomes embroiled in an external security dilemma fuelled by ideology. As such, in order to fully understand the bi-lateral relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia, one must examine the internal dynamics of each state.

Aside from my PhD, my research interests include the following:

  • Middle Eastern politics, focussing specifically upon the Gulf region and Israel
  • The International Relations of the Middle East
  •  Irredentism
  • Violence and revolution
  • The politics of identity

I have taught on the following modules:

  • International Politics
  • Israel: Politics and Society
  • Terrorism
  • Dirty War
  • Globalisation
  • Freedom, Power, and Democracy

I am responsible for creating the Botany House research seminars occurring within the school, and am in part responsible for organising the Global Insecurities Ten Years On conference that occurred at the university in September.

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