By Vera Pollmann
Recently I finished the book “Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East” by Kim Ghattas. Here my book review and how I think it connects to the work of Perspectivity.
Ghattas skillfully navigates the complexities of this rivalry, tracing its origins back to the profound clash of ideologies that emerged with the Iranian revolution in 1979. This established a theocratic Shia Islamic Republic, and Saudi Arabia’s firmly entrenched Sunni monarchy. Both powers, driven by the desire to expand their influence across the Muslim world, perceived each other as direct threats to their respective ambitions. The result was a series of proxy conflicts, fueled by deep-seated sectarian tensions, which plunged neighbouring countries into perpetual chaos.
The author masterfully weaves historical accounts with poignant first hand testimonies, offering readers a visceral understanding of the human toll this rivalry has exacted. The book confronts us with the harrowing realities faced by ordinary individuals in the Middle East, as they endure the devastating consequences of the conflicts in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. The suffering, displacement, and loss experienced by countless people stand as a stark reminder of how geo-political struggles reverberate on a deeply personal level.
Ghattas encourages readers to embrace a broader perspective, one that acknowledges the intricate interconnectedness of the factors shaping the Middle East’s current state. She challenges reductionist views that fail to capture the depth of the region’s history and dynamics, calling for a more holistic approach to understanding the complex web of influences at play. In this regard, the book resonates with the ethos of Perspectivity, an organisation dedicated to promoting systems thinking and holistic methodologies to address multifaceted (global) challenges.
By emphasising the importance of examining multiple perspectives and taking into account the long-reaching consequences of geo-political decisions, “Black Wave” compels us to reassess our understanding of the Middle East’s intricate challenges. The book’s nuanced narrative reflects the tangled reality of the region, where countless narratives intersect, often hidden beneath the dominant geopolitical discourse.
Ghattas’ ability to balance in-depth analysis with compelling storytelling makes “Black Wave” a captivating read for both scholars and those seeking to comprehend the complexities of the Middle East. It is an invitation to approach the subject matter with empathy and open-mindedness, acknowledging the human toll and the need for sustainable, cooperative solutions.
Kim Ghattas’ illumination of the destructive impact of the Iran-Saudi Arabia rivalry, along with the external influences shaping the region, serves as a call to action for a more comprehensive and empathetic approach to tackling the challenges faced by the Middle East. In alignment with the values of Perspectivity, the book urges us to embrace complexity and interconnectedness.