There is no mystery surrounding the identity of the missile that targeted Riyadh. Saudi Arabia announced it, the American army confirmed it and its shrapnel provides evidence. There is no room for debate or discrepancies. It is a Houthi-Iranian missile.
The Houthis were simply used as an excuse to launch it. Perhaps the incident itself reveals why Saudi Arabia had to wage the war in Yemen. It felt that the purpose of the Houthi coup was setting up an Iranian representative at the head of a missile arsenal, whose first and last target is threatening the security of the Kingdom.
The missile is a blatant message written in Persian. It confirms the transition from a strategy of containment and suspicious strikes to clear and open attack. It is an open violation to what can be called a red line. Saudi Arabia cannot be lenient with an attack that violates its national security, stability and image.
It is not unusual for the Iranian regime to cross red lines. It is in its nature to go against international laws on respecting the sovereignty and borders of other countries and refraining from meddling in their internal affairs. The policy of instability is based on undermining red lines and international laws.
Any quick revision of Iranian policies over the past four decades clearly reveals that the regime is addicted to violating red lines. It has claimed the right to violate this map or that against the will of local authorities. It gave itself the right to impose facts on the ground that force those authorities to accept the Iranian intervention or be made to live with it. The excuses are many, from leading the deterrence movement to defending a minority that resembles it.
The problem the people in the region have with Iran is that it is not an attractive example for others to emulate in economic or other successesGhassan Charbel
Violations against neighbors
No other country in the region has committed this extraordinary number of violations against the borders of others, of reversing the equations there and altering local identities as much as Iran. A regional country has never before pushed sectarian minorities that resemble it to go against their national fabric to follow Iran under various names.
This has gone beyond being a random violation to being an attempt to impose a new reality, topple the sanctity of international borders and eliminate a national army’s right to be the sole armed force in its country. Iran has granted its ally in a certain country the right to violate the decisions of its government and dictate its choices on internal and foreign policies.
The people of the region’s problem with Iran is that it is a revolution that refuses to transform into a normal country or fears this transformation. A normal country resides within its borders and keeps its armed forces within its territories. A normal country respects international resolutions, treaties and norms and addresses countries near and far in acceptable terms.
A normal country allows its citizen to ask its government what it has done towards development, providing job opportunities and improving living conditions. These are questions the Chinese president, for example, can clearly answer, while the Iranian one cannot.
The problem the people in the region have with Iran is that they want it to become a normal country, but it does not. The policy of “exporting the revolution” is its only constant agenda, despite some obligatory breaks and over and under the table negotiations. The policy is constant and unchanging, whether it is executed under the smiles of Mohammed Khatami or Hassan Rouhani or under the frown of Ahmadinejad.
The Iranian president, regardless of elections results that are carefully cooked in the regime kitchen according to the program’s constant needs, is in the end a senior employee in the Supreme Leader’s office. He is not the final policy-maker and he does not have the right to actually object against major decisions.
The problem the people in the region have with Iran is that it is not an attractive example for others to emulate in economic or other successes. Experience has shown that the current example cannot be replicated elsewhere, especially in ethnically diverse countries.
The best example of this is that the rise of Iranian power in this country or that led to the break up of maps, fragmentation of national unity and planting of factors for long-term conflicts that tear nations apart. Can we, for example, guarantee the unity of Iraq if Iran had the first and final say in Baghdad? The same question can be asked in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
Al Arabiya documentary on Qatar: Inciting Iran to invade Bahrain
It is clear that Iran is maintaining its policy of the “major coup” and seizing any opportunity to advance. It is clear that the comprehensive Iranian attack in the region escalated and accelerated after the fall of the wall that was the regime of Saddam Hussein.
There were several stops in this “major coup” project. On the eve of the US invasion of Iraq, an Iranian-Syrian meeting of senior officials in Tehran agreed to prevent the formation of a stable government in Baghdad amid the American presence. This did not prevent Ahmadinejad from becoming the first president from the region to visit Baghdad, its “Green Zone” and pass through American checkpoints.
After the assassination of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the two sides also agreed to prevent the formation of stable government in Lebanon after the Syrian troops were forced to withdraw from the country and this is indeed what happened.
The Oslo Accords
There is also a point that many people have forgotten. Iran played the major role in weakening the Oslo Accords and launching the series of suicide operations, fueling the second intifada in the Palestinian territories. The results were the violation of the Accords and confrontation with Yasser Arafat.
Confronted with the “major coup” project, Saudi Arabia appeared as a major obstacle due to its Arab, Islamic and international weight. This is why Saudi Arabia was a constant target in its project. When it failed to target the Kingdom through Bahrain, Iran shifted its attention to Yemen, presenting a missile arsenal to the Houthis.
It is likely that Iran is greatly concerned with the new Saudi image. The image of a determined state on the internal and external scenes. The image of close ties with the US and forging strategic economic partnerships with major countries.
The scene of Saudi Arabia that launched a vast internal program for economic and social transformation that has started to achieve “great strides”, as described by Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. This reality quickened the desire to target Saudi Arabia.
The missile opened a new chapter in Saudi-Iranian and Gulf-Iranian ties. Iran is committed to the policy of reshaping the region in order to occupy the top spot there, perhaps to become the major partner of the “Great Devil.” It is clear that the new Saudi Arabia chose a new approach to contain and deter the “major coup.”
The Houthi-Iranian missile left Saudi Arabia with no choice but to invest all of its capabilities and relations to thwart the “coup.” It is a battle for the future of the region and its equations.
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.
Ghassan Charbel is the Editor-in-Chief of London-based Al Sharq al-Awsat newspaper. Ghassan's Twitter handle is @GhasanCharbel.