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A different viewpoint on Saudi Arabia

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

There are those who believe and say that Saudi Arabia is now regionally at its worst. This is of course one point of view, but I have another one through which I see a broader image, not just through Syria’s al-Qalamoun battle or Iran’s negotiation maneuvers with the Americans. I believe that the outcome of the past three years was greater than what Saudis hoped for. We are talking about today as it is; God knows what the future might bring because we are living in a quicksand area.

Four years ago, the regional situation was so bad to the extent that Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey decided to form a political and economic front, and their practical goal was to besiege the Saudi-Egyptian axis. The regime of Bashar al-Assad, in alliance with the Iranian regime, was in a state of undeclared war against Saudi Arabia in Lebanon, Palestine and Bahrain. This war was waged in 2005 with the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Years after confronting the hostile Iranian and Syrian activities, things reached a bad point that even Saad, Hariri's son, was obliged to visit Damascus and was forced to apologize to his father's killer, Bashar al-Assad. Despite this concession, the prime ministry was handed over to Assad’s ally although Hariri’s bloc had won in the parliamentary elections.

On the other end of the map, there was Qaddafi, Libya’s ruler who plotted to assassinate the Saudi king, and kept on funding Yemeni groups that opened a conflict front on the southern borders of Saudi Arabia; Qaddafi generously paid Saudi Arabia’s enemies. Qatar was also supporting the Syrian regime, Hezbollah, and all those who were against its older sister, Saudi Arabia.

Today, the picture has changed as Iran reached the extent of abandoning its nuclear weapons and accepting to negotiate with the Americans after sanctions on its oil exports and trade. Hashemi Rafsanjani described Iran’s desperate situation, saying: “Iran has reached the limits of surrender or defeat.”

Take a look at Hezbollah, which was an invincible party and a hero that no one dared to criticize; the photos of its secretary general Hassan Nasrallah were in grocery stores and taxi cabs not only in Shiite countries but in Sunni ones as well.

A regional enemy

Today, the party has become the most hated enemy of the majority of Arabs after supporting Assad and the involvement of its militia in the bloodbath against the Syrian people. As for the Syrian regime, the crimes of which the international community was unable to stop, it has practically collapsed. Maybe there won’t be better alternatives for Qaddafi and Assad but they have become the most notorious and hostile regimes. With the weakness of Iran, Assad and Hezbollah, their allies - like the movements of Hamas and Islamic Jihad – were weakened as well.

Can we then say that the winds of change brought to the Saudi ship what it hoped for? The answer is yes.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Toppling Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen was comforting news for Saudi Arabia. He was not an enemy but a thorn in Saudi Arabia’s backside. He kept on making enemies and supporting all those who disagreed with Riyadh, like Saddam in Iraq, Qaddafi, Doha, and Tehran. Despite the U.S. threats, he was on al-Qaeda’s side against Saudi Arabia.

The map was not always green during the three years of the Arab region’s seismic activity: Mubarak’s Egypt, Saudi Arabia's most important ally, has quickly melted like ice. During the Tahrir Square protests, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) got on the wild horse even though they were late to join the party. The time of miracles had not ended yet as the Brotherhood were suddenly toppled because of their foolish mismanagement of a large country like Egypt: the people were enraged at the MB as they expected a lot more from them, and thus the army seized power. The fall of the Brotherhood is a gift from heaven that Riyadh had not even dreamt of!

Can we then say that the winds of change brought to the Saudi ship what it hoped for? The answer is yes. Even Bahrain which almost fell out from Riyadh was quickly saved. The Brotherhood-Salafist Movements have also failed in Kuwait. Saudi Arabia’s ally Morocco survived and the kingdom of Jordan escaped unrest.

To recap, the map is as follows: Assad and Qaddafi –Saudi Arabia’s worst regimes– have fallen; Egypt was saved from the Brotherhood’s rule; Hezbollah went from widespread Arab world popularity to a popularity limited to the southern suburbs of Beirut; Saleh is no longer in power in Yemen; Tehran kneeled before the Americans asking for reconciliation. Of course, this is just one chapter of a new history book that is still being written.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Dec. 21, 2013.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.