Remembering Kuwait after the fall of Yabrud

The fall of Syria's Yabrud to the army is a dangerous sign which Arab decision-making circles must address with concern

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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A Syrian fighter sadly admitted that the opposition lost the battle for the town of Yabrud after weeks of fighting. He said: “We couldn’t last longer than we did with the simple weapons we had as there were thousands of [well-armed] Assad and Hezbollah forces.”

Yabrud may not have been a decisive battle just like Qusayr was never a conclusive one. But Yabrud may be a dangerous indication of the direction in which the war is headed. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra have kept the Free Syrian Army busy by dragging it into marginal battles and diverting its attention away from fighting against the Syrian army. Meanwhile, Iran brought together its militias under one command retakng cities, one after the other.

It’s important that we put things in perspective. The fall of Yabrud is a dangerous sign which Arab decision-making circles must address with concern. The fall of Yabrud exemplifies Iran’s success in leading the war in Syria. Iran is not only sending weapons to the Syrian regime, but is also sending fighters recruited from countries such as Pakistan and Iraq. These fighters stand alongside thousands of Hezbollah fighters.

Not just another confrontation

We must not consider Syria’s war to be simply another confrontation in the region. It is a decisive regional war, and this is why the Iranians are dying to win it. If the Iranians win Syria, they will control almost all the Arab north – including Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. If this were to occur, it would be easy for Iran to strengthen complementary fronts in Yemen and Somalia. Also, Omar al-Bashir’s government in Sudan is continuously serving Iran’s military needs.

Despite the high price, no one doubts that helping the Syrian people out of this horrific massacre is a moral duty and necessary political work

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The repercussions of this Iranian victory may decide the region’s fate; therefore, we must be aware of those repercussions. International superpowers, mainly the U.S., usually recognize the fait accompli and comply with the country. When Iran controls a vast area of the Arab region and threatens passages used for the transport of energy commodities, the only choice these countries will have is to recognize Iran and deal with it at the expense of weaker countries. This is what U.S. President Obama expressed in his recent speech about Iran. He said it is a large country with aspirations and a strategic vision and added that he is willing to accept the fait accompli, or the new reality.

A similar challenge

Saudi Arabia confronted a similar challenge when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. Saddam Hussein’s aim was to impose Iraq as a dominating power in the Gulf. Do not think that convincing the Americans to participate in fighting against him was easy. Hussein resorted to Arab mediators in an attempt to convince the West that he was willing to protect its regional interests and that it must remember that he fought Iran on the West’s behalf.

Saudi Arabia, however, was quicker and more adept at reaching London and Washington and dedicated all its abilities to confronting the Iraqi threat and liberating Kuwait. In the end, the initiative cost Saudi Arabia more than $120 billion. The battle was, however, necessary and worth the political and military price paid because if Saddam stayed in Kuwait indefinitely - and this was a possible scenario - the Gulf would have been at his mercy. If Saudi Arabia fought against Saddam Hussein on its own, the war may have lasted for ten years, like what happened between Iraq and Iran in their eight-year-war.

Yes, Syria is a little further afield than Kuwait but it remains part of the regional struggle and it represents part of the aggressive axis which Iran is trying to build.

Despite the high price, no one doubts that helping the Syrian people out of this horrific massacre is a moral duty and necessary political work. Unfortunately, recent losses forewarn of the situation falling in favor of the Iranian axis. I know that Saudi Arabia is currently alone in providing more than 70 percent of the aid sent out to millions of Syrians, and I know the kingdom is arming and funding opposition forces to a higher degree. Saudi Arabia is also suffering due to the prohibitions on arming the opposition with advanced weapons; countries which buy these arms cannot sell them or hand them over to a third party unless the original source of these weapons approves. Despite these difficulties, the price of not confronting Iran’s alliance will be greater than losing Yabrud. The fate of the entire region is in danger. With Syria’s fall, the battle will be direct and more costly.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on March 17, 2014.


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.

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