Iran is against Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, along with the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain, are capable of confronting Iran if that’s what it takes

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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In this piece, I will try to focus on the impact of the Iranian-Western nuclear deal on two of the region’s polar opposites; Iran and Saudi Arabia. Before U.S. President Barack Obama launched negotiations with the Iranian regime, the relationship was easy to define. Saudi Arabia was in the same camp as the U.S. with regard to economic and political policies, however now, Obama’s administration does not only consider Iran as a partner in terms of the nuclear talks but also views it as a partner in its military operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and against the Afghan Taliban. The U.S. is actually no longer an enemy of Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime.

A top Iranian negotiator appeared on CNN to address the initial nuclear deal and explained the secret behind the move. He said the Americans discovered that Iran, after the long-term sanctions siege, is home to the most stable regime in the region and is the most powerful and influential. Of course, he who is familiar with Iran is aware that not everything he said is accurate. Iran, like Syria and like Iraq under Saddam Hussein, is based on a security-obsessed, ideologically-driven regime.

The regime of Saddam Hussein collapsed only one week after the American invasion began. Syria’s regime, infamous for its tight grip on security, was besieged by rebels who quickly lost their fear of the government. Rebels made headway, despite their lack of surface-to-air missiles or defensive weaponry, with their continued use of basic weaponry.

Therefore, Iran’s security-military power may be a reason for its collapse and could actually not amount to strengthening the regime. The Green Revolution consisted of tens of thousands of Iranian youths who took to the streets demanding the fall of the Ayatollah-led regime. Basij forces suppressed them and ended a popular revolution which opposed the religious Iranian regime – the first revolution since the collapse of the Shah’s regime.

There’s nothing that prevents the repeat of such a popular revolution, especially considering the regime’s current openness.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is also based on religious and political legitimacy, along with such identifying markers as tribes, religion and oil reserves. Like Arab Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia devotes a large chunk of its finances to economically satisfying its citizens, unlike Iran which spends most of its revenues on its military and security institutions, and of course, on its nuclear program.

Still, Saudi Arabia and Iran are similar in terms of sharing several characteristics. Karim Sadjadpour, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, says the Saudi-Iranian rivalry is sectarian (Sunni vs. Shiite), ethnic (Arab vs. Persian) and ideological (U.S.-allied vs. U.S. opposed). The part of his argument regarding Iran’s hostility toward the West no longer stands and after declaring the nuclear agreement, the Iranian regime will tell its citizens that its reconciliation with the U.S. was based upon Western surrender. The Iranian regime will therefore market itself as the sole victor in a long drawn-out battle. U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross thinks the deal isn’t a deal until it is signed and adds that there are many details regarding the negotiations – details that restrict the Iranians from reaching a deal.

However, if Iran does not commit to the nuclear agreement, it poses a problem for Israel. The Israelis are afraid that the religious fascist regime in Tehran may one day press the nuclear detonation button and kill three million Jews. Iran previously sacrificed two million Iranians in the war with Iraq during the 1980s, all in the name of God and Imam Hussain. Saddam, at the time, was willing to reconcile as a result of his weak military situation and Iran accepted because it failed to defeat him outright.

As for the Gulf countries - particularly Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain - they have been living under the threat of a possible Iranian attack for decades, even during the days of the Shah. Now, after the nuclear agreement, there’s no doubt that the threat has doubled. There is palpable anger toward the acquiescing Obama administration as Gulf countries feel that, despite the pledges they have upheld with the U.S., he sold out the region on the cheap and left them to confront their fate vis-à-vis Iran.

Saudi Arabia, along with the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain, are capable of confronting Iran if that’s what it takes

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

I have previously written about the Eisenhower Doctrine which was signed in 1957 and in which the U.S. pledged to defend Saudi Arabia in general. To comfort the Saudis, Obama announced he would reconfirm the pledge and vowed to defend the borders of Saudi Arabia. Of course, the word “border” was not defined and Obama needs to be clearer in order to put a stop to any Iranian desires, or indeed to the possible desires of Iranian proxies such as Shiite militias. Both could be seeking to attack Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the nuclear agreement.

As for Saudi Arabia, it’s a peaceful country with no aspiration to attack Iran. However, the opposite is true and if the Americans don’t frankly declare their commitment to defending Saudi Arabia from Iran and Iraq, then we will be faced with major regional chaos as a result of the nuclear deal. The Iranians push forward the idea that Obama is not interested in the security of the Gulf and of the U.S. allies in the region, and this Iranian rhetoric will lead to more regional wars.

Saudi Arabia, along with the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain, are capable of confronting Iran if that’s what it takes. However, such a war will costly in terms of the ensuing chaos and destruction. There is anger toward the Obama administration because it bases the dispute with Iran solely on the nuclear program when in fact Tehran’s regime is gearing itself up to make geographical gains. Iran’s wars have actually always been against Gulf countries and not against Israel. Iran currently seeks to impose itself as a regional power by neutralizing the West and this will not easily come to be for several reasons, including the sectarian dispute. Iran sees itself as leader of the Shiite sect, which is small in comparison to the Sunni sect. Therefore, the majority of Muslims will view the U.S. as an enemy due to its naive stance on the struggle among them.

Washington is not being asked to adopt a hostile stance against anyone but allowing Iran to be a nuclear country in ten years’ time or allowing it to be a regionally-dominating power will lead to a long regional struggle that will increase the price of oil and will prepare the ground for the growth of extremist groups.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 6, 2015.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former 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.
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