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Operation Decisive Storm and the P5+1

What worries me as a Saudi citizen is Iranian expansion, which threatens our local and regional security

Jamal Khashoggi

Published: Updated:

If I had been writing this article about the Iranian agreement with the P5+1 group and Operation Decisive Storm had not been launched, I would have written a frustrating article expressing a depressed Saudi opinion. It would perhaps have a submissive tone accepting a fait accompli, or anger at our weakness resulting from the confusion of priorities whereby instead of focusing on real threats, we got occupied with silly disputes.

However, I write this piece as I listen to Brigadier General Ahmad Asiri, the spokesman of the Saudi armed forces that are leading Operation Decisive Storm, whose aim is to restrain Iran in the region. “If there are Iranian or Hezbollah consultants with the Houthis, they’ll suffer the same fate” as the latter, Asiri said.

Iranian expansion threatens our local and regional security, changes our identity via power and intimidation, and conflicts with the region’s aspirations for peace, freedom, and the right to make choices

Jamal Khashoggi

As such, there is no place in Yemen for Iranian consultants or other militias affiliated with Iran that kill, intimidate and impose their religious visions on the Arab nation. Therefore, I am no longer particularly interested if the Americans, Europeans and Iran reach an agreement that grants the latter the right to resume its “peaceful” nuclear program, and totally or partially lifts sanctions.

What worries me as a Saudi citizen is Iranian expansion, which threatens our local and regional security, changes our identity via power and intimidation, and conflicts with the region’s aspirations for peace, freedom, and the right to make choices. Iran failed at all the principles that its Islamic revolution announced, such as standing up for the weak, Islamic unity and freedom.
In Syria, they have taken the side of a dictator. In Iraq, they are biased toward certain parties on a sectarian basis. In Yemen, they planned a coup that forcefully imposes one party on the entire Yemeni people.

What is painful is that for a whole decade, the Iranians seemed to be heading from one success to another. The world admires successful parties even if it does not like them. This is how the comments of some American political analysts seemed like as they called for turning a new page with Iran. It is a rising power that can be counted on in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and terrorism, and in restoring regional stability.

There are still Americans who view the region on the basis of two perspectives: oil and Israeli security. These two aspects are what activated negotiations with the Iranians in Geneva and then in Lausanne. They think lifting sanctions will turn Iran into an economic partner. American companies are excited as they read about economic opportunities post-sanctions.

As for Israel, the conditions that Washington will set on the Iranian nuclear program are enough to make it peaceful. The Israeli and American military option still stands if it is proven to them that Iran is resuming a secret plan to manufacture a nuclear bomb. Experts agree that Iran has enough knowledge and technology in this field.

The Americans thus ask the question of where will Arabs - including the people of the Gulf - go, as they have no other choice but to accept the fait accompli and continue exporting more oil and buying more arms!

Ignoring concerns

The Americans have ignored all reasons behind Saudi worries over Iranian expansion. They dealt with us on the logic of: “These are your old sectarian problems which you couldn’t resolve for 1,000 years, so don’t occupy us with them.” They did not seriously consider all the Iranian violations of international law and good neighborliness.

They did not care about Iranian infiltration of Iraqi security apparatuses, whereby the latter have become directly run by Tehran. They did not care about the entrance of thousands of Iranians, and of sectarian militias that Iran brought from everywhere to Syria to kill people who demand freedom and salvation from dictatorship.

The Americans did not act to prevent Hezbollah from sending its men and arms to Syria. Hezbollah cannot, under any legal definition, be a military power outside the authority of the Lebanese state. They did not stop a single Iranian plane carrying the most modern weapons to Syria, despite agreeing with the United Nations about the importance of an arms ban.

The same applies to Yemen, as Iranian ships transfer arms and jets fly to Sanaa to drop off consultants, trainers, and perhaps more Shiite extremists who mastered the art of sectarian murder in Iraq and Syria.

Washington knows that all this threatens the national security of its ally Saudi Arabia, but it simply settled for withdrawing its soldiers from Al-Anad base, which is close to Aden, after it seemed that the Houthis were about to seize it. The Americans simply walked away, surprising us with their indifference.

Intervention

Some two years ago, I was in Istanbul to participate in a World Economic Forum session on regional security threats. I said the United States was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands in Syria just as much as Russia and China, who have used their veto power in the U.N. Security Council to prevent intervention there.

I added that Washington prevents Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar from providing the Syrian opposition with advanced arms such as thermal rockets. Such weapons could have limited the capabilities of the Syrian air force, which has shelled civilians in liberated zones to punish them, for no military purpose whatsoever.

My statements seemed to annoy an American researcher who specializes in defense affairs and is supposedly a friend of Saudi Arabia. He said sharply: “You have F16 jets and your aerial weapons are much stronger than the Syrian air force, so why don’t you take the initiative?”

I sorely kept silent because I thought we could not take the initiative without international - particularly American - cover. Back then, I obtained information confirming American prevention of Saudi Arabia and Qatar from sending MANPAD thermal rockets to Syrian rebels, weapons that would have changed the balance of power and saved many lives.

It is clear that this incapability is news linked to the abysmal past, as Operation Decisive Storm has in just 10 days pushed the entire region to a different, more progressive future. Therefore, it is no longer important if a deal is signed with Iran. What matters is that Saudi Arabia restored control of itself and the region, and is heading toward two important plans.

The first is to completely pull the rug from under Iran in the Arab space. Second, a well-informed source confirmed to me that Riyadh’s policy regarding nuclear energy will be completely different after the West signs a deal with Iran, and that everything it will attain from superpowers – such as facilities, techniques, and the allowed amount of uranium enrichment and centrifuges – will be viewed by the kingdom as its right.

It is a balance of power that guarantees peace via the follies of an adventurer who wants to reformulate history and geography.

This article was first published in al-Hayat on April 7, 2015.
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Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels.

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