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World peace versus Saudi national security

Saudi Arabia’s responsibility is to protect its national security, given that a Russian-Iranian victory in Syria will have negative repercussions

Jamal Khashoggi

Published: Updated:

In the event of victory for Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen, Yemeni politicians - including the Houthis, should they wish - would return to dialogue to build a country that is not governed by a dictator or a single political or sectarian faction. However, a Russian-Iranian victory in Syria will maintain an oppressive sectarian regime that caused the ongoing revolution, and will threaten global security.

The situation is as dangerous as the Cuban missile crisis or the 1958 Middle East crisis, imperiling a region that is important for the global economy. So why can Washington not see that Russia’s thwarting of negotiations in Geneva, and the continuation of its fierce war in Syria, constitute a threat to world peace?

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry cannot be that naïve to believe he can convince the Syrian opposition to partner with President Bashar al-Assad to fight terrorism. What is wrong with the Americans? Why do they not listen to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir when he says his country will militarily support the opposition if negotiations fail?

Saudi Arabia’s responsibility is to protect its national security, given that a Russian-Iranian victory in Syria will have negative repercussions on Saudi internal affairs.

Jamal Khashoggi

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has made similar statements about his country’s support for the Syrian opposition, raising speculation in Turkish media about whether Ankara will be part of the Islamic military alliance announced by Riyadh last month. It is widely known that both countries reject a Russian-Iranian victory in Syria. The time has come for Washington to understand that the Saudis and Turks are not bluffing.

U.S. inaction

Americans would consider Turkish intervention in northern Syria, or Saudi shipment of surface-to-air missiles to the rebels, as a threat to world peace. This is how they should have viewed Russian and Iranian interference in Syria. Washington must take an immediate firm stance against this.

Saudi Arabia’s responsibility is to protect its national security, given that a Russian-Iranian victory in Syria will have negative repercussions on Saudi internal affairs. Luckily, Turkey - another major regional power - shares the same concern because a Russian-Iranian victory would lead to their permanent presence south of its borders, allowing for the expansion of a Kurdish state or zone of influence.

Why is this so unclear to Washington? Is it because of its withdrawal policy that President Barack Obama will be proud of when he writes his memoirs and describes how he protected his country from the sectarian wars of the Middle East? Riyadh must not take U.S. cooperation for granted. There are opponents waiting for any loophole to allow them to turn the table on us. Yemen and Syria represent the same battle, for us and them.

What is happening in Syria threatens world peace. It is leading to the rise of far-right parties in Europe. In Jordan, the refugee issue is no longer just humanitarian but also political, a source of concern to King Abdullah and his government. He used the term “boiling” to refer to the state of his country when dealing with the flood of refugees.

His government said the longer the conflict rages, the less likely it is that Syrian refugees will return home. It expects some of them to settle in Jordan, which suffers from a weak economy, while the rest will not leave for many years. Regardless of who wins the war, and even if it ends tomorrow, they have no place to go back to.

These painful details should be told to Washington, which must take part in and keep pace with Saudi political and military activity in the region. The United States is an important player because it can face Russia. We should remind the Americans that the Syrian crisis has crossed regional, European and Asian borders.

This article first appeared in Al Hayat on Feb 6, 2016.

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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. Twitter: @JKhashoggi

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