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Why Riyadh Stages Rivalry with Tehran in Region, World?

While Saudi Arabia has already intensified its anti-Iranian moves, the Reuters has recently reported that Riyadh was developing its anti-Tehran strategy in a bid to bring together countries from out of West Asia region against the Islamic Republic.

The report added that Saudi Arabia, to confront Iran’s objectives out of the Arab world, was no longer in desperate need of assistance from its Western allies.

Elaborating on the case, the Reuters continued that since King Salman’s ascending to the throne in early 2015 and after conclusion of Iran’s nuclear negotiations with the P5+1 in a deal, Riyadh has set in motion its refreshed strategy to curb the Iranian influence in Africa, Asia and even in Latin America.

Some experts suggest that Saudi Arabia’s new strategy originates from a notion of King Salman and his politico-security team which suggests that Tehran’s influence saw an improvement because nobody stood in front of it.

According to the report, Saudi Arabia uses the Islamic networks and alliances to push the countries to cut off relations with the Islamic Republic. For example, Riyadh did not invite Iran to take part in its newly-founded Islamic Military Alliance.

“It doesn’t contain Iran and Iraq,” the report noted, talking about the fresh coalition.

The military coalition is set to establish its command center in Riyadh, and it is an entity to which the Islamic countries resort should the need arises to confront the threats and conflicts.

The Reuters suggested that the Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance has declined to make it clear that its major goal was to contain Iran’s power, however.

In addition to formation of the so-called military coalition, Riyadh seeks to convince India-a major trade partner to Iran- to help isolate Tehran. But so far it has received mixed results. To the disappointment of Saudi Arabia, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently visited Tehran, flying back to his country while signing a three-party deal- including Afghanistan- to connect the Indian Peninsula to the Central Asia through Iran’s Chabahar Port in east of the country.

Another example indicating that Saudi Arabia is willing to take on Iran is the joint summit of the Arab League and the Latin American countries, last year hosted by Riyadh.

Also, a policy of pressure and bribing was adopted by Riyadh to push the African countries to sever diplomatic ties with Tehran, all to show off its power in the black continent.

Some of African states like Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti and Comoros in recent months broke off diplomatic relations with Iran under strains from Saudi Arabia.

Forming the anti-terror Islamic Military Alliance in November last year, Riyadh sought to buy support of countries out of Middle East like Pakistan and Malaysia against Iran.

Last Saturday, Sayyed Hossein Mousavian, a former member of Iran’s nuclear negotiation team, in an article published by Huffington Post has cautioned against the nature and form of Arab countries’ ties with Iran, adding that the relations of (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council with Iran were seeing a dangerously hostile stage which could bear a full-scale confrontation.

To better understand Riyadh’s anti-Iranian strategy, we need to touch on three significant points:

Disappearance of Riyadh’s rivals in the Arab world

One of the most important reasons fueling the Saudi Arabian aggressive policies against Iran and generally in West Asia region is the opportunity that a weak, bankrupt and torn-apart Arab world, with countries involved in devastating wars and violence, has given to the Saudis. In fact, collapse of such powerful Arab leaders as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak on the one hand and weakness of a war and violence-torn Syria, which collectively were always hurdles ahead of the hostile policies of the conservative Saudi Arabia, on the other hand gave Riyadh a freedom of action to gain influence and forge submissive allies in the Arab world.

Actually, Riyadh seeks to present itself as economic, cultural, political and military power to the bankrupt and poor states, using enticement, suppression and bribery- a policy that although could grant Saudi Arabia such a chance but at the same time it could direct a wave of brewing crises towards the Arab kingdom, and so increase Riyadh’s costs.

Shift in the US’ West Asian strategy

It appears that there is an even more important reason behind Al Saud’s rush and fear: US retreat from West Asia and shifting its approach towards East Asia and the Pacific.

The concerns over this review of US policy have been expressed by the Saudi princes including Turki al-Faisal and Bandar bin Sultan in past two years. This worry derives from the fact that like in the past Washington is no longer sees itself tied to commitment to the security of the Persian Gulf Arab states, and so they must think about providing their own security without full reliance to the US.

This new US attitude for Saudi Arabia which for years has enjoyed security under the umbrella of the Washington’s protection could not be a good sign while the kingdom is being affected by the political and economic crises in the region.

This shift in US approach could be understood from the words of Bandar bin Sultan, the former chief of Saudi Arabian intelligence service, who said, in an interview with Fox News last year, that “America’s enemies should fear America, but America’s friends should fear America more,” quoting a phrase first made by Henry Kissinger, the US Secretary of State under President Richard Nixon.

Increase of Iran’s strategic power

Still another factor to drive Saudi Arabian anti-Iranian policy is Tehran’s growing strategic power in the Arab Middle East. Iran’s spiritual influence in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq is seeing an enhancement while the international conditions following the nuclear deal and lifting of the sanctions are more than ever prepared for Iran to develop its strength. The flood of business and political visits to Tehran made by the world’s officials, specifically the European, following the agreement is a factor sending the Saudi leaders in a rush and anxiety in their calculations.

One of reasons behind Riyadh’s skepticism about the US policy comes from, in fact, a question: why should the world sign a nuclear agreement to allow return of Tehran to the global economy while it was on the brink of a real economic fallout of the Western sanctions?

The kingdom is afraid that the deal, after elimination of the sanctions, could help Iran to expand its points of interests across the world, as it could pave the way for Iran to improve cooperation with the US in finding settlements for the regional issues.

It is under these circumstances that the Saudi foreign policy’s behavior is moving towards adoption of aggressive pathways. Al Saud thinks that this approach bears success for Riyadh.

Earlier, the adviser to Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi deputy crown prince and minister of defense, claimed that Iran’s expansionism was almost stopped- an issue which in such a situation, according to the analysts, is too early to decide on, and to suggest who is the winner and who is the loser.

On the other side, a group of analysts cast doubt upon the Saudi strategy, arguing that they doubt that this Saudi policy in the long run saves its influences because these Riyadh’s befriendings and alliances are merely based on tactical and economic relations, rather than being fastened up by a comprehensive strategy designed by the kingdom, especially that Iran’s relations with the West are witnessing a boom, and so, many Western countries are not interested to side with Riyadh in its anti-Iranian policy due to the economic advantages of holding relations with Tehran.


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