Saudi Arabia has recently taken provocative measures to take on its main regional rival, I.e. Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Oil-Rich kingdom has blockaded Qatar that has friendly ties with Iran; forced Sudan to sever diplomatic relations with the Islamic republic; pressured Pakistan to join the Saudi-led anti-Qatari blockade campaign by threatening to expel the Pakistani construction workers if Islamabad rejects its demand; headed to Baghdad to put strains on Tehran and its regional friends by offering help to the Iraqi officials to rebuild the recently-liberated Mosul in return for their siding with Riyadh in the Persian Gulf diplomatic row; and very recently, the west-backed regime has urged Kuwait to close the Iranian cultural centers in the small Arab emirate and cutting number of Iran embassy’s diplomats; all indicating that Saudi Arabia takes cue from its Western allies in use of the “carrot and stick” policy to materialize its regional goals, that is restricting the Islamic Republics influence across the region.
Now that the traditional Arab powers like Egypt, Syria, and Iraq are in their nadir due to their domestic crises, Saudi Arabia is desperately striving to take their place and thus fill the vacuum of the Arab world leadership on the strength of its petrodollars, and of course the support offered to it by the US. In this course, the authoritarian kingdom utilizes threaten-and-encourage approach towards the West Asian and North African states to get them on board to serve its agenda of aspiring for superiority.
In the way of using the carrot and stick policy, however, Riyadh faces three categories of countries:
First, small countries with weak and stumbling economies. Djibouti, Maldives, and Comoros are top in the list. These countries eagerly follow and support Saudi policies in return for financial backing. With their trivial political weight, these countries are simply supernumeraries in the Saudi-led regional alliances and their leaders’ stances reflect a dictated agenda imposed on them by Saudi Arabia.
Second, countries that rely on their population and their size, and even history, for their political weight among others, but are far from relying on their ailing economies to stand on their feet and so steer clear of receiving foreign aids. Countries like Pakistan, Sudan, and even Egypt fall in this category. They have joined the Saudi-led military coalition’s campaign against the neighboring Yemen apparently in return for considerable help packages amid crises their troubled economies grappling with.
The second-category countries are distinct from the first category’s in that they sometimes refuse to side with the Saudi Arabian policies due to considerations pertaining to relations with other regional countries or even pressures from their public opinion. In this case, they usually rile the Saudi leaders who resort to threatening policy to draw their favor. Pakistan is a good example. Islamabad refused to join the bloc of countries that imposed a siege on Qatar. The subsequent Riyadh reaction reflected itself in threats to expel the huge number of the Pakistani workers in the Saudi construction sector.
Third, countries that stand on the top lines of Saudi foreign policy supporters. They have no economic problems, but their small size and population make them target of the Saudi pressures, as the carrot policy is impractical with them. Riyadh does not remove from the table of options choices such as sanctioning them or even threatening them with military actions. Qatar is strikingly a top example in this category. Spat with Saudi Arabia over Doha’s regional policies made Qatar subject to an all-out sea, ground, and air blockade. The tensions escalated as media leaked Saudi leaders’ intention to use force or orchestrate a coup to topple the defiant Qatari leaders.
But the Saudi carrot and stick policy does not look like a perfect alliance-making instrument in the long run. Such a policy can simply be nullified if the “stick states” find a strong backer or if the “carrot states” get more temping incentives.