Saudi Arab

Tracking Regional Crisis Roots Meets bin Salman’s Power Aspirations

The puzzle of West Asia region’s developments which was opened by ascension to the throne of King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and rise to power of his son Mohammad bin Salman practically, is in its way of completion step by step, now facilitating a more accurate analysis of the root causes of crisis and dispute in the region.

The Saudi regime in January 2016 announced that it severed its diplomatic ties with Iran. Afterwards, in May 2017, Donald Trump picked Saudi Arabia as the destination of his first foreign trip as the president of the US. Then he visited the Israeli regime as the second stop of his three-day tour of the region.

A week before Trump’s trip to Riyadh and Tel Aviv, his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said that the American president’s visit intended to build an alliance between the Israeli regime and the Arab countries for the aim of confronting Iran. The visit saw debating the setting up of Arab version of NATO, with Tel Aviv also included.

Not long after Trump’s visit of Riyadh and Tel Aviv, Saudi Arabia and its Arab Persian Gulf Arab allies on June 5 made a snap decision, announcing cutting off diplomatic and economic ties with the neighboring Qatar, a punitive step consummated by unveiling an air, sea, and land blockade on Doha. The Saudi-led bloc’s ensuing move was a list of 13 demands presented to Doha, asking the Qatari leaders to comply and allow for resumption of ties or reject and face continued embargo. Saudi Arabia accused the Arab emirate of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in the region.

Moreover, the Saudi Minister of State for Arab Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan in early October posted an anti-Hezbollah attack on his Twitter, welcoming the freshly-imposed American sanctions against the Lebanese group and adding that the only way for confronting Hezbollah was to form an international coalition. His post labeled Hezbollah a “terrorist militia.” Al-Sabhan’s comments were followed by similar attacks on Lebanon’s resistant group by various Saudi officials including the Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and the young Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

But perhaps the most surprising regional development was marked by the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri who last week declared his resignation from Riyadh all of a sudden and without earlier signals for intentions to do so. His resignation note was inundated with charges against Iran and Hezbollah, something causing the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to rush to welcome the accusations. Netanyahu read the Hariri’s quitting his post as a wake-up call to counter the Islamic Republic of Iran.

After Hariri’s resignation, the Saudis recalled President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority to Riyadh. Abbas visit of the absolutely-ruled kingdom, coinciding with chaotic days Saudi Arabia is witnessing after group arrests of major princes and businessmen, tells of the Saudi interest in the Palestinian Authority which unlike other Palestinian groups, especially Hamas, is following compromising policy in dealing with such cases as the Israeli occupation and especially Tel Aviv plan for annexation of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) to its territories.

Even a cursory glance at these back-to-back developments can lay bare the reality of existence of an unannounced and highly behind-the-scene alliance encompassing Saudi Arabia, the US-led West, and the Israeli regime for the final intention of taking on the Iran-led Axis of Resistance. Meanwhile, the Palestinian cause and the type of relations between the regional states and the Israeli regime form the basis for dispute with the Resistance camp. By inflaming the tensions with Iran, Qatar, and Hezbollah, the Saudis exhibit an effort to support the Palestinian Authority against the resistant Hamas, to pave the way for Arab states’ collective normalization with and recognition of Tel Aviv. In fact, the kingdom since 2015, the year bin Salman rose to power along with his father, has been pursuing an approach of breaking up with the traditions at home and around the Arab world in a bid to recognize the Israeli regime as a state within the Palestinian territories.

A lot of reports emerged to talk about unofficial meeting gathering together the Saudi security officials and their Israeli counterparts. In July, Emanuel Nashon, the spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, said that the former Saudi general Anwar Eshki met with Dore Gold, a senior official of the Israeli foreign ministry, in Al-Quds. Additionally, the Jerusalem Post newspaper told of a meeting gathering together the visiting Saudi general and Israeli General Yoav Mordechai, who serves as the coordinator of the operations in West Bank and Gaza.

Moreover, short after announcing appointment of Mohammad bin Salman as the country’s crown prince, Ayoob Kara, the Israeli communications minister, in his Facebook page said that the appointment will strengthen the Israeli-Saudi ties, and positively influence the trade and economy. The Israeli official further posted that with the American president’s supervision, the new appointment will be source of “blessing for the region, including Israel.” All these media reports and developments indicate that Riyadh, especially with bin Salman’s power gain, has sped up its efforts to normalize ties with the Israelis.

Why is bin Salman seeking closeness to Tel Aviv?

Riyadh’s bin Salman-led attempts for closeness to Tel Aviv is coming while the Arab monarchy is experiencing highly unprecedented developments these days. As many think, the crown prince’s reform campaign on the social stage, including granting women some of their rights, on the one hand and the detention of dozens of princes in a purging attempt on the other hand all reflect the young prince’s struggle to solidify his power at home. His crackdown, the analysts argue, could even prompt more home tumult and even a coup against him.

Amid internal discontentment as well as intra-royalty rifts, which means impairment of the prince’s domestic position, it looks very natural that he seeks boosting his power among Western patrons. This aim, of course, makes him spare no efforts, even if they include breaking the Arab world’s taboo of recognizing Israel as a state.

Aside from the two Arab states of Egypt and Jordan, in the Arab world talk of normalizing the ties with Tel Aviv, even after seven decades of Palestine occupation, remains a dangerous taboo with far sight of being broken. The Arab world’s public opinion is still reluctant to buy the idea of coming to terms with the Israelis’ seven-decade occupation of the Palestinian lands. Fear of public outrage still pushes the conservative Arab governments, especially those of the Persian Gulf region, to very cautiously approach the issue.

Despite that conservatism in dealing with this taboo, son of the Saudi king since his power gain has taken a different path, unofficially– though sometimes even openly– launching efforts to facilitate recognition of Tel Aviv by the Arab world’s governments. This is to prove to his Western allies in the US and Europe that only he can champion the now seventy-year Israeli struggle to gain regional recognition and turn the case into a normal issue.

So, despite the ongoing tense and worrisome atmosphere at home mainly caused by the sweep of the princes and top business people, bin Salman is confident that even with risks of future actions by some domestic sides against him in sight his Western supporters will back him owning to his tendency to Tel Aviv. For him, recognition of the Israeli regime wins him a guarantee card from the West through which he does whatever he sees necessary to tighten his grip on power at home.


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