Saudi Arabia and Iran: Beyond the Propaganda War
There is no question that there is a regional cold war heating up in the Middle East pitting Saudi Arabia against Iran. But the confrontation is only regional as far as Iran is concerned. Saudi Arabia is acting on behalf of the US and Israel, and not on its own behalf. Iran occupied UAE islands and yet the latter is less aggressive in its regional posture than Saudi Arabia. It is not the first time that the House of Saud has imposed its hegemony on behalf of the American patron: that was the Saudi role during the Cold War although Nasser (until 1967) frustrated these efforts.
Iran is largely on the defensive (after being on the offensive prior to the 1990s). The Iranian government now seems particularly and mysteriously keen on avoiding a confrontation with Saudi Arabia. Their media rarely responds to the feverish anti-Iranian, anti-Shiite rhetoric in the Saudi media. But Iran is very secretive (like its ally Hezbollah in Lebanon) in pursuit of its regional goals, and rarely articulates its regional vision. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is clumsy and crude and often expresses its goals in the hope of attracting American attention and approval (or Israeli attention and approval after Sep. 11).
Just as the House of Saud has thrown billions in a campaign to undermine communism and leftism in the Arab world during the Cold War, it has been throwing billions in its war on Shiites throughout the world. They figure that this will undermine Arab popular rejection and antipathy toward Israel. House of Saud, as Saudi columnist, Turki Sudayri, expressed it in Riyadh newspaper this week, wants Arabs to hate Iran and not Israel, or to hate Iran more than they hate Israel. Iran, on the other hand, is rather perplexed at the Saudi aggressive behavior. It acts surprised at every new pitch of escalation in the war between it and Saudi Arabia. And public Iranian statements are often bizarrely conciliatory, although Iranian underground actions may speak a different language.
The conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with the wave of calls for democratic reforms in the region. Neither of them is a democracy, and neither is an exemplary political model for Muslims. Iran has lost its ability to present an attractive political model: the repression of the Iranian political system has been institutionalized. And the Saudi government is judged, rightly, as one of the most oppressive governments on the face of the earth. Turkey has benefited from enjoying a political system that is seen as superior to the two rivals although its stance in the last few months has lost it supporters in the Arab world, particularly due to its weak position vis-à-vis Israeli crimes and the assault on the flotillas (the insistence on the apology is hardly a tough position).
But Iran’s foreign policy, for whatever reason, is closer to Arab political orientations than that of Saudi Arabia. The bizarre Iranian plot that is being alleged by the US government was a great gift to Saudi Arabia: suddenly, Saudi Arabia remembered that Iran had also tried to poison its ambassador in Cairo and that it had targeted a Saudi diplomat in Pakistan. But no one asked why Saudi Arabia did not reveal those plots prior to the announcement of the plot by the American-Iranian car salesman who was tasked by the Quds Force to single-handedly plan and execute the assassination of the Saudi ambassador and the bombing of the Israeli and Saudi embassies in Washington, DC. Saudi Arabia seems eager to take the escalation with Iran to a higher level, and Israel is cheering. Iran, on the other hand, acts innocent and puzzled, but it may be hiding an opposite agenda.
The US is not about to go to war with Iran, despite wishes to the contrary by Israel and Saudi Arabia. This is a propaganda war, through and through, but it may get out of hand and may spill into a real war. Those who are running Middle East policies at the Obama administration (just as in the Bush administration) are amateurs who owe their policy making positions to their Zionist fanaticism.