The endless war: Saudi Arabia goes on the offensive against Iran
By Felix Imonti
web posted September 3, 2012
Saudi Arabia has gone on the offensive against Iran to protect
its interests. Their involvement in Syria is the first battle in
what is going to be a long bloody conflict that will know no frontiers
Ongoing disorders in the island kingdom of Bahrain
since February of 2011 have set off alarm bells in Riyadh. The
Saudis are convinced that Iran is directing the protests and fear that
the problems will spill over the twenty-five kilometer long COSWAY
into oil rich Al-Qatif, where The bulk of the two million Shia in
the kingdom are concentrated. So far, the Saudis have not had to
deal with demonstrations a serious as those in Bahrain, but success in
the island kingdom could encourage the protestors to become more
Protecting the oil is the first concern of the
government. Oil is the sole source of the national wealth and it
is managed by the state owned Saudi Aramco Corporation. The
monopoly of political power by the members of the Saud family means that
all of the wealth of the kingdom is their personal property.
Saudi Arabia is a company country with the twenty-eight million citizens
the responsibility of the Saud Family rulers.
manner of dealing with a problem by the patriarchal regime is to bury it
in money. King Abdullah announced at the height of the Arab
Spring that he was increasing the national budget by $130 billion
to be spent over the coming five years. Government salaries and
the minimum wage were raised. New housing and other benefits are
to be provided. At the same time, he plans to expand the security
forces by sixty thousand men.
the Saudi king seeks to sooth the unrest among the general population
by adding more government benefits, he will not grant any concessions to
the eight percent of the population that is Shia. He takes seriously
the warning by King Abdullah of Jordan back in 2004 of the danger of a
Shia Crescent that would extend from the coast of Lebanon to
Afghanistan. Hezbollah in Lebanon, Assad in Syria, and the Shia
controlled government of Iraq form the links in the chain.
the Arab Spring reached Syria, the leaders in Riyadh were given the
weapon to break the chain. Appeals from tribal leaders under
attack in Syria to kinsmen in the Gulf States for assistance could not
be ignored. The various blinks between the Gulf States in several
Syrian tribes means that Saudi Arabia and its close ally Qatar have
connections that include at least three million people out of the Syrian
populations of twenty-three million. To show how deep the bonds
go, the leader of the Nijris Tribe in Syria is married to a woman from
the Saud Family.
is no wonder that Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said in
February that arming the Syrian rebels was an "excellent idea."
He was supported by Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani who
said, "We should do whatever necessary to help [the Syrian opposition],
including giving them weapons to defend themselves." The
intervention has the nature of a family and tribal issue that the
prominent Saudi cleric Aidh al-Qarni has turned into a Sunni-Shia War by
promoting Assad's death.
The Saudis and their Qatar and United
Arab Emirate allies have pledged one hundred million dollars to pay
wages to the fighters. Many of the officers of the Free Syrian
Army are from tribes connected to the Gulf. In effect, the payment
of wages is paying members of associated tribes.
United States is not a welcomed partner, except as a supplier of
arms. Saudi Arabia sees the role of the United States limited to
being a wall of steel to protect the oil wealth of the Kingdom and the
Gulf States from Iranian aggression. In February of 1945, President
Roosevelt at a meeting in Egypt with Abdel Aziz bin Saud, the founder of
modern Saudi Arabia, pledged to defend the kingdom in exchange for a
steady flow of oil.
Since those long ago days when the U.S. was
establishing Pax Americana, the Saudis have lost their trust in the
wisdom or the reliability of American policy makers. The Saudis
urged the U.S. not to invade Iraq in 2003 only to have them ignore Saudi
interests in maintaining an Iraqi buffer zone against Iran. The
Saudis had asked the U.S. not to leave a Shia dominated government in
Baghdad that would threaten the Northern frontier of the Kingdom, only
to have the last American soldiers depart in December 2011. With
revolution sweeping across the Middle East, Washington abandoned
President Mubarak of Egypt, Saudi Arabia's favorite non royal leader in
Worried by the possibility of Iranian sponsored
insurrections among Shia in the Gulf States, the Saudis are asserting
their power in the region while they have the advantage. For
thirty years, they have been engaged in a proxy war with the Islamic
Republic of Iran. Syria is to be the next battlefield, but here,
there is a critical difference from what were minor skirmishes in
Lebanon, Yemen, and elsewhere. The Saudis with the aid of Qatar,
and the UAE is striking at the core interests of Tehran; and they have
through their tribal networks the advantage over an isolated Islamic
Tribal and kinship relations are being augmented by the
infusion of the Salafi vision of Islam that is growing in the Gulf
States. Money from the Gulf States has gone into the development
of religious centers to spread the fundamentalist belief. A
critical part of the ideology is to be anti-Shia.
Saudi Arabia is promulgated by the Wahhabi School of Islam. The
Wahhabi movement began in the eighteenth century and promoted a return
to the fundamentalism of the early followers of the Faith.
Sauds incorporated the religious movement into their leadership of the
tribes. When the modern state of Saudi Arabia was formed, they
were granted control of the educational system and much else in the
society in exchange for the endorsement of the authoritarian rule.
the Kingdom used its growing wealth in the 1970s to extend its
interests far from the traditional territory in the battle against the
atheistic Soviet Union, the Wahhabi clergy became missionaries in
advancing their ideology through religious institutions to oppose the
Soviets. More than two hundred thousand jihadists were sent into
Afghanistan to fight the Soviet forces and succeeded in driving them
There is no longer a Soviet Union to confront. Today,
the enemy is the Islamic Republic of Iran with what is described by the
Wahhabis as a heretical form of Islam and its involvement in the Shia
communities across the region. For thirteen centuries, the Shia
have been kept under control. With the hand of Iran in the form of
the Qud Force reaching into restless communities that number as many as
one hundred and six million people in what is the heart of the Middle
East, the Saudis see a desperate need to crush the foe before it has the
means to pull down the privileged position of the Saud Family and the
families of the other Gulf State rulers.
war begins in Syria where we can expect that a successor government to
Assad will be declared soon in the Saudi controlled tribal areas even
before Assad is defeated. The territory is likely to adopt the
more fundamentalist principals of the Salafists as it serves as a
stepping stone to Iran Itself. It promises to be a bloody
protracted war that will recognize no frontier and will know no limits
by all of the participants.
This is Felix Imonti's first essay for Enter Stage Right. He can be reached at email@example.com. This essay was originally published on Oilprice.com.