Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia’

Time for UN to shift mission in Yemen

September 28, 2015

By Nicola Nasser*

Peace in Yemen will continue to be elusive unless the United Nations shifts its mission from sponsoring an inter-Yemeni dialogue to mediating ceasefire negotiations between the actual warring parties, namely Saudi Arabia & allies and the de facto representatives of Yemenis who are fighting to defend their country’s territorial integrity and independent free will, i.e. the Huthi – Saleh & allies.

Convening its 70th session while celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the United Nations is unlikely to reconsider its stand on Yemen, but it must do, at least to provide a face – saving exit strategy for Saudi Arabia if not to stop a snowballing severe humanitarian crisis in the country.

The United Nations Mauritanian special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed will sooner than later face the fate of his predecessor Jamal Benomar, who resigned his mission last March acknowledging its failure.

The Saudi insistence on dictating a fait accompli on Yemen is undermining the UN efforts to bring about a political solution, which was made impossible by the Saudi – led war on Yemen.

The legitimacy controversy

The UN sponsored Yemeni – Yemeni talks in the capital of the Sultanate of Oman, Muscat, and elsewhere will continue to be deadlocked. They are a non-starter. The Saudis have held their Yemeni allies captives of their dependence on Saudi financial, political and military support without which they could not survive internally.

The UN and Arab League recognition of them as the legitimate representatives of Yemen was counterproductive. They are viewed by most Yemenis more as Saudi puppets than legitimate delegates of their people.

Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is recognised by the UN and the Saudi – led coalition as the legitimate president of Yemen, arrived in Aden last week aboard a Saudi military aircraft and his safety was secured during his three – day stay there by military bodyguards from the United Arab Emirates. The arrival of his prime minister Khaled Bahah a week earlier was not different.

Conferring UN and Arab League legitimacy on them serves only to turn both organisations into biased parties to the conflict if not partners to it or at least accomplices and compromises their credentials as mediators.

The Huthis are portrayed by the Saudi – led propaganda as a sectarian fanatic and violent intruders into the Yemeni society or as agents of Iran who are waging a proxy war in Yemen, but the Huthis are not aliens. Their ancestors ruled Yemen for some one thousand years. They represent more than one third of the country’s population. Their role could have been strengthened by Iranian support and weakened by their religious speech, but nonetheless they are uncontroversial native integral component of Yemen’s national history and society.

Similarly, their ally in fighting off the Saudi – led war on Yemen, ex – president Ali Abdullah Saleh, is part and parcel of Yemeni political infrastructure. More than a three – decade ally of Saudi Arabia, when Saleh resisted a Saudi transition plan he hardly survived a bombing of his Friday prayers. Despite his individual ruling style and a wide spread corruption of his governance, he is credited with building a state infrastructure, a national army, a tolerable pluralistic political life and a relatively civil freedoms that were the envy of his Arab compatriots in the north who are still living under the Middle Ages systems of government and, more importantly, making the unity of Yemen a fact of life. When his representative credentials are questioned by his former Saudi allies it is noteworthy to remind them that his “al-Mutamar” party still controls the majority of the last democratically elected Yemeni parliament.

The “external” Iranian interference in Yemen and Iran’s sectarian support for “Shiite” Yemenis, in addition to a self – proclaimed role in defence of a controversial legitimacy of a Yemeni president, are the main raison d’être cited by Riyadh as the casus belli of the Saudi ongoing six – month old war on Yemen.

However history and realpolitik facts refute such Saudi claims and render them as merely thinly – veiled justification for installing a puppet regime in Sanaa by the brutal and inhumane force of an external invasion.

The current Saudi war on Yemen could be a “rite of passage” for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), particularly the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but not the Saudi Arabia as claimed by Rami G. Khouri (1).

Long history of Saudi military intervention

Long before there was an “Iran threat” or a “Shiite threat,” the Saudi ruling family never hesitated to interfere in Yemen militarily or otherwise whenever Yemenis showed signs of breaking away from Saudi hegemony towards a free will to determine their lives independently.

In the 1930s the Saudis engaged in a war on the Mutawakkilite Imamate of Yemen and succeeded in annexing the Yemeni provinces of Asir, Jizan and Najran to their kingdom, thus creating a border dispute that was not settled until 2000, but the current Saudi war on Yemen seems to reignite it.

Then, they occupied the Yemeni port of Hodeida on the Red Sea and attacked the Yemeni capital Sanaa. Yemen at the time was a similar conservative “kingdom” bound, like the Saudis, by treaties with the British colonial power.

From 1962 to 1970 the Saudis interfered militarily on the side of the “Shiite” Yemeni “royalists” whom they fought in the 1930s against republican revolutionaries who sought to usher Yemen into the twentieth century out of the Middle Ages. The Saudi military intervention led the Pan – Arab leader of Egypt Gamal Abd al-Nasir to rush to the rescue of the Yemeni republicans, thus regionalising a Yemeni internal affair into an Egyptian – Saudi war among the “Sunnis.”

History it seems is repeating itself nowadays, but the Saudis have so far failed to embroil Iran in Yemen as they did with Egypt then. Instead, the kingdom is itself plunging deeper into the Yemeni quicksand.

“In 1977, then, Saudi Arabia conspired (together with Salih) to the assassination of modernist President Ibrahim al-Hamdi, who was determined to loosen the stranglehold of the kingdom over Yemeni politics,” Tobias Thiel (2) of The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) wrote on last April 2.

In the aftermath of the emergence of the Islamic Republic of Iran into the regional scene, “the House of Saud expelled around 800,000 Yemeni guest workers to punish the newly united republic for its stance in the 1991 Gulf War (Kuwait war), plunging the country into an economic crisis” and “the kingdom simultaneously supported both sides – Sunni Islamists and Marxist separatists – in the 1994 war of secession,” Thiel added. Both those events had nothing to do with the so –called “Iran threat” or the “Shiite – Sunni” sectarian rivalry; both were inter – Arab and inter Yemeni conflicts.

“Finally,” according to Thiel, “Riyadh has backed the Salih regime against the mass protests in 2011 and has – as elsewhere – tried to stifle the democratic opening.”

Launching the Saudi war on Yemen last March had regionalised a Yemeni internal conflict, undercut short a Yemeni successful national dialogue sponsored by the United Nations, undermined the territorial unity of the country, which was then compromised only by the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) that was isolated in the far south eastern part of Yemen, destroyed the infrastructure of the Yemeni state, created a snowballing severe humanitarian crisis and rendered the possibility of a Yemeni – Yemeni political solution a mission made impossible by both the mutual bloodshed and the Saudi insistence on shaping by brutal force the future ruling regime in Yemen on Saudi terms.

Riyadh intervened militarily in Yemen when the Saudi – led GCC initiative for a “transition” on their terms in Yemen broke down in 2014. The Saudis planned the “transition” in Yemen to be a show case that could be replayed in Syria where they have been arming and financing a similar “regime change” for the past five years. The failure of their “show case” in Yemen doomed their plan for Syria.

Historically, Sanaa and the northern rough mountainous provinces failed all Arab and non-Arab invaders. The Ottoman Empire at its zenith could not subjugate it. It is the bedrock of Yemen’s independence and self determination. There the hardcore of the Yemeni anti-Saudi invasion is entrenched and there this invasion will most likely meet it defeat.

The so – called “liberation” of Aden by Saudi and UAE military intervention could serve only as a recipe for a perpetuated civil war and regional capital of a divided Yemen. Hadi is unlikely to deliver in Aden what he failed to achieve when he was in Sana’a.

On last March 22, the former UN special envoy Jamal Benomar, addressing the UN Security Council via video conference, warned that, “the situation is on a rapid downward spiral” that is “leading the country away from political settlement and to the edge of civil war”. The status quo is “inviting a protracted conflict in the vein of an Iraq-Libya-Syria combined scenario,” he told an emergency UNSC session. Benomar resigned his UN mission acknowledging its failure. His successor is more likely to come to the same conclusion sooner than later.

The presence now of reportedly between 5 – 10 thousand ground GCC troops in Yemen is proof that the aerial onslaught had failed and that the so-called pro-government forces are merely a Yemeni make – believe address for the thinly – veiled Saudi – led external invasion.

The introduction of GCC ground troops into Yemen is more a show of the failure of the so – called Yemeni pro – legitimacy and pro – Saudi forces than a display of GCC military prowess.

Quoted by the Qatari News Agency (QNA) on September 18, the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, tacitly acknowledging his country’s failure in Yemen, said that he “personally … suggested Israeli help as our only hope to end the status quo … His Highness King Salman put this proposal forward for further consideration.”

Ruling out any open Israeli contribution to the US-led war on Iraqi forces in Kuwait in 1991, the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the US “leading from behind” in the ongoing war on Syria is an instructive strong reminder that any Israeli role in the Saudi – led war on Yemen will most likely be ruled out as well, at least in public, because it would be definitely counterproductive.

It is high time that the UN moves to facilitate an exit strategy for Saudi Arabia from Yemen.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories (nassernicola@ymail.com).

(1) http://america.aljazeera.com/, September 16, 2015. Rami G. Khouri is a senior public policy fellow at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut and a senior fellow of the Harvard Kennedy School.
(2) Tobias Thiel is a PhD Candidate at the LSE’s Department of International History. His dissertation is about contentious politics, collective memory and violence in post-unification Yemen. He has spent the past three years in Yemen conducting field research.

Counterproductive Reactive Saudi Policies

March 18, 2014

By Nicola Nasser*

Writing in The Washington Post on February 27, 2011, Rachel Bronson asked: “Could the next Mideast uprising happen in Saudi Arabia?” Her answer was: “The notion of a revolution in the Saudi kingdom seems unthinkable.”

However, On September 30 the next year, the senior foreign policy fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy Bruce Riedel concluded that the “revolution in Saudi Arabia is no longer unthinkable.”

To preempt such a possibility, the kingdom in March 2011, in a “military” move to curb the tide of the Arab popular uprisings which raged across the Arab world from sweeping to its doorsteps, the kingdom sent troops to Bahrain to quell similar popular protests.

That rapid reactive Saudi military move into Bahrain heralded a series of reactions that analysts describe as an ongoing Saudi-led counterrevolution.

Amid a continuing succession process in Saudi Arabia, while major socioeconomic and political challenges loom large regionally, the kingdom is looking for security as far away as China, but blinded to the shortest way to its stability in its immediate proximity, where regional understanding with its geopolitical Arab and Muslim neighborhood would secure the kingdom and save it a wealth of assets squandered on unguaranteed guarantees.

In his quest to contain any fallout from the “Arab Spring,” Saudi King Abdullah Ben Abdel-Aziz selectively proposed inviting the kingdoms of Jordan and Morocco to join the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), leading The Economist on May 19, 2011 to joke that the organization should be renamed the “Gulf Counter-Revolutionary Club.” For sure including Iraq and Yemen would be a much better addition if better security was the goal.

Ahead of US President Barak Obama’s official visit to the kingdom by the end of this March, Saudi Arabia was looking “forward to China as an international magnate with a great political and economic weight to play a prominent role in achieving peace and security in the region,” according to Defense Minister and Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud who was in Beijing from March 13 to 16 “to enhance cooperation with China to protect peace, security and stability in the region.” He was quoted by a statement from the Saudi Press Agency.

Prince Salman was in Japan from 18-21 last February, hopefully to deepen bilateral cooperation “in various fields.” On February 26, India and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement to strengthen co-operation in military training, logistics supplies and exchange of defense-related information. On last January 23, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia signed a defense cooperation agreement, the first of its kind.

While a strong Saudi-Pakistan defense partnership has existed for long, it has been upgraded recently. Princes Salman and Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal arrived in Pakistan on February 15. Pakistani army chief General Raheel Sharif was in Saudi Arabia earlier. Director of South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington DC, Tufail Ahmad, wrote on this March 11 that “the upswing in the relationship marks a qualitative change,” hinting that the kingdom could be seeking Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities to “counter a nuclear-capable Iran” despite Islamabad’s denial, which “is not reliable.” The kingdom is moving “to transform itself as a regional military power,” Sharif wrote.

On this March 14, the Financial Times reported that Saudi Arabia has given $1.5 billion (Dh5.5 billion) to Pakistan. In February a senior Pakistani intelligence official told the Financial Times that Saudi Arabia was seeking “a large number of [Pakistani] troops to support its campaign along the Yemeni border and for internal security.” The official confirmed that Pakistan’s agreement, during Prince Salman’s visit, to support the establishment of a “transitional governing body” in Syria was an important aspect of the deal.

On this March 5, the kingdom led two other members of the six-member GCC, namely the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, to withdraw their ambassadors from Qatar, risking the survival of the GCC.

Hunting two French and Lebanese birds with one shot, the kingdom early last January pledged a $3 billion royal grant, estimated to be two-time the entire military budget of Lebanon, to buy French weapons for the Lebanese Army.

The Saudi multi-billion dollar support to the change of guards in Egypt early last July and the kingdom’s subscription to Egypt’s make or break campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) inside and outside the country following the ouster of the MB’s former president Mohammed Morsi reveal a much more important Saudi strategic and security unsigned accord with Egypt’s new rulers.

On the outset of the so-called “Arab Spring,” the kingdom also bailed out Bahrain and the Sultanate of Omen with more multi-billion petrodollars to buy the loyalty of their population.

More multi-billion petrodollars were squandered inside the country to bribe the population against joining the sweeping popular Arab protests.

Yet still more billions were squandered on twenty percent of all arms transfers to the region between 2009-2013 to make the kingdom the world’s fifth largest importer of arms while more Saudi orders for arms are outstanding, according to a new study released on this March 17 by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

While the United States will continue to “guarantee Israel’s qualitative military edge” over all the twenty two Arab nations plus Iran, Iran is developing its own defense industries to defend itself against both the US and Israel, rendering the Saudi arms procurement efforts obsolete.

Had all of those squandered billions of petrodollars spent more wisely they could have created a revolution of development in the region.

Not Assured by US Assurances

Ahead of Obama’s visit, the Saudi message is self-evident. They are looking, on their own, for alternative security guarantees, or at least additional ones. They don’t trust their decades – long American security umbrella anymore. The US sellout of close allies like the former presidents of Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen shed doubt on any “assurances’ Washington would be trying to convey during Obama’s upcoming visit.

President Obama is scheduled to be in Riyadh by the end of this March to assure Saudi Arabia of what his Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns on last February 19 told the Center for Strategic and International Studies that the United States takes Saudi security concerns “seriously,” “US-Saudi partnership is as important today as it ever was” and that the “Security cooperation is at the heart of our agenda” with the GCC, reminding his audience that his country still keeps about 35,000 members of the US military at 12 bases in and around the Arabian Gulf.

However, “the Saudi voices I hear do not think that what they see as the current lack of American resolve is merely a short-term feature of the Obama Presidency: They spot a deeper trend of Western disengagement from their region,” Sir Tom Phillips – British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia 2010-12 and an Associate Fellow at the Chatham House Middle East and North Africa Programme – wrote on last February 12.

Obviously, the Saudis are not assured, neither internally, regionally or at the international level because as Burns said on the same occasion: “We don’t always see eye to eye” and it is natural that Gulf states would “question our reliability as partners” given US efforts to achieve energy independence and US warnings that traditional power structures, such as the gulf monarchies, are “unsustainable.”

Obama’s upcoming visit to the kingdom has been described as a “fence-mending” one. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal, at a joint press conference alongside visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry last November, hinted that fences might not be mended because “a true relationship between friends is based on sincerity, candor, and frankness rather than mere courtesy.”

What Prince Al Faisal described as “frankness” is still missing: His brother, prince Turki al-Faisal, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal last December, blasted the Obama administration for keeping his country in the dark on its secret talks with Iran: “How can you build trust when you keep secrets from what are supposed to be your closest allies?”

“The Saudis have good reason to feel besieged and fearful,” Immanuel Wallerstein, director emeritus of the Fernand Braudel Center at Binghamton University and senior researcher at Yale University and Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris, was quoted as saying by AlJazeera America on this March 1.

Senior associate of Carnegie’s Middle East program Frederic Wehry on this March 10 wrote that, “There is a growing sense in Gulf capitals … led by Saudi Arabia” that “the United States is a power in retreat that is ignoring the interests of its steadfast partners, if not blithely betraying them.”

What Burns described as “tactical differences” with Saudi Arabia and its GCC co-members, the Saudis are acting on the premise that those differences are much more strategic than “tactical” and accordingly are overstretching their search for alternative security guarantees worldwide because they seem to disagree with Burns that “our Gulf partners know that no country or collection of countries can do for the Gulf states what the United States has done and continues to do.”

Pressured between Two ‘Crescents’

Three threatening developments have led to Saudi distrust in US security assurances. The first was the selling out of a US ally like the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, the second was the Qatari, Turkish and US coordination with the Muslim Brotherhood regionally and the third was the assumption to power of the MB in Egypt. The first development set the precedent of selling out of a long regional US ally against the fervent public advice of the kingdom. Mubarak’s ouster set the red lights on in Riyadh of a possible similar scenario in Saudi Arabia.

The second development put the kingdom on alert against the emerging MB, Turkey, Qatar and the US axis that would have encircled Saudi Arabia had the kingdom allowed this axis to hand the power over to the Brotherhood in Syria in the north and in Egypt in the west. The MB is influential in Jordan, the kingdom’s northern neighbor, and in Yemen, its southern neighbor. The Hamas’ affiliation to the MB in the Palestinian Gaza Strip would complete what a Saudi analyst called the “Brotherhood crescent” in the north, west and south, to squeeze the kingdom between the rock of this “Brotherhood crescent” and the hard place of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the east.

The third development surrendered the western strategic backyard of the kingdom to the MB, which has become untrustworthy politically in view of its membership in the emerging US-led ““Brotherhood crescent” after decades of sponsoring the MB leaders who found in the kingdom a safe haven from their suppression in Syria and Egypt and using them against the pan-Arab regimes in both countries and against the pan-Arab and communist political movements.

Unmercifully pressured between the “Brotherhood crescent” and what King Abdullah II of Jordan once described as the “Shiite crescent” extending from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Hezbullah in Lebanon, let alone the al-Qaeda offshoots, which have deep roots inside the kingdom and in its immediate surroundings and have emerged as a major threat to regional as well as to internal stability, in addition to what the Saudis perceive as the withdrawal or at least the rebalancing of the US power out of the region, the kingdom seems poised to find an answer to the question which Bruce Riedel asked on September 30, 2012 about whether or not the “revolution in Saudi Arabia is no longer unthinkable.”

The Saudi answer so far has been reactive more than proactive. “It is difficult to avoid the impression that Saudi policy is more re-active than pro-active,” Sir Tom Phillips – British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia 2010-12 and an Associate Fellow at the Chatham House Middle East and North Africa Programme – wrote on last February 12.

Proactive Shorter Path Overdue

Following the lead of the United States and Europe who have come to deal with the fait accompli that Iran as a pivotal regional power is there to stay for the foreseeable future, a more Saudi proactive regional policy that would engage Iran and Syria would be a much shorter and cheaper route to internal security as well as to regional stability, instead of reacting to their alliance by engaging in a lost and costly battle for a “regime change” in both countries.

Or much better, the kingdom could follow the lead of the Sultanate of Oman, which risked to break away from the GCC should they go along with the Saudi proposal late in 2011 for transforming their “council” into an anti-Iran military “union.” Regardless of what regime rules in Tehran and since the time of the Shah, Oman has been dealing with Iran as a strategic partner and promoting an Iranian-GCC regional partnership. Qatar takes a middle ground between the Saudi and Omani positions vis-à-vis Iran. On this March 17, the Qatar-Iran joint political committee convened in Tehran.

Feeling isolated, besieged and threatened by being left in the cold as a result of what it perceives as a withdrawing US security umbrella, the kingdom’s new experience of trying to cope on its own is indulging the country in counterproductive external policies in the turmoil of the aftermath of the shock waves of the Arab popular uprisings, which have raged across the Arab world since 2011, but its tide has stopped at the Damascus gate of the Iranian – Syrian alliance, which is backed internationally by the emerging Russian and Chinese world powers.

At the end of the day, the kingdom’s recent historical experience indicates that the Saudi dynasty lived its most safe and secure era during the Saudi-Egyptian-Syrian trilateral understanding, which was developed as a regional axis of stability, as the backbone of the Arab League regional system and was reinforced by the trilateral coordination in the 1973 Arab – Israeli war.

The revival of the Saudi coordination with Egypt in the post-Morsi presidency was a crucial first step that would lead nowhere unless it is completed by an overdue Saudi political U-turn on Syria that would revive the old trilateral axis to defend Arabs against Israel. A partnership with Iran would be a surplus; otherwise the revival of the trilateral coordination would at least serve as a better Saudi defense against Iran as well.

However such a Saudi U-turn would require of course a strategic decision that would renege on the kingdom’s US-inspired and ill-advised policy of dealing with Syria and Iran as “the enemy,” while dealing with Israel, which still occupies Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territories, as a possible “peace partner” and a co-member of an anti-Iran and Syria “front of moderates,” which the successive US administrations have been promoting.

It would first require as well a change of foreign policy decision-makers in Riyadh, but such a change will continue to be wishful thinking until a man of an historic stature holds the wheel at the driving seat at the helm of the Saudi hierarchy. Until that happens, it might be too late. Meanwhile, it is increasingly becoming a possibility that the “revolution in Saudi Arabia is no longer unthinkable.”

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. nassernicola@ymail.com

The Saudi Bull in Arab China Shop

January 8, 2014

By Nicola Nasser*

Obsessed with the “Iran threat,” which leads to its warmongering in Syria, Saudi Arabia is acting like a bull in a china shop, wreaking regional havoc in an already Arab fragile political environment and creating what George Joffe’ of Cambridge University’s Centre of International Studies, on last December 30, called the “second Arab cold war,” the first being the Saudi-led cold war with the Pan-Arab Egypt of Gamal Abdul Nasser since the 1960s.

The kingdom stands now almost isolated politically. Its “going it alone” in the Syrian conflict has cornered Saudi Arabia into a self-inflicted foreign policy no-win deadlock, to be at odds with three super powers, including its strategic U.S. ally as well as Russia and China, in addition to regional heavy weights in Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Algeria, all who advocate a political settlement of the conflict.

Within the six-member Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC), the kingdom navigates no better.

It is at loggerheads with Qatar over the latter’s sponsorship of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and consequently over the two countries’ disagreement over the removal of the MB-led Mohammad Morsi’s presidency.

Saudi Arabia’s hostility to the MB and its support of their removal from power in Egypt have reflected negatively on the Saudi-Turkish relations as well and had repercussions in Syria, leading to a restructuring of the insurgent political and military competing leaders who claim the representation of the Syrian people: Qatari and Turkish-supported leading figures and organizations were replaced by Saudi loyalists and accordingly, for example, the “Free Syrian Army” has simply disappeared to be replaced by the Islamic Front.

In the last GCC summit meeting in Kuwait, the other five members of the GCC, Oman in particular, rejected the kingdom’s proposal to develop the “cooperation council” into a confederation.

Despite the Saudi bailing out of the post-Morsi interim government in Cairo with a few billions of US dollars, Egypt doesn’t see eye to eye with Riyadh neither on Syria, where it joined the political solution advocates, nor on relations with Russia, which Egypt is now reviving to balance its US ties.

According to Wall Street Journal online on this January 5, the ensuing situation “is placing the White House in a growing diplomatic quandary as its regional allies fall into competing camps.”

The fact that the United States has chosen diplomacy instead of military confrontation with Tehran and Damascus has politically isolated the kingdom, which had hedged its bets on a western military intervention led or blessed by the United States. It feels betrayed by its American strategic ally. For a long time it relied on a long mistaken understanding that the US marines will be always available as mercenary soldiers ready to fight Saudi wars as long as the wealthy kingdom would pay for it, not aware of the US understanding of the vice versa.

However, instead of maneuvering wisely to backtrack to steer in harmony with the US, the kingdom stubbornly decided to “go it alone.”

In an op-ed published by The New York Times on last December 19, Saudi Ambassador to the UK, Prince Nawaf bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, said his country “will go it alone” against Syria and Iran, because it “will not stand idly by” while the US compromises Saudi Arabia’s security and “risk[s] the region’s stability.”

However, “in spite of its great wealth, the kingdom is not able to confront significant threats in its strategic environment on its own,” former Iran Coordinator in Israel’s National Security Council, Yoel Guzansky, wrote in Haaretz on last December 25, adding that as regards the Saudi “deterrence of and protection from Iran, … no other major power is currently interested in or capable of filling the role played by the United States.”

As of late this summer, Saudi Arabia had given $400 million in arms and other equipment to Syrian Salafi Jihadists, the Wall Street Journal online reported on last December 29.

True, Saudi warmongering over Syria and Iran could abort the Geneva II conference on Syria, scheduled to convene on this January 22 in Montreux, Switzerland to wrap up a political settlement, but in the end of the day the Saudi kingdom is more likely to end up the only loser in the face of a regional and worldwide consensus on political settlement as the only possible exit out of the Syrian conflict.

Logic dictates that Iran should be in and Saudi Arabia out, but the Geneva II guest list includes warmongering Saudi Arabia, but excludes Iran, which has been calling from the start for a political solution. Such an arrangement warns of including the only “spoiler-in-chief,” in the words of the Assistant Professor of International Studies at Arcadia University, Pennsylvania, Samer N. Abboud, writing in the Qatari http://www.aljazeera.com on this January 5.

The US and Russian top diplomats, John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov were scheduled during a meeting ahead of Geneva II to decide on Iran’s participation, according to Martin Nesirky, spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

There is no way the kingdom could succeed in Syria where a US-led Qatari, Turkish, French and British alliance failed. Saudi former intelligence chief, former ambassador to the US and an influential member of the royal family, Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, admitted their failure when he told CNBC on this January 7 that the United States failed in its dealing with the Syrian conflict.

Thanks to Saudis, Syrian Conflict Spills over

The three-year old conflict in Syria has somewhat been contained within its own borders, but Saudi Arabia’s ongoing warmongering threatens to perpetuate the conflict and, more importantly, to spill it over regionally without achieving the Saudi proclaimed goal of changing the regime in Damascus at any cost.

The protracted Syrian conflict is already spilling over into neighboring countries through the Saudi sectarian agitation and incitement.

In the east, Iraqi officials had already appealed to the Saudi and other GCC governments to stop their intervention in Iraq’s internal affairs by arms and political, financial and logistical support to insurgents whose terrorism claimed the lives of some ten thousand overwhelmingly civilian Iraqis in 2013.

West of Syria, “Lebanon is paralyzed right now,” Gen. Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), the second largest bloc in Lebanese parliament, told http://www.al-monitor.com on last December 13. After a two-week power vacuum, a prime minister-designate was nominated last April, but he has yet to form his government. His efforts have reached a dead end. The country since then was administrated by a caretaker government. No breakthrough seems imminent.

Saudi Arabia is the reason. It is exploiting its historical influence with loyalists and allies to prevent any inclusive government. It insists on the exclusion of Hizbullah as a precondition. The dead end polarized the country between pro-Syria and pro-Saudi camps. Riyadh, to guarantee a no-return by its loyalists, has recently fueled this polarization with a three billion “gift” over five years to arm the Lebanese army with French weapons in the hope of creating a counterbalance to Hezbullah, thus qualifying Lebanon for a civil war.

Meanwhile the northern and eastern parts of the country have slipped out of the control of the central government in Beirut and became a bastion of a Saudi-supported training camp, safe haven, manpower reservoir and a host of foreign Jihadists, fueling the Syrian conflict with arms and fighters.

Deterred by the military successes of the official Syrian Arab Army against them and falling back on Lebanon, those “Jihadists” are retaliating with the escalation of suicide bombings inside Lebanon, which are claiming more and more Lebanese civilian lives of all sects.

In the south in Jordan, where the kingdom succeeded for three years to keep balance between its geopolitical links with Syria and its strategic alliance with the US and Saudi Arabia, warnings against a mounting Saudi pressure to change course have been voiced recently.

For example, former premier and member of the upper house, Ma’arouf al-Bakhit, quoted by http://www.ammonnews.net on last December 30, warned that the disparity between the US and Saudi approaches to solving the Syrian conflict is pressuring Jordan, which is now facing the “challenge” of the possibility that Saudi Arabia “might act to impose its vision on Jordan,” indicating that “Syria no longer views Jordan as neutral” and accuses the kingdom of “hosting a Saudi – Israeli operations room to run military operations in Syria.” If Syria decides to act on this accusation, al-Bakhit added, it is “possible” to “move part of war” to “the interior of the kingdom’s territory.” Al-Bakhit should have cited Lebanon and Iraq as live precedents.

Further away, in Russia, the latest terror attacks in Volgograd were interpreted as an integral part of and attributed to the same terror network and mastermind in the Middle East, thus alienating the emerging Russian world polar. Russian media reports were implicating Saudi Arabia as responsible.

Saudi Strategy Fails in Syria
Since the so-called “Arab Spring” sprang out in Tunisia three years ago, the Saudi-led GCC monarchies succeeded in defending themselves against the tidal popular protests by a preempting financial bailout (Oman, Bahrain) or by direct military intervention (Bahrain) and by financial, political and indirect, but public nonetheless, military intervention to hijack the burgeoning revolutions in the “republics,” which have become more like china shops, either stateless or failed states, breathlessly in a life or death fight against “Islamist” terror organizations, which are armed and financed by none other than this same Saudi-led petrodollar monarchies and sheikhdoms.

This Saudi-led strategy is best manifested in Syria, where it met its first failure. Internal, regional and international consensus on political settlement and anti-terror campaign is gaining momentum to put an end to this strategy. Saudi Arabia has no other option but either to backtrack or being isolated. It either changes course or changes its leadership.

Its warmongering in Syria is portraying the kingdom in public opinion as the regional mastermind of violence and instability, vindicating American accusations, fueled by Israeli incitement, in the aftermath of the terror attacks in US on September 11, 2001 that the Saudi sectarian ideology is an incubator nurturing violence and terror, despite the kingdom’s long war against its own Islamist terrorists.

This sectarian ideology is creating a sectarian clash across the Middle East between two theocracies, the “Shiite” theocracy of Iran and the Sunni theocracy of Saudi Arabia, thus blurring the real dividing line of the regional battle between the US-protected Israeli occupation of Arab lands in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon and the self-proclaimed Iran – Syria axis of resistance. The survival of a secular Syria will be the first regional step towards the containment of this destructive sectarian clash.

Within this context it is noteworthy that Saudi Arabia, the godfather of the “Arab peace initiative,” postures as a peace maker against the Israeli occupying power, but insists on military solution in Syria whose Golan Heights is occupied by Israel since 1967.

Ironically, Saudi – Israeli crossroads seem to meet as the only regional relief for the kingdom. This approach of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is creating a fait accompli of a Saudi-Israeli marriage of convenience against Syria and Iran, which places the two countries on a higher moral ground among the overwhelming majority of Arabs and Muslims.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. nassernicola@ymail.com