With the complexity of the scene in many Arab battlefields , high tension in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran comes noting that the Al Riyadh pursue a solid approach in the defense of the fundamentals of strategy as it considers that it reserves the Arab region from Tehran interventions , unless a significant decline is shown by the latter in this regard . Iran and Arab Gulf relations has not been fine , at least since the Iranian revolution in 1979 , noting that Tehran since the rise of Khomeini and the fall of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, adopted the principle of so-called “export of revolution” which targeted in the first degree Arab neighbors , and this Iranian approach had been continued in its revolutionist way which was “provocative to the Arab and Gulf region. This Iranian orientation of the “revolutionary dimension emboldened with” old ambitions in the Gulf waters and territory noting that it was the reason for sparking the first major war in the region with Iraq lasted eight years, out of which Tehran was exhausted without changing of its policies in the region. Whether in the “revolutionary” state during the eighties or the “pragmatism” state in later periods , Iran has not abandoned its desire to play major role in the Gulf and the region, especially after the destruction of Iraq and the control of Shiite component on the rule .
The execution of the Saudi opposed Shiite Baqir al-Nimr by Saudi Arabia comes within more courageous approach adopted by the Kingdom to meet the regional arch-foe- Iran , but it threatens to raise the level of sectarian tensions and the ignition of disputes, especially in Syria and Yemen. Analysts are likely to consider that the execution of Al-Nimr will lead to more tensions , that was halted for more than three years , between the two big regional powers, which stand on opposite sides of the major crises including Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Iran has previously bet on “the hesitation of Saudi foreign and domestic policy ,” but that “what happened in about a year turn the tables and make Riyadh in a provocative position to Tehran .” Almost a year ago, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz ascended the throne in the kingdom, replacing the late King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, to keep track of foreign policy more boldness. Riyadh lead since last March an Arab military alliance Yemeni to support President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi against the insurgents who accuse them of receiving support from Iran. As announced in December last year, the formation of a military alliance to fight Islamic terrorism. “It is also involved since the summer of 2014 in the international coalition led by Washington against state regulation. Foreign policy of Saudi Arabia during the reign of King Salman bin Abdulaziz, went on its actions and it does not care for reactions . ”
The decision of execution of the Saudi dissident Shiite Nimr Baqir al-Nimr was a bold and courageous step, especially in light of the challenges facing the UK today on more than one level. This decision reflects the real Vision owned by the Saudi leadership in dealing with the events and choose the right time for the implementation to suit the conditions prevailing in the region. Saudi Arabia also confirmed by this decision that it is enjoyed by the concept of internal sovereignty and gave a clear message and realistic indications and important signals that the Saudi leadership will not allow any interference in its internal affairs and the targeting its national safety and lives of its citizens security.
And regional circumstances had put its heavy shadow on the Saudi-Iranian relations .The criteria that govern the relationship between Tehran and Riyadh differed over the past years. Iran before the “Islamic Revolution”, which was keen to a positive relationship with the Kingdom to form a front against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, backed by the Soviets then, differed after the founding of the Islamic republic .And despite the fact that relations have witnessed a relative improvement, led by patron, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, during its presidential, but regional circumstances and ideological disagreement governs the equation of the relationship between them more .
There are five main files to a clash of Saudi Arabia with Iran regionally include : a Lebanese , Syrian, and Iraqi, and Yemen files and the oil sector.
the Lebanese arena remains quiet until this moment, uncomfortable calm, of course, as always regional tensions were r severely reflected on the Lebanese internal affairs . Saudi and Iran tension is reflected directly on the Lebanese political arena usually, through interactions between the March 14 forces, particularly the Future Movement, and its leader, Saad Hariri, who is close to Riyadh, as opposed to the current 8 March, particularly Hezbollah, which is the leader, Hassan Nasrallah man of Iran, not only in Lebanon, but also in the whole region. Truce of surprise in Lebanon came across the nomination of Hariri, the leader of the Marada, Suleiman Franjieh, for the presidency in Lebanon. The nomination is not surprising because Franjieh is a close friend of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, or because it enjoys excellent relations only with Iran, but also because it comes amid a sharp regional tension between Tehran and Riyadh before the ties were cut off . However, in exchange for Franjieh nomination, Hezbollah leader clings to the Free Patriotic Movement, Michel Aoun, despite being a undesirable option for the party, but the nomination comes in the framework of its commitment to Aoun as an ally.
This calm which is horrific in Lebanon , may be exploded at any moment, in the form of a political crisis, or more , by virtue of that very fragile Lebanese arena, and always has been volatile at any regional shake. Riyadh is not expected to seek to use the Lebanese arena to put pressure on Tehran, because of the complexities of the Lebanese scene, especially that Hezbollah the pro-Tehran has military power, being able to resolve things around for its own benefit militarily, in the event of reaching to this level of confrontation.
Saudi Arabia is practically facing the indirect confrontation to the side of its allies against Iran in Syria, it has finally stepped up its rhetoric against Assad, with the intensification of military support for revolutionary factions that work against him, and militias loyal to Iran, and of the “Islamic State” (Daash). It is not expected that there will be a new Saudi position against Iran’s allies in Syria, due to the Russian intervention, which made any Saudi military intervention very difficult, and could lead to the international crisis and regional open war, that the Saudi Arabia do not want to be engaged in it at the moment.
Saudi Arabia options in Syria will remain as it is clicking toward a political solution that excludes Assad of the Syrian arena, as well as to intensify military support for armed factions, with the remaining of the Saudi Turkish rapprochement on the Syrian arena. It is worth noting that Syria is being turned into an arena of regional war, especially between Tehran and Riyadh earlier , it is not expected to bear, from cutting off Saudi-Iranian relations , any new in this context.
Arab analysts are widely circulating the idea that the Saudi support for minorities in Iran, particularly the Arabs in the Ahwaz region, it will be the best response to the expansion of Iranian influence in the region. And these calls seem unrealistic for two main reasons: first the weakness of the separatist movement in Ahwaz, which was an independent Arab kingdom until 1924, when Iran annexed it by force. The other reason, that the Saudi support for the separatist movement inside Iran, and this might give Tehran an excuse to do something similar in Bahrain, and possibly in Saudi Arabia, through the push for the creation of political unrest in eastern Saudi Arabia, the rich region of oil.
Saudi Arabia has finally supported of Ahwaz issue in the media, and the official Saudi Press Agency “SPA” has continued to cover the activities of “Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz” dramatically. It also established website for it in Persian language , in an attempt to target the Iranian interior. The official Saudi news channel carried out similar covers , and the dissemination of informational materials exclusively in earlier times for acts of violence carried out by Ohawwazion against Iranian installations. But it is not expected that this media support to be translated into a direct military support, as an armament for example, because the complexity of the scene can not tolerate such a step, which would be considered by Tehran as a declaration of war directly, and its consequences can not be controlled in the future.
Iraqi arena is the most prominent place for any possible escalation with Iran, if Riyadh wants this . Saudi Arabia has not an important presence in the Iraqi arena, since the American occupation of Mesopotamia in 2003, as if it came as a voluntary withdrawal from Iraq. Making it easier for Iran to do alone in Iraq, over the past years, and it cost Arabia a lot politically and militarily at the regional level. Even the rumors as a “return to Saudi Arabia to perform the role on the Iraqi arena, through entry into the international coalition that announced by the United States to face Daash in 2014”, it was not accurate. According to the frequent information in this regard, that Saudi Air Force is carring out strikes against “Daash” , they were not on Iraqi territory, but Syria, due to the sensitivity of Baghdad from any role for Saudi Arabia on its territory, even within the US alliance.
Saudi Arabia has a lot of reasons to intervene in Iraq, the most important of it is the face of danger of “Daash”, which represents a threat to the Saudi National Security, in addition to the risk of regional and international organization. This is in addition to Saudi Arabia fears of Iranian influence, which made Baghdad a further capital of Tehran, in which the case explicitly expressed by the Iranian presidential adviser, Ali Yonsei, in March – 2015, when he said that Iran “has become an empire as it was throughout history, The capital is Baghdad now. ” Iraqi arena is the only arena that give Saudi Arabia the possibility of escalation with Iran, through the support of the forces that can be allied with them, to meet the “Daash”. Maybe you can not read the possibility of escalation of this type, with the late step of Arabia to open its embassy in Baghdad, re diplomatic presence there. But it does not seem that the Saudi diplomats stay in Baghdad is something finished , especially in the light of the Baghdad government support for Iranian steps against Saudi Arabia, and the news about targeting the Saudi embassy HQ in Baghdad BY militias, and calls of militias of “popular crowd” to break off diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, within the repercussions of Al-Nimr execution .
With this tension in the Saudi-Iranian relations , it will be difficult to reach Saudi – Iranian agreement to keep the oil production and prices under control noting that Iran will seek to accelerate its entry into the global oil markets, threatening further flood of the global market, which means surplus of production that could reach 3 million barrels a day by mid-year, which could mean oil prices goes to the level below the $ 35, and the continued of the depletion of reserves of Al Saudi currency . Despite its declaration of an austerity public budget , the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has maintained the pace of its military spending, which amounted to 25% of its general budget , with more commitments in Syria and Yemen, and more concerns also , and this proportion seems likely to increase, which means that the pace of the arms race in the region could rise to unprecedented and unexpected levels also. In this context, several questions stand out : Why Iran has acted in this arrogant way and contrary to the norms of diplomacy and traditions when stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the consulate in the city of Mashhad, is there who wants to reproduce Iran of 1979, when the US embassy was stormed and the fifty five of hostages were detained for 444 days? Is it a new war will break out in the Arabic Gulf?
Whatever the motivation of this Iranian act which has led to the creation of Solidarity movement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , it spread to many countries in the Gulf region and the Arab and Islamic worlds and the UN Security Council, which issued a statement unanimously condemning rejected this intrusion , which is considered in violation of the Vienna Conventions of 1961 and 1936 relating to the immunity of embassies and consulates .
We believe that the Islamic Republic is still living in an undeclared conflict stage between an open liberal orintation posed by Iran’s President Hassan Rowhani, and the mullahs’ regime and extremists and conservatives, who do not want any rapprochement with the West in general and with the United States in particular. It also considered that Iran is a state representing the Shiite of the world and the duty is to stand with any Shiite exposed to the prosecution , just as Israel which considered itself as the representative of the Jews in the world to stand with them and defend them and take their bodies for burial , when they are killed, as happened to three Jews were killed in the attack on the Parisian magazine «Charlie Hebdo » in January 2015 , this hard line trend does not want President Hassan Rowhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to continue the policy of reform and to qualify for the post-sanctions. And as she says , the writer Dina Esfandiar , Center of Science and Security Studies of king College in London «The hard line trends saw that the burning of the Saudi embassy is a great way to discredit the President Rowhani and make the matter seem as if they were in control on things, especially as they prepare for the parliamentary elections in next February ».
Iranian President Hassan Rohani tried to reduce its effects of this incident when he distributed messages to UN member states , the 193 members, and gave his apologizes , promising to bring those who are responsible for the intrusion to the justice. But the devastation was happened, and that Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut ties with Iran was followed by other steps especially from the Gulf countries. So Iran found itself in a difficult situation which did not expect , but was preparing itself for the post-sanctions and revive the economy and attract investments and expansion in the relations with Europe in particular. But such an incident certainly would invite a lot of countries to reconsider their relations with Iran in the light of such disciplinary indiscretion.
Between Saudi Arabia and Iran that reactions does not change it .
There is no doubt the current diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and Ira raised many questions about the extent of the worsening of Sunni-Shiite conflict and its impact on the future of the Middle East, and, of course, about the possibility of the outbreak of a third Gulf war in the 21st century, and the position of Western countries from the current conflict.
Views of strategic observers are varying about the possibility of aggravation of the diplomatic crisis, some of them expected to continue the cold war between Riyadh and Tehran on the same pace excluded a military war, while others felt that the worst scenario can be reached between the two countries is an explicit military confrontation in the Gulf region . According to a report «CNN» Network of America, a military analyst Rick Francona said that what is happening is a big diplomatic battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, pointing out that «worst scenario that things could develop to it is a military confrontation in the Gulf region». Francona added : «Personally I do not see that this could happen, but it can be seen that there are signs that the issue has become between Sunnis and Shiites», pointing out that the reactions of the Gulf and Sudan states towards Tehran, refers to «significant diplomatic crisis and we hope to remain on its position and not develop ». While a security and the intelligence analyst Bob Bear sees that the tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran «will not be solved through pure diplomacy », adding that «what is going on is a new war for 30 years, and we will live through these events for decades, there is no simple and easy solution, and there is no diplomatic solution So pure », as quoted« CNN ».
In a related context, Michael Barak on the Middle East status of the studies center of the fight against terrorism , said that «Saudi Arabia crossed a red line with the execution of the Al-Nimr, which was considered by Iran as an insult to it », pointing out that Tehran has warned many times of the Shiite clergy’s execution, but Riyadh was determined on the reduction of Iranian terrorism. He added that «Al-Nimr execution is a tantamount to a declaration of war against Tehran», and he expected that Iran to respond in the near future through «the assassination of a Saudi prominent figure on the rank of ambassador» at least, or «the execution of a number of the elders of minority of Sunnis in its territory as a kind of revenge», pointing that Tehran may also resort to raise the number of attacks in Yemen against the Saudis through Huthi group.
On the other hand, positions of the Western press are varied about trends of its country to the biggest diplomatic crisis in the Middle East, where some of the media in Washington are bias to the Iranian side, while British newspapers indicated that London has to support Riyadh in the face of Tehran. The British newspaper «Telegraph», said that all attempts to heal the rift between the two nations would be useless, directed his speech to the government in London: «The improvement of relations with Tehran may be a good diplomatic move . But when you think about the defense of our interests, the more reasonable option is to stay to the sides of experienced allies such as Saudi Arabia ». While «Politico» an American Journal said it should not for the United States to take sides in a proxy war between Tehran and Riyadh, but the fact of the matter is that «Washington’s interests aligned more with Iran», stressing that the US government «must not choose the alliance with Saudi Arabia». And about the same point of view, «Bloomberg» Network of America, said that Washington tends more towards Tehran in diplomatic conflict that is currently taken place , despite attempts by American politicians in the failure to clarify their bias, pointing out that «the Saudi message has become clearer now, if Washington do not punish Tehran , Riyadh will do so ».
Arab position on the crisis
The Gulf states relations with Iran are varying , between “very good”, like Oman, and the “very bad”, such as Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. But be sure, the Gulf states relations with Saudi Arabia are deeper, and with a strategic dimensions beyond of the partnership or alliance, and these relations can not be damaged in any way, from any country of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
From here Bahrain came hurrying to cut ties with Iran, directly after Saudi Arabia, and the UAE in less drastic step, is reducing diplomatic representation in Tehran, and reduce the number of Iranian diplomats in Abu Dhabi. Qatar and Kuwait also was quick to denounce the Iranians storm the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and its consulate in Mashhad, to confirm the Gulf countries, that it will stand with Saudi Arabia, even if they do not fully cut off diplomatic relations with Tehran .
The Sultanate of Oman, seems that it continues in its policies based on avoiding any regional polarization, a consistent policy since the Iran-Iraq war in the eighties, and even the Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, in Yemen. Despite the statement to the Ambassador of Oman in Tehran which is interesting, Saud Al Barwani, toward Riyadh, yesterday, during a meeting with head of the Iranian Shura Council, Ali Larijani, and the news agency of the Iranian Shura Council quoted , where the Omani ambassador considered the cutting off ties with Iran, is ” unwise decision according to the current circumstances “, describing the step of Arabia as” come in order to put pressure on Iran and put the nuclear agreement and its consequences at stake. ”
Arab reactions are varied about Saudi- Iran boycott , while Sudan has cut off relations with Iran in solidarity with Saudi Arabia, Mauritania is merely condemned Iranian attacks on the embassy and the Saudi consulate in Iran, and expressed its rejection of interference in the internal affairs of States, in reference to the Iranian statements against Saudi Arabia. Algeria, for its part announced its “regret at the deterioration of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia,” calling on both parties to “prudence and self-restraint.”
In this context, it is likely that Jordan is taking a similar step of Sudan and Bahrain, while the situation remains confused in Yemen, between cutting the relations with it which was announced a few months ago, and the freezing of relations in another declaration, and the continuation of the work of the diplomatic mission in Tehran and the Iranian embassy in Sanaa. It is worth noting that it treated with the Yemeni diplomatic mission in Tehran, as “pro-mission” of the deposed president, Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthis, according to observers. It is expected that Saudi Arabia is to exert more pressure on the Arab states, especially allies, to take tougher positions with the Iranian side, a literal translation of the repeated statements of the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, about the isolation of Tehran by Arab states , in an attempt to reduce its influence in the region.
This Saudi position, it may be awkward, to a large degree to the Egyptian side, which is its political system, in theory, a strong ally of Saudi Arabia, without taking any concrete steps in the face of Iranian influence in the region, specifically on the Syrian arena. Cut the Saudi-Iranian relations may represent an important test for the regime of President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, waiting from him on a large scale, to determine in more clearly and explicitly attitude, towards regional conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will increase its commitment to its alliance with Turkey.
There is no doubt that the diplomatic crisis that erupted at the weekend between Saudi Arabia and Iran is worrying, and not only a manifestation of the worsening geopolitical rift in the region. In the presence of an attempt by the United States to achieve a balance in the region, Iran may be able to get out of its isolation as part of this effort, but friction between prominent Sunni and Shiite players in the region are already risen.
We conclude from the foregoing that the present tension in the Saudi-Iranian relations is not a new tension , but the revelation to the nature of the very different interests of the two countries, it seems that the region will proceed to the third stage of a cold war between Saudi Arabia and its allies, Iran and its allies also. The first was between the United States on one side, and the Soviet Union on the other, and the second was between Arab and Arab states that means among monarchies, led by Saudi Arabia and governance systems of the Republic of Egypt of Gamal Abdel Nasser, and here the area is receiving the new year in this third war, which may be limited to the media and intelligence side and there may be a proxy war led by Iran tools and its allies in the region such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen and Bashar al-Assad and some Shiite parties in Iraq noting as it is known not all Shia Arabs in Iraq in favor of Iran’s policy according to another poll of the Foundation ,Think Tank House , conducted in Iraq on the people of the Shiite component stressed that 87% of Arab Shiites in Iraq are worried of Iran’s influence against the interests of Saudi Arabia, that the bulk of its allies in the states, and this is the difference between the two allies, Iran allies are either the state in common with the State of Syria Bashar al-Assad that exercise murder against his people or as the Hezb Ullah (Party of God) , which is classified as a terrorist party by Western countries . In contrast to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia noting that it has the tools that would adversely affect the inside of Iran, for example, the employment of Saudi Arabia to the ethnic and religious contradictions and discontent experienced by the Iranian society against the components of Ahwaz, Kurds and Albloushstan in the Iranian state. And imposed through the Arab states the economic and diplomatic boycott against Iran, which will be isolated in its environment of the Middle East, and would seek to use the oil weapon against Iran by an oversupply of it, where the use of this weapon and continue of economic sanctions against Tehran would weaken its position in the internal files such as the development and reform; or may force it to some concessions on regional files.
The region under the second tension on a high-level of Saudi-Iranian relations and the simultaneous with regional environment of severe sectarian polarization could see more tension in the security events in the Middle East conflicts where the two Regional –poles are standing on opposite sides, but without that it would lead to a direct confrontation .However, as for the two previous wars, it must be a victor and defeated.
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies