November 6, 2016


Saudi Arabia losing ground to Iran (Bruce RiedelPosted November 6, 2016, Al Monitor)

The kingdom has had a friendly regime in Iraq since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait a quarter century ago and threatened to keep marching into Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province. But for most of the 1980s, Saudi Arabia and Iraq were close partners in containing the revolutionary wave from Iran. King Fahd provided Saddam with tens of billions of dollars in aid during the Iran-Iraq War; without Saudi financial help, Iraq would have collapsed. Fahd also rallied the other Gulf states to help Saddam and promoted Saddam as a power to work with in Washington.

In 2003, King Abdullah thought the American decision to oust Saddam without having another Sunni strongman to succeed him was rash and dangerous. The Saudis were certain Iran would fill the vacuum. Riyadh was especially suspicious of the role Ahmad Chalabi played in the planning process of President George W. Bush's administration for postwar Iraq. The Saudis believed Chalabi was an Iranian agent.

Riyadh has been very reluctant to deal with any of the Shiite governments that have been in power since the invasion. The Saudis delayed opening an embassy for years and appointing an ambassador. Last month, they reassigned their ambassador out of Baghdad after reports of assassination plots. No replacement has been chosen and the post is likely to remain empty.

The Saudis support the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria but they worry its defeat will only be the next stage for further Shiite and Iranian domination of the Iraqi polity. [...]

Now the Saudis have suffered another setback in Lebanon. Once the bete noire of the Assads, Aoun is now their man. Even more, Aoun is the champion of Hezbollah. His election after two years of political stalemate is another indication of which way the wind is blowing in the Levant. Saad Hariri will face a difficult challenge as prime minister in trying to form a government with opposition from Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has become a major source of difficulty for Riyadh. Its success in Syria and Lebanon have been at the cost of Saudi interests. The advice and expertise Hezbollah provides the Houthi rebels in Yemen is another irritation for the kingdom.

The decline in Saudi influence is the result of many factors, many outside Riyadh's control. Demography has worked against the Saudis in Iraq and Lebanon. The Sunni minorities are losing the demographic struggle to the Shiites. In both states, the Sunni political forces are badly divided.

Sucks to be Wahabbi.

Posted by at November 6, 2016 7:08 PM