Monday, February 22, 2016

Iran versus the Saudis in the Middle East

StrategyPage analyzes the conflict in Yemen and comes up with some very interesting points about the wider struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and how it's affecting the Middle East in general.  I've highlighted some points in bold, underlined text.

The Saudis and the other Gulf Arab states are mainly concerned with Iranian aggression. Iran has made it very clear that they believe they should control the Moslem holy places in Saudi Arabia and be the dominant military and political power in the region. That means having a veto over Arab diplomatic moves and generally returning to their ancient role of regional superpower. The Gulf Arabs are very hostile to this sort of thing but reluctant to go to war over it because the Iranians have an impressive history of battlefield victories.

In response the Sunni Arab states tried to use Islamic terrorist groups as a weapon against the "Shia threat". Thus Yemeni Shia rebels blame the Sunni Gulf Arabs of supporting al Qaeda in Yemen. This Islamic terrorist group has always been very hostile towards Shia and the growth of al Qaeda in Yemen was a primary reason for the Yemeni Shia rebelling in the first place. There is some truth to the Yemeni Shia accusations as many Sunni Gulf Arabs do support al Qaeda and have long provided cash donations and recruits. This terrorist support is not government policy with these Gulf States although some Gulf Arab states, like Qatar, have actively supported Islamic terrorist rebels in Libya and Syria.

There is a lot of popular support for Islamic terrorism among Sunni and Shia as it is common to believe that the non-Moslem world is always actively at war with the Islam and Islamic terrorists are the only effective weapon to strike back with. This sounds absurd to non-Moslems, especially Westerners. Arab diplomats insist that there is no such terrorist support in Moslem nations. But anyone perusing Arab language media immediately sees this support and some of it even shows up in English language versions of Arab media. That despite the fact that the Arab editors of the English language news outlets know that the Arab support for Islamic terrorism is not acceptable to Western audiences and try to remove it from the English language sites. The Iranians understand all this, as do other non-Moslems (like Indians) who have lived next to Moslems for a long time. So when the Yemeni Shia complain of Gulf Arab Sunni support for al Qaeda in Yemen it has a different meaning to other Moslems (who take it as fact) and Westerners (who dismiss it as a paranoid delusion).

Iran understands that Yemen is far more important to the Gulf Arabs than to Iran. Moreover the Yemeni Shia have never been dependent on Iran like those in Lebanon (Hezbollah), Iraq or Syria. Control (or substantial influence) in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon give Iran a land route to their declared main foe; Israel. The Saudi royals and Arabs in general are secondary to the Iranian official hatred of Israel. The Iranian threat to the Arab states in the region, especially those with oil, is of more immediate concern for the Arabs and the main reason why Arabs have openly become allies with Israel against Iran.

This complex web of opportunities and capabilities means Yemen is basically a sideshow where winning is not the highest priority for Iran or Arabs. Both the Arabs and Iran have an interest in shutting down the Sunni Islamic terrorists in Yemen because these cutthroats see both Arab rulers and Shia in general as prime candidates for elimination.

There's more at the link.

If you're interested in military and geostrategic affairs, and you're not already following StrategyPage, you might like to consider it.  It's a very useful and well-informed resource.



Old NFO said...

Convoluted it putting it mildly... Sigh...

drjim said...

Been that way for the last thousand years or so.....