Alwaght – In the past few years and mainly after the changes the West Asia witnessed, the competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia as two influential heavyweights of the region and the Muslim world has resulted in a cold war between the two countries, which every day gained more intensity and broadness. Meanwhile, the role of the naive and controversial young prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, who takes center stage in the new generation of Saudi rulers, in emergence of such atmosphere is undeniable.
This climate, however, stepped into a new stage in the past few days as the Saudi officials made comments following the November 5 missile attack of the Yemeni army on the capital Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport, with some Saudi leaders threatening Iran with a military action. The Saudi-led anti-Yemeni Arab military coalition on November 6 released a statement, calling the Yemeni missile attack on depth of the kingdom’s territories as Iranian “act of war” against Saudi Arabia and adding that Riyadh reserved the right to give appropriate response.
Other ensuing regional measures led by the oil-wealthy monarchy like stepping up pressures on Lebanon’s Hezbollah and pressing the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign from Saudi soil under the excuse of Iranian meddling in Beirut’s domestic affairs gave rise to the following questions: Where do the Saudi rulers want to go with their regional strategy of competing with Tehran? Does Mohammad bin Salman, and his orbit of decision makers, seek military confrontation with the Islamic Republic behind their escalatory steps?
Threatening Iran out of pressure and weakness
Without a shadow of a doubt, the regional balance of power in West Asia region has transformed, with Iran and the allied Axis of Resistance seeing the balance gravitating towards them to the frustration of Saudi Arabia and its patrons the West and the conservative Arab regimes.
Saudi Arabia was highly optimistic to put strains on Iran via toppling the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad and fast victory in a devastating war against the neighboring Yemen. But everything went against this fantasy. The alliance gathering together Iran, Russia, and Syria victoriously pushed various terrorist groups out of large tracts of Syrian lands. The war that Saudi Arabia scheduled to win in a matter of weeks, if not days, turned into a protracted conflict drawing bitter criticism to Saudi Arabia and its coalition for their atrocities in killing the civilians and causing human crisis in the impoverished country. Additionally, Baghdad, as another ally of Tehran, has been successful in neutralizing ISIS, which formerly held vast swaths of the country, and a secessionist bid by the Kurds of north. All these happenings turned the tide in favor of Iran, much to the Saudi Arabian chagrin.
Thus, the Saudis now have come up with the notion that Iran has rapidly increased its influence in the region, consequently pushing back that of the kingdom. This, so, provides them with a drive to guard against Tehran’s regional and geopolitical superiority. This explains why after Yemeni forces fired their long-range missile at the Saudi airport– which of course exhibited the enhancing Yemeni power and Saudi failure to realize the objectives it waged a war against Yemen for after nearly three years of heavy air and land campaign– Riyadh talked about possible military encounter with Iran in a bid to overshadow the Yemenis’ successes and build pressures on Tehran by charging that Iran had hands in the missile strike.
In fact, the Saudi officials’ anti-Iranian threats stem from their back-to-back failures on the battlegrounds and especially with Yemeni Ansarullah seeing augmentation of its missile strength, rather than from a well-calculated, pre-planned strategy. On the other side, with Trump’s assumption of power in the US and his stated resolution to take measures to hamper growing Iranian influence and power in the region, the Saudis find their hands more open than ever for anti-Tehran accusations that they think can facilitate more economical and diplomatic pressures on the Islamic Republic. Perhaps a reflection of such efforts by Saudi Arabia and the allied West can be observed in the recent comments made by the French President Emmanuel Macron who in his last Friday visit of the United Arab Emirates called for firmness against the Iranian missile program and what he called Tehran’s regional actions.
Saudi Arabia is far from cultivating plans of militarily taking on Iran as it is well aware of its weakness and the Iranian military potentials. The Saudis spent hugely to set up their military coalition and consumed nearly all of their energy on the war against Yemen. But after about three years, they are emerging as a failing party of the war with no palpable victories. But on the opposite side stand the Yemeni forces who have managed to mobilize their resources to deal a blow to the aggressors much more than the beginning of the aggression.
The Saudi fiasco on the Yemeni fronts is marked by the victim country turning into a quagmire for the invading Saudi troops. Seeking to justify their heavy losses, the Saudis now promote the idea of Tehran support for Yemenis in a bid to draw backing from their Western allies.
With all these in mind, the Saudis are perfectly familiar with the fact that any confrontation with Iran will result in destruction of Riyadh. After all, Iran’s military strength is incomparable to that of Yemen, and Tehran’s military forces carry a valuable experience of front-line battle obtained during the eight-year war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1980s, unlike the highly inexperienced Saudi military personnel.
Besides, Riyadh’s regional allies have their knowledge perfected about Iran’s defense capabilities and also the consequences of possible anti-Iranian adventuring. This familiarity with the Iranian force might help them refrain from walking in line with the Saudis against Iran. Even Western media these days admit that the US Department of State is attempting to send signals of American willingness to see more cautious policies adopted by Riyadh in its regional power struggle with Tehran.
In the meantime, the Israeli regime is the only party welcoming Saudi-Iranian military counter. Perhaps it is convenient to say that the real winner of an intra-Muslim confrontation is Tel Aviv that goes to great lengths to inflame war, contribute to secessionism, and fuel ethno-sectarian violence to step out of a lasting geopolitical isolation. The Israelis are poised to embroil regional rivals in erosive conflict for the interest of turning their security environment’s threats into opportunities.