Saudis watch Iran protests intently

Al-Monitor | : Saudi Arabia is following the unrest in Iran with intense interest, hoping it will force its regional rival to turn inward. The Saudis have little capacity to influence Iranian domestic developments, however, and share many of the same problems as Tehran. The Iranian question is unlikely to help resolve Riyadh’s biggest foreign policy challenge: the expensive quagmire in Yemen that is only getting worse. 

Since the start of the protests Dec. 28 in Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest and holies city, the state-controlled media in Saudi Arabia has followed the protests closely. The protesters’ call for Iran to spend more money at home and less on foreign adventures in Syria, the Gaza Strip, Iraq and Yemen especially has gotten much attention in Saudi media outlets. The Saudis have been fighting to combat Iranian advances in all these states for years with little success, so they hope that domestic unrest will constrain Iran, especially the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Saudi media has expressed concern about the sustainability of the unrest. Media articles in the country featured CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s public estimate that the unrest is likely to continue because of the weakness of the Iranian economy. At least one Saudi commentator has expressed concern that the unrest not produce another failed state in the region, which would create too much turmoil. Better to have enough disruption to keep the Iranians focused internally.

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