Riyadh enjoys US support, but it may leave the region
In a day or two US Secretary of State John Kerry is going to meet the head of the Foreign Ministry of Saudi Arabia, Adel al-Jubeir, in London. Last week Kerry talked on the phone with the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. Tehran and Riyadh promised that sharp contradictions in their relations won’t negatively influence the international talks on a settlement of the Syrian conflict.
At the same time, Vladimir Yevseyev, head of the department of Eurasian integration and development of the SCO of the CIS Institute, a military expert, thinks that the crisis in Iranian-Saudi relations is a planned provocation: “If only Saudi Arabia severed relations with Iran, it would be understandable, but look at what a chain has started, how many states started it, some severed relations, some lowered the status of representative offices. I have a feeling that all of this was already prepared in advance, the so-called "isolation of Iran" was launched. But it is impossible to isolate Iran in the region, and that is why the victory of Saudi Arabia in this fight is not obvious.”
Speaking about the the development of the events in the longer term, Yevseyev said: “The United States does not need the Saudi-Iranian conflict. By 2020, the United States will go to the Asia-Pacific region. That's where their main military potential will be directed.” However, the expert thinks that in the short term, the mutual weakening of Iran and Saudi Arabia meets American interests.
On the other hand, Yevseyev has a feeling that the United States has started to fear this confrontation a little, which probably allows it not to get involved in such a waste of resources: “The United States has not removed the goal of gradual withdrawal from the region. The question arises: who is left there? And there are those states which are now trying to somehow negotiate or to determine their status in this region? Saudi Arabia is now painfully beginning to look for partners. Of course, I have no illusions about whether Russia, for example, could make peace between Iran and Saudi Arabia. But why should we refuse to make contact, if Saudi Arabia extends these contacts? Russia could play its own role in this process. We should not underestimate the possibility of some improvement in relations with Saudi Arabia. We should not be friends with Saudi Arabia against Iran and be friends with Saudi Arabia against Syria. In this situation, as the US gradually leaves the region, we should take our place.”
However, Boris Dolgov, senior fellow at the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Science, thinks that the primary responsibility in this exacerbation lies with Saudi Arabia. Among 47 executed people, there was not only the preacher Sheikh Nimr, but also a famous Palestinian poet, accused of atheism. “The laws of Saudi Arabia were largely left from the days when the ideological doctrine of Wahhabism was adopted. Cutting off hands, chopping off heads, the death penalty for some simple speeches against the Saudi dynasty – it's all there, and such laws are operating. Saudi Arabia, despite the oil boom and the creation of sufficiently modern internal infrastructure on the basis of petrodollars, remains a rather special country in socio-political terms,” Dolgov believes.
According to him, the policy of Saudi Arabia is quite aggressive: “This is the introduction of troops to Bahrain and the suppression of the protest movement in Bahrain, and quite a bloody suppression of the movement, not just the Shiite movement, but there was also a democratic movement. This is the bombing of the territory of Yemen without any mandate from the UN, where several thousand civilians have been killed, including children. This is the support of radical Islamist groups in Syria.”
Dolgov is dure that Saudi Arabia carries out this aggressive policy using the support of the United States: “If we imagine that such executions of almost 50 people would have occurred somewhere in another country, for example, in Iran, I can imagine what storm of protests would rise up in the world. I remind you that Iran planned to execute a woman for the fact that she allegedly was involved in the murder of her husband, she was not executed, but there was such a noble storm of protest against this throughout the entire world. Now we see that the United States lightly scolded Saudi Arabia, and even blamed Iran for not providing security for Saudi diplomatic missions.”