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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2588

Saudi-Iran moves in Middle-East

By Tukoji R Pandit - Syndicate Features

Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran are not known to be the best of friends. The suspicion that the two have of each other has grown with the rise of insurgency in Iraq where the minority Sunnis after a long period of political dominance are at the receiving end of Shia militancy.

Now the two countries say they have agreed to work in tandem to fight the sectarian strife among the Muslim nations in the Middle East. President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad of Iran flew to Riyadh to pledge his cooperation for ending that strife during talks with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

It will be a while before more can be said about the cooperation promised by the two oil rich and aspiring regional powers. For Saudi Arabia, the response from Iran must be welcome not just for its potential to reduce tension in its perpetually troubled neighbourhood but also as a mark of some success for its new - found love for diplomatic initiatives.

It may be that Washington has blessed, behind the curtain, the Saudi spurt in diplomatic activities. But there is no need to worry unduly about that if the end result is going to be peace, or at least scaling down of present tensions in a region that has been volatile for over five decades.

Saudi Arabia may also be keen to regain its diplomatic clout in the region, which has eroded considerably in the last decade or so. The Saudi royals, who rule the country, are seen today as too close to the Americans—not a very nice thing in the Muslim world where America is virtually running out of friends.

In Saudi Arabia itself, there is a strong streak of anti-Americanism, one manifestation of which is the following in the kingdom of ‘ideology’ preached by Saudi born Osama bin Laden.

Early in February Saudi Arabia had succeeded in bringing together two bitter enemies whose fights had injected a new element in tension in the region. The Saudis had hosted a meeting at Mecca, which was attended by the two Palestinian rival factions, Fatah and Hamas. The two sides agreed to iron out their differences for the sake of peace in the Palestinian territory.

The Saudis may be testing their diplomatic skills again at the end of March when they play host to the Arab League summit. It is quite possible that King Abdullah (then the crown prince) may revive his 2002 Middle East peace initiative, which requires the Arab states to accept Israel’s right to exist in exchange for peace and vacation of occupied territories. The deliberations at the summit will undoubtedly be watched keenly and also the role of Saudi Arabia in hawking a peace deal for the region—never an easy job.

Some of the reasons for Saudi Arabia’s spring feet diplomacy are obvious. Like other Sunni dominated Arab nations in the region, Saudis cannot hibernate as Iran’s influence sprouts across a wider area and Shia militia become a force to reckon with, both militarily and politically, as was shown recently in the war in Lebanon, which infused a new life into the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

A more direct concern for Saudi Arabia is that its eastern part has not only a great wealth of oil but also a large Shia population, which is considered vulnerable to the growing Iranian influence.

Saudi Arabia must have watched with dismay Iran’s sway over the majority population in its western neighbour, Iraq. Ironically, the Americans have played a large part in creating a new problem for its long-time ally, Saudi Arabia.

To be fair, it was not the American intention to facilitate Iran’s influence over Iraqi population when its forces deposed Saddam Hussein after bombing out the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, another neighbour of Iran. The end result of these two ‘misadventures’—as it turns out—of the US has been the liquidation of two forces traditionally inimical to Iran. To that extent, Iran owes a debt of gratitude to the ‘great Satan’, the Americans!

Saddam Hussein had fought a long war with Iran leading to death of millions in the two countries; Iran helped in the rise of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan to check the relentless march of the Sunni Taliban outfit that was created by another eastern neighbour, Pakistan.

Early in February Saudi Arabia had succeeded in bringing together two bitter enemies whose fights had injected a new element in tension in the region. The Saudis had hosted a meeting at Mecca, which was attended by the two Palestinian rival factions, Fatah and Hamas. The two sides agreed to iron out their differences for the sake of peace in the Palestinian territory.

The Saudis may be testing their diplomatic skills again at the end of March when they play host to the Arab League summit. It is quite possible that King Abdullah (then the crown prince) may revive his 2002 Middle East peace initiative, which requires the Arab states to accept Israel’s right to exist in exchange for peace and vacation of occupied territories. The deliberations at the summit will undoubtedly be watched keenly and also the role of Saudi Arabia in hawking a peace deal for the region—never an easy job.

Some of the reasons for Saudi Arabia’s spring feet diplomacy are obvious. Like other Sunni dominated Arab nations in the region, Saudis cannot hibernate as Iran’s influence sprouts across a wider area and Shia militia become a force to reckon with, both militarily and politically, as was shown recently in the war in Lebanon, which infused a new life into the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

A more direct concern for Saudi Arabia is that its eastern part has not only a great wealth of oil but also a large Shia population, which is considered vulnerable to the growing Iranian influence.

Saudi Arabia must have watched with dismay Iran’s sway over the majority population in its western neighbour, Iraq. Ironically, the Americans have played a large part in creating a new problem for its long-time ally, Saudi Arabia.

To be fair, it was not the American intention to facilitate Iran’s influence over Iraqi population when its forces deposed Saddam Hussein after bombing out the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, another neighbour of Iran. The end result of these two ‘misadventures’—as it turns out—of the US has been the liquidation of two forces traditionally inimical to Iran. To that extent, Iran owes a debt of gratitude to the ‘great Satan’, the Americans!

Saddam Hussein had fought a long war with Iran leading to death of millions in the two countries; Iran helped in the rise of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan to check the relentless march of the Sunni Taliban outfit that was created by another eastern neighbour, Pakistan.

- Syndicate Features -

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