Fear and Loathing in Riyadh - of Tehran

[Weekly Standard] Olivier Guitta - Tensions have been building between Tehran and Riyadh as the Saudis fear both Iran's nuclear program and its expansionist agenda. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 launched a far-reaching competition between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia for control of Islam and the worldwide community of Muslims. Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president, Iran has increased its expenditure of money, energy, and time on proselytizing populations from Africa to the Gulf. Hundreds of Lebanese Shiite Hizbullah fighters who got their military training in Iran have infiltrated the Gulf since last year in order to "militarize" the Shiite communities of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain. Saudi Arabia is convinced that Iran is a threat to the Saudi regime. The kingdom's Shiite minority, about 10% of the population, is concentrated in the oil-rich eastern region of the country and the regime cannot afford a rebellion or terror attacks there. Tehran also helps various arms of al-Qaeda with funding, supplies, training, and sanctuary, and al-Qaeda is a deadly enemy of the Saudi regime. To counter Iran, Saudi Arabia has built a Sunni axis, cultivating relations with the six Gulf monarchies (though Qatar is wobbly), Jordan, and Egypt. This development was supported by the Bush administration and even implicitly by Israel. (High-level "secret" meetings between Saudis and Israelis have taken place since 2006.) The Saudis are concerned about the Obama administration's overtures to Iran and are afraid that a deal will be done to their detriment. The writer is an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

2009-03-16 06:00:00

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