The Saudis See Iran Trying to Encircle Them

(Los Angeles Times) Dennis Ross - The Saudis believe that America's friends and interests are under threat, and the U.S. response has ranged from indifference to accommodation. The Saudis see Iran trying to encircle them with its Quds Force active in Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and their own eastern province. The Saudis see an Iranian effort to shift the balance of forces in the region dramatically in Tehran's favor, whether by killing Sunni Muslims in Syria, mobilizing Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq, providing arms to the Houthi rebels in Yemen or fomenting unrest among Saudi Shiites. Unlike the Israelis, who see the Iranian nuclear program as an existential threat, the Saudis perceive Iranian encirclement in existential terms. Like the Israelis, they are convinced Iran is determined to acquire nuclear arms but see it as an instrument in its pursuit of regional hegemony. Saudi leaders see the Iranians using the nuclear program negotiations to buy time, and fear that the U.S. is refusing to compete with the Iranians in the region or to back U.S. friends as they do so. They see the Egyptian military involved in a life-and-death struggle with the Muslim Brotherhood and jihadi terrorists in Sinai, both of whom are also perceived as a threat to Saudi Arabia. And they see the U.S. withholding of Apache helicopters, which are effective as a counter-terror weapon for the Egyptian military, as inexplicable. The Saudis have offered to pay for the $2-3 billion arms package Egypt is seeking from the Russians. The writer served as a senior Middle East advisor to President Obama.

2014-03-26 00:00:00

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