Eric Draitser: no Nostradamus
Eric Draitser, “The war on Iran begins…in Syria”, August 28, 2013
In the decades since the revolution of 1979 which created the modern Islamic Republic of Iran, the US policy toward that country has been antagonistic and belligerent to such a degree that Iran has been forced, out of sheer necessity, to rely very heavily on its few regional and international allies. And so, given the political posture of Bashar Assad, like that of his father before him, Damascus has been viewed as Iran’s key political partner, providing Iran with a crucial ally along the border with Israel and a bridge to the Hezbollah organization in Southern Lebanon. Additionally, a multi-ethnic society like Syria with a dominant Shiite-Alawite demographic presents itself as a natural friend to Shiite Iran. However, the importance of this relationship does not stop at mere similarities.
When one looks at the players involved in the war in Syria, it becomes clear that the Sunni monarchies – Saudi Arabia and Qatar primarily – have committed to the war in order to ensure their own continued hegemony, especially in terms of energy production. Qatar, being one of the world’s wealthiest gas exporters, views the growing relationship between Iran and Syria, especially the gas pipeline deal, as an existential threat to their own standing. The Saudis, long since mortal enemies and rivals of the Shia Iranians, also have come to view Syria as merely a battleground in the larger proxy war with Iran.
And then of course, there’s Israel. Perched comfortably on Syria’s border, Israel has played a key role in stoking tensions and fomenting unrest on the other side of the Golan Heights. Not only did Israel carry out a number of blatantly illegal bombings inside Syria’s borders, there have been dozens of mainstream accounts, including videos, of Israeli Special forces commandos inside of Syria. Naturally, Israeli intentions are to further their own interests which for decades have been centered on the destruction of Iran, their main regional competitor and rival.
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NY Times November 25, 2013
U.S. and Saudis in Growing Rift as Power Shifts
By ROBERT F. WORTH
WASHINGTON — There was a time when Saudi and American interests in the Middle East seemed so aligned that the cigar-smoking former Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, was viewed as one of the most influential diplomats in Washington.
Those days are over. The Saudi king and his envoys — like the Israelis — have spent weeks lobbying fruitlessly against the interim nuclear accord with Iran that was reached in Geneva on Sunday. In the end, there was little they could do: The Obama administration saw the nuclear talks in a fundamentally different light from the Saudis, who fear that any letup in the sanctions will come at the cost of a wider and more dangerous Iranian role in the Middle East.
Although the Saudis remain close American allies, the nuclear accord is the culmination of a slow mutual disenchantment that began at the end of the Cold War.
For decades, Washington depended on Saudi Arabia — a country of 30 million people but the Middle East’s largest reserves of oil — to shore up stability in a region dominated by autocrats and hostile to another ally, Israel. The Saudis used their role as the dominant power in OPEC to help rein in Iraq and Iran, and they supported bases for the American military, anchoring American influence in the Middle East and beyond.
But the Arab uprisings altered the balance of power across the Middle East, especially with the ouster of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, a close ally of both the Saudis and the Americans.
The United States has also been reluctant to take sides in the worsening sectarian strife between Shiite and Sunni, in which the Saudis are firm partisans on the Sunni side.
At the same time, new sources of oil have made the Saudis less essential. And the Obama administration’s recent diplomatic initiatives on Syria and Iran have left the Saudis with a deep fear of abandonment.