US set to profit on Saudi-Iran rivalry in Gulf

MALIK AYUB SUMBAL
Published 28.09.2019 00:00

The mounting tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran rose drastically in the last week following drone strikes on two Saudi oil facilities, which the kingdom accused Iran of carrying out; however, Iran has rejected these allegations.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javed Zarif categorically responded that any strike against his country would be "all-out war."

These attacks also exposed the U.S. failure in the region to protect its allies, for which the U.S. has been raking in billions of dollars to safeguard them.

Responsibility for the recent drone strikes was claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels, who have been at war with Saudi Arabia since 2015. Soon after a recent series of drone strikes on major oil sites in northern Saudi Arabia, U.S. President Donald Trump accused Iran of carrying out the attacks, while Saudi Arabia also continuously points to Iran for masterminding these attacks.

Saudi Arabia's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir, during a press conference in Riyadh, said the kingdom will take the necessary measures after the investigations if Iran is found guilty of involvement in these attacks. He also said that Saudi Arabia is consulting with its allies and that the Saudis are certain that the drones were launched from the north, not from Yemen; however, the truth will come out in the investigations.

Therefore, it can be gauged from the Saudi minister's statements that the Saudi accusations are based on anti-Iran rhetoric. Saudi Arabia's preliminary allegations are not based on credible investigations, and the kingdom has already made up its mind about Iran. Some past instances have demonstrated that Saudi Arabia used to pursue the instructions of the U.S. without a necessary check on setting up anti-Iran policy in the Middle East. For the U.S., such incidents are the best opportunities to keep the Saudi-Iran conflict active.

Saudi-Iran war 'unlikely'

Saudi Arabia has been trapped in Yemen and after four years, it has proved that it is one of the major strategic miscalculations by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) – the country's de facto ruler.

The ongoing Yemen war has opened a new front for Saudi Arabia, and the kingdom is still not in a position to resolve the issue. On the other hand, if Saudi Arabia implements U.S. policy and decides on an aggressive stance against Iran in the aftermath of the drone attacks on its oil facilities, the result would be highly damaging for peace in the entire region.

The Middle East, especially Iran and Saudi Arabia, two archrival countries, are head-to-head in this confrontation. Both know that even a single mistake can lead them both toward an unending and massive catastrophe that can turn the whole Middle East into ashes.

The two countries have been deeply engaged in a number of proxy conflicts in the Middle East, and they have already calculated their strength for any future encounter and possible misadventure. Under current circumstances and the economic crunch, it is hardly possible for any country to waste their capital in war. Wars are getting more expensive and public pressure on the countries' leadership is increasing to avoid the confrontation that is snatching up people's bread and butter. On other hand, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, speaking on the deployment of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, has warned that foreign forces threaten the security of the Gulf. Speaking at the U.N., the Iranian president said that foreign forces have always brought pain and misery, and foreign forces in the region should not be used in an arms race. The U.S. was willing to deploy more U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia after the drone strikes on Saudi oil facilities. The Iranian president added that Iran is willing to present a new Gulf peace initiative at U.N. sessions in the coming days.

Will the U.S. protect its regional allies?

The Pentagon decided to send additional troops on the request of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to protect its allies. However, the major question is how long the U.S. will safeguard the kingdom and what Saudi Arabia has to pay the U.S. for its security.

The price for the U.S., namely offering to safeguard Saudi Arabia on the condition of anti-Iran strategies and war games, will be expensive for the Saudis.

The United States has a history of deceiving its allies, and the Saudi authorities should learn from the U.S.' past. To be locked in any kind of confrontation with Iran for the sake of U.S. interests is not in the interests of Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. defense policy in the Middle East is based on the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia. If today the tense atmosphere between the countries cools down, the U.S. defense sector faces billions of dollars in losses. Therefore, maintaining tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran is in the interest of the United States.

History shows that the U.S. has employed war strategies to maintain a surge in its arms industries. In the Middle East, apparently, it gives the impression that there are two main rivals, Iran and Saudi Arabia, but that actually may not be the case. The Middle East is the ideal ground for a new Cold War or really any kind of confrontation. For the new Cold War, the main players seem willing to jump in and damage each other's interests. Syria is the best example of a recent case study in this.

* Political analyst, journalist based in Pakistan

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