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Riyadh Versus Damascus - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A battle is taking place between Riyadh and Damascus.

It is a silent battle on the part of Riyadh, but noisy on the part of Damascus. Damascus rejected the Arab League secretary general’s proposal to reform the Arabs’ relations with Iran. Syria rejected the idea in its capacity as president of the Arab summit. It holds the view that no one is in disagreement with Tehran and, therefore, let the Saudis alone deal with the problem. Damascus leaked its views to the Lebanese press. Even though it officially denied these views, everyone knows that they are literally Syrian, not Iranian, statements in spite of Damascus’s attempt to imply that they are Iranian. For some time now, Damascus has been trying to convince the Gulf leaders that Iran is behind the statements and reports that come out of Beirut and behind the events that take place there and that Damascus has nothing to do with them.

Surely, Iran plays a large role in the crises of the region. However, we cannot hold it responsible for everything happens and said in the region, even if they were attributed to an Iranian news agency, such as Fars, or others, which were lately used a lot in publishing statements of Syrian origin to keep suspicions away from Damascus and fasten them on Iran, or even if they were attributed to the Iranian Television Network.

What makes the disagreement with the Iranians different is that it is obvious and can be defined. The Iranian regime’s desire to dominate the Arab region from the Gulf and Iraq to Lebanon is now public. They [the Iranians] told the Americans “we have a role to play in Iraq and the Gulf” and said to the Saudis” come let us reach an understanding on Lebanon” and so forth. However, it is difficult for one to imagine that the Iranian regime’s desire would be fulfilled without causing dangers and extremely serious sectarian conflict. Thus, the situation suffers a political and security tension. Besides, there is the nuclear issue, and Iran does not hide its intentions to make nuclear weapons. The Gulf region is more affected by this danger than by Israel, the name of which is used to justify the making of weapons, as Saddam used to do in the 1980s. Afterward, he used his deadly weapons against Iran and his Kurdish compatriots and occupied Kuwait. The six Gulf states are collectively convinced that the Iranian weapons target them. The Iranian weapons will subject these Gulf states to Iran’s blackmail in the future, if not directly used against them. These disagreements with Iran are clear. Even though they are serious, communication between Riyadh and Tehran never ceased. In fact, it has been said that this communication saved the region during some periods of tension, even though it failed during the crisis of Hezbollah’s recent coup. For the first time, this crisis led to a public verbal altercation between the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, and Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

That is why Damascus’s leaked press statements were exciting. They show a state of tension and fury and a desire to invent a clash. They complement statements that were made early this year by Syrian Vice President Farooq al-Sharaa who predicted the downfall of the Saudi oil regions. The Syrian statements that were recently leaked to the press said Saudi Arabia was conspiring to overthrow the Syrian regime. What a charge! I am sure the Syrians know very well that if Saudi Arabia adopted a plan to topple their regime, the plan would not be impossible and would be carried out in a “legitimate” way. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia is not like Syria in dealing with crises. The severest penal action that that Saudi Arabia takes in such situations is to reduce or sever its contacts. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia supported stability in Syria throughout the past 30 years, not necessarily because it loved the regime, but because it is against chaos in the region. Saudi Arabia believes that disagreements, no matter how bad, can be resolved in the end. It held the view that if regimes do not rectify their behavior, they do not livelong, no matter how many alliances they establish.

Currently, the Syrians are persistently engaged in a campaign of various forms through many parties with the aim of insulting, provoking, and intimidating the Saudis, out of their belief that this campaign will force their adversaries to submit to their demands. Anyway, let us wait and see.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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