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Opinion: Saudi Arabia leads the way - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Revealing events and sound visions do not materialize in one go, they come slowly to those who want them, wait and care for them. What Syria is living through now is a huge event by historic standards, exceptional by political standards, and is painful by human standards.

It seems like history, like humans, occasionally becomes bored with the monotony of events and the stagnation of variables, which are its food and drink, and revolts. History’s revolution manifests itself in huge events and major changes that make people stand and take notice. Some people are impressed, some less so, and as for reaching conclusions, some are right, and some are wrong.

Between history’s monotony and its revolt, humans’ ambitions do not end, the struggle for their interests does not go away, and the enmity of foes does not tire.

Secretary of State John Kerry gave an important talk to the US consular staff in Jeddah, about relations with Saudi Arabia. He said: “The relationship with Saudi Arabia remains one of the most important . . . It is not because of the resources, it is because Saudi Arabia continued to play a beneficial leadership role, especially in construction, cooperation, and preemption, and showed initiatives regarding some puzzling challenges we faced,” adding that “this vision and wisdom, and this type of leadership, are what we need, especially lately.”

Saudi–American relations are strategic relations the foundations of which had been laid by King Abd Al-Aziz Al-Saud and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, during their famous meeting in 1945 at the Great Bitter Lake, in the Suez Canal. These relations continued to grow and develop after the two leaders had gone, and what Kerry said about the vision and wisdom of the Saudi leadership echoed President Roosevelt, who said before the Congress in March 1945, that “I have learnt about the problems of Muslims and Jews in a five-minute chat with Bin Saud, more than I could have learnt from exchanging 43 letters.”

Saudi Arabia’s enemies, from the leftist and nationalist propagandists, and the icons of political Islam before they came to power, tried to peddle the idea that Saudi–American relations were relations of dependents not equals. However, whoever reads the history of these relations can discover the inherent inaccuracy of this analysis.

In reality, regarding the situation in Syria today, Kerry said “Saudi Arabia continued to play a beneficial leadership role, especially in construction, cooperation, and preemption,” which is but one example. The Saudi role was clear from the start in supporting the Syrian people against the vicious Assad regime in the famous speech by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. Saudi Arabia was also leading on the ground, especially when the US refrained from supporting the Syrian people due to its own reservations, and Saudi Arabia provided all kinds of political, military and humanitarian support, as was announced by Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal.

If the American administration was confused about the situation in Syria, as Kerry said, Saudi Arabia took the initiative, and regarding recent historical background, Saudi Arabia was against US invasion in Iraq in 2003, which Faisal described as nothing more than presenting Iraq on a gold platter to Iran.

There is also the sectarian drive which is led by Iranian exploitation of sectarianism, and specifically Shi’ism, to further its ambitions for hegemony over Arabs. It was therefore strange for Iran’s man in Iraq, Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, to ask “what is happening in Syria? Why all this mobilization? Why all this openness? They say kill them, what are you waiting for?” And yet he criticized Al-Azhar for interfering in the Syrian conflict.

This talk from Maliki contains multiple errors, all documented reports from neutral journalists confirm that Shi’ite militias leave Iraq under Maliki’s watch to go to Syria and participate in killing the Syrian people, under sectarian slogans that are loud and clear in their extremism, to the point that his foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, confirmed this himself when he said “I do not deny that there are Iraqi Shi’ites fighting in Syria.”

It does not become a leader, who takes up sectarian discourse, and who is biased towards the Persian state which is anti-Arab, to give political or humanitarian advice, that he is the first to contradict.

There may be some points worth noting in Maliki’s speech. Especially, this includes the involvement of clerics and religious institutions in political affairs, which has become prevalent in some Arab republics which have undergone revolutions. This has become worse and even attracted more strict religious institutions in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, following the open sectarian policies which were adopted by Iran, Hezbollah, Shi’ite Iraqi militias, and some Huthis in Syria.

Moving from “fundamental priorities” after the fundamental spring, to “sectarian priorities” after the Syrian conflict is a move which shows the decline which the region slipped into more than two and a half years ago—as I warned previously—and unfortunately, it is a decline which is accelerating.

Sectarianism was a sleeping evil which Iran awakened by thinking it would be the weapon which would bring it victory and power. However, the genie of sectarianism, once out of its bottle, threatened Iran and its allies in the region. It has lost many movements and intellectuals who supported its policies in the region, and will bring disaster to members of its sect outside its borders, because it has thrown them into a war which they can never win.

Sectarian logic, vocabulary and fatwas, will paint the coming days with sectarianism, its ugliness will come out like never before, and sedition will be propagated by intellectuals, journalists, and clerics. What is more dangerous is that the enormity of events will drive some sensible and wise types to insanity and we will only be able to rely on a small minority to analyze the situation and distinguish between political conflicts and their sectarian dimensions.

Supporting the Syrian people in any way possible is a humanitarian duty to confront the Iranian project which is anti-Arab and anti-Syrian, and when Saudi Arabia leads such a drive, it weighs up the matter accurately, moved only by supporting the oppressed, and confronting the terrorist organizations.