Since the Fatah-Hamas Mecca agreement, the Saudis have returned to the spotlight for analysis and comment. With Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Riyadh, it reached a point where a US commentator wrote “Every place in the Middle East that matters, it seems, Riyadh is leading, and Washington is following.”
The writer added that Washington should not make Riyadh its gateway to Tehran, proceeding that the Saudis are playing with fire and that the US may get burnt! Such comments are contrary to a Washington Post editorial that talked of the Saudi role following the Mecca Declaration, saying that Riyadh is doing what Washington should have done.
In politics there is a famous phrase; keep your friends close but your enemies closer. The basic rule is that a politician does not burn bridges, and regardless of animosity, channels of communication must be maintained, even those that are in the backdrop.
It is Saudi Arabia that lives in the fire line in the region and, due to its religious, political and economic role, all that takes place on the ground reflects upon it. It would be absurd for Saudi Arabia to isolate itself or to rely upon others to manage its security and interests, and solve the conflicts that are taking place in the region while it stands by and watches. Without doubt, a major country must play a role that is dictated by its magnitude.
I stated this opinion in writing previously and expressed it openly with decision-makers at a point when I believed that Saudi Arabia kept away from its necessary role towards regional issues. Therefore, here, I defend Riyadh’s policy with all conviction.
Accordingly, I believe that the Saudis are not playing with fire but rather are seeking to pacify those who have been affected by the fire after dancing around it themselves. In our Arab world there are those who are burning the candle at both ends and should no one come to their rescue, they will either burn or allow the candle to fall on a mountain of gunpowder.
Lebanon cannot be left as a hotbed of political gangs that carry out assassinations and seek to control the country’s resources only to thrust the country into the fire of civil war. Riyadh can neither allow Palestine to be a commodity in Iran’s hands nor allow the breeze to blow through Baghdad only from Tehran. The region cannot be divided into Sunnis loyal to one party and the Shia loyal to another. The motherland must be respected and is above everything else.
Perhaps not much will take place following the Riyadh summit between King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz and the Iranian President and this is not politically disturbing. However, it was clear that the ceiling of expectation was high from regional states and Lebanon, and this clearly proves that there is a sense of danger posed by Iranian conduct in the region and the ensuing American escalation against Iran.
If Washington has decided not to move diplomatically, another party must assume this role, the reason simply being that war is the last rather than first step in diplomacy.
Today, Saudis are most capable of playing this role. The Saudi monarch is a direct person who calls things by what they are. Riyadh does not want a new war in the region, and Saudi Arabia does not approve of a nuclear state on its borders either, after all, we are still affected by the ramifications of the Islamic revolution, so how about nuclear radiation?