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Saudi foreign policy is an open-ended struggle

January 24, 2014 at 6:40 am

From Lebanon to Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Yemen and Iraq, not to mention its support for the Syrian opposition, Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy appears to be contradictory.

While attacking the Arab Spring revolutions it is also backing the revolutionaries in Syria as part of its moves against Iran and Iranian proxies in the region.

Lebanon is thus on the front line, with Hezbollah the target, especially after its “Al-Qusayr operation” which confirmed the deep ties between the organisation and the Syrian regime. These ties run so deep that Hezbollah is now fighting the regime’s battles, which the Saudis and other Gulf States believe are doctrinal in nature.

If the attack on Egypt’s revolution uses doctrine as an effective weapon against the Muslim Brotherhood, with America’s blessing, then in Lebanon it is being used as a weapon to confront Iranian influence. In Saudi eyes, this has to be dealt with before the Israeli threat. This expands the Syrian front, especially since it is also likely to extend to Iraq and Bahrain, and then to Yemen.

It is no secret that Saudi Arabia is behind the delay in forming a new government in Lebanon. One of its conditions is to exclude Hezbollah, despite the movement being the largest and most popular political party in the Arab world. Using Hezbollah’s role in Syria as an excuse, the Saudis are colluding, by effect if not intention, with Israel and the West in the demonisation of the resistance movement. What gives this an added and most surprising dimension is Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s support for Hezbollah’s exclusion from the political process.

Along with the UAE and Kuwait, Saudi Arabia has donated billions of dollars to the coup government in Egypt in an obviously opportunistic act designed to curtail the revolution and exploit the Egyptian economy. The Saudis are also very clearly pleased with the silent coup in Qatar in which power has been passed to the son of former Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa. King Abdullah Ibn Saud received the new Emir a few days ago in a sure sign of his approval. This links conveniently to the apparent fall from favour in Qatar by the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual mentor Shaikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.

By backing the opposition in Syria and attempting to keep Hezbollah away from government in Lebanon, the Saudis are thus striking a double blow to Iranian proxies and thus, by extension, to Iran itself. The government in Tehran is seen as a threat to Saudi Arabia’s hegemonic claims in the Arab world. It is no coincidence that the Brotherhood in Egypt is being targeted, given that one of President Mohammed Morsi’s first foreign trips was to Tehran.

However, history has taught us that gold does not always work in buying off revolutions and revolutionaries. Nor can it always tame the resistance and its martyrs and noble causes associated with liberating the Holy Land and defeating the actual regional enemy.

This is an open-ended struggle that Saudi Arabia has embarked upon, but it is not clear if it will be successful or not.

The author is a Lebanese writer. This article is a translation of the Arabic text which appeared in As Safir Newspaper on 5 August, 2013.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.