IRNA/ King Salman’s rule, far from a transition

SHAFAQNA – “Tehran Times” on Thursday wrote that no signs exist that Riyadh’s position vis-à-vis Tehran will fundamentally alter for the foreseeable future, in part because the underlying tensions between both states are less likely to quickly and dramatically reduce.

This is because King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, the late king Abdullah’s successor, has been part of the ruling clique of princes for so long and is likely to continue the main pillars of Saudi foreign policy, including maintaining strategic ties with the US, working toward a sustainable oil price, and stabilizing the world’s energy market, underscored the English-language paper.

The paper was elaborating on the reign of late King Abdullah’s rule (2005-2015), which it said would be ‘judged as a mixed legacy.’

In terms of its foreign policy, Saudi Arabia has been a major status quo power in the region. King Abdullah played a crucial role to reconcile the Palestinian factions, while serving as a prominent financial mainstay of the Palestinians, noted the paper. In the aftermath of the 2011 uprising, the so-called “Arab Spring,” Saudi Arabia played the role of counterrevolutionary by supporting radical Islamic groups such as the Salafis on the one hand and forging an alliance with military rule in Egypt on the other, it added.

The latter came about after the army engineered a coup to topple Egypt’s first publicly and democratically elected president—Mohamed Morsi—to contain the political influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Under Abdullah’s rule, Saudi Arabia contributed millions of dollars to a UN anti-terror program, but at the same time was accused of funding radical and armed Sunni groups in the region, largely to counter Iranian-supported factions in Syria, a move that led to sectarian divides and the further spread of mayhem in the region, criticized the paper.

The Saudi approach toward Syria and its support for the Syrian rebels has left a difficult legacy to preserve, it said. There is no denying that such support has given rise to the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Although the Saudis have played a constructive role in confronting Al-Qaeda and its affiliates in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks on the U.S. soil, they have fueled sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiites, creating a deep ideological void that has been blatantly exploited by ISIS members who have increasingly marginalized mainstream politics, wrote the daily.

On the other side, Saudi Arabia continues to be the only country with tremendous leverage on the production level and hence the price of oil in international markets, it noted.

The Saudi rivalry with Iran, which is now playing out in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and Bahrain, is unlikely to diminish—or even dramatically decline—for the foreseeable future, pointed out the paper.

Yet emerging and new threats from ISIS might have already created a new opening in the relations between the two countries. Many experts argue, however, that given recent events in Yemen as well as the ongoing conflicts in Syria, the rivalry and tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran is likely to continue under King Salman.

The Obama administration has now openly admitted that there is no settled or regionally accepted solution to the Syrian crisis in the wake of ISIS’s penetration in that country, it concluded.




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