Saudi Arabia - a monster of the West's creation

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
Newly-appointed Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir (R) shakes hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry during a joint press conference at the Riyadh Air Base in the Saudi capital on May 7, 2015. © Andrew Harnik
The deepening crisis between Saudi Arabia and Iran, following the controversial execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr by the Saudis, shows no evidence of abating. Direct military confrontation is now a distinct possibility.

READ MORE: Uproar in Middle East after Saudi Arabia executes top Shiite cleric

For many experts, analysts, commentators, and people familiar with the Middle East, the prospect of military conflict between the Saudis and the Iranians will come as no surprise. For some years both countries have been engaged in a de facto Cold War as representatives of Sunni and Shia Islam each seek to establish their legitimacy. This dates back to the original schism of 632AD, after Prophet Muhammad’s death.

In its modern incarnation, the fissure within Islam between both branches and their respective legitimacy as representatives of the true faith has taken on political and geopolitical dimensions, given the wider strategic importance of the resource-rich Arab and Muslim world.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran deteriorated rapidly in the wake of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, which toppled the US puppet regime led by the Shah. The Saudis, worried about growing Shiite influence in the region as a consequence, and regarding themselves as the theological guardians of Sunni Islam, have worked to oppose any such influence at every turn in the decades since.

The oppression of its own Shiite minority, along with the repression of Shiite pro democracy movements in Bahrain and Yemen in recent years, is evidence of Riyadh’s increasingly aggressive stance in the region, proving a key factor in its destabilization in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring of 2011. This revolutionary surge swept through Tunisia and Egypt only to conclude in a counter revolutionary backlash, wherein it was hijacked by extremists who were fuelled by a literalist interpretation of Sunni Islam; one almost indistinguishable from the Wahhabi religious doctrine that underpins the Saudi state.

The role of the Saudis in supporting various groups fighting in Syria is by now well known, which in conjunction with the upsurge in beheadings and executions being carried out in the kingdom over the past two years, suggests a regime consumed with insecurity over the dominance of Sunni Islam as a political force. The announcement on Monday that Sudan had decided to cut diplomatic ties with Tehran, and with Bahrain also lining up alongside Riyadh, merely confirms this. Add to the mix the collapse of US leadership and influence in the region and the prospect of the crisis lapsing into open conflict is very real.

Saudi Arabia, despite its repeated and flagrant violations of human rights both within and outside its borders, and despite the destabilization it has helped wrought, enjoys the protection of its Western allies. Saudi Arabia has long been the biggest market for Western arms exports, and in the process of its long and favored relations with the West, it has perfected the art of saying one thing to the West and another to its own people and adherents across the Muslim world. However, there is no confusion when it comes to its actions, which have charted a course of ever increasing belligerency and extremism.

When it comes to Iran, we are talking about a country that has been much maligned in the West for decades. It is painted as a rogue state and a threat to security and stability. Nobody forgets its inclusion in former US President George W Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ along with North Korea and Iraq. A sworn enemy of Israel and Saudi Arabia, Iran existed under a strict sanctions regimen for many years, and only recently was brought in from the cold by the Obama administration in the wake of diplomatic talks to end the impasse over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Obama’s peace overtures to the Iranians met with consternation in Tel Aviv and Riyadh. The nuclear deal caused a rupture in relations between Washington and its longstanding allies. Add to this the reluctance of Obama to commit to toppling Assad in Syria with sufficient force and never has an administration been regarded so poorly in the region as the Obama administration by the Israelis and the Saudis.

In truth, Iran has long been a pillar of stability in the Middle East. It has no territorial ambitions and its non-sectarianism is evidenced in its unwavering support for the overwhelmingly Sunni and long suffering Palestinians.

The region is in the throes of an ever deepening and intensifying crisis, triggered in the first instance by the disastrous US-led war of aggression on Iraq in 2003 and continued by the West’s role in helping to topple the Gaddafi government in Libya. There was a failure to adequately appreciate the threat posed by terrorism and extremism, both of which have proliferated as a consequence of the West’s actions since 9/11. Destroying the village in order to save it has been the strategy of governments, which have allowed regional allies such as Saudi Arabia to spread and propagate the poison of sectarianism and barbarism unchecked.

We are talking about people who as Oscar Wilde once quipped, “understand the price of everything and the value of nothing.” They are pushing the region into the most dangerous period it has experienced since the end of the Cold War.

Albert Camus says: “A man without ethics is a wild beast let loose upon this world.” The same sentiment can be applied to states and governments.

Step forward Saudi Arabia.

LISTEN MORE:

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.