Tag Archives: iran

Does the unrest in Saudi Arabia mean their government is tottering?

Summary: The Saudi Princes rule one of the nations key to the current geopolitical order. Recent news stories suggest it is tottering, such as the execution of a reformist Shiite cleric. A close look at authoritative sources gives the answer, one that also illuminates other questions about current events.

Saud flag

Saudi execution of Shia cleric sparks outrage in Middle East
The Guardian, 2 January 2016

The Iranian government and religious leaders across the Middle East have condemned Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shia cleric {Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr} and warned of repercussions that could bring down the country’s royal family.

Nimr had long been regarded as the most vocal Shia leader in the eastern Saudi province of Qatif, willing to publicly criticise the ruling al-Saud family and call for elections. He was, however, careful to avoid calling for violence, analysts say. That did not prevent the interior ministry from accusing him of being behind attacks on police, alongside a group of other suspects it said were working on behalf of Iran, the kingdom’s main regional rival.

… The execution was described as a “grave mistake” by the Supreme Islamic Shia Council in Lebanon and a “flagrant violation of human rights” by Yemen’s Houthi movement. … Iran’s Shia leadership said the execution of Nimr “would cost Saudi Arabia dearly”.

…Nimr was one of 47 people Saudi Arabian executed for terrorism on Friday. The interior ministry said most of those killed were involved in a series of al-Qaida attacks between 2003 and 2006. … The simultaneous execution of 47 people on security grounds was the biggest such event in Saudi Arabia since the 1980 killing of 63 jihadi rebels who seized Mecca’s Grand Mosque in 1979.

The Mehr News Agency reports strong words by Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jaber Ansari…

The Iranian diplomat lamented that while Takfiri and extremist terrorists have disrupted peace in the region and the whole world, executing an unarmed dissident who just criticized the Saudi regime for religious and political issues depicts a total lack of wisdom and shrewdness among Saudies. Jaber Ansari categorically condemned the move and drew attentions to the fact that Saudis, who support and feed terrorists and extremists Takfiries in other countries, are very authoritarian and repressive in dealing with their home dissidents.

Mehr quotes strong language by Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami, a senior member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts:

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Stratfor looks at Iraq, the Center of a Regional Power Struggle

Summary: Nothing shows the magnitude of our failure in Iraq as its transformation from foe to friend of Iran. More than an ally, Iran has become powerful in Iraq’s internal politics. Neither Iraq’s rulers nor its neighbors are happy with this, and now they push back. Stratfor seems optimistic about their odds of success. Color me skeptical about this analysis. However, Stratfor’s greatest value is as a window into the values, assumptions, and thinking of US elites. This shows how little we’ve learned after 14 years of FAILs in Iraq.

Stratfor

Iraq, the Center of a Regional Power Struggle

Lead Analyst: Omar Lamrani
Stratfor, 18 September 2015

Forecast

  • The Iraqi prime minister will continue to pursue reforms to loosen Iran’s grip on his country.
  • A growing number of regional rivals will seek to challenge Iran’s position as the dominant foreign influence in Iraq.
  • Iran’s powerful proxies and considerable clout in the Iraqi parliament will continue to cement its presence in Iraq for the foreseeable future.

Analysis

Iraq, a historical crossroad between major empires to the east and west, is once again caught in the middle of a battle among regional powers looking to protect their own interests. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iran has maintained its dominant foreign influence in Iraq, a status quo that was only reinforced after the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011.

Now, however, Iran’s standing may not be so assured. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has pushed through several reforms that have increasingly challenged Iran’s role in the country, creating an opening for other states in the region to make a play for greater leverage in Iraq. But Iran will not back down without a fight. Tehran will use every tool it has, including proxy forces, to guard its interests in Iraq.

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Stratfor describes the Middle East – after the Iran deal

Summary: What lies in the future of the Middle East once the specter of an nuclear-armed Iran disappears (said tobe imminent every year since 1984)? Not peace, unfortunately. Stratfor describes what to expect in the next chapter of this misgoverned region.

Stratfor

Aftershocks of the Iran Deal:
Why Middle Eastern Conflicts Will Escalate

Stratfor, 28 August 2015

Summary

Tehran’s competitors in the region will not sit idly by without attempting to curb the expansion of Iranian influence. This will not manifest in all-out warfare between the Middle East’s most significant powers; Iran is not the only country well versed in the use of proxies. But the conflicts that are already raging in the region will continue unabated and likely only worsen. These clashes will occur on multiple fault lines: Sunni versus Shiite, for example, plus ethnic conflicts among Turks, Iranians, Arabs, Kurds, and other groups. The Iranian nuclear deal in the short term thus means more conflict, not less.

Flag of Turkey

Turkey

Stratfor has long predicted that the role of regional hegemon will eventually fall to Turkey, which boasts the largest economy in the Middle East and is strategically situated at the confluence of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, on the Sea of Marmara. It is not a coincidence that what is now the Turkish commercial capital spent more than 1,500 years as the center of powerful empires, from 330 CE, when the Byzantine Empire was founded, until 1918, when the Ottoman Empire fell.

Like the United States, Turkey has some converging interests with Iran; its rivalry with its neighbor to the east is not a zero-sum competition. For one, Turkey depends on Iranian oil, which in 2014 made up 26% of Turkey’s oil imports. Lifting sanctions on Iran will offer Turkey’s commercial class, which is hungry for the potential economic returns, ample opportunity to invest.

Besides the economic links between the two powers, Tehran and Ankara also share some strategic interests. For example, both oppose the rise of an independent Kurdish state from the ashes of the Syrian civil war and the Iraqi conflict. While Tehran has at times offered military support to Kurds fending off the Islamic State in Iraq, Iran has a significant Kurdish population of its own, with estimates ranging anywhere from 6 million to 7 million people. Almost 15% of Turkey’s population is Kurdish, and Ankara has had to contend with Kurdish insurgency since 1984.

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