TEHRAN (Basirat)- Lack of Western support, especially from the US, for the Saudi regional polices, along with efforts by powers, like Russia, to ignore Riyadh and replace it with the other Arab states such as Egypt, spell an end to Saudis’ illusion about ruling the region and the Islamic world.
Lack of Western support, especially from the US, for the Saudi regional polices, along with efforts by powers, like Russia, to ignore Riyadh and replace it with the other Arab states such as Egypt, spell an end to Saudis’ illusion about ruling the region and the Islamic world. By Dr. Shuaib Bahman
The world is changing for the Saudis. Saudi Arabia is gradually losing its previous place among the Arab and Muslim countries. Even the traditional allies of Saudis, like the US, are not willing anymore to throw their weight behind the Saudi family. Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy has become so costly that the US does not agree on Riyadh’s plans either for Yemen or Syria. Moreover, the US lawmakers in both the Senate and House voted overwhelmingly to override a veto by President Barack Obama for the first time, passing into law a bill that would allow the families of victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks to sue the Saudi government and claim compensation. The remarkable point was the Senate’s explicit and unanimous vote, as the veto was overridden with a 97-to-1 vote, showing that not only have the Saudis lost the past influence on the United States, but also have changed from Washington’s major and most reliable ally in the Middle East to a hated regime.
This friction is obvious not only in the Saudi-US ties, but also applies to Saudi Arabia’s relations with the other international and regional powers and influential players. For instance, Russia’s relations with Saudi Arabia have been severely tense in recent years. Russians believe that Saudi measures in Syria, Iraq and other regional countries have caused chaos and disorder in the Middle East and have threatened Moscow’s interests. Russia, whose regional objectives have been set against Riyadh’s policies, believes that Saudis could lower oil price in the global market through conspiracy in order to stand by the West for the failure of Russia’s global policies.
Such perception has made Russians doubtful about the future of relations with the Saudi family and look for a replacement for Riyadh. Moscow was trying to improve Saudi relations in the past years, but has now realized that Saudi Arabia’s regional policies are totally at odds with Russian interests. Moreover, the version of Islam that Saudis are advertising only stimulates violence and insecurity, which could have an impact on Muslims in Russia and beset the country with waves of terrorism and bloody guerrilla wars. Thus, Russia is trying to brush aside the Saudi notion and interpretation of Islam and connect with the moderate and rational currents in the Islamic world instead. One of such attempts was a Sunni conference organized in Grozny, capital of the Chechen Republic, to which Sunni clerics and scholars were invited from around the world, but leaders of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia had been ignored. The exclusion infuriated Saudis and even triggered their harsh reaction to the clerics and scholars that had attended the conference. As an example, Saudis expressed strong dissatisfaction with the presence of clerics from Egypt’s Al-Azhar University in the Grozny conference. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia’s action did not lead to courtesy from al-Azhar, but even escalated friction between Cairo and Riyadh. It reveals that Saudi Arabia is facing serious challenges even in communicating with the regional Arab states.
Moreover, disregarding Saudi Arabia in the region and replacing it with other countries like Egypt seem to have become a main policy of Russia, because Moscow is much willing to bolster Egypt’s position as a moderate country in the regional issues, particularly given the fact that Egypt-US relations have become relatively unstable after the coup in Egypt, and Cairo has repeatedly voiced eagerness to boost cooperation with Moscow. In this situation, Egypt could be a more reliable partner for Russia in the Middle East; because unlike Saudi Arabia, Egypt does not threaten Moscow’s regional and international interests, and even shares views with Russia on a host of regional issues. In addition, Egypt sees Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of Islam and promotion of Wahhabism as a detrimental and devastating factor, which also matches Russia’s policy of countering growing tendency to extremism.
As a result, we can say that Saudi Arabia will gradually face a downgraded position in the region. Lack of Western support, especially from the US, for the Saudi regional polices, along with efforts by powers, like Russia, to ignore Riyadh and replace it with the other Arab states such as Egypt, spell an end to Saudis’ illusion about ruling the region and the Islamic world.