Obama s administration is not only talking the Saudi regime s talk, but walking its walk towards war on Iran

 

 

By Zayd Alisa

 

 

 

The plot allegedly orchestrated by Iran to kill the Saudi ambassador to the USA by bombing a restaurant frequented by senators, along with scores of USA citizens, in the heart of Washington, using a Mexican drug cartel hitmen, hired by a dubious Iranian-American used-car salesman, convicted for cheque fraud, has been greeted with deep scepticism and utter disbelief by the international community. The sheer incredulity of the alleged plot is laid bare by the way Mansour Arbabstar, the used-car salesman, created the connection between the Ouds force and the Mexican drug cartel. He claims to be the cousin of a high ranking general in the Quds force and at the same time, the friend of the aunt of a member of the Mexican drug cartel, who in a far-fetched Holly-woodian twist turned out to be a USA government informant.

Whoever was behind the alleged plot has emphatically succeeded in ensuring that it is exposed at its infancy stages and making sure it had no realistic chance of taking off the ground. Nevertheless, they spectacularly failed in accomplishing their overarching goals of proving beyond a shadow of doubt that the alleged plot was genuine, in terms of posing a real and credible threat. And, above all, convincing the international community, not only that Iran s finger prints were all over it, but more crucially that the finger of blame points firmly towards the top Iranian leadership. One of the main reasons behind this failure was apparently due to the major discrepancies between the high standards established by the Quds force, which in fact, neither the supposed perpetrators, nor the alleged plot were even remotely close to fulfilling. The other more decisive factor was the inescapable fact that if Iran has committed such an outrage on the USA soil, never mind, killing USA citizens, it would amount to declaring war on the USA and would most definitely provoke massive retaliation, similar, if not harsher than that carried out against Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. This raises the following unavoidable questions; Is the Iranian leadership that desperate or its back up against the wall to put the future of the entire country on the line?, Is the Iranian leadership willing to take such a huge risk knowing fully well that the USA is watching its every move and is desperately looking for a pretext to initiate a strike against Iran?, Is Iran so naive to the extent of firmly believing that the target is really so indispensible to the Saudi regime?.

While, it is abundantly clear that the Iranians have everything to loose from such an ill-conceived gamble, the Saudi regime, by contrast, would make a massive leap towards achieving its overriding priority of convincing the USA that the most effective way of pulling the rug from under the feet of Iranians, is by the use of overwhelming military force. The Saudi foreign minister told Clinton, the US secretary of state, that sanctions are only a long term measure, while, what is desperately needed is a short term solution. The Saudi king, however, did not beat about the bush, as according to WikiLeaks, he frequently exhorted the USA to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear programme and in 2008 he told the USA to cut off the head of the snake, meaning Iran. Saudi Arabia s steadfast determination to push the USA hard to use force against Iran is underlined in another secret cable. In 2008, according to Wikileaks, Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, proposed to David Satterfield, the USA adviser to Iraq, setting up an Arab force backed up by the USA and Nato air and sea power to attack and destroy Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Saudi king ordered his forces to invade Bahrain to prop up the brutal dictatorship of Al-Khalifa. The Saudi forces backed the Bahraini forces and unleashed a ferocious and murderous onslaught on the peaceful protesters calling for democracy and political reform. These forces have carried out a systematic campaign of cold-blooded murder against the Shiaa majority in Bahrain to unnerve its own Shiaa population, who form the overwhelming majority in the oil rich Eastern Province.

Two weeks before announcing the alleged Washington assassination plot, the Saudi regime suffered huge reversals of fortune. Notably, its much-trumpeted and widely publicised declaration by the king that women would be able to join the unelected Shura Council, which is a toothless body that can only advise, was severely undermined when a court handed down a women activist a sentence of 10 lashes for daring to defy a ban on female driving. Despite swift action by the king to overturn the sentence, nonetheless, it highlighted that the reforms hailed by the Saudi regime as a major leap forward for women, were so fragile and easily reversible. The hopes of real reforms were swiftly dashed when people realised that women cannot take part in the 2011 municipal elections, but have to wait until 2015. And given that the municipal council is a powerless body, there was no interest in the so called elections. Now, with the death of Sultan, crown prince, and certain take over by Nayef, hardliner interior minister, the prospects of any reform appears increasingly diminished.

Just one week before the alleged plot was announced, Saudi Arabia was rocked by a popular uprising that erupted in Awamiyah and swiftly spread to the regional capital, Qatif; both cities are located in oil-rich Eastern province. The Saudi regime mounted a brutal crackdown to crush the pro-democracy protesters. The interior ministry indirectly pointed the finger of blame at Iran and warned that further unrest would be met with an iron fist. The Saudi accusations are identical to those made by the Bahraini regime against Iran; however, neither regime has been able to prove them.

It is increasingly evident that the Obama administration is talking the Saudi regime s talk and walking its walk towards war on Iran. The Saudi regime perceived the allegations, not only as an emphatic endorsement of its long-held view that Iran was behind the Shiaa uprisings in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, but more ominously, as a green light by the USA to dramatically intensify the suppression and brutality against the shiaa, under the pretext that they are pawns in the hands of Iran. The supposed Washington assassination plot will undoubtedly play into the hands of the Saudi regime in terms of shoring up its internal front, by overplaying the external Iranian threat. The regime will most definitely exploit to bolster its dramatically weakened position in the region, by portraying itself as the guardian of Sunni Islam.

Obama s administration strived to underline to the international community that it wholeheartedly believed the alleged conspiracy. Surprisingly, Obama himself, not only endorsed the allegations, but treated them as proven facts. He deliberately dramatised the alleged foiled Iranian plot to highlight how effective his administration is in protecting the USA. His ultimate goal was to propagate the unequivocal message that he is tough on Iran and he would not shy away from a military confrontation with Iran if the USA interest or its national security is threatened. Obama was making a concerted effort to minimise the substantial damage to his re-election prospects and take some of the sting out of the scathing criticism, he expected, as he was about to announce the failure to persuade the Iraqis to maintain USA bases and keep 5000 USA soldiers beyond the 2011 deadline. Obama tried to put a brave face on what was undoubtedly a major setback, by emphasising that the withdrawal of all the USA forces by the end of 2011 was simply the fulfilment of an election pledge.

Although, Obama made such a pledge, however, it was evident that he had a major change of heart, due to the dramatic weakening of the USA position in the region as a result of the popular uprisings sweeping the region, which has either successfully toppled dictatorships staunchly allied with the USA, as in Egypt and Tunisia, or on the verge of doing so in Yemen and Bahrain. Obama, actively sought to keep USA troops in Iraq beyond the end of 2011, not only as an insurance policy, to guard against any rapid deterioration in the security situation during his re-election campaign, but also to prevent the Republicans from using it to accuse him of endangering the vital USA interests in the Middle East and being far too soft on Iran. On the internal front, the neo-con right and many prominent republicans, like McCain, fiercely criticised Obama and accused him of boosting the Iranian influence in Iraq. While, on the external front, Obama s announcement came against a backdrop of vehement Saudi opposition to any USA withdrawal from Iraq. The Saudi regime has campaigned ardently to prevent such a withdrawal. In Saudi Arabia s eyes this withdrawal is an outright victory for the democratic process in Iraq and at the same time, a severe blow to its efforts to convince its people that democratic change leads to insecurity, instability and ultimately plunges the country into civil war.

It is becoming increasingly clear in the lead-up to next years presidential elections that Obama can do very little to improve his very poor track record on the economy. Ironically, all Obama s successes were external military operations, namely, eliminating Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, Anwar Al- Awlaki in Yemen and playing a pivotal role within Nato in ousting Libya s tyrant, Gaddafi. As the campaign for the presidential elections intensifies and as the Republicans escalate the vicious accusations levelled at Obama, he is bound to feel increasingly outmanoeuvred. He might seek, as a last resort, to utilise the alleged plot to unleash, as Regan did, limited military strikes on Iran s soft targets such as the oil rigs in the Persian Gulf. Thus, turning the tide against his opponents, demonstrating that he is tough on USA interest, tough on Iran, a real friend and ally to the Saudi regime and in the process deflecting attention away from the economy.

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Zyad Alisa is a a political analyst and commentator on Middle East
Affairs with numerous appearances on various TV channels for the last six years.
I have also published several articles relating to the Middle East. I have been
a human rights activist for twenty five years. I have actively promoted
democracy and freedom of expression in Iraq and the Arab world. I am a British
citizen resident in London and I was born in New York, USA.