Arabia versus Iran; the division in the Islamic world that changes geopolitics

When on the morning of 7 October 2023 Hamas and Islamic Jihad attacked Israel, Prince and heir to the Saudi throne Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) understood that he could not trust the Iranians. And to think that on March 10, 2023, after seven years of hostility, under pressure from China he decided to start the normalization of relations between the two Middle Eastern powers with the reopening of embassies and diplomatic missions. But a year after re-establishing diplomatic ties, Saudi Arabia and Iran maintain a tense situation. Despite attempts at dialogue and the reopening of diplomatic channels, no relevant agreements have been reached due to the ongoing conflicts in the region and the widespread lack of trust, particularly regarding their allies and the situation in Yemen, Lebanon and now the Strip Gaza. As Wilson Center analyst David Ottaway writes, “Despite all initial diplomatic efforts, Saudi Arabia and Iran have yet to sign, let alone implement, any substantive agreement in any sphere other than diplomacy. Their foreign, finance and economic ministers have held numerous meetings to revive the 1998 General Agreement on Cooperation in all areas except security, as well as the 2001 Security Cooperation Agreement. So far, however , not even new life was instilled.”

Many in Riyadh did not agree with the prince and heir to the throne (especially the clergy, who have always been hostile to the Shiites of Tehran), however, in a monarchy, especially the Saudi one, what MBS decides is law and therefore just do it. For Saudi Arabia what happened was a hard blow given that the dialogues with Israel and the United States for the signing of the Abraham Accords had reached the point that MBS was ready to sign the document that would have changed the face of the Middle East forever Orient. It is clear that Iran has always opposed all of this given that the end of hostilities with Israel by the Kingdom would have put Iran in the corner and hence the decision to inflame the Middle East with the attack on Israel which naturally reacted.

The instability in the Persian Gulf, including what is happening in the Red Sea where the Houthis (armed and financed by Iran) are causing a crisis in the global traffic of goods, also jeopardizes “Vision 2030”, the gigantic Saudi infrastructure plan on which MBS is playing it all.

The signature of the Abraham Accords mediated by the Trump administration, to normalize relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, would also have included a strategic pact between Riyadh and Washington against Iran, a normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, and a renewed commitment to the solution of the Palestinian state which Tehran evidently does not want to see arise because it is in chaos that Iran can continue to dictate the law. While the Hamas attack disrupted these efforts, it did not stop Western powers in the region from working with Arab partners, including Saudi Arabia, to form a military coalition against Iran. These joint defensive maneuvers represent the first collaboration between the five armies and Saudi Arabia as part of a nascent anti-Iranian coalition. It is therefore no coincidence that Saudi Arabia has admitted to having collaborated with a new regional military coalition, made up of Israel, the United States, Jordan (which is carving out an important role in this crisis), the United Kingdom and France, to repel the Iranian attack on Israel last Saturday, according to a report by KAN News. The article highlighted the Saudi role in the defense, during which 99% of Iranian drones and missiles were destroyed before they could reach their targets. Most of the drones and missiles crossed Jordanian and Saudi airspace to reach Israel. A source close to the Saudi royal family told KAN that the country has an advanced system to automatically intercept any threat in its airspace. That Saudi Arabia deplores what happened on 7 October 2023 can be refuted by scrolling through the Kingdom's newspapers in which dozens of articles have appeared explicitly accusing Iran of having provoked the conflict in Gaza through its ally, Hamas, in response to US efforts for a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia. There was also very heavy criticism of the so-called “Axis of Resistance” made up of Iran, Hezbollah, Syria, Iraqi militias and Yemeni Houthis, considered “Iran's simple and clear desire to carry forward its regional agenda to the detriment of others”. Israel in recent hours has stated that “Iran will face the consequences of its actions” but this evidently will not translate into a reckless attack on Tehran or other cities because strictly military objectives will be chosen, for example, the bases where Iran continues in its nuclear enrichment program that threatens not only the existence of the Jewish state but also Saudi Arabia. It is a given that Jerusalem's response to Saturday's attacks will also take into account the opinion of Arab countries that do not intend to follow Iran which today more than ever is increasingly isolated. Woe betide you if you make mistakes.