Saudi Arabia, the epicenter of Islam is in the cusp of upheavals that may reshape the dynamics of an already unsettled region. Violent convulsions are not new to the Middle East. But the perturbation of what could ensue in the days to come sound far more ominous and dangerous than what the Middle East has ever witnessed.
It’s not just a sectarian conflict anymore, the Shia and Sunni rivalry continues to simmer but the grouping of rival countries with conflicting interests transcends the earlier differences that affected the region. The catalyst is the American strategic initiative to leverage the kingdom and it’s ambitious Prince to consolidate it’s position in the volatile region and reinforce it’s hold on the gulfs oil economy.
With the unconditional support of the Americans, Prince Salman is emboldened to fortify his hold on power. The recent purge to silence his powerful detractors within the kingdom is a step in that direction. Furthermore, the coercive diplomacy in the neighborhood , for instance the sanctions against Qatar , the arming of Govt forces to fight the rebel Houties in Yemen and the anti Iran rhetoric , have the approval of the Americans.
Team Trump has unceremoniously junked Obama’s subtle diplomacy. Hard and hawkish approach is their solution to deter global issues that impinge American interests . At times Trump is seen to be in a hurry , and the worry is that the Americans who are already stuck in a quagmire in Iraq may get sucked-in deeper with Trump’s middle East doctrine.
The annulment of Iran nuclear deal is a concerted campaign by the the Trump administration to curtail the growing influence of Iran in the region. The Americans perceive Iran as a threat to itself , it’s allies and it’s interests . Similarly Saudi Arabia which has been at loggerheads with Iran has seen a spike in Iranian subversive activism in its immediate neighbourhood , which if left unchecked, it knows, can spiral into a full blown crisis that can potentially undermine the kingdom’s peace and tranquility.
But much to the consternation of the Saudi’s and Americans, Iran is active in Syria. They enjoy the tacit support of Asad and the Russians. It’s no secret that they are menacingly inching closer to Israel, a country that they have vowed to eliminate from the face of earth.
Nuclear powered Israel that had kept itself out of the Syrian conflict zone will be forced to act to preempt the Iranians from reaching its shores and inflicting damages to it . In doing so , the region which is already a potboiler , will find another hand stirring the simmering cauldron.
Turkey, smarting from the 2016 coup attempt and the subsequent inaction by the Americans against Gulen – the key putsch conspirator residing in US – has decidedly moved away from the American umbrella of influence. Further it has started to assert itself in the region. By deploying an expeditionary force to fight the YPG Kurdish rebels in the Afrin province of Syria, the Turks have added another angle to the tumultuous Syrian theater.
The battle-lines are drawn. Turkey, Iran, Syria, Qatar, Yeman, to name a few, are en-block against American presence in the region. They are pitted against a phalanx of powerful regional players like the Saudi’s and Israelis who have the support of the Americans.
It all boils down to Saudi Arabia. The country has a vital role to play in resolving the regional conflicts which threaten to spiral into a full blown war – it’s actions have the potential to ‘make- or-mar’ the region. Prince Salman has emerged as the lynch pin. Will he be able to forge alliances to keep at bay the advances of the Russians, Iranians , Turks and the Chinese who all have high stakes in the region ? Will he be able to snuff out dissent from within that threatens to overthrow his father and crush the ambitions of the Prince who dreams of becoming King one day?
It’s an ineluctable fact that death, destruction and violence has reached the borders of the kingdom. The jostle for power that has already left the region in tatters threatens to engulf the kingdom. It can be said with foreboding conviction that if the kingdom collapses all hell will break loose. It is to be seen how the young crown Prince, who himself is in the midst of a turbulent transition, is able to bulwark the destructive forces that are at his doorstep.
Picture Credit: Euphrates Institute