There are a few other memorable statements in this New Duranty Times (aka New York Times) article about Saudi nervousness over Iran, but that was the best one. There is also a great deal here about the Sunni-Shia rift that will continue despite our efforts to paper over it. “Bickering Saudis Struggle for an Answer to Iran’s Rising Influence in the Middle East,” by Hassan M. Fattah in the Times, with thanks to all who sent this in:
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Dec. 21 “” At a late-night reading this week, a self-styled poet raised his hand for silence and began a riff on neighboring Iraq, in the old style of Bedouin storytellers.
“Saddam Hussein was a real leader who deserved our support,” he began, making up the lines as he went. “He kept Iraq stable and peaceful,” he added, “and most of all he fought back the Iranians.” He continued, “His one mistake was invading Kuwait.”
This “self-styled poet” is apparently proceeding from the standpoint of Saudi security, not Islamic assumptions, for otherwise he would have denounced Saddam as a hypocrite. But Islam does end up being brought into the picture by others:
Across the kingdom, in both official and casual conversation, once-quiet concern over the chaos in Iraq and Iran’s growing regional influence has burst into the open.
Saudi newspapers now denounce Iran’s growing power. Religious leaders here, who view Shiism as heresy, have begun talking about a “Persian onslaught” that threatens Islam. In the salons and diwans of Riyadh, the “Iranian threat” is raised almost as frequently as the stock market.
Shiism threatens “Islam.” A loaded choice of words.
“Iran has become more dangerous than Israel itself,” said Sheik Musa bin Abdulaziz, editor of the magazine Al Salafi, who describes himself as a moderate Salafi, a fundamentalist Muslim movement. “The Iranian revolution has come to renew the Persian presence in the region. This is the real clash of civilizations.”
Sheik Musa bin Abdulaziz has been inhaling too much of his own propaganda if he really believes Israel is a threat to Saudi Arabia. And “this is the real clash of civilizations”? Between Sunni and Shi’ite? This is an example of the depth of this division, and how it could be exploited, as Hugh Fitzgerald has tirelessly pointed out here, to keep the heat off the infidels.
Many here say a showdown with Iran is inevitable. After several years of a thaw in relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Saudis are growing concerned that Iran may build a nuclear bomb and become the de facto superpower in the region.
In recent weeks, the Saudis, with other Persian Gulf countries, have announced plans to develop peaceful nuclear power.
Oh, peaceful nuclear power! Why, that’s just what the Iranians are developing! It’s interesting that the Times would juxtapose this to a paragraph about the Iranian nuclear threat, as if to signal that no one in the entire world takes these protestations of peacefulness seriously.
Saudi officials publicly welcomed the Iraqi Harith al-Dhari, whose Muslim Scholars Association has links to the insurgency, during a visit in October, and they have indicated that they may support Iraq’s Sunnis over the majority Shiites with links to Iran. All were meant to send a message to Iran.
“You need to create a strategic challenge to Iran,” said Steve Clemons, senior fellow and director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation. “To some degree, what the Saudis are doing is puffing up because they see nobody else in the region doing so.”
Yes, and neither is the United States. So far.