Geopolitics

ARABICA - What the Arab World is Saying, Hearing, Sharing. Feb. 3, 2011

ARABICA - What the Arab World is Saying, Hearing, Sharing. Feb. 3, 2011

A R A B I C A ارابيكا

Your daily shot of what the Arab world is saying, hearing, sharing

By Kristen Gillespie

TWITTERING: Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour, head of the Al-Ghad party and who was imprisoned for four years after challenging Hosni Mubarak in the 2005 presidential election, fired off this tweet:

"I witnessed today, and my heart breaks over it, the most despicable crime that can be committed by any regime in the world. And yet, I also saw the greatest popular revolution in the world. God be with you, people of Egypt."

Other Egyptian twitterers are holding their breath as all live television feeds out of Tahrir Square have been cut…and predicting the move is in preparation for large-scale attacks on protesters Friday.

GRAPHICALLY SAID: A grassroots cartoon that would have been unheard of just two weeks ago.

It reads: "Support the revolution"

ALL NEWS IS LOCAL: An unprecedented meeting of the Islamist opposition and King Abdullah II of Jordan took place on Thursday, with the king for the first time in 10 years admitting that political reform had slowed down, reported Ammon News.

The Jordanian monarch regularly speaks in his mellifluous Oxford-refined English about reform, democracy and modernization while interviewed in the West, misleading at best considering the reform process ground to a halt years ago.

A statement released by the press office of the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organization of the political party Islamic Action Front called the meeting "candid and positive." Apart from discussing the most pressing demand of political reform to allow for democratic parliamentary elections, the statement added that "emphasis was placed on public freedoms, and citizen security, and dignity, and to fight corruption in all its forms and to promote national unity."

The Islamic Action Front said it would continue to protest until its demands are met.

ALL NEWS IS GLOBAL: One day after Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he would step down at the end of his term in 2013, tens of thousands of Yemenis took part in a "day of rage" demanding that he step down immediately. The United Arab Emirates daily Emarat Al Youm reported that the protesters were met by a nearly equal number of Saleh supporters holding banners reading "No to sedition" and "no to sabotage," among others.

*Al Jazeera English's and Al Arabiya's websites were down for several hours on Thursday because of the traffic overwhelming the servers. The world continues to watch Egypt ahead of a high-stakes Friday prayer day for Muslims.

photo credit: illustir

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3

-Analysis-

LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.


Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

commons.wikimedia.org

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ