How Saudi Arabia Sees Iran and America

I recently returned from meetings in Saudi Arabia, hoping to bring back some insight into their perception of the Iranian threat and their view of the damage to the relationship with the United States. My interviews include briefings with foreign affairs, experts, counter-terrorism experts, the president of state security, and Rasanah. International Institute for Iranian Studies.

For many Americans, the Saudi image is irreparably tarnished by 9/11, the Arab oil embargo of 1973, the Khashoggi murder, and most recently President Joe Biden’s request to release more oil before the end of the war. moderate election. As Senator Bernie Sanders told ABC News, “I just don’t believe we should be in a relationship with an administration like that.”

On the other hand, the Saudis think that America is not interested in how much the threat Iran poses to the kingdom. They see their country in the crosshairs of the best leader, with Iranian desire not for Saudi natural resources but to replace the Sunni control of Mecca and Medina, anathema to Iran’s revolutionary Shiite religion.

As one official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told me, “We are the third target of Iran.” They view the Islamic Republic of Iran as “a revolution, not a state. When Iranians meet, they just lie and deny it.”

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The Saudis see a double standard. The continuation of the US preoccupation with the murder of the journalist Khashoggi, which deservedly gave a black eye to the Saudi government, does not compete in the massive Iran’s involvement in the Syrian genocide on in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps operates directly under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Yet no American has named Iran’s greatest leader.

The Saudis cannot understand how the Iranian regime that calls for “Death to America” ​​is being treated by our nuclear doctors in Vienna with the utmost respect. At the same time, the Saudi government was publicly reprimanded, although, in Saudi eyes, they had no public opposition to America or its people. Saudis see Iranian expansionism undermining Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, not arousing the anger of the United States.

From the Saudi point of view, they see America’s agreement of one billion dollars in fines in exchange for a bad nuclear deal as a threat to their kingdom. According to Middle East expert Khaled Abu Toemeh, “The Saudis and their allies in the Gulf seem to be wondering why Biden threatened them with ‘consequences’ just trying to protect themselves from be destroyed by Iran soon.”

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In my meetings, one recurring problem seemed to anger the Saudis more than anything else, the lack of respect for the proud and independent Saudi people. Although expressed as an angry American statement or decision, the behavior is seen by the Saudis as a representative of the relationship to the consumer, which makes them guilty big for their leadership.

They see the Americans’ desire to choose the United States over China and Russia as absurd, because China is their most important trading partner, and Russia is a member of OPEC+. When they repeated the Saudi statement that they are only one of the twenty-three countries in OPEC +, I reminded them that in the past, they changed the oil aside to help American interests , affecting the OPEC countries. They have no answer for that. The Saudis will have to show some flexibility as they know that their American weapons will have to be stored and re-supplied, and they cannot switch to the Chinese soon.

What is not appreciated in the United States is the very different way that the monarchy has changed the attitude of the working orthodoxy to tolerate and punish radicalization. The Saudi Secretary General of the Muslim World League visited a camp with the American Jewish Committee, a gesture that should not be underestimated. This is a welcome change after Saudi proselytizing and funding in the twentieth century, which was seen as responsible for the radicalization of the Islamic community around the world.

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According to the head of the Department of Defense, Clifford May, said, “Mohammed bin Salman has some legitimate complaints.” After Biden promised to make MBS a controversial figure and remove the designation of Iranian-backed Houthis as terrorists, the Saudis questioned America’s commitment to the relationship. However, they are equally pleased that President Donald Trump ignored the Iranian attack on their oil facilities and removed the US Patriot missiles from their defenses.

Criticism is not the way to US or Saudi interests. America should focus on supporting the Iranian people’s desire for regime change while repairing our relationship with the Saudis for our national security.

Dr. Mandel is the director of MEPIN (Middle East Political Information Network). He regularly briefs members of Congress and their foreign aides. He is the Senior Security Editor for The Jerusalem Report. He is a regular for the Hill and the Jerusalem Post.

Image: Reuters.

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