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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Why Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador from Syria

In an earlier post, I reported that Saudi Arabia has withdrawn its ambassador from Syria. Brian Whitaker makes a good point about the Saudis' motivation.
These are the strongest comments made so far by any Arab leader, and on that basis we should probably welcome them – especially if they encourage other countries in the region to take a stand. But, as one Twitter user noted, the king's denunciation of the Assad regime does make him sound a bit like Al Capone condemning the Kray twins.

Back home, King Abdullah has shown no inclination towards the "quick and comprehensive reforms" that he is now urging upon Syria; Saudi Arabia has nothing to teach Syria about democracy, and protest demonstrations in the kingdom are totally banned. So the king's message to Syria betrays more than a little irony.

Perhaps more troubling, though, is the negative role that Saudi Arabia has been playing during the "Arab spring" – a role that now it seems to be extending to include Syria.


Which brings us to Syria and the question of Saudi intentions there. King Abdullah's call for swift reform and an end to the killings is unlikely to be heeded, but perhaps it is not meant to be. Perhaps it's meant to do nothing more than distance Saudi Arabia from the Assad regime, in preparation for its fall.

Saudi Arabia has no interest in promoting democracy or human rights in Syria; it does have an interest in promoting Sunni Muslim influence and combating Shia influence (as embodied at the international level by Iran). Considering the Assad regime's ties with Iran, this suggests a motive for Saudi Arabia to become involved now – in the hope of driving a wedge between Iran and a post-Assad Syria.
Sounds right to me.

But it's still more than any western country other than Italy has done thus far.

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At 12:21 AM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...

Basically, I suppose, the apostate Alawis are killing Sunnis and he is the Sunni overlord. Turkey is in competition, as the previous overall leader of the Sunnis were the Ottomans. As far as I can see it's just a bit of jostling for power and influence.


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