Several months ago, I attended a gathering of influential figures being hosted by a senior personality in the intelligence community of one of the Gulf countries. It was past midnight, and the discussion had gone on for some time, the topic being the political developments in the region, specifically unfolding events in Saudi Arabia.
MBS’s obsession with becoming king, coupled with the UAE’s relentless interference in the internal politics of other countries, could very well throw the Gulf into turmoil
There were stories coming from Riyadh about a shift in fault lines, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef’s wings were being clipped and his powers reduced, while his deputy Mohammed bin Salman was becoming more and more influential by the day.
Meanwhile, the kingdom’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, had been in Washington for over two weeks without making any public appearances, and no one knew for certain what exactly it was he was doing there.
Among those present was the former prime minister of a non-Arab country. Our host asked him his views about the rumblings coming out of Riyadh, and what he thought al-Jubeir was doing in the US.
The former statesman’s answer had many in the room shocked, even doubtful.
But so far everything he said has turned out to be true.
A former PM's predictions
He spoke of a young prince hell-bent on becoming king, and outlined some of the conditions that would make the plot succeed. A scheme that was hatched by the rulers of the United Arab Emirates who were desperate to regain their foothold in the Saudi Royal Court after they had so swiftly lost it following the death of King Abdullah in 2014.
'This guy is willing to betray his own father for the crown,' responded the former prime minister
A key element to the plot was gaining the blessings of US intelligence and security institutions, but to do that, the Emiratis and their ambitious young ally would have to convince the Americans to ditch Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a man nicknamed as “Washington’s favourite Saudi”.
“For the Americans to abandon Mohammed bin Nayef and choose this young prince, he has to offer them something no one has managed or even dared to offer before,” said the former prime minister.
Then-Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef with then-deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman during the opening session of the kingdom's Shura Council in December 2016 (AFP/Saudi Royal Palace)
Not being the cryptic type, he then proceeded to spell it out: “He has to recognise Israel. If he does that then the Americans will support him, they’ll even crown him themselves."
“There’s no way he’d be willing to do that, plus Saudi society wouldn’t accept it, they’d view it as betrayal,” I said.
“This guy is willing to betray his own father for the crown,” responded the former prime minister.
Meanwhile, Saudi and the UAE, who have been blockading Qatar for more than two weeks now, have attempted to justify their siege by accusing Doha of supporting Palestinian resistance group Hamas.
Exiled chief of Hamas' political bureau, Khaled Meshaal (R), walks with Hamas deputy leader Musa Abu Marzuk (C) ahead of their conference in Doha in May 2017 (AFP)
More significantly though was the news that broke early on Wednesday morning – a royal decree, relieving Mohammed bin Nayef of his duties as crown prince, and naming the ambitious young prince, Mohammed bin Salman – or MBS as he’s fast becoming known – as heir to the Saudi throne.
More importantly, they should be cause for alarm because it seems that MBS’s obsession with becoming king, coupled with the UAE’s relentless interference in the internal politics of other countries, could very well throw the Gulf into turmoil.
Ring the alarm bells
Political change in Saudi Arabia has always been gradual. It's one of the reasons why the kingdom has remained stable and, in turn, a source of steadiness in the region.
This aggressive push to force change could very well upset the balance of power in the kingdom, which is why alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear in Washington and London.
MBS has already demonstrated his erratic nature through his ill-conceived war in Yemen, which has killed thousands of people, not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars the conflict has cost the Saudi economy.
Yemeni students look out of a classroom in Saada, damaged in the country's ongoing conflict between the Saudi-led Arab coalition fighting Houthis (AFP)
The sheikhs of Abu Dhabi and Dubai have also made it clear that they value their own personal interests above freedom, peace and stability in the Middle East. From the coup in Egypt to the ongoing civil war in Libya, Emirati foreign policy has done little more than sow discord and conflict in the region; and if it continues to go unchecked, the consequences could be a great deal worse.
MBS is now next in line to the throne. The US and Britain, Saudi’s closest allies, would do well to try and curb the prince’s enthusiasm before he becomes king, otherwise they could be faced with a monarch who wages war on a whim and understands little in the way of international diplomacy.
The question is, will there be enough time to reason with MBS and rescue the Gulf region from potential chaos? Or will we be hearing news of “the sudden passing” of King Salman in the coming weeks?
- Jamal Elshayyal is an international award-winning senior correspondent for Al Jazeera English. He joined the channel in 2006 as part of its launch team and served as its first Middle East editor. He covered the 2011 uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen. He has interviewed several world leaders and has extensive access to major power players in the GCC and the MENA region.
- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/something-rotten-state-saudi-1943008007#sthash.MKBqQFZT.dpuf
As expected, on Wednesday, King Salman finally promoted his young son Mohammed to crown prince after sacking Mohammed bin Nayef who, according to official sources, asked to be relieved of his duties as crown prince because of “private issues”.
The king has also amended sections of the 1990 Basic Law of Government to move to vertical royal succession from father to son for the office of king, thus ending the horizontal succession from brother to brother that had been put in place by the founder of the kingdom, King Abdulaziz ibn Saud, in 1933.
Mohammed bin Salman thinks that money solves problems but this has not enabled him to claim victories in the many wars that he has started
So far, it is unclear why the king has not appointed a deputy crown prince as is customary in these circumstances.
Furthermore, the central question - whether the king will abdicate soon and allow his son to become king in his lifetime - remains unanswered. Historically, no Saudi king has abdicated according to his own will. King Saud was deposed in 1964 under palace siege, followed by safe voyage to Greece.
Without further ado, 31 out of 34 royal members of the Committee of Allegiance, a royal consortium established as a consultation forum, are reported to have "voted" Mohammed bin Salman into his new role.
Saudi News Agency immediately released a video showing young Mohammed thanking his cousin bin Nayef for a smooth departure without a fuss and endeared him with an aborted attempt to kiss his feet in gratitude.
The king also appointed Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef, the deposed crown prince's nephew and grandson of deceased Prince Nayef, who had been minister of interior until his death (1975-2012), as the new minister of interior, thus perpetuating Nayef's old fiefdom over the most important ministry for domestic security.
Fun and neoliberalism
The new appointment means a lot of things for the future of the kingdom - and all point to uncertainty brought about by the erratic Mohammed.
First, rule by a continuous iron fist at home will be entrenched. Mohammed bin Salman will silence any dissident voices while allowing limited personal freedoms organised by his new entertainment commission in charge of keeping Saudis moderately entertained.
It is common for dictators to allow their marginalised subjects certain forms of controlled fun, lest they implode from within
It is common for dictators to allow their marginalised subjects certain forms of controlled fun, lest they implode from within. Women will also be symbols of a new Saudi consumer modernity and soon may be allowed to drive cars. In the future, Saudis will enjoy themselves up to a certain level without harassment by the religious police.
Mohammed bin Salman will continue to ignore a redundant, marginalised and discredited Wahhabi religious establishment. But with the dispersal of Saudis who had joined the Islamic State (IS) caliphate, and the possible return of those from Syria, he may expect a bumpy ride in the top seat.
When al-Qaeda was dispersed from Afghanistan after 2001, many Saudis who had joined its ranks returned and caused the worst terrorism crisis the country has seen. IS already claimed several attacks in Saudi Arabia since 2015, but its sectarian outlook may prove to be useful for Mohammed bin Salman’s current crisis with Iran.
Second, erratic economic policies that may not deliver the desired neoliberal economy - including weaning Saudi Arabia away from oil by 2020, shrinking the welfare state, privatisation and, most importantly, floating 5 percent of the Saudi oil company Aramco in international markets by September 2017 - will continue.
So one day, Mohammed bin Salman might announce that Saudis must tighten their belts, but another day he could reward them for their acquiescence by unfreezing public sector salaries and giving them extra holidays. A successful neoliberal paradise with less working days and low productivity may require miraculous intervention.
Losing the regional struggle
Third, Mohammed bin Salman will struggle to become a serious regional power on par with Turkey, Iran, and Israel, all of which currently flex their muscles in a bid to emerge as the dominant force dictating the outcomes of several conflicts in the Arab world. He has already alienated Turkey and Iran - the former sided with Qatar in the latest crisis. He also promised to bring the war deep inside Iran, a statement that ultimately amounts to a declaration of war.
He and IS share the same sectarian outlook and may well cooperate, especially after IS runs out of targets in Syria and Iraq
Mohammed bin Salman does not seem to know the implications of his flamboyant statements. But he and IS share the same sectarian outlook and may well cooperate, especially after IS runs out of targets in Syria and Iraq. IS may be instructed to move its terrorism campaign to Iran after its defeat in Mosul and Raqqa.
He may have scored success with Israel, now dubbed jokingly as the newest Sunni state, in his bid to form a pan-Islamic alliance against both Iran and Qatar. He will continue to clandestinely cooperate with Israel in security and economic matters, but we shouldn't expect an Israeli flag to be raised in Riyadh soon. This will take some preparation and coordination and the stakes in such a controversial move are high.
Fourth, Mohammed bin Salman will continue courting US President Donald Trump, exchanging weapon contracts and investment promises for continuous support - at least in public. Like Mohammed bin Salman, Trump is also unpredictable and the two men may fall out over minor differences. However, they will keep the facade of agreement until they achieve their objectives both at home and abroad.
The new crown prince does not seem to have time for Europe at the moment. He will continue to see it as a holiday destination for his newly purchased yacht and as a source of more weapons that he cannot get elsewhere. This will mean that European arms manufacturers and governments in Britain and France will compete for the attention of the young prince.
Trump meets with then-Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington in March 2017 (Reuters)
Both countries may have lost their favourite Saudi candidate, Mohammed bin Nayef, who had succeeded in establishing a good rapport with Western intelligence services as he was seen as crucial in the fight against terrorism. British Prime Minister Theresa May will need the new crown prince for economic reasons as Britain risks shrinking both economically and politically after Brexit.
At the moment, Salman’s kingdom seems to take shape amid real challenges both domestically and regionally. The new appointment may not be challenged by other princes or by groups inside the country but the future looks troubled.
Mohammed bin Salman is not a capable fire fighter or a tactical statesman. He thinks only money solves problems but this has not enabled him to claim victories in the many wars and conflicts that he started. He is more likely to light further regional fires than extinguish existing ones.
- Professor Madawi Al-Rasheed is a visiting professor at the Middle East Centre at LSE. She has written extensively about the Arabian Peninsula, Arab migration, globalisation, religious transnationalism and gender. On Twitter: @MadawiDr
- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/salman-s-kingdom-royal-reshuffle-brings-young-mohammed-so-close-throne-1057438643#sthash.6u52egwZ.dpuf
When King Salman and his son Mohammed came to power, there was hope of sorely needed leadership in the region. Instead, they may have fragmented it beyond repair
THE UGLY ARAB!
A GREAT ANALYSIS AND A MUST READ! By David Hearst Link
The final act of thepalace coup I have been writing about since King Salman took over has just been completed. Everyone was waiting for a coup against Qatar. In fact, the coup was within the kingdom itself.
It took place in the middle of the night after fajr, the Muslim prayer that heralds the dawn of a new day, and millions of Saudis woke to a new reality - a 31-year-old prince is going to be the next king.
If the sheikh of your tribe goes one way, there is little you can do but follow. Acquiescence should not be confused for consensus
The departure of his father, King Salman - whose speech carried on live television during Trump's visit to Riyadh was incomprehensible to many who heard him in Arabic - is now a formality. Bin Salman is now king in all but name.
Step by step, the last obstacle to bin Salman's vertiginous rise to power, his cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, has been stripped of his power. There was little he could do to stop it, but he fought all the way.
First, his royal court went, then a national security council was created over his head. Then his ministry was stripped of its prosecutorial role. Then the operation to isolate Qatar, one of his closest allies, was launched.
This is a tribal system. So if the sheikh of your tribe goes one way, there is little you can do but follow. Acquiescence should not be confused for consensus. It was foreseen, but make no mistake: this is the biggest shock to the Saudi royal household since King Saud was forced to abdicate by Prince Faisal in 1964.
What does it mean?
All the levers of power are now in the hands of a young, inexperienced and risk-taking man, who in his short time in power as defence minister has established a reputation for recklessness.
He launched an air campaign against the Houthis in Yemen and then disappeared on holiday to the Maldives. It took days before the US defence secretary could reach him. Ten thousand deaths later, the Houthis are still firmly in the capital Sanaa, the liberated south has split from Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi's control, and cholera has broken out.
Each file bin Salman has picked up has found its way into the office shredder.
He first introduced austerity by rolling out deep pay cuts to government employees, warning the country would be bankrupt in five years. Then he reversed the cuts, claiming financial stability had been created. Then he committed himself to up to $500bn of military purchases from America.
The fine detail of any of his impulsive decisions, like how any of them will actually be achieved, is missing. The plan to sell up to five percent of the state oil company Aramco on the New York and London stock exchanges has already produced warnings about the legal risks ofa New York listing, from the families of the victims of the 11 September attacks or class action litigation on requirements to declare state reserves. There is opposition too in London.
Its the same story in Syria. Let's not forget who provided militant groups in Syria with some of their most violent men. It was under Prince Bandar bin Sultan's tenure, as secretary of national security, that 1,239 inmates on death row - including rapists and murderers - were released on condition that they go to "jihad in Syria". This is stated in black and white in a memo dated 17 April 2012.
Under bin Salman, the kingdom has gone from micromanaging the Syria opposition (to the extent of telling the head of the negotiating committee in Geneva exactly when the delegation should leave for the airport to ensure the breakdown of talks) to losing interest in the rebels altogether. As a Saudi ally, you can be hung out to dry at any time.
Be it in Yemen, Syria or Qatar,the crown prince has already earned another title: the prince of chaos.
Bin Salman's mentor
He has, however, followed instructions. As Middle East Eye reported at the time, the young prince's mentor, Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, gave him two words of advice to speed him on his way to the throne.
The first was to open a channel of communication with Israel. This he has now done, and under his command, the kingdom is closer than it has ever been to starting trade links with Tel Aviv. Both the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, are reading from the same script on attempting to blacklist Hamas.
The second instruction was to diminish the power of the religious authorities in the kingdom.
Although bin Salman has reduced the influence of the religious establishment on the daily life of the Saudis, he is using it to bolster his authority. A series of tweets by the Ulama, the Saudi Committee of Senior Scholars, demonstrates how religion has been pressed into the service of politics.
"The Brotherhood are not among those who are on the right path. Al-Luhaidan, may Allah protect him"
"The Brotherhood (members) are partisans who just want to seize power; they do not care about calling for correcting the faith. Al-Fawzan, may Allah protect him"
More important is this tweet:
"There is nothing in the Book and the Sunnah that permits the multitude of (political) parties and groups. To the contrary, they both censure such a thing."
The message from this is brutally clear. Political parties are not allowed. We are not giving you democracy, but theocracy and autocracy.
Even the timing of the last act of this palace coup is significant. Prince bin Salman will receive allegiance from his family and the public in Mecca on the 27th night of Ramadan, Laylat al-Qadr, the night of power when prayers are magnified in importance a thousand times. This is the most important night in the Islamic calendar.
This is not a king in waiting who intends to neutralise the role of religion in the affairs of state. He is using it to establish his own autocratic rule.
This is the Trump effect in action. Bin Salman's ambitions to seize the Saudi throne and Bin Zayed's plans to impose dictatorship on the entire Gulf world predated the arrival of the most dangerous president in modern US history. But Trump's visit to Riyadh fired the starting pistol.
Within days, the tanks of the bin Salman-bin Zayed axis started rolling, first against Qatar and then against bin Nayef.
Bin Salman told Tahnoon bin Zayed that, once he becomes the crown prince, he will ditch Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and replace him with Khaled Bahah, who is close to the Emiratis
Yemen is their next target. As we have reported, there has been a major fallout between the Yemeni president in exile, Hadi, who is in Riyadh, and local forces in Aden controlled by the Emiratis. The two major partners in the campaign against the Houthis are backing sides that are at war with each other in southern Yemen.
This, I understand, will shortly be resolved. Bin Salman has met Tahnoon bin Zayed, the brother of Mohammed bin Zayed and also his security chief, to tell him to calm the situation down in south Yemen.
Bin Salman told Tahnoon that once he becomes the crown prince, he will ditch Hadi and replace him with Khaled Bahah, who is close to the Emiratis.
Bahah has visited Riyadh recently to reconnect with the new Saudi administration. A full-scale offensive against Islah, the Muslim Brotherhood-related faction in Yemen, will then proceed.
This then is the new dawn that awaits not just the Saudis, but millions in the region. If these plans go ahead, it will subject the region to decades more of turmoil, civil war, proxy conflict and bloodshed.
Thick as thieves?
However, thieves have a habit of falling out with each other. Bin Zayed, the architect of this campaign against political Islam and all forces promoting democracy in the region, has suited bin Salman's purpose until now. He has put him in pole position to become king.
Once, however, bin Salman has come to power, it may no longer suit the young king to be advised by the crown prince of a much smaller state. Their interests may easily diverge. We have seen this already in Egypt, where the Saudis installed a military dictator, only to find their placemen did not back them in their campaign against Iran.
The second factor is that the bin Salman-bin Nayef axis will inadvertently forge new alliances to counter their dominance. The closure of Saudi borders with Qatar has already accelerated the arrival of Turkish troops in Doha. It may also force Turkey, Kuwait and Oman to reconcile with Iran.Divisions created by the Syrian war between Hezbollah and Hamas may also be quickly healed.
When father and son came to power after the death of King Abdullah, there was a hope that they could unite Sunnis and provide leadership when it was sorely needed. Instead, they may have fragmented and polarised it beyond repair.
- David Hearst is editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He was chief foreign leader writer of The Guardian, former Associate Foreign Editor, European Editor, Moscow Bureau Chief, European Correspondent, and Ireland Correspondent. He joined The Guardian from The Scotsman, where he was education correspondent.
Link اعتبر محلل الشؤون العسكرية في صحيفة "هآرتس" الإسرائيلية، عاموس هرئيل، ظهر اليوم الأربعاء، أن التغييرات في السعودية وتعيين محمد بن سلمان ولياً للعهد، "بشرى سارة لإسرائيل"، لافتًا إلى أن هذه الخطوة كانت متوقعة ومسألة وقت فقط لا غير.
وقال هرئيل إن بن سلمان، الذي سماه في مقاله "الولد"، الذي سيحتفل في أغسطس/آب بعيد ميلاده الـ32، يقوم فعلًا بدور قيادي في السعودية، وهو صاحب الأمر فيها في كل ما يتعلق بوزارة الخارجية، وأن التقديرات تشير إلى أن الملك سلمان "المريض أصلًا سيتنازل عن العرش قريبًا ويسلمه لولده".
وأضاف هرئيل أنه "على مر العامين ونصف الماضيين، ومنذ تتويج الملك سلمان، تم تدريب وإعداد الأمير محمد بن سلمان لمهام سياسية بانتظار خلافة المنصب الأكبر، كما تم توكيله بمهام أخرى للمبادرة والتخطيط (دون نجاح خاص) في حرب اليمن من خلال توليه وزارة الدفاع".
وبحسب هرئيل فإنه إذا كان محمد بن نايف هو من تولى، خلال العامين الماضيين، مسؤولية العلاقات مع الإدارة الأميركية ووكالة المخابرات المركزية، فقد تم دفعه جانبًا خلال وقت قصير، إذ أدركت الإدارة الأميركية من هو بالضبط الشخص القوي في المملكة. وتحول محمد بن سلمان إلى الرجل المسؤول عن العلاقات ليست فقط مع الولايات المتحدة؛ وإنما أيضًا مع بوتين وروسيا، حيث التقى ببوتين عدة مرات لتنسيق السياسات والمواقف تجاه الملف السوري وإيران.
ويصل هرئيل إلى القول إن "محمد بن سلمان شكّل بمثابة بشرى سارة، حتى الآن، لكل من إسرائيل والولايات المتحدة بفعل مواقفه القاطعة ضد إيران، وهو ما يجعله شريكًا استراتيجيًّا مهمًّا، وليس فقط في الحرب ضد إيران؛ بل إنه يتفق كليًّا مع الولايات المتحدة بالحاجة لوقف التأثير والنفوذ الروسيين في المنطقة، وعلى ضرورة إسقاط نظام الأسد، والعمل بحزم ضد داعش ومنظمات راديكالية أخرى، من الإخوان المسلمين وحتى حزب الله".
إن أكبر الأخطاء التي يستطيع قائدٌ أن يرتكبها وهو يترقّب مواجهة عسكرية محتملة هو المبالغة في تقدير قوته والاستخفاف بقوة من يقف في وجهه. ولا شكّ في أن صدّام حسين هو النموذج الأعلى من سوء التقدير والقيادة في تاريخنا العربي المعاصر. فقد برهن على رعونة قلّ مثيلها في إساءته تقدير موازين القوى بشكل مذهل وفي مناسبتين متتاليتين. الأولى هي عندما شنّ المستبدّ العراقي عدوانه على إيران في أيلول/سبتمبر 1980 ظنّاً منه أنه سوف يستطيع أن يضع يده بصورة ثابتة على تلك المنطقة النفطية التي كانت تسمّى عربستان حتى عام 1925، وهي السنة التي بدّل فيها اسمها رضا بهلوي إلى خوزستان. اعتقد صدّام حسين أن الفوضى التي كانت لا تزال تعمّ إيران إثر ثورتها على الشاه محمد رضا بهلوي وكذلك القطيعة بين الحكم الإيراني الجديد والولايات المتحدة، مصدر السلاح الإيراني الأساسي، سوف تتيحان له التفوّق بسهولة. ولم يخطر في باله أن عدوانه سوف يقدّم للحكم الإيراني الجديد فرصة ذهبية كي يرسي سلطته سواءً أكان الأمر طوعاً أم قسراً، وأن واشنطن سوف تستغلّ الصراع كي تطيل أمده بمدّ العون إلى العراق تارة وإلى إيران تارة أخرى بحيث يُدمِّر كلٌ من البلدين الآخر بما يلائم مصالح الولايات المتحدة وحليفتها الصهيونية. والمناسبة الثانية والأخطر هي بالطبع عندما وقع صدّام حسين في فخّ احتلال الكويت في آب/أغسطس 1990، بعد المناسبة الأولى بعشر سنوات، ولم يسحب قواته من الإمارة بالرغم من الحشود الأمريكية الهائلة التي تراكمت على تخوم بلاده. فكانت النتيجة أنه منح واشنطن فرصة لاستكمالها تدمير العراق ونشر قواتها في منطقة الخليج على نطاق غير مسبوق تاريخياً. وفي الحالة الأولى كما في الثانية عبّر صدّام حسين عن عنجهية مدهشة، مشيداً ببطولته وزاعماً قدرته على «دحر أي عدوان» وهو يتعامى عن ميزان القوى الحقيقي. فخاض في مقامرة طائشة في وجه إيران، وهي بلاد أكبر من العراق بكثير من حيث عدد السكان والمساحة، وخاض في مغامرة حمقاء في وجه قوات مسلحة أمريكية متفوّقة على القوات العراقية تفوّق العملاق على القزم. وها أن الكبرياء تصل لدى حكام إيران وقادة حرسها الثوري إلى مستوىً لا يقلّ رعونة عن مستواها لدى عدوّهم اللدود الراحل. فقد أطلقوا يوم الإثنين الماضي على دير الزور في سوريا ستة صواريخ من نوع يصل مداه إلى سبعمئة كيلومتراً. وكان بوسعهم أن يكتفوا بتقديم ما فعلوا على أنه ردّ على العمليتين اللتين نفّذهما تنظيم داعش في طهران مؤخراً، بطريقة باتت معهودة وكأنها عرفٌ دولي تردّ بموجبها كل دولة تتعرّض لعملية داعشية على أرضها بقصف لمناطق تواجد تنظيم داعش في العراق وسوريا. إلّا أن الغرور وصل بقادة الحرس الثوري الإيراني إلى حدّ بالغ الارتفاع، مما جعلهم يسرحون ويمرحون في سوريا والعراق غير مبالين لظهورهم بمظهر المحتلّين، بل متعمّدين تأكيد هيمنتهم الإمبراطورية على نظامي البلدين وكأنها أبدية ومتعمّدين استفزاز مشاعر أخصامهم فيهما وفي جوارهما. وقد ساق الغرور حكّام إيران وقادة حرسها الثوري إلى تقديم إطلاقهم للصواريخ الستة على أنه «رسالة موجّهة بصورة خاصة إلى السعوديين والأمريكيين»، على حدّ قول لواء الحرس الثوري رمضان شريف، بما أثنى عليه النائب في البرلمان الإيراني جواد كريمي قدّوسي مؤكداً على أن الصواريخ «رسالة إلى مؤيدي الإرهابيين في المنطقة المتمثلين بالنظام السعودي والأمريكان قبل أن يكون رسالة إلى الإرهابيين»، وكان كلاهما يتحدّث على شاشة التلفزيون الإيراني. لا بل زايد عليهما القائد السابق للحرس الثوري، اللواء محسن رضائي، مبشّراً بأن «الصفعة الأكبر قادمة». والعنجهية الرعناء تتجلّى لمّا ندرك أن القوات الأمريكية المنتشرة في المنطقة تفوق قوّتها الضاربة ليس القوة الضاربة الإيرانية وحسب، بل تلك القوة والقوة الضاربة الروسية المنتشرة في سوريا مجتمعتين. وإزاء إدارة أمريكية جديدة في واشنطن تتميّز بالعداء الشديد لطهران، تحرّضها عليها الدولة الصهيونية، إدارة جديدة سبق أن حذّرت إيران من إلقاء الصواريخ التسيارية مثلما حذّرت كوريا الشمالية، يبدو أن حكّام إيران وقادة حرسها الثوري مصرّون على إعطاء تلك الإدارة ذريعة لتصعيدها الضغط على دولتهم، بل لتسديدها ضربة عسكرية إليها قد تكون كاسحة مثلما كانت الضربة التي تلقّاها عراق صدّام حسين في سنة 1991.
The US State Department said on Tuesday it was "mystified" that Gulf Arab states had not released to the public or to Qatar details of the grievances that prompted their economic and political boycott of the country.
The statement seemed to contradict repeated comments by President Donald Trump who has accused Doha of funding terrorism, taking responsibility for the sanctions imposed on Qatar by its neighbours.
In Washington's strongest language yet on the Gulf dispute, the State Department said the more time goes by, "the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the UAE".
The United Arab Emirates, which along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain imposed the measures to isolate Qatar, said this week the sanctions could last for years unless Doha accepted demands that the Arab powers plan to reveal in coming days.
"At this point, we are left with one simple question: Were the actions really about their concerns regarding Qatar's alleged support for terrorism or were they about the long-simmering grievances between and among the GCC countries," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, referring to the five-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
Nauert added that Washington is puzzled that Gulf states have not released their demands or details about their claims against Qatar more than two weeks after the "embargo" started.
The State Department also called on all parties to de-escalate tensions and focus on combating terrorism.
However, Trump had voiced full support for Saudi Arabia in the actions it led against Qatar over the past weeks.
"We had a decision to make, do we take the easy road or do we finally take a hard but necessary action," Trump said on 9 June. "We have to stop the funding of terrorism. I decided ... the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding."
The US president has also accused Qatar of historically funding terrorism "at a very high level".
Qatar has denied accusations by that it backs terrorism, foments regional instability or has cosied up to Iran.
The crisis started after Qatar’s official news agency was hacked, publishing fake comments attributed to the country’s emir critical of Gulf neighbours and Trump.
Qatar's attorney general said on Tuesday his country has evidence that the hacking of Qatar's state news agency was linked to countries that have severed ties with Doha.
"Qatar has evidence that certain iPhones originating from countries laying siege to Qatar were used in the hack," the Qatari Attorney General Ali Bin Fetais al-Marri told reporters in Doha. He did not name the countries.
The almost simultaneous blockade of Qatar spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and joined by a few of its sidekick states and two pernicious, violent attacks on two symbolic sites in Tehran may have taken the world by surprise but the mad logic and the mischievous rhetoric of them are anything but surprising.
The organic link between the regional, decidedly anti-Palestinian, ambitions of Israeland the sectarian designs of Saudi Arabia for the Arab and Muslim world at large have been known for quite some time now. The question is what has triggered that alliance between the Israeli settler colony and the Saudi garrison state suddenly to up the ante and come out with such ferocious intensity, throwing all pretences of "Arab brotherhood" or "Muslim unity" under the speeding Zionist bus.
As reported by Al Jazeera, there is now an active lobbying putsch in Washington, DC, coordinated among Israel, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates, simultaneously targeting Qatar and Iran, with the future of Palestine and the fate of millions of Palestinians in and out of their homeland as the focal points of this treacherous alliance to sabotage and destroy the cause of Palestinian self-determination.
Taking full advantage of this crisis, the timing of the US ambassador to the United Nations, the die-hard Zionist, Nikki Haley's visit to Israel marks Benjamin Netanyahu's long-standing design to push the Palestinian question completely off the global agenda. The ruling regimes in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt are willing and eager parties to this perfidious act.
Although there can never be any hard evidence of the Saudi instigation of the suicide attacks and bombing of two symbolic sites in Iran, the parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini, Iranian officials are pointing fingers at the Saudis. But we need not necessarily accept the Iranian account to realise that Israel and Saudi Arabia are (and have been for a very long time) the main beneficiaries of such violent acts against Iran and Iranians.
If we put the blockade of Qatar by its Arab neighbours and the unprecedented attack on Iran analytically together, a number of crucial consequences emerge to redefine the geostrategic map of the region.
Israel and Saudi Arabia as two garrison states
The current Saudi-Israeli alliance in trampling the Palestinians' fate, warmongering against Iran, and subjecting Qatar to a crippling blockade dominates and distorts the real picture of the region. The principle enemies of the Saudi and Israeli garrison states are not their counterpart states in the region but, in fact, the defiant nations that are falsely framed by these states.
The simultaneous targeting of Qatar and Iran should forever put an end to the false flag that this is a battle between Arabs and Persians or else between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
Three powerful nations in this area defy their respective states to map out their own democratic destinies: Egypt, Iran, and Turkey. These are the three nations that, in their thick historical memories and ensuing democratic aspirations, pose the greatest threat to the Saudi and Israeli colonial concoctions with no historical legitimacy on the ground. By virtue of US military and diplomatic support, this Saudi-Zionist alliance dominates the geopolitics of the region beyond its historical deserve.
Among these three historic nations, the Saudi Arabia and Israel falsely assume they have neutralised Egypt by recruiting the military junta that has aborted its revolutionary momentum. Egyptians as a people, as an historically self-conscious nation (remember Tahrir Square), are not to be confused with the corrupt junta that now rules it, tramples on Palestinian rights, and is even willing to sell its own territorial integrity to Saudi Arabia.
This Saudi-Zionist alliance thinks it can also disregard Turkey for it confuses the current coup-countercoup draconian dynamics of Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government with the robust democratic urges of Turks as a people, as a deeply rooted and self-conscious nation (remember both the Gezi Park movement and the popular uprising against the military coup last year).
The alliance, therefore, laser beams on Iran for, contrary to its ridiculous claims, it is not the adventuresome disposition of its state that bothers it but, in fact, the volcanic democratic upsurge of Iranians as a nation frightens the living daylights out of these two colonially manufactured garrison states.
It is not accidental that the primary target of those demented mercenaries attacking Iran was the Iranian parliament, next to the office of the presidency and the city councils the most democratic institution in an otherwise theocratic state apparatus. It is the democratic effervescence of the people of Iran (and Turkey and Egypt), trapped as they are within the framing of a misrepresenting state, that poses an existential threat to Saudi-Israeli alliance.
Keep your eyes on these three nations: Turkey, Iran, and Egypt - do not be distracted by the antics of their respective state apparatuses being dragged into the geopolitics of the region - and you will have a far more accurate conception of every single development in the Arab and Muslim world. Keep also in mind that the Palestinian cause is at the heart of these three nation's democratic aspirations, and not a matter of systematic political abuse by their respective states.
Despite its tiny size and sparse population, though deeply informed by waves of Arab and non-Arab migrant skilled labourers, scholars, journalists, artists, and intellectuals from across the world populating its universities, museums, and research institutes, Qatar has dared dreaming itself integral to the larger Arab-Muslim desire to fulfill its historic sense of dignity, which it has in part invested in putting the Palestinian self-determination at the forefront of its sense of moral identity.
Qatar is not just for Qataris. Despite all its structural limitations as a minuscule rentier state with a massive US military base on its soil, Qatar has enabled an engine of social, intellectual, and artistic ambitions for the larger Arab and Muslim world. Donald Trumplooks at Qatar and all he sees are dollar signs for his military contractor friends. Israel looks at Qatar and it is worried to see a thriving Arab capital with a sharp critical intelligence to the Palestinian politics it enables. Saudi Arabia looks at Qatar and sees dangerous ideas being bandied about its northern frontiers.
That Zionists see that dream as a nightmare is, of course, natural. That the Saudis and their sidekicks have now joined forces with these Zionists in crushing that dream is an obscenity beyond words. The marriage of convenience between Israel and Saudi Arabia as two garrison states, armed to their teeth by the US to spread menace and to pit one group of Muslims against another, overcomes all other disparities between the odd couples.
The simultaneous targeting of Qatar and Iran should forever put an end to the false flag that this is a battle between Arabs and Persians or else between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Qatar is both an Arab and a Sunni country, and is today the target of a most pernicious blockade and defamation by its own Arab and Sunni neighbours, while planeloads of food are being flown to Doha from Turkey and Iran.
For now, let it be remembered that Israel, with all its ridiculous claim to be "the only democracy in the Middle East" (built on stolen Palestinian lands), is today in active alliance with the most retrograde and backward-ruling regimes in the region against the democratic aspirations of their nations. Let it also be remembered that the ruling family in Saudi Arabia are now in active alliance with the European settler colony that has stolen Palestine from its rightful inhabitants. Everything else from this point forward must commence with these two sobering facts.
Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York.