The Saudi Arabia and Iran spat is quickly shaping World War 3 as three global powers are pulled into the tension. When Saudis kill a Shia cleric, the Iranian protest ensues and diplomatic ties are severed. Each of the country’s allies rally behind. Bashar al-Assad, a strong Russian ally, is an Iranian ally as well. China is a strong Russian ally. The Saudis have Bahrain, UAE in its side. Where do the United States and NATO come in the picture? An insider reveals that Saudis are not afraid to anger the White House in the wake of the tension.
The trigger: The Saudis cut diplomatic ties with Iran after the latter stormed its embassy in Tehran on Sunday morning. Iranians were furious about Saudi’s execution of one of its Shia clerics, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and three other Shi’tes along with dozens of al-Qaeda members.
The background: The Shia and Sunni Muslims have been enemies since time immemorial. It is safe to say that the spat dates back to the death of Muhammad as they argue over the rights of succession. The Royal Family of Saudi Arabia are Sunni Muslims. Nimr, of whom Saudi executed, was considered a terrorist by Riyadh. Iranians adore him as an advocate of the rights of the Shia Muslim Minority in Saudi Arabia.
Iran and Saudi Arabia both claim to be defenders of Shia and Sunni Muslims, respectively. But then again, the two nations have long competed as major oil producers to the rest of the world, primarily to global powers.
The dangers: Iran and Saudi are both aspiring to become a nuclear nation. They are also both allies to other nuclear nations, including Israel and Pakistan.
All of the countries concerned are currently involved in the Syrian crisis. Mr. Assad is an Iranian ally and claimed to be protecting Christians, Shias and other minorities in the region. Russian president Vladimir Putin is conducting airstrikes in Syria following request from Mr. Assad. There are words going around that China has started sending help for Russia’s offense in Syria. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mr. Putin have always been vocal about their strong ties.
In November, Turkey shot down a Russian jet. This triggers a looming war as the U.S. and NATO came to Turkey’s defense. In the current Iran-Saudi tensions it is easy to see that Tehran will have Russia and China on its side. Saudi Arabia will have Bahrain and UAE.
On Monday, Bahrain had announced it is also cutting diplomatic ties from Iran, CNN reports. It cites Tehran’s “blatant and dangerous interference” in Bahrain and other Arab countries as its reason.
UAE had also announced that it is downgrading its diplomatic ties with Iran, CNN reported. It also announced plans to reduce the number of diplomats assigned in Iran. In explaining its decision, UAE said it has come to the decision “in light of Iran’s ongoing interference in internal and Arab affairs that has recently reached unprecedented levels.”
Sudan, a Sunni Muslim country, recalled its ambassador from Iran. The Sudanese government made the decision because of “the Iranian interference in the region through a sectarian approach.”
It can be said that the U.S. and Israel will back Saudi Arabia since they have always shared fruitful relations. Where U.S. is, NATO will come. U.S. is a NATO ally and the alliance follows article 5 which invokes that an attack to one is an attack to all.
However, relations among U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia turned sour in the signing of the Iran Nuclear Deal. Now, a source who has spoken on condition of anonymity with The Jerusalem Post said Saudi Arabia is not afraid to anger the White House. The Saudi government has been upset about U.S.’s failure to stop Iran from interfering throughout the Gulf and Arab nations.
“Enough is enough. Again and again Tehran has thumbed their nose at the West. They continue to sponsor terrorism and launch ballistic missiles and no one is doing anything about it,” the source said. “Every time the Iranians do something, the US backs off. In the meantime, Saudi (Arabia) is actually doing something about it in Syria, in Iran and in Yemen,” the source went on. “The Saudis really don’t care if they anger the White House,” he declared.
On Monday, State Department spokesperson John Kirby said the government is concerned about the rising tensions in the Middle East. He was elusive as to what side the government takes. He said the U.S. does not see a role for itself in trying to deescalate the tension nor will it be a mediator. While he said the government has called on all sides to avoid actions that would heighten tensions, it is important to note that the U.S. condemns the attack to the Saudi Embassy, but not the execution.
Meanwhile, Russia and China have already weighed in on the issue. Both of them acknowledged that Iran and Saudi are key regional players, suggesting that situation is highly tensed at the moment.
The Russian foreign ministry appealed for both Iran and Saudi to “show restraint and to avoid any steps that might escalate the situation and raise tensions interreligious ones.” China’s foreign ministry said it is paying close attention to the development. It called for “all parties to remain calm and restrained, use dialogue and negotiations to properly resolve difference and work together to safeguard the region’s peace and stability.”