Saudi Arabia Cuts Ties with Iran

Saudi Arabia Cuts Ties with Iran

from the January 04, 2016 eNews issue

Iranian anti-riot policemen scuffle with Iranian protesters

Iranian anti-riot policemen scuffle with Iranian protesters during a demonstration near the Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran. (Photo by Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA)

You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See to it that you are not alarmed. These things must take place, but the end hasn’t come yet, because nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.

Matthew 24:6–7 (ISV)

(Ed. Note: Due to late breaking events, the article looking into 2016 will be published next week.)

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister says the kingdom has severed diplomatic relations with Iran a day after a mob of angry protesters looted and burned the Saudi embassy in Tehran after the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric and 46 other prisoners Saturday.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced Sunday that all Iranian diplomats must leave Saudi Arabia within 48 hours, according to Agence France-Presse.

After Saudi Arabia, a Sunni-majority Muslim nation, executed Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, Iranian protesters ransacked the Saudi embassy, smashing windows and furniture and setting fire to the building. Tehran’s police chief said an unspecified number of “unruly elements” were arrested, and a prosecutor said 40 people were held.

This latest move by the Desert Kingdom is the culmination of an ongoing feud between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia has been at odds with Iran for as long as Saudi Arabia has been a country.


The Arabian Peninsula

The Arabian Peninsula is made up primarily by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but it also includes Yemen, Oman, UAE (United Arab Emirates), Qatar (pronounced “cutter”), Kuwait and Jordan. Saudi Arabia, the largest country in the peninsula has a population of 28.7 million, less than half all the peninsula’s total inhabitants. But Saudi Arabia is growing at a rate of almost 2 percent per year. If the population increase continues at this rate, it will double in population in less than 10 years. This will put an enormous strain on its resources. Compounding the problem, almost 40 percent of the Saudi population is under 15 years of age.

Also, 40 percent of Saudi Arabia working population (meaning the male population) is unemployed. These people are kept quiescent by giving them government subsidies. This may change. With crude oil going for $37/bbl. (One bbl. [barrel] = 42 gallons), and with some predictions having it go to under $30/bbl., the Saudi royal family may be hard pressed to continue these payments. There are already pressures arising from this group for jobs and education.

Saudi Arabia’s power comes from its oil reserves. Current estimates show it leads the world in oil reserves, with 262 billion barrels, and is fourth in the world in natural gas reserves, with 240 trillion cubic feet. There is a problem with these numbers though. Throughout the oil industry there is a strong suspicion that Saudi Arabia is overestimating its reserves to protect is power position in the world. The current world oil situation may expose the lie. The decrease in oil prices combined with the United States increasing its oil production and Iran getting ready to bring its oil back onto the world market with the lifting of sanctions may reveal that Saudi Arabia may not be able to play geopolitics with oil as they claim. This will put the Saudi royal family in a very precarious position.

Iran feels that Saudi Arabia may be ripe for the picking.

The Najd and Yemen

The geographic heart of the Saudi state, and of the Sunni religious movement known as Wahhabism associated with it, is the Najd (or Nejd (see the map above)). The word “Najd” means upland. And its general elevation varies from 5,000 feet in the west to under 2,500 feet in the east. The late 19th century British explorer and Arabist Charles M. Doughty described Najd in this way: “if God had not made the camel, Nejd… had been without inhabitant.”

The fundamental danger to Najd-based Saudi Arabia is Yemen.

Though Yemen is only one quarter the size of Saudi Arabia, it has roughly the same size population. The Yemenis live primarily in the mountainous southwest corner of the nation which has been inhabited since antiquity. The Ottoman Turks and the British occupied Yemen, but never really controlled the country. Because Yemen was never truly colonized, it did not develop bureaucratic institutions. Today is it classified as a failed state.

Enter Iran

The conflict in Yemen has turned into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Realizing that the United States is not willing to step into the fray in Yemen, the Saudi Kingdom is leading a local military coalition aimed at defeating Shiite-dominated Houthi rebels threatening to unseat the government, such as it is. Saudi Arabia is the arch enemy of the Shia Islam-dominated nation of Iran. In Yemen, Iran is supporting the Houthis (Shia) militia as well as al-Qaida (Sunni) terrorists to take over the nation.

Yemen is a country in chaos. Estimates of the number of firearms within Yemen’s borders go as high as 80 million — almost three for every Yemeni. As one American military expert described the country:

In Yemen you’ve got well over 20 million aggressive, commercial-minded and well-armed people, all extremely hardworking compared with the Saudis next door. It’s the future, and it terrifies… the government in Riyadh.

It is these people that Iran is supporting.

It is unusual that the Shia and Sunni factions fight for the same side, but not unheard of. In Yemen it is to Shia Iran’s advantage to destabilize the nation even if it means that the Sunni Muslim al-Qaida terrorists help. Al-Qaida is fighting alongside Iran in Yemen to expand its Caliphate.

If al-Qaida wins the day in Yemen, there is little doubt that Iran would supplant that group in the country. This military ju-jitsu move has been played time and time again where the group that took over a country was quickly supplanted by another, more powerful group. Some examples of this can be found in the French Revolution (1789), the Russian Revolution (1917), and more recently, the Iranian Revolution.

If ancient Persia can gain a toehold in this country, it could prove to be a steppingstone into Saudi Arabia and the eventual overthrow of Iran’s mortal enemy. This could well break out into a Shia vs Sunni battleground.

First Step to Full-Scale War?

The official breaking of diplomatic relations between two countries has often been the portent to open warfare. Some predict that Iran will take the next step in this Shia vs Sunni Islamic war. An open conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia may just be the match to engulf the Middle East in flames.

Related Reading

– FROM: KHouse.Org

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