Darkening the Regional Atmosphere Against Iran

10 November 2012 | 10:08 Code : 1908945 Interview General category
An interview with Dr. Ali Bigdeli
Darkening the Regional Atmosphere Against Iran


How would you evaluate the main objectives of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s visits to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and Francois Hollande's trip to Lebanon and then to Saudi Arabia? 

These visits can be analyzed at two levels: 

1. Britain's economic problems which have led Cameron to visit this region and sell arms so that jobs would be created through this measure and the level of domestic economic pressures would, to some extent, be reduced. 

2. The intention behind these trips is to prove to the countries of the region that they will always support them, especially under the present sensitive conditions. Britain has even attempted to dispatch new warships and decided to establish a huge base in Abu Dhabi. These issues are happening under conditions which Cameron, prior to his visit, had stated that there would be no attack against Iran and that they had no intention to launch a military attack against Iran. Therefore, it seems that they intend to further darken the regional atmosphere against Iran.

Thus, this trip is very significant both from the aspects of diplomacy and economics and we should wait for the result of the US presidential election to see what their new strategies in the region will be. 

Francois Hollande, France's president, had also visited Saudi Arabia 48 hours prior to David Cameron. Does the selection of Saudi Arabia by these two European countries have special meaning?

Hollande's trip has also been made based on the same economic and political aspects I previously mentioned. It means that both of these European countries, i.e. France and Britain, are faced with economic problems and the only country which can help them and bring order to their economies is Saudi Arabia which can sign military contracts with the European countries, the money for which is gained through its huge oil income. This matter shows that this trend can, to some extent, reduce the economic pressures in European countries.

Therefore, the economic objective has been the priority in this trip but, they proposed the threat of Iran as an excuse to sell their arms.

The issue of Iran's nuclear program was one of the issues discussed in these meetings. To what extent, in your opinion, are the Europeans and countries like Saudi Arabia concerned about an Iran-US agreement without their presence?

Since 1940, when the contract of security and military guarantees was signed between Roosevelt and ibn- Saud (US and Saudi Arabia), this trend has continued, meaning that the US will never leave Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia is more than ever hopeful about the US. On the other hand, the US and Europe move in the same front. The visits of Hollande and Cameron to this region are certainly paid attention to by the Americans. The reason is that the US economic crisis cannot be solved without the resolution of the Euro crisis, and the Americans are well aware of the fact that their strongest trade partner is the European Union, and if EU economic problems are to be solved, the Euro crisis must be resolved. To resolve this crisis, the US is also bound to provide new economic atmospheres for the EU so that Europe will be able to save itself from this economic pressure. It is possible that in the future, the US and the EU will focus their pressures on China, and such an approach exists in their regional strategies. 

But, this does not mean that Saudi Arabia feels alone and will join Europe, for Saudi Arabia is considered US territory. Therefore, in summary it must be said that the policies of these countries are not separate from each other. 

The other issue is the Syrian crisis, where Saudi Arabia and the UAE are two supporting countries of the opposition. Can the visits of two representatives of Europe be an indication of Europe's union with these countries in the Syrian crisis?

I believe that the resolution of the issue of Syria is beyond the power of the EU and even the US, and it has become an international and regional phenomenon. It seems that the problems in Syria cannot easily be solved and it seems impossible that the Qatar Conference will lead to successful results for the Americans.

The issue of solving the Syrian crisis must be delayed until after the US election. It is possible that grounds will be provided today that show the issue of Syria has not been forgotten, but an effective measure will be referred to after the US election when the new president enters the White House. The reason is that the issue of Syria, contrary to other countries of the Arab Spring, has natural complexities, the resolution of which is very difficult. 

Another issue which should be discussed in the Syrian crisis is the West's compromise with Russia, for Russia has strongly stood behind Syria. Since the West did not involve Russia in the developments of North Africa and the Russians were not satisfied with this trend, thus, Russia will not retreat from its position with regard to Syria. Therefore, the US must reconcile with Russia on the issue of Syria.

Lebanon is also a site of competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia and European countries in support of Hezbollah. Considering the US and Europe's support for the present government of Lebanon, is Hollande's visit to Lebanon and then to Saudi Arabia an attempt to strengthen the Mikati government and on the other hand, to carry a message for this regional country?

From the beginning, Saudi Arabia supported the March 14th movement. Thus, it is very important for Saudi Arabia to strengthen the Sunni front against Hezbollah. As you know, Lebanon's Constitution, which was ratified in 1974, divided the power into three sections on which basis the president must be Christian, the Prime Minister Sunni and the Parliament Speaker Shiite. But, since the Shiites have become stronger today, they demand more power; hence, Saudi Arabia has always attempted to break this Shiite crescent and has not yet been successful. They have exerted pressure on Iran and if the government of Syria changes, Iran will also lose its leverages of power in the region and the Shiite crescent will also break.

Today, we see that Iraq is also distancing itself from Iran and, by increasing its oil sales, it compensates for the shortcomings of Iran's oil production. On the other hand, Iraq has stopped several Iranian planes. These issues show that the Shiite Iraq is also distancing itself from Iran and if it intends to move towards reconstruction, it will certainly go towards Arab countries. This is the mistake that Syria made when it distanced itself from the Arab world, but the Shiite Iraq does not intend to stay far away from the Arab world. Hooshyar Zibari, Iraq's Foreign Minister, who is Sunni, is the strategist of the Iraqis and intends to fill the gap with the Arab world. Therefore, Saudi Arabia attempts to strengthen the March 14th movement and, considering the colonizing record of France in Lebanon, they support the present situation to reduce Iran's power in Lebanon. 

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