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memri
November 9, 2017 No.
7173

Anti-Iranian Articles In The Saudi Press: The Diplomatic Paths Have Failed; Now The Drums Of War Are Beating Loudly

In recent days, the tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran has escalated further, as expressed by significant developments in Lebanon and Yemen, which constitute local areas of friction in the conflict between the two countries.

On November 4, 2017, Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'd Al-Hariri announced his resignation from Riyadh. At a press conference he accused Iran of seeking to destroy the Arab world and assume control of the region, and also criticized Hezbollah for causing tension between Lebanon and the other Arab states and imposing its will in Lebanon by force of arms.[1]

Later the same day, the Houthis in Yemen launched a missile at a Riyadh airfield, an incident that Saudi Arabia – which is repeatedly targeted by missiles launched by the Houthis, Iran's allies in Yemen – described as the crossing of a red line. Saudi officials accused Iran of arming the Houthis with missiles, and Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman called the firing of the missile "an act of direct military aggression on the part of the Iranian regime, tantamount to a belligerent action against Saudi Arabia." Saudi Foreign Minister 'Adel Al-Jubeir said in an interview with CNN that "the missile [fired at Riyadh] was Iranian and was launched by Hizbullah from territory occupied by the Houthis in Yemen."[2] He warned that Saudi Arabia reserved "the right to respond in the appropriate manner and at the appropriate time."[3]

The Saudi statements against Iran and the Houthis in Yemen were accompanied by practical measures: On November 5, 2017, the Arab coalition operating in Yemen under Saudi leadership announced a temporary closure on all Yemeni land, sea and air crossings. The announcement described the missile launch on Riyadh as an act of aggression, adding that Saudi Arabia had the right to use force in self-defense, in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter, and that Iran's supplying of missiles to the Houthis was an act of war. Signaling a possible escalation of the fighting in Yemen, on the following day the coalition warned diplomatic missions in Yemen to remove themselves from areas not controlled by the government of Yemeni president Hadi, and also called on humanitarian missions to exit the conflict zones.[4] On November 5, Saudi Arabia offered a prize of $440 million for information leading to the capture of 40 senior Houthi officials.[5]

At the same time Saudi Arabia also escalated the tone against Hizbullah in Lebanon. Saudi Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer Al-Sabhan, who recently leveled sharp criticism at Hizbullah,[6] warned that his country would regard Lebanon as "a government that had declared war" on Saudi Arabia, given the influence of the Hizbullah militias on its decisions. Al-Sabhan clarified that the Hizbullah militias were involved in in every act of terror against Saudi Arabia, and that Saudi Arabia would never tolerate Lebanese involvement in the war against it.[7]


Cartoon in Saudi daily: Saudi Arabia severs the tentacles of the Iranian octopus in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon ('Okaz, Saudi Arabia, November 8, 2017)

The harsh tone taken by Saudi officials against Iran and its proxies in Yemen and Lebanon was echoed in articles in the Saudi press, which claimed that the time for diplomacy is over and the time for military action to defend Saudi security has arrived. The articles proposed various scenarios for using Saudi military force against Iran and its proxies – either indirectly, by deploying militias against Iran's agents in the Middle East, or via the direct use of force in Lebanon and Yemen, or even as part of an all-out conflict encompassing Iran and the Gulf states.

Below are selected excerpts from these articles:

Editor Of 'Okaz Daily: Iran Has Declared War On Saudi Arabia; We Can No Longer Meet Its Aggression With Silence

Jamil Al-Dhiabi, editor of the Saudi daily 'Okaz, wrote: "It is time to respond. There are no more excuses for wasting time on consultations, mediation and other diplomatic measures. Not because we oppose such measures, but because the Iranian aggression has become military and direct, and can no longer be met with silence...

"All indications point to a possible military attack on the militias Iran has planted throughout the region, especially on Hizbullah in Lebanon and on the Houthis in Yemen. [The fact that] Iran supplied the Houthis in Yemen with a ballistic missile and they fired it at the Saudi capital of Riyadh – after in a similar failed attempt[8] [in July 2017] they tried to hit the holy mosque in Mecca – means that the cowardly Iranian aggression has crossed every red line... [Iran must therefore] bear the responsibility when Saudi Arabia realizes its firm threat to cut off [Iran's] hand. After all, it is [Iran] that has declared war on the [Saudi] kingdom...

"Iran lives in a state of delusion, thinking it can spread its influence throughout the Arab region, and it regards the Arab regimes as [a house of] cards that is bound to collapse thanks to the plots it is hatching [by means of] its agents. Iran thought that, once it swallowed Iraq, this Arab country would become one of its proxy states, but it realized its mistake after the recent Iraqi-Saudi rapprochement. In addition, the state of the jurisprudents [Iran] thinks that, by taking over Syria while conspiring with the collapsing Assad regime, it can turn Syria into easy prey. But the Syrian opposition forces have kept [Iran] from realizing its ambition for the last six years, and it is likely to be disappointed, just as it was disappointed in the Iran-Iraq war [in 1980-1988]. Iran [also] mistakenly thinks it can take over Lebanon using the Party of Satan [Hizbullah],[9] headed by Hassan Nasrallah, and that this will surely enable it to swallow the entire Fertile Crescent. However, the Lebanese people, who took to the streets in 2005 to kick the Assad regime out of Lebanon, will not capitulate, even if until now they have been patient with the behavior of the Al-Dahiya gangs [Hizbullah].

"The clerics of the Rule of the Jurisprudent [in Iran] must understand that Saudi Arabia is not one of those [countries] that make a lot of noise. When it says something, it carries it out.  Just as the war in Yemen was imposed [on Saudi Arabia] as the only choice, the war against Iran's agents in Yemen and Lebanon will be imposed upon it as well... Then, Iran will realize the fate of its depraved plots, its cancerous interference, and its efforts to destabilize [the Arab states], assume control [of them] and spread its influence [in them]... Its hands and fingers will be cut off, and it will again drink the cup of poison,[10] because [its] aggression has become direct."[11]

Senior Saudi Writer: We Are On The Brink Of War In The Region In Which Saudi Arabia Will Be An Important Factor

In an article titled "The Drums of War Are Beating Loudly" in the 'Okaz daily, its senior columnist Khalaf Al-Harbi wrote: "Amid the flood of agitating reports in the last few days, [raucous] voices and chaos have increased all around us. But despite the surrounding chaos, it was impossible to ignore one unchanging and worrying sound that could be heard from afar – namely the beating of the drums of a war that is about to erupt in the region, and in which our country, Allah protect it, is sure to play a major role.

"The resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'd Al-Hariri several days ago was a clear sign that the conflict with Iran and Hizbullah was about to assume a new form. Subsequently, the Houthis' firing of the ballistic missile at Riyadh exposed the magnitude of the danger we are currently facing. Then came the official Saudi statements stressing that Iran was the one who had armed the Houthis with these missiles in order to attack Saudi Arabia, and stressing that Saudi Arabia was entitled to respond to the Iranian aggression. All these developments, along with the statements and leaks that accompanied them, form a prelude to war and all its horrors. So far, the extent and the shape of the arena of battle remain unclear, and [we don't know] whether [the war] will be confined to Hizbullah's influence zones in Lebanon or whether its searing flames will reach the entire region of the Gulf and Iran. But in any case, it will be a bitter conflict. Perhaps the most important task is to strengthen our domestic front and avoid any sectarian polarization that will divide the homeland and serve its enemies."[12]


Cartoon in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily: Houthi missile will be met with retaliatory barrage of missiles (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, November 8, 2017)

Former Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Editor: Diplomacy has Failed; We Must Fight Iran Using Our Own Proxy Militias

'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, the former editor of the Saudi London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, ruled out the scenario of a direct military conflict with Iran, but called upon Iran's rivals to use their own militias to fight the Iranian militias. He wrote: "The fronts of the war against Iran and its many allies are steadily growing in number. The Houthis' firing of the ballistic missile at the Saudi capital is a grave military development that cannot be regarded separately from the regional conflict with Iran in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. The diplomatic roads [to a solution] have failed due to the Iranians' persistent refusal to withdraw their forces and their militias from Syria, just as they previously refused to exit Iraq, where they are [still] militarily active...

"Iran is waging proxy wars in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. The countries of the region, as well as the U.S., have failed to adopt a suitable policy vis-à-vis the strategy of expansion and control that Iran [is pursuing] by means of its agents... Iran is forcing its opponents to adopt one of two [options]: either [wage] a direct struggle against the source [of the aggression], namely the Iranian regime, or recruit regional agents or proxies [of their own] and enter the fray using [these agents]. The first option, of [a direct] war with Iran, is unlikely to materialize, except in defense against an armed Iranian attack. But this is not Iran's way of managing its crises. Even after it lost eight diplomats and other [Iranians] in a Taliban ambush in Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan in the late 1990s,[13] it did not enter the war there, but rather started to build local militias there, with persistence and patience...

"The countries [confronting Iran] will have no choice but to [seek] a balance by waging a militia war [of their own]. Syria is now entering the phase of stabilizing its regime, and more importantly, its control on the ground. The Iranian militias execute many residents in the regions [of Syria] they control, most of them regions that were formerly controlled by the opposition, with the aim of maintaining their security grip on these areas... In these circumstances, the countries of the region will find themselves confronting a large-scale Iranian plan to use Syria to gain control of Syria [itself] as well as Iraq and Lebanon, and later [also areas] beyond their borders.  In the face of this policy, there will be no way to remove Iran or weaken it, no matter what the Russians or the Syrian regime promise to do. This means that Syria too is bound to become a state of militias.

"As for the Iranians, their policy of proxy wars is paying off. They regard their investment in Hizbullah – which is [their] most expensive and long-range project, costing $700 million a year – [as an investment in] creating an advanced army. Their Houthi agents in Yemen (Ansar Allah) cost less [to maintain], because the fighters' wages are less than two dollars a week...

"The [arenas of] conflict proliferate as Iran expands and there is nobody to deter it. [Iran] is becoming more dangerous, as evident from its success in weakening Al-Hariri's camp in Lebanon and in bolstering the Houthis' ballistic capabilities, which [now] directly threaten the very heart of Saudi Arabia. Since the option of a direct military confrontation with Iran is off the table, because nobody wants this to happen, it appears that the only option is to strengthen local [anti-Iranian] militias in countries where instability prevails." [14]

Al-Riyadh Editorial: We Cannot Remain Silent Over Iran's Actions; Confrontation Is Unavoidable

An editorial in the official Saudi daily Al-Riyadh stated in a similar vein: "Iran is undoubtedly the primary factor undermining the region's security and stability. This is no false accusation but a fact that must be confronted... The imminent confrontation with Iran will in no way resemble past [experience]. It will involve a new shift that will not include the element of a ceasefire. There is no choice but to confront the Iranian regime using the same operation methods that it uses, [methods] which are definitely to the detriment of the region. The Iranian project is based on creating crises, which it itself foments and relies upon. Even if the region is crisis-free, the Iranian regime creates [crises] to evade its many internal crises. The Iranian regime is sitting on the lip of a volcano that can erupt at any moment, due to the political, economic and social problems that [this regime] copes with by suppressing them with an iron fist. Its only way [of coping with these problems] is to export them, in order to distract the [Iranian] people.

"A new stage in the confrontation with the Iranian regime is on the horizon. Meeting its actions with silence is no longer possible, lest it persist on its evil path, which we do not want.[15]

 

[1] Alarabiya.net, November 4, 2017.

[2] Cnn.com, November 6, 2017.

[3] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), November 8, 2017; Twitter.com/adelaljubeir, November 7, 2017.

[4] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), November 7, 2017; Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), November 6, 2017; It should be noted that the closure on the port of Aden was lifted on November 9, 2017.

[5] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), November 6, 2017.

[6] On the escalation of the Saudi tone towards Hizbullah in recent weeks, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7150, Calls In Saudi Arabia To Fight Hizbullah As Part Of War On Terror, For It Is 'More Dangerous Than ISIS And Al-Qaeda Put Together', October 26, 2017.

[7] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), November 7, 2017.

[8] The reference is to the Houthis' October 28, 2016 launch of a missile at Mecca District, which the Saudis claim was aimed at the Grand Mosque of Mecca, the holiest of Muslim sites.

[9] A derogatory play of words on the name Hizbullah, which means the Party of Allah.

[10] An allusion to Ayatollah Khomeini's comment at the close of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, that he had no choice but to drink cup of poison and agree to a ceasefire with Iraq.

[11] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), November 8, 2017.

[12] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), November 6, 2017.

[13] Referring to the Taliban's August 8, 1998 attack on the Iranian consulate during its takeover of the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, which left Iranian diplomats and an Iranian journalist dead.

[14] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 7, 2017.

[15] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), November 9, 2017.