Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which have been extremely tense in recent years, are now deteriorating further as oil prices continue their downward trend. Iran is accusing Saudi Arabia of waging an oil war against it with the aim of damaging the Iranian economy - which is almost entirely dependent on oil revenues. Additionally, in recent days, Iranian spokesmen, most of them affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), have issued threats against Saudi Arabia.
On December 10, Iranian President Hassan Rohani called the decline in global oil prices the result of political planning by countries in the region, hinting at Saudi Arabia, and stressed that the Iranian people would not forget this "betrayal" and would "respond to it." Earlier, on December 21, Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said, while on a visit to Syria: "This time, we will not forget which countries schemed to lower the price of oil." On December 15, the IRGC weekly Sobh-e Sadeq threatened that Iran would use "all the means at its disposal against Saudi Arabia," and on December 27, Amir Moussavi, a former IRGC diplomat who today directs the Strategic Studies and International Relations Institute, said, "Saudi Arabia's move is a suicidal step in the struggle against Iran in the region... So far, Tehran has held back, and has acted in moderation, but it seems that this time, this playing with fire is a type of suicide... Saudi Arabia is certain that Iran will not respond easily, but it seems that this time the situation is different, and if necessary Saudi Arabia's economic interests in the region and in the world will be harmed."
Another reason for the tension between the two countries is the issue of the ethnic minorities in each of them. Iran is apprehensive about unrest among its numerous minorities, and accuses the Saudis of inciting them. At the same time, Iranian sources are indirectly calling for Shi'ites to rise up in eastern Saudi Arabia, where most of the country's oil is produced.
On December 14, 2014, against the backdrop of a Saudi media campaign against "the repression of ethnic minorities in Iran," Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alaam TV stated that the Saudi daily Al-Watan had "impudently" called on "the Gulf Cooperation Council states to interfere in Iran's domestic affairs and to kindle fitna [civil war]in [Iran's] south." These statements referred to the Saudi daily Al-Watan's October 19, 2014 publication of an interview with Habib Jaber, head of the National Organization for the Liberation of Ahwaz, in which he called on the Arab countries to support the struggle for an independent Arab Sunni Ahwazi state in a region of Iran that is rich in oil reserves.
On December 20, 2014, an IRGC-affiliated Twitter account tweeted, "The experience of Ansar Allah [the Houthhis in Yemen] and Hizbullah [in Lebanon] will be repeated in eastern Saudi Arabia. The people must defend themselves against the repeated military attacks by the Aal-Saud regime."
@IRGCnetwork, December 20, 2014
A week later, on December 27, Hossein Hosseini, an Iranian journalist for the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun, tweeted that the new Iranian daily Mardome-emrooz, which is affiliated with the pragmatic camp, had "6 days ago" sent a "warning message to Saudi 2 revise its antagonistic policies against Iran in oil, nuke, & regional."
@hosseinhosseini, December 27, 2014
This paper will review some of the recent Iranian threats against Saudi Arabia in the context of the Iranian-Saudi oil war.
IRGC Weekly: "Iran Has Many Options For Harming Saudi Arabia"
On December 15, 2014, the IRGC weekly Sobh-e Sadeq published an article titled "Aal-Saud's Oil War Derives from Weakness" threatening to harm Saudi Arabia "with all the means Iran has at its disposal." It stated: "Saudi Arabia can be viewed as Iran's major and most criminal enemy in the region. It is a country that never, and in no situation - even when its relations with Iran were considered good - ceased its hostility towards Iran. Obviously, until recently, the hostility and enmity [of the Saudi royal family] was hidden; however, for some time now, it has been using anti-Iran measures openly and publicly - in other words, it is prepared for battle.
"The most recent Aal-Saud oil war against Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, waged at the command of the American bosses, is the newest and most overt Aal-Saud hostility... First of all, the new Saudi oil war proves once again that as long as the country's [Iran's] budget is based [almost entirely] on oil, the enemy can exploit this weapon in order to pressure Iran. For this reason, there needs to be an initiative, once and for all, so that [Iran's] revenues will not be oil-based; therefore, senior Iranian political and economic leaders must seriously address the 'resistance economy' [plan] emphasized in recent years by [Supreme] Leader [Ali Khamenei], so that we can neutralize weapons of this kind.
"Now that Saudi Arabia is using all its capabilities to harm Iran, the Islamic Republic [of Iran] can also use all the means at its disposal to pressure this obsolete, deteriorating regime. Iran has many options for harming Saudi Arabia. Because this tyrannical, medieval family is now at its nadir, all Iran needs to do is to use a single one of these means so that nothing remains of the entity named the Aal-Saud regime or of Saudi Arabia itself.
"Increased public protests, particularly in the oil-rich eastern [and largely Shi'ite-majority] areas of Saudi Arabia, have undermined the legitimacy of Saudi [rule]. These anti-[Saudi] regime protests are not unique to this part of Saudi Arabia; they are [also] happening in other parts of it. Additionally, the Houthis [in Yemen], who are considered Aal-Saud's sworn enemies, are at Saudi Arabia's back door [Yemen]; all they have to do is lift one finger for the disintegrating Aal-Saud corpus to collapse.
"Saudi Arabia no longer has the respect it once had from its Arab neighbors - and has serious problems with some of them. On the other hand, its support for the terrorist organization ISIS, and its operation of it, has spawned great hatred of Saudi Arabia in public opinion, in both the region and the world. Elements of ISIS that have been fattened by the Saudi regime have become sworn enemies of Saudi Arabia. Apparently, Saudi Arabia's free oil money cannot stop the increase in the weakness of the Aal-Saud regime.
"But we wonder why [Iran's] diplomatic apparatus, and [Iran's] Oil Ministry, and particularly [Minister Bijan] Zanganeh who heads it, remain silent in light of Aal-Saud's open hostility - even though this betrayal by Aal-Saud enraged even President [Rohani]..."
Iranian Columnist Hassan Hanizadeh: If Saudi Arabia Remains Stubborn, Saudi Shi'ites May Resort To Violence
In a December 2, 2014 interview with the IRGC-affiliated Fars news agency, Iranian columnist Hassan Hanizadeh, who is close to IRGC circles, said that the Shi'ites in Saudi Arabia, who are concentrated in the area of the eastern oil reserves, could in future pose a threat, and might even use violence, against the Saudi regime. Hanizadeh also linked Shi'ite Iran's successes in the region amongst its allies - in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen - to the possibility of a successful Shi'ite uprising in Saudi Arabia:
"The Wahhabiyya was established in Saudi Arabia by Great Britain in order to fight the other Islamic sects, and the Shi'ites gradually lost their influence. Thus, the Saudi regime marginalized and subjugated the Shi'ites - and this subjugation lasts to this day... The Shi'ites constitute about 16% of Saudi Arabia's population of 24 million... [The Saudi regime allows] the Shi'ites only minimal participation in the Saudi economy, culture, and society... Saudi Arabia does not permit them to be politically active, and so they cannot come together in political parties, and their political activity is restricted to the Hussainiyyas [Shi'ite religious centers]... The Shi'ites sense that Saudi Arabia regards them as second-class citizens, so their affiliation with the Shi'a surpasses their Arab nationalism, and they look beyond the borders of Saudi Arabia...
"The Shi'ite presence... near the Saudi oil wells and oil pipelines that constitute the country's economic artery could in future be dangerous for Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the Saudi regime systematically represses the Shi'ites, with international backing... Saudi Arabia's Shi'ites are attempting to obtain their rights via peaceful demonstrations - but if Saudi Arabia remains stubborn, they might become violent... Saudi Arabia's alliance with the U.S. and the West is allowing it to repress the Shi'ites without problems [for now] - but if one day the West and the U.S. have a problem with Saudi Arabia, this undoubtedly will benefit the Shi'ites...
"The Houthis' victory in Yemen, the Shi'ites' rise to power in Iraq, Hizbullah's empowerment [in Lebanon], Iran's growing power, and a possible victory for [Syrian President] Bashar Al-Assad as an 'Alawite-Shi'ite figure can all directly impact Shi'ite moves in Saudi Arabia... Undoubtedly, regional and global Shi'ite empowerment will strengthen the Shi'ites in Saudi Arabia.
"The Shi'ite power and capability in Saudi Arabia is drawn from the Shi'ites in the region; the more influence the Shi'ites [in the region] gain, the more they will be perceived as backing the Shi'ites in eastern Saudi Arabia.
"If Saudi Arabia does not rethink its policy towards the Shi'ites, and does not plan a national reconciliation with them and does not appease them, there will be an all-consuming political crisis in the Aal-Saud regime, and reining it in will be very costly.
"The presence of Shi'ites near vital elements of the Saudi economy, and the fact that 30% of Aramco's manpower in eastern Saudi Arabia is Shi'ite, increase the vulnerability of the regime. For this reason, any improvement in Iran-Saudi relations will improve the Shi'ites' circumstances in Saudi Arabia."
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IRGC Affiliate Tasnimnews: Saudi Arabia Must Be Prepared To Pay The Price For Its Decision To Wage An Oil War On Iran
On December 16, 2014, Tasnimnews.com, which is affiliated with the IRGC, published an article titled "Strategic Studies on the Saudi Oil Price Game" that stated: "Currently, there is not even the shadow of a doubt that the sharp drop in oil prices in recent weeks is a premeditated plot by Saudi Arabia. According to analysts, this [Saudi] move has three main objectives:
a) "Sharply reducing Iran's revenues so as to force it to accept a bad deal in the nuclear negotiations;
b) "Pressuring Russia and Iran to back down from their position on the Syrian issue;
c) "Keeping the oil market [under Saudi control] and blocking competitors for whom it is economically unfeasible to produce oil at under $60[/bbl].
"The strategic significance of these objectives is that Saudi Arabia has begun using oil as an offensive political tool against its rivals; thus, it naturally must be prepared to pay the price for its position. Obviously, such a move on the part of the Saudis must not go unanswered.
"Saudi Arabia will not be able to continue playing this game for very long. The political game with oil prices is a short-range tactical maneuver, and its weak points will quickly be exposed. The Saudis know that they will soon have to end this game, but they stubbornly persist in it, and this shows their unprecedented strategic and geopolitical plight. Iran's growing regional power, [and] the successive loss of regions that Saudi Arabia had considered its backyard [Yemen], have severely undermined the logic behind the Saudi strategy. The Saudi attempt to use oil prices as an [anti-Iran] tool for vengeance is its admission of defeat in the regional strategic game, and indicates that the cards are being reshuffled.
"The Saudi game will not continue much longer for the following reasons:
a) "Oil's current price does not match current market demand, and analysts say that the former is expected to increase in the upcoming months, up to $80[/bbl].
b) "At the current price [of oil], it is economically unfeasible for the Americans to use [fracking] to [extract] oil. Therefore, the current price does not pay for America either.
c) "This price significantly reduces Saudi Arabia's oil revenues, after it had long been accustomed to an extremely profligate lifestyle. For this reason, it won't be able to withstand the situation in which its $750 billion in currency reserves based on cheap oil for very long.
"From a strategic point of view, the most important thing for the Saudis to consider is that the oil weapon is its weapon of last resort, and that it has no more cards to lay on the table. As has been seen clearly in recent years, Iran's strategic decision-making apparatus has been designed to ensure that economic pressure does not seriously impact [it], and therefore neither Iran nor Russia cannot be expected... to rethink their strategic decisions on the nuclear issues and on Syria. Therefore, Saudi Arabia must already know for sure that it will not be able to solve its regional geopolitical problems by tinkering with oil prices.
"The drop in oil prices can cause problems for Iran and Russia, but the Saudi regime's problems will remain unresolved in the process, as these [problems] derive primarily from the steep decline in its power at home. In the medium term, this scenario will result in Saudi Arabia's loss of its status as a rational player in the market without any of its geopolitical problems being resolved in any way.
"It is clear that this Saudi move cannot remain unanswered. Iran's optimal response is to further stiffen its position in the nuclear negotiations, and accelerate its plan for the region. Russia also apparently will respond in its own manner. Russia's main means of expressing its disapproval is to step up its military, intelligence, and strategic cooperation with Hizbullah [in Lebanon]. From a strategic point of view, the Saudi decision will compel Russia to abandon [this] conservative approach and to make an decision that has an impact on Saudi Arabia. In such a situation, Riyadh will quickly discern that it has achieved nothing, but has only lost important things."
Iranian Think Tank Director And Former Diplomat: Saudi Arabia's "Playing With Fire Is A Type Of Suicide" And Its "Economic Interests, In The Region And In The World, Will Be Damaged"
In a December 27, 2014 interview with the Iranian daily Taadol, which is identified with the pragmatic camp, Strategic Studies and International Relations Institute director Amir Mousavi, who is also a former Iranian diplomat, said, "The Saudi measure was a suicidal step in the framework of the regional struggle against Iran. The [oil war] move by Riyadh and its allies was carried out at the suggestion of the Zionist regime in order to damage Iran's economic and political capacity in the region. Iran's support and its successes in the anti-terror fighting and against takfiri circles on the Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestinian fronts shows Iran's economic and diplomatic might...
"Considering the regional situation and Iran's status, Saudi Arabia and its allies have played their last card. They sought to damage the Rohani government... to render it passive. The sharp decline in oil prices imposes difficult conditions on Iran; at the same time, these countries are not under much pressure because they have solid foreign currency reserves in international banks and funds.
"Over the last 35 years, Saudi Arabia has done its utmost to damage Tehran. With this current move, it publicly entered the arena. From the 1987 murder [of the Iranian pilgrims] in Mecca to now, Tehran has restrained itself and acted with moderation. However, it appears that this time, [Saudi Arabia's] playing with fire is a type of suicide.
"The economy of these governments [i.e. Saudi Arabia and its allies] is very vulnerable, and they have no capacity to fight Iran politically, economically, or militarily. Iran has conveyed the necessary warnings to Riyadh. Saudi Arabia is certain that Iran will not easily retaliate, but it would appear that this time the situation is different and that if necessary Saudi Arabia's economic interests, in the region and in the world, will be damaged.
"Today, the world is progressing towards dialogue with Iran - but, due to the Zionist regime's efforts, Saudi Arabia is swimming upstream, and is trying to make an underhanded move against Iran and the resistance axis. Observers hope that Riyadh will use this opportunity [of dialogue with Iran] and that the wise and prudent in Saudi Arabia will rein in the extremists. It must not be forgotten that this country is most vulnerable because of regime matters and internal issues, and that if it continues to pursue a policy of damaging Iran, it must expect a harsh response from Tehran. The Islamic Republic of Iran's message [of warning] was delivered to Riyadh a week ago; may this conflict end soon."
Ebtekar Daily: The Saudi Regime Is At "The Phase Of The Erosion Of The Legitimacy" Of Its Rule
Even the Iranian daily Ebtekar, which is identified with supporters of Expediency Council Chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, wrote on December 16, 2014 that the Saudi regime is in "the phase of the erosion of the legitimacy" of its rule: "Why, in the world's only political entity named after a single family [Saudi Arabia], and in which women and minorities are deprived of rights, has there been as yet no revolution and no mass protest? Can this situation continue?...
"The Wahhabi clerics, and a substantial part of the Aal Saud family, think that the religion is still the foundation of the regime, and that it is the basis of the people's loyalty towards the regime. If the religion-based loyalty weakens, alternatives and other foundations, such as homeland or tribal affiliation, will be no substitute. Because a large part of the Saudi people is conservative, the regime still places itself in the clerics' camp...
"Aal Saud is continuing to live by framing the royal system as an integral part of Saudi Arabia's customs and history - and, more importantly, by obtaining support from the religious establishment. As for the foreign aspect, the regime has, by establishing a special 'oil for security' relationship, obtained U.S. backing as a foreign buttress. Saudi Arabia's current regime continues to rely on the decades-old American policy according to which 'defending Saudi security is critical for America.'
"Nevertheless, the profound and extensive changes in Saudi Arabia over the last two decades show that the continuation of the current trend will become more difficult. Because of the existing threats and problems, the Saudi regime is at the phase of the erosion of the legitimacy [of its rule]. Its failure to control the situation and inability to adapt pave the way for an era of crisis - and, ultimately, for an absence of legitimacy.
"In this context, the most crucial elements are the domestic aspect - that is, the proximity between the two main currents [in Saudi Arabia], that is, the liberal current and the [Islamist] Sawha current - and the foreign aspect - that is, a change in the U.S.'s Saudi policy."
Cartoon: "Saudi impudence and the plan to sow fitna in Iran." Farsnews.com, December 17, 2014.
Cartoon: "Former top Israeli official: Saudi Arabia has realized an old Israeli dream" Tasnimnews.com, December 25, 2014
 Fars (Iran), December 10, 2014.
 Fars (Iran), December 21, 2014.
 Taadolnewspaper.ir, December 27, 2014.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5904, Saudi Media Campaign Denounces 'Ethnic Minority Oppression' In Iran, December 15, 2014.
 Al-Alaam (Iran), December 14, 2014.
 Sobh-e Sadeq (Iran), December 15, 2014.
 Fars (Iran), December 2, 2014.
 Tasminnews.com, December 16, 2014.
 Taadolnewspaper.ir, December 27, 2014.
 Ebtekar (Iran), December 16, 2014.