July 2, 2013 Special Dispatch No. 5347

Senior Saudi Journalist: Unless Saudi Arabia Acts Immediately To Remove Assad From Power, 'Nightmare' Of 'Shi'ite Crescent' May Materialize

July 2, 2013
Syria, Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 5347

In his June 15 column in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat, Jamal Khashoggi, a senior journalist and former editor of the Saudi daily Al-Watan, painted a frightening picture of what the Middle East might look like if Bashar Al-Assad wins the war in Syria. He wrote that if that happens, the "nightmare" of the Arab Sunnis will materialize, namely the emergence of a "Shi'ite Crescent": a continuum of Shi'ite-ruled countries stretching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. This, in turn, will strengthen Iran in the regional and international arena, and cause an outbreak of sectarian tension in Saudi Arabia and the spread of religious extremism, and thus pose a real threat to Saudi Arabia's national security.

In light of this, Khashoggi stated that Saudi Arabia must prevent an Iranian victory in Syria at all costs. To this end, it must form a coalition of countries under its leadership that will return Syria to the Arab fold. He stressed that Saudi Arabia must do this even if the U.S. does not join this coalition, because its security is at stake.

The following are excerpts from the article:

If Assad Wins, Iran Will Build The Tehran-Damascus Railway And The Abadan-Tartus Oil And Gas Pipelines

"When the concept 'the Shi'ite Crescent' was coined, years ago,[1] it was out of [fear] of a [possible] Iranian expansion through the Arab East. Currently, following the major defeat sustained by the countries of the region in the battle for [the Syrian city] of Al-Qusayr… the [Shi'ite] Crescent is about to become an ambitious political axis extending from Tehran to Beirut, via Baghdad and Damascus.

"The Iranian Petroleum Ministry will [now] pull out maps from its drawers in order to lay the Iranian Abadan-Tartus oil and gas pipelines, and the Iranian Railway Authority will pull out other maps in order to build a rail line from Tehran to Damascus or even Beirut. Why not? This will be their [golden] era… It would be quite natural for [Iran] to consolidate its victory on the ground by solidifying this triumphant axis into a joint political-economic-military system [under its control].

"The [Supreme] Leader of the [Iranian] revolution, the Jurisprudent Ayatollah Khamenei, will fulfill his dream of delivering a sermon from the pulpit the Ummayad Mosque [in Damascus],[2] and will announce [from that pulpit] that he has united [the world of] Islam just as he long promised to do. He will dramatically descend from the pulpit to pat the head of some poor Damascene boy in order to demonstrate the 'tolerance of the strong,' and then he will stand alongside some white-robed and white-turbaned Syrian Sunni clerics... take their hands in his own and raise them skywards, to a storm of flashing cameras that will capture this historic moment for posterity. [Supreme] Leader [Khamenei] will then promise that his next prayer, or that of his successor, will take place in Jerusalem...

"That very day a major ceremony will take place in the recently restored Damascus Palace – still bearing the scars of war – to mark the signing of a joint defense pact between the leaders of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, while the [Supreme] Leader will stand behind them, smiling in acknowledgement of the greatness of the moment and perhaps also [sensing] the presence of the long-awaited Hidden Imam conferring his blessing upon the pact."

Assad Will Be Nothing But A Representative Of Khamenei

"Let us return southwards, towards Riyadh. [It will be] quiet and gray but apprehensive over the victory of [Bashar] Al-Assad and his allies, knowing that it is a victory of Iran and of Khomeini's old plan, rather than a victory of Bashar [Al-Assad], who will have become nothing more than a representative of the Jurisprudent [Khamenei] in Damascus. [Riyadh] will also be concerned about the growing Iranian activity in its vicinity: it will fear for the fate of Bahrain and be alarmed that the Houthi [rebels] have [managed to] take over half of old North Yemen without meeting any opposition, while South Yemen, whose residents have [always] been Saudi Arabia's traditional allies, is [also] being eaten away by Iran.

"The plans for Gulf unity will vanish, and some of the Gulf states will even begin making efforts to appease Tehran in order to preserve the little sovereignty they will have left. The idea of the Arab Common Market and the Fertile Crescent Plan will be shelved, and likewise the idea of reviving the Hijaz Railway stretching from Istanbul to Mecca via Syria and Jordan. Even the Europeans will forget their old sanctions [against Iran] and begin purchasing Iranian oil, which will reach them via the Abadan-Tartus pipeline. [In fact,] they will begin talking with Iran about linking the European gas network to the Iranian network – for people always prefer to maintain ties with the victors.

"And in the domestic [Saudi] arena, young people will be filled with anger, sensing that the governments of the region have failed to check the Iranian plan, and this will spark a great deal of sectarian tension. The economic pressures only pour more oil on the fire. [Moreover,] extremist [religious] ideas will spread and preoccupy the security apparatuses..."

Saudi Arabia Must Form A Coalition To Prevent This Scenario – With Or Without The U.S.

"A nightmare, wouldn't you say? Therefore I believe that Saudi Arabia in particular will in no way allow an Iranian victory in Syria. The Iranian presence there has been massive ever since the signing of the pact between [former president] Hafez Al-Assad and the Islamic Revolution, immediately following the triumph [of the latter] 40 years ago. However, [while] the might of the Syrian regime [under Hafez Al-Assad] allowed a modicum of [Syrian] balance and independence, his son [Bashar], who owes a debt of gratitude to the Iranians and Hizbullah for the fact that he's still alive and rules even over a devastated country, has become a subject of Tehran and is no [longer] an equal partner [to it]. This is the moment where the Iranian presence in Syria and Lebanon has become a clear threat to both Saudi and Turkish national security.

"The security of Saudi Arabia is currently in the balance, and therefore it has no option but to take action, even [if it has to act] alone. It would be best if the U.S. joined a coalition headed by Saudi Arabia, whose objective would be to depose Bashar and restore Syria to the bosom of the Arab [world], but this should not constitute a precondition for action. Saudi Arabia should lead anyone who is prepared to join it. Let's put aside all concerns about the repercussions of the Arab Spring, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkish ambitions, and let us set ourselves the objective of rapidly ousting Bashar [Al-Assad]. This objective guarantees the rallying of the diverse forces [around it] – from the Al-Anbar tribes in Iraq, to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, in Tunisia and the Gulf states. If this happens, Turkey will find the courage to join this alliance, and in its wake will come France. The U.S. may join or not, but this is no consideration, for we are talking about our war and our security, not their security."


[1] The term was coined in 2004 by Jordan's King 'Abdallah II in an interview with the Washington Post. In this interview he warned of an Iranian attempt to form a "Shi'ite Crescent" stretching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon, which would upset the traditional balance of power between the Sunnis and Shi’ites.

[2] This is the fourth largest mosque following those in Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem.

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