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February 8, 2024 Special Dispatch No. 11123

Senior Saudi Journalists: U.S. Does Not Deter Iran, Which Is Destabilizing The Region

February 8, 2024
Iran, Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 11123

The international Saudi press (i.e., the Saudi press published outside the kingdom) has been increasingly critical lately of the Biden administration's policy toward Iran and its militias in the region. Against the backdrop of the war in Gaza, Iran and the militias affiliated with it have renewed their attacks on the U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.[1] At the same time, the Houthi movement, which is likewise affiliated with Iran, has continued its attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea and in the Bab El-Mandeb Strait.[2]

These attacks on the U.S. forces increased the tension between Iran and the U.S., which peaked after the Iraqi Hizbullah Brigades militia attacked Tower 22, a U.S. outpost in northeast Jordan, on the Syrian border, killing three U.S. soldiers and wounding more than 30.[3]  Following this attack, U.S. President Joe Biden promised a response, and on February 3 U.S. forces indeed carried out extensive airstrikes against 85 targets of the pro-Iranian militias in Iraq and Syria.[4]

The Saudi press, however, did not ascribe much importance to this U.S. response, although it was unusually extensive in its scope. In fact, articles in the international Saudi press voiced harsh criticism of the U.S. policy and stated that its response had been feeble and reflected a lack of a decisive strategy for dealing with Iran and its proxies in the region. Articles in the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat argued that, judging by its response to the Iranian threats, the U.S. is unwilling to confront the Iranian regime and is even invested in its survival. One writer demanded that the U.S. act to cut Iran's supply of weapons to its militias and take meaningful measures to stop Iran's activity in the region.


The Middle East cries out amid the conflict between Iran and the U.S. (Independentarabia.com, February 2, 2024)

The following are excerpts from some of these articles:

Prominent Saudi Journalist: The U.S. Treated Iran Kindly, And Iran Repaid It With Wickedness

Prominent Saudi journalist Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, formerly the editor of the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and the CEO of Al-Arabiya TV, wrote in a February 5, 2024 article in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that the Carter Administration brought Iran's Islamic regime to power and that the respective administrations of Obama and Biden treated Iran kindly – yet Iran repaid them by attacking U.S. forces, harming American interests and increasing its enrichment of uranium. Noting that Iran wants to avoid a direct war with the U.S. and is waging limited conflicts against it by means of proxies, with the goal of increasing Iranian influence in the region, he warned that the escalation of military conflict between Iran and the U.S. will lead to regional chaos.

Al-Rashed wrote: "Even though former U.S. President Jimmy Carter was the man who changed Iran's history and brought Ayatollah [Ruhollah] Khomeini from exile to rulership in Teheran, [the nascent Islamic] regime held the employees of the U.S. Embassy hostage for over a year. Carter lost the [subsequent] election, and out of a strong desire to humiliate him, Teheran freed the hostages one day after Ronald Reagan's victory [sic].[5]

"Such was also the case with [former U.S. President] Barack Obama, who [in 2015] signed an agreement that Iran viewed as a victory and that was disdained by the Gulf States and Israel, which are [America's] allies. The agreement enabled Iran to enrich uranium and ended the economic sanctions against it without requiring it to rein in its militias. In return, American sailors were humiliated in the last days of [Obama's] presidency, when the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) escorted their ship out of the [Persian] Gulf and published photos of them surrendering on the deck of the ship.

"As for Joe Biden – just like Carter and Obama, during his administration the Iranian government became the richest in the history of the [Islamic] Republic of Iran. He almost completely eliminated the economic sanctions and 'encouraged' Iran to sell the largest amounts of oil it has sold since the fall of the Shah… Instead of returning the favor and making peace with the Biden administration, [Iran] intensified its anti-U.S. military operations in every unstable part of the region.

"Of course, this part of the weird relationship cannot be understood without [understanding] the full story of the 45-year-long conflict between Washington and Teheran… Washington is not interested in direct war, because it would be very costly and because it might not win… Teheran, despite its arrogance, [also] fears war and even limited conflicts with the U.S., since this might weaken or even destroy the [Iranian] regime.

"There is no doubt that these struggles – which have no clear or declared goals, at least not from the Iranian side, other than achieving hegemony and influence by economic and diplomatic means, and not just militarily – have exhausted both sides and destroyed the region… Iran's goal in the proxy wars is to expand its regional influence and suppress its regional enemies, and the war in Gaza has already demonstrated the danger of this expansion, which has threatened international waterways… The consequences of this situation are as follows: the level of the military conflict with the U.S. has gone up; [Iran] is expanding geographically; other countries, such as Jordan, are being harmed, and Egypt's economy has been also harmed by the [Houthi] siege of the Suez Canal. All these [factors] will increase the tensions, and may lead to chaos that will not serve the interests of either the region or Iran…"[6]


Biden hides in fear from Iran while mumbling "we will respond, we will respond, we will respond" (Independentarabia.com, February 3, 2024)

Saudi Journalist: The U.S. Must Cut Off Iran's Weapon Transfers From Iraq to Syria

In a February 5, 2024 article in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, the daily's former editor, senior Saudi journalist Tariq Al-Homayed, wrote that America's strategy against the Iranian threats in the Middle East is not robust enough. The recent U.S. attacks against the Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, he said, were relatively insignificant, and were in fact a message to Iran that America does not want war. He called on the U.S. leadership to put an end to Iran's weapon transfers from Iraq to Syria, which will sever the lifeline of the Iran-backed militias in the region.

Al-Homayed wrote: "The least that can be said about the American attacks against Iranian targets in Iraq and Syria, carried out in response to the killing of three U.S. soldiers, is that what is happening in our region, both with regard to Iran and its militias and with regard to the American response, is nothing more than attrition and mockery.

"Does it make sense that Iran, by means of its militias, targets U.S. soldiers, killing several of them and injuring dozens more, and all American does in response is to carry out a predictably-timed attack against known targets, after making statements to reassure Iran that it is not interested in war with it?!

"Does it make sense that Iran does everything it has been doing since the so-called Al-Aqsa Flood – namely the hollow clashes between Hizbullah [and Israel] and the Houthi attacks on maritime navigation – and then declares that it has nothing to do with any of it and that the militias act without consulting it at all, a claim that has been gaining traction in the diplomatic and media discourse?!

"Is it conceivable that Iran-affiliated militias [first] undermine the region's stability, and then announce that they will stop targeting American interests in the region and that some of their leaders have left, as if they have gone on sabbatical – yet all this does not cause the U.S. [to adopt] a strategy for dealing with these groups?! Nor is there any real strategy for dealing with the wild misconduct of the militias that harmed the Iraqis…

"Does it make sense that Syria is turning into a flytrap in which Iranian operations take place, in which Israel continuously carries out airstrikes one after another as [it] hunts for IRGC commanders, and in which American strikes take place [as well] – all without advancing a real strategy-based diplomatic solution in Syria?!

"When I refer to strategy, [I mean to say that] the first thing that needs to be done is to cut off the Iranian supply lines from Iraq to Syria, since we all know that Syria is the heart of Iran's strategy of expansion in the region. Cutting off these supply lines [also] means striking the lifeline of the Iran-backed militias from Iraq to the Mediterranean [Sea], where Hizbullah is located. This flow of weapons must be cut off, as well as the [movement] of Iran's Afghan Shi'ite militias into Syria. Such a move would be much more significant than the 85 airstrikes that the U.S. carried out on Friday [February 2, 2024].

"I say that what is happening is [just] attrition and mockery, since the Biden administration has not demonstrated seriousness in the region, from Yemen to Syria and from Iraq to Lebanon… Where is the American leadership and strategy…?"[7]

 

Saudi Journalist: U.S. Wants The Current Iranian Regime To Survive

Saudi journalist Abdallah bin Bjad Al-Otaibi wrote that the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, just like its airstrikes against the Houthis in the Red Sea, are intended to signal to Iran that its threats are hollow and that it never had any intention of seriously confronting Iran. America's policy toward Iran over the years, he added, actually indicates that it wants this regime to survive, and proof of this is the nuclear agreement that the Obama administration signed with Iran, which was "one of the worst political agreements in the history of the region."

Al-Otaibi wrote: "In response to last week's drone attack on the U.S. base on [Jordan's] border with Syria, in which three U.S. soldiers were killed and dozens were wounded, the U.S. struck 85 targets of the Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria…

"Nobody disputes the fact that, for four decades, the U.S. has never sought a real confrontation with Iran, [although] it sometimes seeks to deter Iran, when it is forced to do so…  Putting the [latest] U.S. attacks in perspective and understanding their purpose will help us to better understand the bigger picture – namely that this is [just] an attempt to convince the world that the U.S. administration is strong and serious about defending Israel, [which is also the purpose of] its attacks on the Houthis in Yemen.

"The ongoing failure of the Biden administration's foreign policy continues the failure of the Obama administration, which stemmed from the [latter's] proclivity for withdrawal and isolationism. The [Biden] administration brought upon the U.S. the scandal of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, which looked more like [an example of] running away, and was criticized at the time by the defense ministers of America's two closest allies. [The same goes for] the [Biden] administration's failure to confront Russia in Ukraine, its failure to renew the negotiations with Iran despite the immense efforts it has invested in this since it came to power, and its failure to defend Israel from the October 7, [2023] attack despite the show of force it made back then by sending two aircraft carriers to the region.

"Everyone knows, not only Iran, that the Biden administration is opposed to any real confrontation with Iran, that it is not serious about the deterrence [measures] it  declares, and that it is [just] trying to buy time and take advantage of the developments [to win votes] in the upcoming [presidential] election. It is unwise to believe that the Iranian regime is stupid, especially when it comes to its policy and strategy vis-à-vis the U.S. Whoever examines America's policy toward Iran in the [last] four decades easily realizes that the U.S. and its Western allies are interested in the Iranian regime's survival. That is an obvious truth, which is evident from the policy, strategies and positions adopted by consecutive [U.S.] administrations, both Democratic and Republican… [and stems from] considerations linked to specific American and Western interests, alongside permanent perceptions regarding the power-balance in the region, which the U.S. and its allies want to maintain unchanged. The American attacks in Syria, Iran and Yemen therefore, have more to do with preserving [America's] self-respect…

"The inclination of former U.S. President Obama was to give up the Middle East and stay away from its chronic problems. At the same time, Obama did intervene in the region and thereby caused immense damage: he staunchly supported all the manifestations of the black 'Arab Spring,' and was eager for some of the Arab regimes to be toppled and their countries to fall into the hands of political Islam. He was also the one who signed the worst political agreement in the history of the region, namely the 'nuclear agreement' with Iran, which the Biden administration has unsuccessfully tried to revive. This policy proved to be bad, and the U.S. was forced to return [to the region]…"[8]  

 

 

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 27, 2024. About the attacks on the U.S. forces in Syria, see e.g., Arabic.rt.com, January 5, 2024; al-Arabiya.net, January 23, 27, 2024. About the attacks on the U.S. forces in Iraq, see e.g., al-Arabiya.net, December 11, 2023, January 28, 2024, syriahr.com, February 5, 2024.

[3] Alarabiya.net, January 28, 2024; Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), January 31, 2024.

[5]  The hostages were released on January 20, 1981, the day Reagan was sworn into office.

[6] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 5, 2024.

[7] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 5, 2024.

[8] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 5, 2024.

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