Saudi Ara­bia has a weak army: Hos­sein Askari

Tehran Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Javad Heiran­nia

TEHRAN — A se­nior ex­pert in Arab af­fairs who teaches in­ter­na­tional busi­ness at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity is of the view that “But Saudi Ara­bia, with a weak army, sees Egypt and Jordan as source of mil­i­tary man­power.”

Hos­sein Askari tells the Tehran Times that “Also, be­ing weak with­out Amer­ica’s sup­port Saudi Ara­bia is look­ing to re­duce Ira­nian in­flu­ence, es­pe­cially af­ter tak­ing such a pub­lic stance against Iran and even com­par­ing Iran’s leader to Hitler”. Fol­low­ing is the text of the in­ter­view:

The Turk­ish govern­ment sent an of­fi­cial mes­sage of con­do­lence to El –Sisi on the oc­ca­sion of the re­cent ter­ror­ist at­tack on the Egyp­tian mosque de­spite ex­ist­ing dif­fi­cul­ties be­tween the two coun­tries re­gard­ing the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, which that is called a ter­ror­ist group by the Egyp­tian govern­ment. So, what is the rea­son be­hind Turkey’s ap­proach in this mes­sage?

A: It is nor­mal to send such a mes­sage even be­tween coun­tries that have strained re­la­tions. More­over, at this time and in this re­gion, there is so much tur­moil and things are so fast mov­ing that coun­tries need to keep all op­tions open. Egypt has se­ri­ous eco­nomic and fi­nan­cial prob­lems and as a re­sult it may be open to any and all over­tures that could im­prove its eco­nomic con­di­tions. Th­ese could even come from two back­ers of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, namely Turkey or Qatar.

Some an­a­lysts be­lieve that Turkey is try­ing to de­velop a closer re­la­tion­ship with Egypt in or­der to de­crease pres­sures on Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. What is your opin­ion?

A: Ab­so­lutely! To re­duce pres­sures on the Broth­er­hood, but also to in­di­rectly sup­port Qatar and in­crease pres­sure on Saudi Ara­bia and the United States.

Could we in­ter­pret th­ese at­tempts by Turkey de­signed to pre­vent Cairo from get­ting closer to Saudi Ara­bia?

A: This too, but Egypt needs fi­nan­cial sup­port. So ei­ther Turkey, or more likely Qatar, has to step up their fi­nan­cial sup­port if they want to pre­vent closer Egyp­tian Saudi re­la­tions.

John Kerry, the former US sec­re­tary of state has stated re­cently that Egypt pro­voked Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion to at­tack Iran. What is the rea­son be­hind of such provo­ca­tion?

A: I don’t think that Egypt had, or has, such a re­quest on its own be­half. If this is true, then in my mind Saudi Ara­bia was and is be­hind such po­ten­tial Egyp­tian sug­ges­tions to the United States. To­day, Mo­ham­mad bin Sal­man and his fa­ther are ob­sessed about Iran as was the late King Fahd. And with Trump in the White House they be­lieve it is their best op­por­tu­nity to ini­ti­ate a con­flict that would weaken and desta­bi­lize Iran. It is now or never! But to per­suade Trump to take on such a dis­as­trous course, Mo­ham­mad bin Sal­man is try­ing to get all of Amer­ica’s re­gional al­lies to si­mul­ta­ne­ously ad­vo­cate con­flict with Iran be­fore Iran be­comes more dom­i­nant in the re­gion. The coun­tries that could be key in per­suad­ing Trump to ratchet up hos­til­i­ties against Iran are first and fore­most Is­rael, fol­lowed by Egypt and the UAE. I am con­fi­dent that Jared Kush­ner is act­ing as an in­ter­me­di­ary be­tween Saudi Ara­bia and Is­rael and Saudi Ara­bia is tak­ing care of Egypt and the UAE di­rectly. Such si­mul­ta­ne­ous re­quests will find a re­cep­tive ear in Trump.

Saudi Ara­bia and Turkey are two states who are scared of see­ing Iran – Egypt re­la­tions im­proved. How do you eval­u­ate the role of th­ese states in con­tin­u­a­tion of hos­til­i­ties be­tween Iran and Egypt?

A: I truly don’t be­lieve that Turkey cares that much about Iran-Egypt re­la­tions. It is more con­cerned about Iran-Syria and Iran-Iraq re­la­tions. Th­ese re­la­tions af­fect Turkey much more. But Saudi Ara­bia, with a weak army, sees Egypt and Jordan as source of mil­i­tary man­power. Also, be­ing weak with­out Amer­ica’s sup­port Saudi Ara­bia is look­ing to re­duce Ira­nian in­flu­ence, es­pe­cially af­ter tak­ing such a pub­lic stance against Iran and even com­par­ing Iran’s leader to Hitler. Iran and Turkey have a num­ber of rea­sons to de­velop closer re­la­tions—they are non-Arab, they share a Kur­dish prob­lem, Turkey needs oil and gas but can pro­vide sage tran­sit for pipe­lines to Europe, and Turkey’s re­la­tion with the United States is at a his­toric low.

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