Iran or Saudi Arabia? It’s Time to Play Happy Families.
I have a problem with the West’s foreign policy towards the Middle East.It screams hypocrisy. It nullifies any genuine attempt for human rights and democracy promotion. That policy is the relationship we have with Saudi Arabia.
However, a seismic shift has shuddered the region in the shape of a nuclear deal between to United States and Iran, causing the Saudis and Israel to diplomatically freak out.
A great way to think of the situation is that the USA is a parent. Let’s say the Dad. Because, well, Mother Russia… Anyway, Israel and Saudi Arabia are the two children: they both love their father and crave his attention. The US has carefully, over many decades, balanced the two in tandem with each other, often dealing with any squabbles or conflicts. Both children are relatively happy with the arrangement and peace is more or less maintained.
However, a third child was also born...
This third child is Iran. Iran essentially ran away from home in the 1970s whilst Mum and Dad were fighting a lot, leaving a very bitter taste in Daddy’s mouth. Since then relations between Iran and the USA have been very, very bad.
It has taken all this time for Dad to take some sort of step to reconcile his differences with his rebellious third child, but progress is being made — and for the better!
A relationship with Iran seems like the logical option for many reasons. I believe that this could be a new era for US foreign policy in the Middle East, ditching the categorically sadistic Saudis in exchange for the arguably more versatile and expedient Iranians.
Firstly, we only have to look at the America’s biggest obsession: terrorism. Since September 2001, terrorism has been the go-to justification for actions in the Middle East region, with wars in Afghanistan and Iraq centred on the “war on terror”. However, it is not Iraq, nor Afghanistan that produces the evil terrorist cells that fly planes into buildings — it’s Saudi Arabia.
15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi. Osama bin Laden, founding member of the al-Qaeda network was from Saudi Arabia. There has even been strong evidence presented that suggests the Saudi government has funded some of the most potent terrorist groups on the planet, including the Taliban and ISIS. Whether this is true or not, the Kingdom has become the rotting pit of the Arab world.
Saudi Arabia makes Iran look somewhat stagnant when it comes to churning out terrorist. Besides Hezbollah, the Iranian-sponsored Palestinian group that plagues the Israelis at every chance they get, Iran tends not to be a major player on the terrorist scene. This is mainly due to its Shia majority population, which practices a less fundamental and radical form of Islam. Also, up until 1979, Iranian cities looked more like Paris than Riyadh. Despite this, George Bush labelled Iran as the “world’s primary state sponsor of terrorism”, an accolade that is genuinely not earned.
On a less dubious note, the Saudis boast a woefully poor human rights record. Not only does their government continue to disregard any form of political and social freedom, subordinate women and generally suppress any form of liberty, it actively and unjustly pursues and prosecutes human rights campaigners. Freedom House ranked the Kingdom as one of the ten worst places in the world for civil rights and liberties.
But still the US and the West remain silent. President Obama fails to condemn and act against the Saudis for the atrocities that they commit, whilst still glutting on their supply of oil, like a greedy pig around a trough. Comparatively, the Iranians offer a choice that aligns much more with US interests; with vast oil reserves of their own, a system of governance that somewhat resembles a democracy (albeit the fraudulent elections), and a culture that has been visibly stained by the West. It seems so obvious right?
Iran generally ticks the boxes when it comes to American interest in the region — it even has an immense strategic advantage that would be invaluable when combating the ISIS insurgency in Iraq and Syria. The only real disadvantage is the headache that will ensue from a very agitated Israel. This sibling rivalry has reached boiling point on many occasion.
If I was to enter the White House in 2016, I would seriously consider opening up relations with Tehran and reintroducing the third child back into the family. For the sake of peace in the Middle East, the move would allow the West to work with the two regional powerhouses, Israel and Iran, in dealing with the overwhelming problem that is the Syrian civil war. Saudi Arabia has proved to be only useful for its black gold and now leaves any US presidents with a red face over support for human rights abuses.
It’s time for a family reunion! But Saudi Arabia, you’re not invited…