Monday, February 8, 2016

It’s justice not ‘provocation’

Since the so-called Arab Spring erupted in 2011, throwing much of the Middle East and North Africa into turmoil, few countries in the region have escaped bloodshed. 
Saudi Arabia and a handful of other Arab countries — among them the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar — have escaped major violence and have proven to be models of stability.
Saudi Arabia, by virtue of its size and leadership position in the region, has had to contend with external forces not only within its own borders, but also with its closest neighbors, Bahrain and Yemen.
Unappreciated by most of the world is the fact that Iran has designs to emerge as a leader in the Arab world. Evidence is plentiful that it is stoking sectarian unrest in Bahrain, Yemen and the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Iran is eager to fight a proxy war against Saudi Arabia to become the leader of a region that absolutely no Gulf country wants.
Iran is trying to create problems in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province by using the sectarian card. Nimr Al-Nimr, who was recently executed along with other terror convicts, not only advocated violence in the Kingdom but he also made inflammatory speeches that certainly could lead to sectarian unrest.
Al-Nimr was executed along with 46 other individuals linked to terrorism, including the Al-Qaeda attacks between 2003 and 2006. 
If Saudi Arabia is to stem sectarian violence inside the Kingdom and keep the peace amid the turmoil engulfing its neighbors, it must wield a firm hand inside its own borders and send a clear message to Tehran that it will not tolerate meddling in its domestic affairs. Iran, with all of its blustering over the execution of Al-Nimr, has violated the sovereignty of Bahrain and Yemen with its presence in those two countries and its continuing policy of sending arms to insurgents. It further violated Saudi sovereignty with its infiltration of the Shiite community and now with its ransacking of the Saudi embassy and consulate on it soil.
If Saudi Arabia were to accept the conventional wisdom among western leaders that Iran’s influence in the region is greatly exaggerated, then it exposes itself to the same violence we now see in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Not only is the threat of sectarian violence real but if left unchecked by the Saudi government, sectarianism will further collapse into tribal warfare to settle old scores. If Saudi Arabia stood by and did nothing to curb Iran’s misadventures, then the region will lose its leader and threaten the civilian population in every country from Morocco to Qatar and Lebanon to Yemen. It will lead to a catastrophic war that will leave no winners.
To protect its own interests Saudi Arabia is protecting the interests of the region. The execution of Al-Nimr was necessary to preserve peace in the Kingdom and ultimately to save lives. It was not an act of provocation, but justice. Tehran should recognize that we would never relinquish our sovereignty at any level or allow threats to the sovereignty of our peaceful neighbors. Providing funding to nations, no matter whether their governments are weak, to incite revolution is a gross violation of those countries’ sovereignty. To ignore these intrusions is negligent. Saudi Arabia has an obligation to protect itself and its neighbors from external influences.

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