Can the Saudis lure the US into a war with Iran?

Prince Salman meets with President Trump in March

The young new ruler of Saudi Arabia, Prince Salman bin Mohammad, is trying to organize an alliance of Sunni Muslim nations against Shiite Iran.

And President Donald Trump is expected to endorse an anti-Iranian “Arab NATO” during his forthcoming visit to Saudi Arabia.

This is a terrible idea.   It doesn’t benefit Americans and it risks a war that would be disastrous for both Americans and people in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia is an enormously wealthy nation, but it is thinly populated and militarily weak.  It depends on the United States for its defense.  In return, the Saudis buy billions of dollars in armaments from American companies and pump oil in sufficient quantities to keep world oil prices low.

So the United States since the 1970s has sided with Saudi Arabia and also Israel against their geopolitical rivals in the region.   Once Saudi Arabia’s chief rival and threat was Iraq.  Now it is Iran.

This has nothing to do with making Americans safe from terrorism, and everything to do with promoting the strategic and economic interests of Saudi Arabia.

Sunnis and Shiites are the two main branches of the Muslim religion, going back to the early days of Islam.  During much of history, they’ve been able to live together in peace, just as Catholics and Protestants do in most Christian countries today.

The Saudi monarchy, however, is supported by a version of Sunni Islam—usually called Salafism and Wahabbism—that preaches that other kinds of Muslims are not true Muslims.   This version of Islam has been spread all over the Muslim world by Saudi-subsidized Muslim schools.

This was the religion of the 9/11 attackers.   A version of it was the religion of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (aka ISIS).  It is not the religion of Iran.

Now I am not arguing that Sunnis are bad and Shiites are good.   It is not my place to judge the relative merits of schools of a religion I don’t practice myself.   All I am saying is that the United States has no business getting involved in a struggle between two schools of Islam.

Of course it is not really a war of theologies.  It is a war for geopolitical advantage and for control of oil and of pipeline routes.   That is why Prince Salman is conducting his bombing campaign and economic blockage against the Shiite Houthi villagers in Yemen.  It is why he has stepped up support for rebels in Syria.  And it is why he is trying to draw the United States into his campaign against Iran.

U.S. interventions in the Middle East have not gone well.   The invasion of Iraq resulted in the deaths of thousands of Americans, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of thousands more homeless refugees, and U.S. companies didn’t even get control of Iraqi oil.

Saudi Arabia doesn’t have the capacity to wage war against Iran.   Any attack on Iran would require the United States as backup.    This hasn’t gone well in the past.   In the 1980s, the United States government encouraged Saddam Hussein to attack Iran.  The U.S. gave Saddam some of his best weapons, and he also used poison gas, but the Iranians drove him back.

Iran is a country more than 2.5 times as populous as Iraq, nearly 4 times as large and with a military that has been training to defend against the United States for more than 40 years.   An aggressive war against any country is morally wrong.   An aggressive war against Iran would also be an especially bad idea.


As Trump Cozies Up to Saudi Arabia, War With Iran Becomes More Likely by Patrick Cockburn for Counterpunch.

Trump to unveil plans for an ‘Arab NATO’ in Saudi Arabia by Josh Rogin for The Washington Post.

So What’s Wrong With an Arab NATO? by Christopher Bolan for RealClearDefense.

This is the aim of Donald’s Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia—and it isn’t good for Shia communities by Robert Fisk for The Independent.

The Real Danger From Trump Is Ignored by Sheldon Richman for Counterpunch.

Top photo via POLITICO.

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4 Responses to “Can the Saudis lure the US into a war with Iran?”

  1. whungerford Says:

    During the GWB administration we pursued a simple minded foreign policy with disastrous results. We should know better now. Middle East policy is hard.


  2. philebersole Says:

    The United States government has been waging economic war, diplomatic war and covert war against Iran since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979.

    I once thought it was because we Americans were unable to get over our humiliation in the Iran hostage crisis, but I now see that it is in order to support the interests of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.

    I give President Obama credit for having the guts to take the first step to peace by negotiating an agreement to end UN sanctions against Iran in return for acceptance of further restrictions on the Iranian nuclear energy program.

    Donald Trump, by recouncing that agreement, provides an excuse and an incentive for Iran to proceed with a nuclear weapons program.

    Trump or Banjamin Natanyahu might actually want that to happen, because they could use it as an excuse to attack Iran.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. whungerford Says:

    Hostility to Iran reminds one of Nixon’s tilt to Pakistan.


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