By Hossein Ajorlou*
Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman has made aggressive remarks against Iran during an interview a few days ago, noting that there were no grounds for understanding between Riyadh and Tehran to be discussed in any possible negotiations. He also claimed that Iran was planning to take over the Islamic world, adding that Saudi Arabia would not wait for Iran to turn it into a war zone, but would rather take the war to Iran.
The question is what is the goal that Saudi Arabia is pursuing by declaring its policy of spreading war toward Iran? It seems that due to its failure in both Syria and Yemen, Saudi Arabia is feeling more threatened by Iran and is trying to apply an aggressive discourse to the Islamic Republic in order to impose further security costs on Iran and reduce threats in its peripheral environment. On the other hand, his remarks are meant for domestic use as Prince Mohammed bin Salman made the remarks in interview with an Arabic news channel in which he used such populistic literature as Iran’s plan to take over the Islamic world. He also highlighted the Shia threat and took an aggressive position on Iran in order to show his power to the ruling system and people of Saudi Arabia.
The regional rivalry between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Saudi Arabia has been marked with increasing tensions in recent years. Regional conflicts between the two countries over such issues as the situation in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq, have worked to deteriorate the two countries’ competitive relations into hostile rivalry. It seems that due to its failure in Syria and the rising power of the resistance axis in south of Saudi Arabia, that is, in Yemen, Riyadh is feeling a grave threat to its regional influence and even to its survival. According to Stephen Walt, when it comes to the “balance of threat” and when countries feel serious threat from another power in international system, they embark on creating balance through building alliances and coalitions to maximize their power. As a result, Saudi Arabia is trying to build alliances and coalitions and is also adopting an aggressive discourse in order to maximize its power in the region. It is also using such aggressive remarks as a form of preventive measure in order to increase threats against Iran to increase its security costs and create a new form of balance with the Islamic Republic.
On the other hand, following the passing of King Abdullah, the previous Saudi monarch, who was succeeded by King Salman, the way has been paved for the second generation of Abdulaziz family to snatch power. By dismissing Muqrin bin Abdulaziz as Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and replacing him with Muhammad bin Nayef, King Salman was trying to pave the way for his powerful son, Mohammed bin Salman to become deputy crown prince. As a result, Mohammed bin Salman is currently swaying the highest power among Saudi princes. Therefore, in order to boost his legitimacy both inside and outside the country, he has started such adventurist measures as the war in Yemen and the ambitious Vision 2030 plan, which has had no clear output up to the present time. Therefore, he is making such remarks in order to show his power and send the message to people inside Saudi Arabia that he is powerful enough to make and implement such decisions.
In conclusion, it must be noted that Prince Mohammed bin Salman is one of the most anti-Iran figures among those members of Al Saud, who have so far risen to power. He considers the Islamic Republic of Iran as his most important foe and spares no effort in order to reduce its threat. This is quite clear in unprecedented anti-Iran policies pursued by Saudi Arabia at the present time. It seems that this strategy pursues two major goals. One goal is to reduce the influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the region with the other goal being to highlight the threat posed by a foreign enemy in order to boost domestic standing of the prince.
*Hossein Ajorlou, West Asia Analyst
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