Saudi Arabia has decided to explore dialogue with its great regional rival Iran for ending the Syrian conflict and assuring Lebanon’s political future, debkafile’s Gulf sources report. They have given up on US policy for Syria in view of Russian and Iranian unbending support for Bashar Assad; his battlefield gains aided by Hizballah and Iranian Bassij forces; and Turkey’s inaction after Saturday’s terrorist bombings in the town of Reyhanli near the Syrian border which caused 46 deaths.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal took advantage of the Organization of Islamic Conference-OIC, in Jeddah this week on the Mali conflict for getting together Monday, May 13, with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi who was in attendance.
Our sources report that Riyadh’s first priority is to stabilize Lebanon through a Saudi-Iranian entente on political equilibrium in Beirut. The Saudis would next seek an accord with Tehran on the outcome of the Syrian civil conflict.
The Saudi rulers have come to the conclusion, which the West and Israel have been slow to acknowledge, that since the Iranian-Hizballah-Syrian military alliance is pulling ahead in the Syrian conflict and chalking up victories, they had better look to their interests in Lebanon, which hinge heavily on the Sunni clan headed by Saad Hariri. If they wait till a victorious Hizballah comes marching home and grabs power in Beirut, protecting Lebanon’s Sunni community will be that much harder.
HIzballah has increased its strategic clout in Lebanon and Syria and its leader Hassan Nasrallah will have a greater say in any deal for Lebanon on the strength of his successful support for Assad.
These issues were covered in several hours of discussion between the Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers.
Riyadh has little faith in the initiative undertaken by US Secretary of State John Kerry to convene an international conference with Russia for ending the Syrian conflict.
Obama himself left a big question mark over the conference at his joint White House news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Monday, when he spoke of “lingering suspicions between Russia and the US” left over from the Cold War.
The US president said he didn’t know if Russia would cooperate in moves to remove Assad from power, so enabling Washington and Moscow to work together for a solution.
The truth is that Putin has staunchly backed the Syrian ruler in the more than two years of the Syrian conflict.
Any Saudi-Iranian deal, if they do come to terms, would run contrary to Obama’s perception of the Syrian issue. Riyadh would need to meet Tehran at least halfway on Iranian Hizballah aspirations, which center on a role for Assad in any future political accommodation fro ending the Syrian war.
The Saudis also deeply disapprove of the Turkish role on Syria.
The track they have opened up to Tehran has the additional purpose of outmaneuvering Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan before he reaches the White House Thursday, May 16, to confer with President Obama on the Syrian imbroglio.