DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 19, 2011
After giving up on US and Israel ever confronting Iran, Saudi Arabia has gone out on a limb against the Obama administration to place itself at the forefront of an independent Gulf campaign for cutting down the Islamic Republic’s drive for a nuclear bomb and its expansionist meddling in Arab countries, debkafile’s Middle East sources report.
Two US emissaries sent to intercede with Saudi King Abdullah – US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on April 6 and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, who arrived in Riyadh six days later – were told that Saudi Arabia had reached a parting-of-the ways with Washington, followed actively by Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.
Abdullah said he could not forgive the Americans for throwing former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to the wolves in Cairo and for the unrest they were promoting against Arab regimes.
Saudi Arabia was therefore determined to lead the Gulf region on the road to a confrontation with Iran – up to and including military action if necessary – to defend the oil emirates against Iranian conspiracies in the pursuit of which the king accused US-led diplomacy of giving Tehran a clear field.
Monday, April 18, the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC, asked the UN Security Council to take action for stopping Iran’s “provocative interference in their countries’ domestic affairs.” This “flagrant interference” posed a “grave security to, and risked flaring up sectarian strike, in the GCC countries.”
The resolution went on to state: “The GCC will not hesitate to adopt whatever measures and policies they deem necessary vis–vis the foreign interferences in their internal affairs.”
The phrase “measures and policies deemed necessary” is diplomatic parlance for a military threat. It implies that Saudi Arabia and the rest of the regional group are confident that together, they command the strategic resources and assets necessary for a military strike against Iran. Our military sources report that the Saudis are convinced that their combined missile, air force and naval strength is fully capable of inflicting in-depth damage on mainland Iran. Their message to Washington is that the Gulf nations are now making their own decisions.
Iran has taken two steps in response to the Saudi-led Gulf challenge: Thousands of Iranian students, mobilized by the Revolutionary Guards and Basijj voluntary corps have laid the Saudi embassy in Tehran to siege for most of the past week, launching stone and firebomb assaults from time to time, but so far making no attempt to invade the building.
Then, Saturday, April 16, the Iranian foreign ministry summoned the Pakistani chargé ’affaires to warn him sternly against allowing Saud Arabia and Bahrain to continue conscripting Pakistani military personnel. Tehran claims that by offering exorbitant paychecks, Riyadh has raised 1,000 Pakistani recruits for its military operation in support of the Bahraini king and another 1,500 are on their way to the Gulf.
Iran also beefed up its strength along the Pakistani border to warn Islamabad that if it matters come to a clash with Saudi Arabia, Pakistani and its military will not escape punishment.
King Abdullah first defied the Obama administration’s policy of support for popular uprisings against autocratic Arab regimes on March 14 by sending Saudi troops into Bahrain to prop up the king against the Shiite-led disturbances organized by Tehran’s Lebanese surrogate, Hizballah.
This force has been expanded continuously, split now between units suppressing the uprising and the bulk deployed on the island’s coast, 320 kilometers from the shore of Iran. Saudi ground-to-ground and anti-air missiles have been transferred to the Bahraini capital of Manama and naval units, including missile vessels, positioned in its harbor.
Monday, April 18, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa announced that Saudi and allied GCC troops would stay in the kingdom until Iran no longer poses a menace. “Gulf force is needed to counter a sustained campaign by Iran in Bahrain,” he said.
Tehran-Riyadh tensions are rippling into other arenas: On April 11-12, the chronically disaffected Arabs of Ahwaz in the western Iranian province of Khuzestan (1.2 million inhabitants) staged a two-day uprising against the Iranian government. In their first crackdown, government forces killed at least 15 demonstrators before cutting off Ahwaz’s links with the outside world. Since incoming flights were cancelled, roads to the town blocked and telephone and Internet communications discontinued, no independent information is coming out of the province.
Tehran accuses Saudi and United Arab Emirate undercover agencies of fomenting the unrest in one of its oil centers.
So too does Syrian president Bashar Assad, who claims the spreading revolt against his regime, now entering its second month, was instigated from Riyadh.
debkafile’s Gulf sources report that King Abdullah has placed himself at the head of the Saudi-GCC political and military campaign against Iran. His team consists of Interior Minister, second-in-line to the throne Prince Nayef; Director of General Intelligence Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz; National Security Adviser Prince Bandar bin Sultan; Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan; and the king’s son, Commander of the National Guard Prince Muttab.
According to our sources, Riyadh has not just given up on American action against Iran but also despaired of Israel and its passive acceptance of a nuclear-armed Iran and the hostile military noose the Islamic Republic is drawing around its borders from Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and Syria.
In the view of Saudi policy-makers, the effect of the Stuxnet cyber war on Iran’s nuclear facilities and the targeted assassination of some of the program’s key executives has been overrated. They characterize the two covert campaigns as causing limited damage at first and then acting as a fillip for accelerating Iran’s drive for a nuclear bomb.