The Arab awakenings and assertive international role of Russia and China at the expense of the United States have created a new strategic situation for the rulers of Riyadh. Seen from Saudi Arabia, the US stood idly by at the ignominious toppling of its erstwhile allies, the dictators of Tunisia and Egypt. Its rival across the Gulf, Iran, is on its way to having a nuclear weapon and has attempted to assassinate its ambassador to Washington. Although the US has ratcheted up pressure on Tehran, the mullahs seem to be running circles around Washington with the connivance of Moscow and Beijing. Even though Riyadh has been successful in limiting the contagion at home through a combination of the stick of its security forces and the carrot of financial munificence, its satellite kingdom in nearby Bahrain is ablaze, with majority Shiites protesting against the Saudi-supported minority Sunni Al Khalifa family. The US appears confounded, and as a result the Saudis believe they need to take up a larger role in the region.
Onto this strategic playing field — enter Syria and the insurrection currently under way. Iran looms large in the background as Riyadh calculates its moves toward Damascus. The Al Saud rulers would dearly love to see the destruction of the pro-Iranian Assad regime. Iran, through its proxies Syria and Hezballah, have undermined the stability of Lebanon since 2005, when they connived to murder the staunchly pro-Saudi former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafiq al-Hariri, in February 2005. His successor and son, Saad, was undermined by a coalition of pro-Iranian forces and forced to resign as prime minister in January 2011. The result has been an increase in Syrian, Iranian and Hezballah control over Lebanon and the stymieing of Saudi (and US) efforts to bring about a stable and independent Lebanon. Riyadh would have no problem with Bashar Assad receiving his comeuppance.
Click to read more.