Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia

A very interesting article by Al Monitor, titled “The Islamic State is coming for the Gulf”, July 2015. The article refers to the attack of the Islamic State (ISIS) to the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf. According to Al Monitor ISIS is trying to destabilize the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf. However the article does not mention Turkey’s significant influence on ISIS and the Sunni Islamists that fight in Syria and Iraq.

Saudi Arabia Turkey

However the article does mention that ISIS considers the leaders of Saudi Arabia as illegitimate and that Saudi Arabia does not recognize ISIS as a true Islamic organization. Saudi Arabia forbids young Saudis from joining ISIS. Erdogan, who is a Sunni Islamist and Turkey’s leader, wants Turkey to be the leader of the Sunni Muslim world. However Saudi Arabia, another country of the Sunni Muslim world, cannot accept Turkey’s dominance, because that would give Turkey a greater role over the oil and natural gas of the Persian Gulf. That brings a lot of tension between Turkey, the strongest military country of the Sunni world, and Saudi Arabia, which is the richest country of the Sunni world.

Qatar on the other hand has accepted Turkey’s dominance in order to enjoy Turkey’s protection. Qatar is a very rich country, because it is one of the largest exporters of natural gas in the world, but it has a very small army. Qatar is located between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and it is feeling the pressure of these two countries. Therefore Qatar has accepted Turkey as a patron in order to counterbalance Saudi and Iranian pressures.

Al Monitor mentions that ISIS conducts terrorist attacks against the Shite populations of the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf. According to the article with these attacks ISIS is serving two purposes. The first one is to exasperate the Shiite populations of the Gulf countries i.e. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates etc, in order to turn them against their Sunni leaderships. The second one is to show Sunni Muslims that ISIS is the greatest power of Sunni Islamism.

Saudi Arabia Turkey

There is a very interesting geopolitical landscape in the Middle East, with Turkey on one side, with Qatar as her main ally, with Saudi Arabia on the other, with Egypt, Israel and United Arab Emirates as her main allies, and finally Iran, with Syria and Iraq as its main allies. Pakistan has been a traditional ally of Saudi Arabia, but lately Pakistan adopts a more neutral stance between Saudi Arabia and Iran, due to its greater economic cooperation with Iran and China. Sudan on the other hand has been a traditional Iranian ally, which recently is moving closer to Saudi Arabia.

Therefore in the Middle East there is a great cold war between the three great powers of the region. Sunni Saudi Arabia and Sunni Turkey are fighting Iran in Syria and Iraq, but they fight each other too. But Turkey’s relations with Iran are much better than the relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, because Turkey is not rich in oil and natural gas reserves, and she hopes to send Iran’s oil and natural gas to Europe through Turkey. But Turkey cannot accept Iranian influence in Syria.

I must mention that ISIS should not be seen as a Turkish terrorist organization. But Turkey is the country with the greatest influence on ISIS. Actually the emphasis should not be placed on the names of terrorist organizations, because this approach can be misleading. For instance there are Talibans who are influenced more by Saudi Arabia and Talibans who are influenced more from Pakistan. One should distinguish between Sunni Islamists who are influenced mainly by Turkey, Sunni Isliamsists who are influenced mainly by Saudi Arabia, and Shiite Islamists who are influenced mainly by Iran.

Erdogan can be seen as an Islamist threat to Saudi Arabia, in the same way that Naser was a socialist threat to Saudi Arabia. For more details see “The Intra-Arab War for Oil 150-1970”

For the article of Al Monitor see the following link

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