Turkey says that she cannot support Saudi Arabia on the issue of the death of the Shiite cleric (see following Reuters article). Therefore I will assume that Turkey cannot support Saudi Arabia in her confrontation with Iran either. Does that mean that there is an agreement between Turkey and Iran to push for a sectarian war within Saudi Arabia?
Note that in December 2015 Saudi Arabia announced an anti-terror coalition which will include many Arab and non-Arab Muslim countries. See BBC article below. The truth is that this coalition will target Iran first of all, and ISIS too, where the Turkish-Saudi interests diverge. When I say ISIS I mean the Sunni Islamist militants who are supported by Turkey. You can call them ISIS or anything else that you like.
Turkey and Qatar have been invited by Saudi Arabia, first because the primary target of this coalition is Iran, and second because Saudi Arabia had to invite Turkey too, otherwise it would be like publicly connecting Turkey to ISIS. Turkey could not exclude her participation either, because it would be like admitting her support to ISIS. And also Turkey wants to work with the Saudis against the Iranians in some places.
The coalition is mainly promoted with petrodollars from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, and it is a threat to Iran, but it is also a threat for Turkey’s ambition to lead the Sunni world. Besides targeting Iran, the coalition promoted by the Saudis will also attack the Sunni Islamists supported by Turkey, when the Turkish-Saudi interests diverge. It is not a coincidence that after the Saudis announced their anti-terror coalition ISIS declared war against Sauid Arabia. See the article of International Business Times below.
Turkey and Iran might be killing each other in Syria and Iraq, but they can always cooperate against the Saudi King in Saudi Arabia. The Turks can use their connections to help the Sunni Saudis revolt, and the Iranians can do the same with the Shiite Saudis. Note that Shiites constitute 10-20% of the Saudi population. This would happen while the Saudis have to make dramatic cuts to social spending due to low oil prices, which is going to discomfort the Saudi citizens who are not used to this kind of cuts. See the CNBC article below. That makes Saudi Arabia more vulnerable to an Iranian-Turkish cooperation within Saudi Arabia.
If that’s indeed the case it is easy to understand why some analysts talk about the worst period for Saudi Arabia since the crisis in the Saudi-American relations after the 9/11 attacks at the Twin Towers. Note that 15 out of the 19 terrorists that took part in the 9/11 attacks were Saudis. See the Independent article below. The 9/11 attacks in 2001 forced the Americans to move their military bases from Saudi Arabia to Qatar in 2002, and it definitely played a role in the decision to attack Sadam Hussein and Iraq in 2003. The attack in Iraq in 2003 was a total disaster for Saudi Arabia and a blessing for Iran.
I am not saying that the United States attacked Sadam Hussein in 2003 in order to revenge Saudi Arabia. I am saying that if the Saudis hadn’t turned to China, and if the Saudis hadn’t carried out all this attacks against the Americans, in order to force them to remove their military bases, the Americans would have thought twice about it. Of course for the United States to remove Sadam Husein was a blessing, because it strengthened their ally the Kurds, who were suppressed by Sadam, and who are also very rich in oil and natural gas. And also because Sadam Hussein was an international terrorist who funded every socialist terrorist organization on the planet. Moreover by toppling Sadam Hussein, the Shiite majority of Iraq that was suppressed by Sadam came to power and became an American ally.
But even though the Americans had all this benefit from overturning Sadam Hussein, they would have though twice before doing it, if their relations with the Saudis had not been so damaged. The proof is that the Americans did not overturn Sadam Hussein in 1991, after the first Gulf War, when Sadam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The Americans defeated Sadam Hussein, they reached Baghdad, but they did not overturn him. The reason was that if Sadam was overturned, the Shiite majority would rise to power, and the doors of Iraq would be widely opened to Iran. Sadam Hussein was a Sunni Arab socialist, who did not have good relations with the Sunni Arab Islamists of the Persian Gulf, but he had even worse relations with the Shiite Persian Islamists of Iran. Sadam Hussein fought one of the bloodiest wars of the Middle East against Iran in the 80’s (1980-1988).
Therefore if the Saudis face a Turkish-Iranian coalition domestically, at a time of reduced social spending, without having the US support, then there is the chance that the Saudis will face the Arab Spring. Note that the Saudis were among the aggressors in some of the Arab Spring wars i.e. Syria, Iraq, Libya, and among the defenders in some others i.e. Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen. I am not saying that the Saudis will face the Arab Spring domestically, and I am not in a position to predict if this will happen. But since 2011, when the Arab Spring broke out, many analysts are talking about whether the Saudis will eventually face the Arab Spring. I guess that this question is more intense now.
“Turkey says cannot support Saudi execution of Shiite cleric”, January 2016
“ISIS Vows War Against Saudi Arabia: Islamic State Group Threatens Arab Monarchy After Announcement Of Anti-Terror Coalition”, December 2015
“Saudis announce Islamic anti-terrorism coalition”, December 2015
“Saudis unveil radical austerity program”, December 2015
“Saudi Arabia insists it had nothing to do with 9/11 attacks”, July 2015