Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Saudi view: Saddam execution signals Iranian hegemony in Iraq

The Riyadh-based Elaph news agency has published a report that cites political analysts who see the execution of Saddam and its timing as a major, negative, event in Saudi-Iranian relations. These analysts, says the reporter think that "a new chapter in the sporatic Iran-Saudi battle has opened today (Saturday December 30) with the execution of Saddam in the early hours of the Eid al-Adha, in the face of Iraqi law that prohibits the carrying out of executions during the Eid, while the Shiite Eid al-Adha starts tomorrow (Sunday December 31), something that leads these analysts to see a "sectarian thread" in the timing of the execution".
(Eid al-Adha begins on the tenth day of the lunar month of Dhul Hijja, and for some reason the official Sunni and Shiite determinations of this are a day apart this year).

In addition to the timing, the journalist cites at the end of this piece an Iraq expert in London who pointed out that the location also has Iranian overtones, because the execution took place at a former military-intelligence branch that was responsible in particular for dealing with Iran and Iranians.

Saudi Arabia, says the journalist, is particularly offended because this also coincides with the time of the Hajj, for which Saudi Arabia is responsible.

An official government statement referred "political murkiness (or fog or mist) affecting the deliberateness and independence of the proceedings (against Saddam)", and to the expectations of Muslims everywhere that the holy times would be respected and not insulted.

Clearly responding to direction from senior government people, the journalist offers this interpretation of the Saudi attitude: This is the second time this year, he says, that Riyadh has led the way in Arab response to a crisis, the first being the Saudi criticism of Hizbullah at the beginning of the Israel-Lebanon war. At that time the Saudi criticism was echoed by Egypt and Jordan, "in a case of political agreement that is rarely seen". And in the current case, the journalist says, the Saudi criticism has already been echoed by Tunis and Egypt, with statements by other Arab states "expected in the coming hours". (In other words, Saudi Arabia has led the way twice this year, and in both cases the "crisis" had to do with criticism of Shiites).

The journalist also cites a person he calls a "Gulf commentator" speaking from Dubai, who put the case this way: "The Iranian-American agenda probably came together in a way that is unlikely to be repeated in coming years", in the sense that Bush is hoping the execution of Saddam will somehow turn things around for him, while Iran, for its part, "deepened its control over internal Iraqi affairs via these "sectarian bonds". And the Gulf commentator went on to elaborate in this way: "If Iranian hegemony is really implanted [in Iraq]-- and that phase has begun to be evident--then it is incumbent on all the political activists in the country [to realize] that we will be facing a 'Sunni holocaust' (the journalist's quotation marks), and any whiff of civil war will mean assured Sunni victims".

And the journalist recalls the op-ed piece by Nawaf Obeid, later officially repudiated by the Saudi government, to the effect Saudi Arabia will intervene to protect Iraqi Sunnis should the need arise.


Anonymous Rosemary said...

It seems terribly obvious to me that the neo-con agenda of Wolfowitz, Cheney et al is to provoke every difference it can identify between the prominent groups within islam, whether inside or outside of Iraq. The last thing they want is for all of Islam to join forces.

So irritating details related to the execution timing are just one more attempt to do that.

2:14 PM  

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