Iran says it wants peace with Saudi, but sends Houthi drones instead – The Jerusalem Post

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What is Iran’s strategy now that discussions of an Iran-Saudi Arabia warming of relations has become well known? First, it is interesting that while Turkey’s regime has been pretending it wants reconciliation with Riyadh and Cairo, the real substantive discussion may involve Riyadh and Tehran. That is because Turkey can be more of a threat to Saudi Arabia’s leadership role in the region, while Iran is an antagonist that might be quieted by discussions. Second, what is important to know is that Iran has acknowledged the discussions with Saudi Arabia. But at the same time Iran’s media brags of more Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia using drones. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif even met with the Houthis. He is on a regional “Ramadan trip” to countries to shore up support for Iran. His other goal ostensibly is to make it seem Iran is pushing stability and a kind of “Pax Irana” in the region.  Saeed Khatibzadeh, the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson has illustrated Iran’s interest in a new era of interaction and cooperation. These discussions, at first more secret, go back months, at least to January. They coincide with US President Joe Biden taking office. After Trump left office both Turkey and Saudi Arabia have understood that things will change in the region. For Riyadh that means concern that the US will not be as supportive. For Turkey a similar problem exists.  Iran’s Khatibzadeh was asked about the Saudi ties this week. “Changing the tone and discourse will help reduce tensions, but will not lead to a serious practical result until the behavior changes,” he said. “We have always been ready for talks at any level and in any form with our neighbors, including Saudi Arabia,” the Iranians say. They talk about how serious they are. Khatibzadeh continued: “We think that the countries of the region and the nations of the two countries will see the result of such talks, which are more peace, stability and progress…. Undoubtedly, the two countries have no doubts about this.” At the same time, Iran’s foreign ministry was talking about stability, Iran’s Tasnim news reported that the Iranian-backed Houthis had launched drones at Najran and King Khalid military base in Saudi. Houthi drone attacks have also increased since the new administration came into office. The Houthi rebels in Yemen, who control a third of the country, have launched an offensive on Marib. Saudi Arabia has dealt with the drone and ballistic missile attacks for years. However, the question for Riyadh is whether US support will continue. Riyadh may have calculated that discussions with Iran could reduce Houthi attacks. This is a tacit admission that Iran’s IRGC may control the Houthi decision-making about targeting Saudi Arabia. It appears coordinated because back in 2019 a series of escalating attacks on Iran, including an apparent attack from Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq, and an attack on Shaybah, and then on Abqaiq from Iran, showed that the IRGC was coordinating with the Houthis in Yemen and PMU in Iraq against Riyadh. From Riyadh’s point of view this is a major threat. It has sought to repair relations with Iraq in the last four years and has achieved some success on that front. Of course, this matters because Saudi Arabia back in 1990 was threatened by an aggressive Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. After Iraq was crushed by the US-led coalition, it became a weakened state, no longer capable of threatening neighbors. Now Iraq has been taken over in part by Iranian-backed militias. For Riyadh this turn of events is not helpful, weakening Saddam may have been necessary, but turning Iraq into an Iranian frontline is a major threat. Having Iran in Yemen as well is another threat. Securing some kind of deal with Iran to reduce tensions in Iraq and Yemen, as well as stopping another Abqaiq, is in Saudi Arabia’s interests, especially in the absence of a clear US commitment. These are the aftershocks of US policy as well as Iran’s aggression and changes in the region. In some way these changes brought Saudi Arabia and Israel closer since 2015. But Riyadh must balance that with realpolitik as well.  Of interest here is not only Iran’s janus-face, where it talks stability with Riyadh but tells the Houthis to stop up the drone attacks on Saudi Arabia; Turkey also sees a changing region. During the Trump years Turkey used its DC lobbyists to get a blank check from Washington to not only erode freedoms at home but launch ethnic cleansing invasions of Afrin and Tel Abyad in Syria, and to export mercenaries to Libya and Azerbaijan. Now Turkey knows that the DC blank check is over. Washington has recognized the Armenian Genocide, a symbolic standing-up to Turkish authoritarian leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s endless threats.  

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if(window.location.pathname.indexOf(“656089”) != -1){console.log(“hedva connatix”);document.getElementsByClassName(“divConnatix”)[0].style.display =”none”;}So what does Turkey think about Saudi Arabia’s possible détente with Iran? “It is no secret that the Saudis, who the Biden administration abandoned in Yemen, wish to come out of isolation. The [Suaid Arabia] crown prince’s decision to abandon building an anti-Iran bloc has many dimensions to it,” says Burhanettin Duran in the Daily Sabah. Turkish media is almost all controlled by the AK Party or answers to the government, a fact revealed by human rights organizations that say Ankara is one of the largest jailors of journalists. That means what Daily Sabah says can be seen as reflecting in some way a stamp of approval from the government. So this is Ankara’s possible view of what Riyadh is doing. Ankara thinks Saudi Arabia is isolated. “Turkey’s normalization attempts with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), along with its rumored pursuit of de-escalation with Saudi Arabia and Israel, are directly related to this reality,” Daily Sabah says.  Turkey seems to think a regional “reset” is in order. Iran also seems to think this. The question facing Riyadh is whether its discussions with Iran can bring the fruits of de-escalation in Yemen. One of the cards Iran has is that its proxies terrorize the region and give it leverage. That is why it has increased rocket attacks on US facilities in Iraq in the last months as well. It uses these attacks to then give countries a mafia-like deal of “we can reduce the attacks if you give us a deal.” From Vienna to the talks with Riyadh it plays the same game. And no country has decided to do to Iran what it does to others, such as launch drone strikes inside Iran and claim some nameless group did it. Iran’s foreign ministry says it wants stability. It even pitches some oddly named agreement called “HOPE” to reduce tensions in the Gulf, tensions that rose because of Iran’s actions. The problem is that Iran’s foreign ministry doesn’t speak for Iran. The IRGC does. And the IRGC continues the attacks.