2005 December 10 Saturday
Saudis Expect Iraq To Break Into Pieces

UPI correspondent Claude Salhani says Saudi government officials think Iraq will break up.

Jordan, another staunch U.S. ally in the region, is also in the Saudis' state of mind when it comes to the question of Sunni/Shiite rivalries. When the Shiites began making progress in Iraq both Jordan and Saudi Arabia decided "the Shiites must not be allowed to win," said an adviser to the Saudi palace.

If in the final analysis this means Saudi Arabia and Jordan, both of them U.S. allies, might need to discreetly funnel support to the Sunni resistance in order to keep the Shiites in check, then so be it.

Saudi officials will admit -- privately --they do no think that Iraq will remain unified.

"We do not believe that an Iraq in its present form is salvable," confided a Saudi official in Jeddah.

Is this Saudi analysis motivated more by their desires or by their expectations? The Saudis do not want to see the Iraqi Sunnis ruled by the Iraqi Shias. The Saudis also see the Iraqi Shias as under considerable Iranian influence. If the Saudis start backing the Sunnis that'll increase the odds that Iraq will fall apart when US troops leave. Maybe the Saudis will even make common cause with the Kurds and Iraqi Sunni Arabs split them each separately off from the Iraqi Shia Arabs.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 December 10 10:36 PM  MidEast Iraq Partition

Invisible Scientist said at December 11, 2005 12:30 AM:

If the United States leaves Iraq in a few years, then the expanding military power of Iran may be a factor in insuring that the Shiites do gain total control of the Southern part of Iraq.

It is the Southern region of Iraq that Iran needs in order to conquer Saudi Arabia, the Northern regions are irrelevant, for the lion's share is in Saudi Arabia.

razib said at December 11, 2005 2:45 AM:

ppl, iran won't invade saudi arabia, not all countries invade willy-nilly due to irrational herd mentality.* remember that it was the one invaded during the iran-iraq war.

the reason the saudis and others are pissy about iran isn't that they are scared of being conquered, it is because large portions of the persian gulf are settled by shia arabs, who look to iran as something of a patron. it is well known that the eastern province of saudi arabia is dominated by shia, and bahrain is predominantly shia, while kuwait has a shia minority.

on the other hand, tensions between persian & turkic iranians (azeris form 25% of iran's pop. and dominate its army) and arab shia have always been present. the iraqi army was most shia during the iran-iraq war. additionally, the arabs tend to follow the akbhari shool of shia thought, while the persians prefer the usuli mode. in short, the akbharis are rather more conservative when it comes to clerical power and relations with the gov. this is one reason that the ayetollahs of southern iraq were relatively ineffectual against sadam for much of his regime, their business was religion and they were suspicious of the corrupting affect that the mullahcrocy of iran would have....

* yes, iranians are nuts, but they lost a large proportion of their youth defending their home ground. you think they will be excited to send boys to foreign shores to bleed?

Stephen said at December 11, 2005 7:49 PM:

I think it'll come down to which set of tensions win: the Arab / Persian tension or the Shia / Sunni tension.

During the Iran Iraq war (ethnic Persians v ethnic Arabs*) the Iraqi Shia's didn't help out Iran by rising up against Saddam, so that's an instance where Arab/Persian ethnic differences trumped religious brotherhood. Also during that war Iran propagandised the war among its people as a war where Persians were fending off the invading Arab hordes. So even revolutionary Iran couldn't inflame Shia solidarity enough for it to overcome ethnic divides.

That said, I think Saudi is vulnerable - indeed revolutionary Iranian Shia tried to cease Mecca. Then there's the deeper problem - might the Shia successes in Iran and Iraq inflame the marginalised Shia (perhaps even, 'oppressed Shia') in Saudi Arabia. Add to that that Shia's just don't like royalty / states, and I can see why Saudia Arabia might be worried.

Oh, and another risk factor for Saudi Arabia - Iran has had its eye on Bahrain for 200 yrs, so what if the Shia majority in Bahrain revolt and overthrow their rulers?? What if the revolt was engineered by Iranian agent-provocateurs?? Would SA feel the need to invade Bahrain and quell the revolt? Suddenly we have Iranian and SA forces pointing guns at each other, and who knows what would happen next. Well, frankly I'd put my money on Iran rather than Saudi weekend soldiers.

* No, I'm not claiming the Iran Iraq war was an ethnically motivated war.

razib_the_atheist said at December 11, 2005 10:28 PM:

what if the Shia majority in Bahrain revolt and overthrow their rulers??

well, bahrain's monarchy has relaxed controls, so there is already an outlet, so i think the theory that revolts happen because of pent up pressure would predict that the probability of an explosion is decreasing. also, from the state dept. area handbook, "Religion: Population 85 percent Muslim, including about 70 percent Shia and 30 percent Sunni. Non-Muslim foreigners include 7.3 percent Christians and 7.7 percent Hindus and others." the shia % in bahrain isn't overwhelming, and there are substantial populations of foreigners. the more players there are, i think the easier it would be for the monarchy to find support. i think we know how hard invading multiethnic countries can be :) or at least controlling them, let's see how mad the mullahs are :)

please note on iran-it is only half persian, from cia factbook, "Persian 51%, Azeri 24%, Gilaki and Mazandarani 8%, Kurd 7%, Arab 3%, Lur 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmen 2%, other 1%."

silchiuk said at December 12, 2005 3:03 PM:

Bahrain is having about 40% non arab populations. Their is over 20% non muslim populations in Bahrain and as muslims are not only Suni and Shii but sub sect. This is not looking like Shii uprising soon in Bahrain.

Iran is being more divide in ethnics than even Iraq. This is the splitting problem and liking Yugoslavia holding together by duck tape and ruber band.

silchiuk said at December 15, 2005 4:09 PM:

Some dumabasses are not knowing there was being elections with much participation with all Iraqi ethnics. Sunnis, Shiis, Kurds, many of all voting.

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