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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Jul 05th
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Analysis arrow An idealist alternative to the Saudi deal
An idealist alternative to the Saudi deal PDF Print E-mail
Written by Walid Phares   
Tuesday, 07 August 2007

Walid Phares
Walid Phares

The US Government is considering a new gigantic arms sale to the Saudi Kingdom of up to 20 billion dollars. The proposed package includes advanced satellite-guided bombs, upgrades to its fighters and new naval vessels as a US strategy to contain the rising military expansion of Iran in the region. The titanic arms deal is seen as a major Saudi spending to shield itself from a Khomeinist menace, looming at the horizons: an Iranian nuclear bomb, a future Pasdaran control in Iraq, and Hezbollah offensive in Lebanon. In reality, the Iranian threat against the Saudis materializes as follows: 

a. If the US led coalition leave abruptly, the Iranian forces –via the help of their militias in Iraq- will be at the borders with the Kingdom. Throughout the Gulf Iran’s Mullahs will be eyeing the Hijaz on the one hand and the oil rich provinces on the other hand.

b. Hezbollah threatens the Lebanese Government, which is friendly to the Saudis. Hezbollah, already training for subversion in Iraq, will become the main trainer of Shiia radicals in the Eastern province of the Kingdom.

c. Finally, across Iraq’s borders, Syria and Iran can send all sorts of Jihadis, including Sunnis.

With such hydra advancing, the Wahabi monarchy is hurrying to arm itself with all the military technology it can get from Uncle Sam. Riyadh believes that with improved F 16s, fast boats, electronics and smarter bombs it can withstand the forthcoming onslaught. I believe it won’t. For as the Iraq-Iran war has proved, the ideologically-rooted brutality of the Iranian regime has no boundaries. If the US withdraws from the region without a strong pro-Western Iraq in the neighborhood and absent of a war of ideas making progress against fundamentalism as a whole, The Saudis won’t stand a chance for survival. For the Iranians will apply their pressures directly, and will unleash more radical forces among the neo Wahabis against the Kingdom. The Shiite Mullahs will adroitly manipulate radical Sunnis as they have demonstrated in Iraq and Lebanon. So what should the US advice the Saudis to do instead of spending hugely on arms?

First, if no serious political change is performed in Arabia, the 20 billion dollars worth of weapons would most likely end up in the hands of an al Qaeda ruling over not only over Riyadh, Mecca and Medina. That package, at this point of spasms in the region, is simply too risky strategically. But there are better ways to spend these gigantic sums in the global confrontation with Iranian threat and in defense of stability. It needs a newer vision for the region. Here are alternative plans to use the 20 billion dollars wisely but efficiently; but let's not count on the far reaching mainstream of Western analysis at this point:

1. Dedicate 3 billion dollars to support the Iranian opposition, both inside the country and overseas. Establish a powerful broadcast in Farsi, Kurdish, Arabic, Azeri and in other ethnic languages directed at the Iranian population. That alone will open a Pandora box inside Iran. Realists may find it hard to believe, but supporting the Iranian opposition (which is still to be identified) will pay off much better than AWACS flying over deserts.

2. Slate one billion dollars to be spent in southern Iraq to support the anti-Khomeinist Shiia, the real shield against the forthcoming Pasdaran offensive. Such monies distributed wisely on civil society activists and on open anti-Khomeinist groups, would build a much stronger defense against Ahmedinijad's ambitions.

3. Another billion should be granted to the Syrian liberal opposition to pressure the Assad regime into backing off from supporitng Terrorism. Without a Mukhabarat regime in Damascus, the bridge between Tehran and Hezbollah would crumble. Hence, the Syrian opposition is much worth being backed in its own home than for Saudi Arabia to fight future networks in its own home.

4. One billion dollars can be allocated to the units of the Iraqi army that shows the most efficiency in cracking down on Terrorists and prove to be lawful to a strong central Government pledging to defend its borders, particularly with Iran. That would include the moderate Sunnis in the center and the Kurdish and other minority forces in the North. A strong multiethnic Iraq, projecting a balance of power with Iran's regime is the best option for the Peninsula.

5. Grant two billion dollars to the Lebanese Government, the Cedars Revolution NGOs and the Lebanese Army to enable them to contain Hezbollah on Lebanese soil. Earmark 700 million dollars from these grants to the Shiia opposition to Nasrallah inside his own areas. When Hezbollah is isolated by Lebanon's population, Arab moderates around the region can sleep much better at night.

6. Spend 2 billion dollars on de-radicalization programs inside the Kingdom and across the region. With one billion dollars spent on moderate Imams, Riyadh can shake off the radical Salafi clerics, and impact the Jihadists followers. By doing so, it will prevent Jihadism from becoming (as it has already) the only other option on the inside if the Iranian axis will put pressure on the country.

7. Forward one billion dollars to support the current Somali Government against the Islamic Courts and help the moderates in Eritrea and Sudan. The best defense against radicalism coming from the horn of Africa is to support the moderates in East of the continent.

8. Invite the US military to abandon Qatar as a regional base and to relocate to the Eastern provinces of the Kingdom, with 5 billion dollars to help in reinstallation and deployment facing Iran’s threat. A military attack by the Iranian regime on Saudi Arabia would then become a direct attack on the United States.

9. With the remaining 4 billions, the Saudi Government would renew, remodel, and retrain its forces so that along with its allies, the US, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Gulf states, they would deter an Iranian regime, which will be defeated by its own people.

That of course, presumes radical reforms to take place, quickly, in the Peninsula, but isn’t it a desert mirage? Indeed, the points I suggested in this article, although logical in terms of counter-radicalism strategy, have very little chance to be adopted or even considered in Ryadh. The Kingdom sadly, wants to confront the Islamic Republic only with classical military deterrence not with a war of ideas. Which perhaps why the region's "friendly" regimes have preferred not to endorse "spreading democracy" as a mean to contain Terrorism. The reason is simple: Democratic culture is will also open spaces in their own countries, a matter they haven't accepted yet.

By Dr. Walid Phares,

Dr Walid Phares is senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the author of War of Ideas.

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