Saudi Arabia and Iran, two "benevolent" pillar states of the world of Islam, trade barbs over the execution of 47 suspected terrorists in one day in the desert kingdom, among them a Shi'ite preacher, Nimr Al Nimr. Choosing sides between the two when human rights are concerned is like choosing between plague and cholera. So, no need to indulge in a futile discussion about their respective records, rather to see the potential serious regional implications of the developing crisis.
To start with, here is another indication that the main rationale of the American policy for pushing through the Iran nuclear deal, which is the positive stabilizing effect on Middle East politics, proves so wrong and self-delusional. Iran tested ballistic missiles in contravention of its obligations, is meddling in the internal affairs of Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim states, and altogether exhibits a measure of cockiness which reflects growing self-confidence emanating from the sense that the US is oblivious to its subversive policies. It is not Israel, which argues as much; these are unidentified Saudi sources, which are making it be known that they do not care about White House reactions to the current crisis. Iran and regional stability is an oxymoron, but what is so clear almost everywhere else, is somehow not so in DC. Then, the current eruption between the torch bearers of Sunni and Shi'ite Islam provides us with another indication of the centrality of sectarianism in Arab and Muslim politics. This is THE issue which tears apart the Middle East, and the fact, that there are still governments in the West, as well as think tanks and respected media people who turn a blind eye to the obvious realities of the Middle East, is amazing. What else has to happen in the region to convince Liberal-minded policy -makers and others, that the Middle East ain't the middle West of the US? .Sectarianism is the name of the game, a dangerous situation, one whose likely remedy , though by no means a sure one, is to accept this reality and try to live with it , rather than ignoring its very existence. That said, the limelight is focused again on Syria, THE current arena of sectarian war, between the Sunni and Shi'ite worlds. A country whose civil war can be terminated only if sectarian partition will be the solution.
It is Syria which for the last 5 years has been the battle field between Saudi -Arabia whose Wahabbi rulers are well-versed in the famous Ibn Tayimiyya fatwa against the Alawites, and Iran, which has adopted the Alawites as being part of the Shi'ite world. It is a sectarian conflict even if the Sunni ISIS group is fighting other Sunnis, at a time when Sunnis fight Alawites. ISIS makes also no bones about their hatred of the ''infidel'' Alawites, while claiming that other Sunnis are not the right alternative to the latter. Syria which was a battle field between proxies of Saudi-Arabia and Iran, will continue to play this role now. Gone are any hopes for any political solution there, as Saudi-Arabia is sure to intensify its support for the Non-ISIS Sunni rebels fighting Iran's man, Bashar Al-Assad. Bad news for the people of Syria, bad news for American policy. The Saudis will increase their efforts to create an anti-Iranian coalition, and the Obama administration will not be able to sit on the fence. They will very quickly learn in DC, that it is much easier to call for ''restraint'' in reactions to provocations when Israel is concerned, than when Saudi-Arabia and Iran are involved. The US under the current administration is blamed for abandoning its allies, in a search for appeasement of countries like Iran. Saudi-Arabia made it clear , that it deeply resented the Iranian nuclear deal. Yet, it did not sever its relations with Iran and seemed to be swallowing the bitter pill. Not when it involves its own internal security. Here is an existential question for the kingdom, and the expectations from the US will be in accordance with the level of concern. Remains to be seen what the White House will do, but it seems, that another visit of Secretary Kerry accompanied by out-of-touch optimistic statements will not do the trick.
Somehow, I for one, am bracing myself to the inevitable unverified reports about secret , high-level Saudi-Israeli contacts. Seems to be making sense.