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U.S President Barack Obama reaches out to shake hands with King Salman of Saudi Arabia at the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015

Mideast Chessboard: Did Saudis Execute Shiite Cleric to Manipulate US?

© AP Photo/ Susan Walsh
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The execution of a prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, which sparked outrage and protests among the Shiites, was a "deliberate provocation" by the House of Saud to achieve three ambitious goals, political commentator Patrick Buchanan asserted.

Riyadh wanted to demonstrate "the new ruthlessness and resolve" of Saudi monarchs, the analyst noted in an opinion piece for Information Clearing House. The oil kingdom also tried to "crystallize, widen and deepen a national-religious divide between Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Persian, Riyadh and Tehran."

In addition, Saudi Arabia sought to undermine the thaw in relations between Iran and the United States, as well as put an end to the Iranian nuclear deal.

Iranian men take a selfie with a poster of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent opposition Saudi Shiite cleric, who was executed last week by Saudi Arabia.
© AP Photo/ Vahid Salemi
Iranian men take a selfie with a poster of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent opposition Saudi Shiite cleric, who was executed last week by Saudi Arabia.

Broadly speaking, the execution served Saudi national interests, which involve among other things America's backing of any Riyadh's activities, regardless of how ruthless they are.

"Like every regime in the Middle East, the Saudis look out for their own national interests first. And their goals here are to first force us to choose between them and Iran, and then to conscript US power on their side in the coming wars of the Middle East," Buchanan warned.

The incident, which the analyst referred to as a "hubristic blunder," should serve both as a wake-up call and a lesson for the American political leadership since Saudi interests and ambitions rarely coincide with Washington's national interests. Take the global campaign against Daesh, which many nations consider a top foreign policy priority. Apparently, Saudis do not share this sentiment.

Saudi army artillery fire shells towards Yemen from a post close to the Saudi-Yemeni border, in southwestern Saudi Arabia, on April 13, 2015
© AFP 2016/ FAYEZ NURELDINE
Saudi army artillery fire shells towards Yemen from a post close to the Saudi-Yemeni border, in southwestern Saudi Arabia, on April 13, 2015

"The Saudis went AWOL from the battle against [Daesh] and al-Qaida in Iraq and Syria. Yet they persuaded us to help them crush the Houthi rebels in Yemen, though the Houthis never attacked us and would have exterminated al-Qaida. Now that a Saudi coalition has driven the Houthis back toward their northern basecamp, [Daesh] and al-Qaida have moved into some of the vacated terrain," the analyst explained.

The same is true when it comes to oil. Saudi Arabia has been behind the oil price collapse, which is badly affecting the fracking industry in the US.
Saudi Arabia is not the only US ally in the region, whose reckless actions could have led to dire consequences. Turkey's decision to shoot down a Russian bomber in Syrian airspace could have ended in a military confrontation, if Moscow was less rational.

"Had Vladimir Putin chosen to respond militarily against Turkey, a NATO ally, his justified retaliation could have produced demands from Ankara for the United States to come to its defense against Russia," Buchanan observed.

A combination picture taken from video shows a war plane crashing in flames in a mountainous area in northern Syria after it was shot down by Turkish fighter jets near the Turkish-Syrian border November 24, 2015
© REUTERS/ Reuters TV/Haberturk
A combination picture taken from video shows a war plane crashing in flames in a mountainous area in northern Syria after it was shot down by Turkish fighter jets near the Turkish-Syrian border November 24, 2015

Washington appears to have chosen wrong allies in the Middle East.

"In Syria's civil war – with the army of Bashar Assad battling ISIS and al-Qaida – it is Russia and Iran and even Hezbollah that seem to be more allies of the moment than the Turks, Saudis or Gulf Arabs," the analyst noted.

Related:
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US State Department Was Warned About Saudi Mass Execution - Ali al-Ahmed
Toxic Alliance: Why Does Washington Blindly Support Saudi Arabia?
West 'Should Stop Arms Supplies to Saudis' to Avoid Persian Gulf War
Tags:
Saudi executions, Yemen conflict, Sunnis, Syrian conflict, Shiites, geopolitics, Vladimir Putin, Middle East, Turkey, United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia
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  • professor.hornblow
    Arab war thinking is rarely strategic but more tactical; the 1967 Arab-Israeli war highlighted the confusion over long term goals and short term advantage. Saudi Arabia will not be able to handle the political firestorm it has now ignited. The royal sandcastles are vulnerable to the incoming tide.
  • Porkbelly Porkerpig
    It is hard to say after the Iran Nuclear Deal, whether Saudi Arabia is anything more than a business client of the US. The US may passively support them, to get a low oil price and more weapons sales, but no American is going to fight for any domestic Saudi Arabian political cause; and who really cares even if Saudi Arabia and Iran go to War with each other, any more than when Iran and Iraq did, in the 1980's?
  • gmprattin reply toprofessor.hornblow(Show commentHide comment)
    professor.hornblow, How does suffering a sneak-attack by "Israel" demonstrate Arab confusion over long term goals and short term advantage?
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