By Javad Heirannia

Saudi Arabia has a weak army: Hossein Askari

December 5, 2017

TEHRAN – A senior expert in Arab affairs who teaches international business at George Washington University is of the view that “But Saudi Arabia, with a weak army, sees Egypt and Jordan as source of military manpower.”

Hossein Askari tells the Tehran Times that “Also, being weak without America’s support Saudi Arabia is looking to reduce Iranian influence, especially after taking such a public stance against Iran and even comparing Iran’s leader to Hitler”.
Following is the text of the interview:

Q: The Turkish government sent an official message of condolence to El –Sisi on the occasion of the recent terrorist attack on the Egyptian mosque despite existing difficulties between the two countries regarding the Muslim Brotherhood, which that is called a terrorist group by the Egyptian government. So, what is the reason behind Turkey’s approach in this message?

A: It is normal to send such a message even between countries that have strained relations. Moreover, at this time and in this region, there is so much turmoil and things are so fast moving that countries need to keep all options open. Egypt has serious economic and financial problems and as a result it may be open to any and all overtures that could improve its economic conditions. These could even come from two backers of the Muslim Brotherhood, namely Turkey or Qatar.

Q: Some analysts believe that Turkey is trying to develop a closer relationship with Egypt in order to decrease pressures on Muslim Brotherhood. What is your opinion?

A: Absolutely! To reduce pressures on the Brotherhood, but also to indirectly support Qatar and increase pressure on Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Q: Could we interpret these attempts by Turkey designed to prevent Cairo from getting closer to Saudi Arabia?

A: This too, but Egypt needs financial support. So either Turkey, or more likely Qatar, has to step up their financial support if they want to prevent closer Egyptian Saudi relations.
 
Q: John Kerry, the former US secretary of state has stated recently that Egypt provoked Obama’s administration to attack Iran. What is the reason behind of such provocation?

A: I don’t think that Egypt had, or has, such a request on its own behalf. If this is true, then in my mind Saudi Arabia was and is behind such potential Egyptian suggestions to the United States. Today, Mohammad bin Salman and his father are obsessed about Iran as was the late King Fahd. And with Trump in the White House they believe it is their best opportunity to initiate a conflict that would weaken and destabilize Iran. It is now or never! But to persuade Trump to take on such a disastrous course, Mohammad bin Salman is trying to get all of America’s regional allies to simultaneously advocate conflict with Iran before Iran becomes more dominant in the region. The countries that could be key in persuading Trump to ratchet up hostilities against Iran are first and foremost Israel, followed by Egypt and the UAE. I am confident that Jared Kushner is acting as an intermediary between Saudi Arabia and Israel and Saudi Arabia is taking care of Egypt and the UAE directly. Such simultaneous requests will find a receptive ear in Trump.

Q: Saudi Arabia and Turkey are two states who are scared of seeing Iran – Egypt relations improved. How do you evaluate the role of these states in continuation of hostilities between Iran and Egypt?

A: I truly don’t believe that Turkey cares that much about Iran-Egypt relations. It is more concerned about Iran-Syria and Iran-Iraq relations. These relations affect Turkey much more. But Saudi Arabia, with a weak army, sees Egypt and Jordan as source of military manpower. Also, being weak without America’s support Saudi Arabia is looking to reduce Iranian influence, especially after taking such a public stance against Iran and even comparing Iran’s leader to Hitler. Iran and Turkey have a number of reasons to develop closer relations—they are non-Arab, they share a Kurdish problem, Turkey needs oil and gas but can provide sage transit for pipelines to Europe, and Turkey’s relation with the United States is at a historic low.

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