Book review by Mohammad Hashemi  

Armageddon in the Orient: How the Saudi-Connection targets Iran

January 9, 2019 - 11:15

TEHRAN - On the afternoon of February 14, 1945, King Abdul Aziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia, set foot on board the USS Quincy in the Suez Canal for a secret official meeting with the United States president.

It was a fairly cold and windy day and after an official welcome ceremony Abdul Aziz met Franklin D. Roosevelt for the first time.  Roosevelt was returning from the Yalta Conference where he had met former Soviet leader Josef Stalin's and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The outcome of several days of talks established the core themes of an enduring relationship in which the "Saudi-Connection" has played a major role. The term refers to the close political and economic ties between Riyadh and Washington, whose business relationship is largely, based on the exchange of U.S. arms and security with Saudi oil.

Michael Lüders, the prominent German writer and Middle East expert, in his recent book, “Armageddon in the Orient; How the Saudi-Connection targets Iran” (2018), traces in detail the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia from Roosevelt to Trump and explains the reasons behind the U.S. systematic demonization of Iran. The author sheds lights on Saudi-Iran antagonism and asserts that the opposition to Iran is not primarily religious, but based on solid political motives. These developments, the author argues could lead to the U.S. confrontation with Iran and an escalating conflict in the region. 

The statement becomes justified when we look at Trump's administration policies against Iran and the fact that Trump has allowed himself to come under the sway of Saudi Arabia and Israel that crave the U.S. backing for their regional rivalries. 

Lüders asserts that the current situation in the Middle East cannot continue for a long time. “Underdevelopment, repression, a Mephisto (evil) Saudi crown prince, Israeli ultranationalists who believe that the biblically promised land only belong to them, religious fanatics on all sides and proxy war are all a deadly mixture.”

He points out that the goal of the U.S. and “the same political forces that have moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem", is a showdown and regime change in Iran. 

Europe should beware of a crisis worse than Syria  

While referring to the European Union “discomfort” with Donald Trump's “political excesses”, Lüders believes that the EU lacks the necessary means and the readiness to stand up against those policies. 

“The European politicians have failed to see the writing on the wall and recognize the severity of the situation. European countries especially France, Germany and the Great Britain, give the impression again and again, that they are still waiting for decisions to be made in Washington.”

The author cautions that “a new conflict in the Middle East would cause quite different, much more extensive afflictions for us (Europeans).” 

He says in case of a war or collapse of Iran, the new wave of refugees from that country would neither go to the United States nor Saudi Arabia and Israel but they will arrive at the EU borders. He refers to the 2015 refugee crisis in the European Union and the flood of refugees to Germany as a recent example for such scenario. 

Iran we don't want to see 

Lüders worked for many years as the Middle East correspondent of DIE ZEIT newspaper. He has appeared in many TV and radio programs as an expert on Islam and Middle East politics and has written dozens of books on relevant subjects.  

While having his own criticism of the Iranian government and certain policies including freedom and censorship, he notes that "Contrary to the Western assumption that the ruling clerics are primarily irrational, it is more of the opposite. Especially in foreign policy, Tehran is reliable and predictable.  The 2015 nuclear agreement is the best relevant example." He goes on to say "the confrontation with Iran has a background and history beyond the nuclear program or ballistic missiles."

In that regards, Lüders writes “No matter what we think about the Iranian regime, Iran is a country with a vibrant civil society, great diversity, individual freedoms, a confident middle class... Iranian people are Western-oriented - especially towards Germany … these are the aspects of the Iranian society that we rarely notice. You cannot see all that in Saudi Arabia.”

In a recent TV interview on the same subject, he says: "If this country were liberated from all boycott measures, Iran would become a boom a country with immense political and economic importance in a short period of time. However, Israel and Saudi Arabia do not want that. "

 Collective action to prevent a new conflict 

Lüders’s analysis and interpretation of the situation in the Middle East is quite different from what we would see in the mainstream western media and as a result his opinions and statements have received different reactions. His critics say he has nothing new to present, and the sources he used in the book are unreliable and sometimes questionable. In addition, they say he has failed to provide concrete policy alternatives instead of a war. Nonetheless, the reality is that, Lüders’s books are among the bestsellers and are mostly read by ordinary people who are not Middle East experts. In his latest work, the author has tried to present his statements and opinions based on facts that are readily available for the public. What makes this work valuable is the efforts he has put in place to gather all these library materials, newspaper articles, interviews and … in a detailed historical format in one place. 

For policy alternatives instead of a war, the reality is that the Trump's administration is pushing for ever-increasing pressure on Iran and is continuing to intensify efforts to destabilize that country. For now there seems to be no real alternative.  That's why in the last chapter of the book, the author calls for collective action and urges readers to inform themselves, interact with their communities, hold the media accountable and seek the truth in order to contribute to the debate and further raise the public awareness about the dangers of a new conflict and possible ways prevent it. 

In addition, the fact that Lüders has highlighted the role of Israel in the current conflict and its tough campaign against Iran is significant. Many experts in Germany prefer not to touch on the issue of Israel because Israel is a taboo subject among journalists and politicians.  

On the prospect of a war with Iran he further notes in the last chapter that “Iranians are not waiting to see their country destroyed in the name of freedom. … The country is not Iraq, not Syria, not Lebanon and therefore, not an easy target … Iran has enough war experience. At the same time Iranians are well aware that a war would be devastating for them. However, if it comes to the worst scenario, the outcome would not be a Western-oriented Iran, but Armageddon in the Orient."

Armageddon in the Orient; How the Saudi-Connection targets Iran/ 265 pages/ language: German/ year of publication: 2018/ CH Beck, Nördlingen

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