Sunday, June 1, 2014

Saudi-Iran thaw bodes well for Middle East

By Zhao Jinglun, May 30, 2014

Barely one year ago, the Saudis urged Washington to "cut off the snake's head," meaning to attack and vanquish Iran. They were mortal enemies, rivals for influence in the Middle East.  We are now seeing a major change taking place in the Middle East: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal has invited his Iran counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif to Riyadh. The Iranian foreign minister has already visited several other Gulf Arab states, but has not yet been to Saudi Arabia.  The ruler of Kuwait, Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, will undertake a state visit to Iran.  Ten years ago, in 2004, Jordan king Abdullah II warned about a "Shiite Crescent" stretching from the Levant via Iran to the Persian Gulf and into the Arabian Peninsula, embracing Iraq, Lebanon and Syria backed by a resurgent Iran -- a new regional force that would alter the traditional balance of power between the two main Islamic sects the Sunnis and Shiites, and pose new challenges to the interests of the United States and its allies.  For an entire decade, the struggle between the two Islamic sects intensified, with Iran supporting the Shiite government of Iraq, the Bashar al-Assad Baath government of Syria, the Shiite protesters in Bahrain, the populist Muslim fundamentalists in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, and the Hizbullah in Lebanon, humiliating the famous Israeli Defense Force (IDF).