With the coming to power of Bin Salman, the policies of Saudi Arabia and its ally the UAE have largely become offensive so much so that the interference of the two countries in the process of regional developments has prepared the ground for instability and violence in the region, including in Yemen. Now the question is what is the aim pursued by these policies and how will their continuation affect the future of the region?
Considering the importance of this issue, international affairs expert Abdolreza Faraji Rad, in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations has analyzed and evaluated the policies of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the region.
Q: In your opinion, which countries pursue destructive policies and cause instability in the region and in some Afro-Arab countries, such as Syria, Libya and Yemen, and what are their goals?
Since the inception of the Arab revolutions called the Arab Spring, a series of popular inclinations began for change. But unfortunately, some Arab countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, who were opposed to change and considered it detrimental to their political systems, used their petrodollars in big amounts to change this path, which led to some tension generating issues in the region.
Following the changes that have taken place in the Arab Spring in Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, and even in Tunisia, fundamentalist groups, with the help of certain other countries, were able to take power in some of these countries. In the meantime, fundamentalist groups such as ISIL which introduced themselves as a state in countries like Syria and Iraq and now have faced defeat are being moved to the eastern region, for example, Afghanistan to bring instability to that region as well.
Q: How can the Saudi and UAE benefit from these policies?
Regarding the policies of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, it should be noted that there is a geopolitical rivalry between them and Iran and Turkey and that they do not want these changes to increase the presence and influence of Iran or Turkey in the region. They are also worried that these changes and the creation of democracy in the countries of the region. namely transformation of political structures and the transition to democracy, due to the coexistence of Arab countries, may lead to the incitement of people in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and provoke them to demand change.
A point that should not be overlooked is that in these moves over the past seven-eight years, especially in the early years a group such as the Muslim Brotherhood managed to have a tight political emergence as seen in Egypt and Tunisia. Saudi Arabia and the UAE fear that the Brotherhood groups would become an alternative to their tribal and royal rule, due to their roots in Arab countries and the people’s tendencies towards them. Hence, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi spent huge amounts so that this alternative would not be politically prominent in the region and would not enter other countries.
Q: Can we say the policies of Mohammed bin Salman are gradually getting close to those of Bin Zayed, which contradicts the views held before that Bin Zayed’s policies would resemble those of Bin Salman?
Bin Salman and Bin Zayed have many commonalities in foreign policy; for example, they pursued the same policies in dealing with the Brotherhood groups and preventing their political progress. Therefore, these two are primarily in the same line in policies such as confronting the political influence of Iran and Turkey in the region. They strive to check the political influence of Iran and Turkey in partnership with Western allies and by spending huge money.
But there are differences in internal policies of Bin Zayed and Bin Salman. What we see in the Emirates is a development pattern that has attracted Bin Salman’s attention and he is seeking to implement the same pattern in Saudi Arabia. Of course, since the Saudi society is a completely traditional tribal society, Bin Salman’s efforts have failed to produce the desired results and only injected a series of new crises in Saudi society. Therefore, Bin Salman tried to follow Bin Zayed’s line of policy and implement them forcefully inside Saudi Arabia but these imposed measures resulted in crises.
Contrary to the past decades, which focused more on domestic issues such as development, and made little intervention in the affairs of the countries of the region, the UAE has defined a regional code for itself at the current juncture. That is, given the developments in Yemen and the influence that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have exercised in southern Yemen, the UAE is now seeking to play a role as a regional power in the transformation process. But the Emirates chose this code incorrectly, because, given the UAE’s one million indigenous population, the country should focus more on domestic issues than on regional matters. Hence, dangers are threatening the Emirates, and since its regional code has been mistakenly chosen, if a confrontation breaks out between Iran and the United States the UAE would be the first country to be hurt by the conflict.