The Saudi activities are what put Asad into the military and emotional state where he felt that he had to use a doomsday weapon, a chemical weapon. And if it hadn’t been used on August 21st, Damascus would have been conquered by trained, armed and equipped troops who came in from a neighboring country after Saudi Arabia had participated in funding their training, and they situated themselves the night before August 21 in the Eastern suburbs of Damascus. Asad understood that if he did not destroy these troops with gas – together with the citizens that the troops were hiding among, using them as human shields – the troops would take control of the government institutions in Damascus and his rule would come to an end, along with himself.
The Saudis were on the brink of victory, and Asad’s use of gas took it away from them. That’s why they are so angry with Asad, and with the West as well, which did not take the necessary steps immediately, to act without discussions, without votes, without Congress and without Parliament. They are concerned that Obama never intended to act in Syria, and all of his fiery speeches about red lines and what would happen if those red lines were crossed, were only words, which he had no intention of carrying out. My colleague used the expression “the roar of a mouse” to describe Obama’s words.
But the Saudis cannot attack Obama personally, because they still depend on him to deal with the great, real, serious threat to their east, Iran. They heard the words of the “moderate,” “reformist” (my colleague laughed when he said these words) Iranian president very well when he said this week that Iran will not give up one iota of its nuclear rights. He attributes this declaration to the West’s weak behavior in the Syrian issue. He used an Arabic expression meaning that Iran completely ignores the United States.
He doesn’t believe that Asad will give up his chemical weapons, and he will do any sort of trick in order to conceal them and hide what he has in his stockpiles of death. The Russians have won a big victory over the United States, and they are taking advantage of Europe’s lack of will to use force. And in general, what is all this business about giving up chemical weapons? Can a murderer’s punishment be mitigated by confiscating the pistol that he used to commit murder? What kind of ethical or legal standard is that? Why don’t they even issue an international arrest warrant against al-Assad to bring him to justice in the International Criminal Court? How is he different from Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and Milosevic of Yugoslavia?
According to my Saudi colleague, Iran is the big winner in the whole Syrian fiasco. Iran is reaping the fruits of its success in Iraq, because of the thousands of Americans that Iran killed in Iraq between the years 2003 and 2010, which will deter the United States from becoming involved in Syria. This is how Iran has acquired Iraq – where Iran now has unlimited control – and Syria. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards fight on Asad’s side in Syria, despite it being a violation of Security Council resolutions, and no country does a thing.
The ruling family of Saudi Arabia is concerned, very concerned, that the weakness that the West conveys regarding Syria today will also be reflected in the way the West relates to Iran, and that if Iran takes some action against Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries in the future, the West will not have the strength and the courage to emerge from its impassivity and support Saudi Arabia on the day of reckoning. The Saudis are tense and concerned, and this is the reason for the quiet from Saudi Arabia during these trying days.
It may be that in the Middle East there are more countries whose leaders are quite concerned about the future of the Middle East and the world in general.
Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author.