Amid regional and international efforts aiming at settling the Syrian crisis, some changes in the major players’ political relations have darkened the outlooks of Syria’s challenge solution.
Meanwhile, some analysts believe that some US’ actions like threatening to impose new sanctions on Tehran, introducing the new visa law and using the Iranian frozen money to pay compensations to the Americans who have been taken hostages in 1979 in Tehran have the potentials to escalate fresh tensions and put serious challenges in the way of settlement of Syria’s erosive crisis.
Now the Syrian conflict has gone even more complicated after increasing tensions in Tehran-Riyadh ties. Iran and Saudi Arabia, two key sides of Syria’s conflict, are leading serious ideological and political conflicts both in the West Asian region and in Syria. Since the beginning of crisis in Syria, Riyadh has been fixated on removal of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.
To this end, the kingdom has provided the opposition groups like Jaysh al-Islam and al-Nusra Front with an array of financial and logistics supports. In the opposing side is the Islamic Republic of Iran which asserts that the only possible and influential way to move out of the protracted crisis in Syria is to cut off the funding and arming sources of the takfiri groups and support the central government of Damascus.
In the Iranian viewpoint, the complexity of the Syrian conflict and the existence of the diversified terror groups in Syria have left no choice but supporting the government of President Assad. It must be known that currently over 15 terror groups with 65,000 fighters are active in Syria’s battle which could fill the void of ISIS or other takfiri forces in Syria. In such a situation, it is impossible to count on the terrorist groups in Syria and strike a deal with them for ending the conflict in the country. These groups are not unified ideologically and every one of them has a claim over leading a government in the country.
Meanwhile the Saudis are fueling the crisis in Syria as they are turning a blind eye to the reality on the ground in Syria and emphasize on the demand that President Assad must go. In other words, Riyadh has backed the opposition groups, leading to increased violence and extremism in Syria. Obliteration of terrorism takes a collective effort but, unfortunately, there is no promising sign of mobilized attempts to stem terrorism. Instead of joining forces and taking common stances, Saudi Arabia and Iran, both powerful countries, are widely diverging while each side is trying to scale down the other side’s influence and power. In such a chaotic situation, the powers’ actions are foiling each other’s objectives and attempts rather that stopping the takfiri war machine in Syria.
Meanwhile, Tehran-Riyadh’s fresh diplomatic rows have not only undermined the collective dialogue and diplomatic efforts for settling the crisis in Syria but also they have given ISIS terror group a chance to find new breath and do more recruitment. ISIS builds its strength as division grows.
When the two leading Shiite and Sunni countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia develop divides, the terrorist organization would seize the opportunity to promote for its recruitment of extremist forces from Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries in the region. In a statement, ISIS has called Iran the “Safavid enemy.” This naming is at first step carries a historical and ideological sense. The terror group implies that in the absence of Sunni Ottoman Caliphate it is the eligible successor and is leading the so-called battle against the Shiite Muslims. Certainly, such implication would appeal to the Muslim world’s conventional and conservative groups. Witnessing their governments’ weakness and passiveness, these groups repose hope on ISIS and other claimers of caliphate to see realization of their ideological demands and goals.
Therefore, the ongoing scuffle and crisis between the two poles of power in the region have no outcome but fueling the radicalism and bolstering dogmatic ideologies, and of course due to the already existing grounds of radicalism, Saudi Arabia is more vulnerable to these risks. The Saudi society is the safe haven to extremism. The existence of an authoritarian regime with specific interpretation of Islam on the one hand and the conventional community of Saudi Arabia on the other hand have created a suitable ground for the Islamist groups to expand their terror networks.
In such a situation, the Saudi elites need to avoid fueling the tensions with Iran and move towards cooperation with the Islamic Republic. They must figure out that extremism primarily poses a threat to the whole region. Regional collaboration is key to thwarting this threat. As long as this significant issue is not considered, we would witness continued takfirism and thus more instability in the region.