As the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) invaded northwest of Iraq, prompting hundreds of thousands of their Sunni coreligionists to flee and creating panic in Iraq’s Shiite heartland around Baghdad, Saudi Arabia has no doubt realized that — with its policy of delivering a strategic setback to Iran by orchestrating the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus showing little sign of any imminent success — events in Iraq offer a new opportunity.
Such a setback for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been the dream of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah for years. He has refused to send an ambassador to Baghdad and instead encouraging his fellow rulers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman — to take a similar standoff-ish approach.
The observers have been confused by the reports about the merging — albeit reluctant — diplomatic rapprochement between the Saudi-led GCC and Iran which contradict with Saudi Arabia’s first public display of Chinese missiles capable of hitting Tehran and the UAE’s announcement of the introduction of military conscription for the country’s youth.
The direct confrontation between the Saudi and the Iranian troops in Iraq cannot be ruled out, what imposes on the international and the regional policies to be adjusted accordingly.