Mr. Abdullah’s statement is worth paying close attention to because it reflects not only the kingdom’s foreign policy shift toward relations with Syria but also its new regional approach toward this period of uncertainty and upheaval that has been rocking the Middle East.
Since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, Saudi Arabia has focused all its efforts on fulfilling a single task in foreign policy: the containment of Tehran’s power and influence in the region. Saudi Arabia’s rulers saw (and continue to see) the world, almost exclusively, from the prism of the “Shiite octopus.” Always reacting to Iranian moves, Saudi Arabia seemed behind, trying to limit Iranian advances and minimize costs as much as possible.
Containing Iran was never easy because Tehran had done a masterful job projecting its power onto the Levant and Arab Gulf where the kingdom had vital political and security interests. After the 2003 Iraq War, containing Iran became much more difficult because the elimination of late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, a longtime foe of the Iranians, offered Tehran a huge opportunity to dominate the politics and security of oil-rich Iraq. Iran’s rise after the fall of Baghdad prompted leaders in the region, including King Abdullah II of Jordan, to speak of a “Shiite Crescent.”