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The danger that Saudi Arabia will turn Syria into an Islamist hotbed

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If there was any doubt as to Saudi Arabian intentions in Syria, that veil was ripped away at the recent “Friends of Syria” conference in Istanbul. The Saudis and their Gulf allies spearheaded an effort to create a formalized pay structure for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and privately ruminated on the possibility of setting up official supply conduits to anti-Assad forces. This effort went much further than what the West, or even neighboring Turkey, seemed willing to embrace.

When the Syrian uprising began last March, Saudi Arabia was in a state of panic. The revolution in Egypt, the uprising in Bahrain, and the bubbling civil war in Yemen consumed Riyadh’s attention and cultivated a manic siege mentality.

However as the Saudi domestic and geopolitical situation began to stabilize, the rulers began to look at the potential opportunity to topple the Assad regime in Syria, and seize the initiative in Saudi Arabia's increasingly tense standoff with Iran.

In the best of times, relations between Tehran and Riyadh have never been good, but for the past few years the relationship has deteriorated so much that it can best be described as a state of undeclared war.

Iran's dogged commitment to its nuclear program has exacerbated fears in Saudi Arabia that the Islamic Republic seeks regional domination and hegemony. As a result, the entire region has devolved into a geopolitical chessboard for the two powers. Clashes and Saudi proxy battles in Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, and Bahrain have all occurred based on real or perceived Iranian infiltration.

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