The prime issues between Iran and Saudi Arabia stem from the existential threat the Al Saud family fears from an Islamist Iranian clergy in power and vice versa. The former stemming from a rise in Saudi Islamists desire to oust the AL Saud, inspired by the manner in which the Shah of Iran was ousted.
This dominant desire by the Al Saud ruling family’s to retain its stranglehold as a family monarchy on the land currently called Saudi Arabia, overrides all other considerations.
Iran realizes that till the Al Saud are in power there cannot be hope of a rapprochement between the two countries. And from the beginning of the Iranian Revolution, Iran has attempted to export it’s revolutionary Islamic thought into the primarily Shia majority Eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia, and other countries such as Pakistan. And this started a full scale proxy war fuelled by the Russian invasion of Afghanistan with Pakistan and Afghanistan at the epicenter.
The two countries have been on opposite sides of all major military conflicts since 1980. The 9 year Iran Iraq War, from 1980 to 1989, funded by Saudi Arabia when Saddam was in power. Then the Afghanistan civil war from 1993 onwards. And now the battle against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
Both have used religion and sect to promote their agendas and both are out to overthrow the other. Iran’s stoking the fires of unrest in Shia majority Bahrain, the Shia majority Eastern provinces in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Saudi Iranian relationships since the Islamic Revolution have roller coasted and have been subject to the individual biases of the reigning Saudi monarch. This was and is much like the medieval monarchs of Europe or the Imperial Caliphs of Umayyed and Abbasid dynasties.
For example, King Abdullah, the previous Saudi Ruler had a softer approach towards Iran and hence the two countries came much closer than they are today.
Salman, the current King, is a die hard, hard core Wahabi with strong bias for the extremist version of Islam. Hence his willingness to truck with Al Qaeda especially in Yemen and Syria. And how as Crown Prince and earlier his name has been linked to the funding of extremist outfits.
But interestingly its also during his time that the Saudis have established the closest ties ever with Israel, to forestall Iranian interference and save their Monarchy.
Thus the Al Saud know that as long as the Islamists are in power in Iran, they will continue to destabilize Saudi Arabia and try and overthrow the Al Saud ruling family. Same for the Iranians, who also realize that there will never be peace with Saudi Arabia as long as the Al Saud are in power. So it’s a really big Catch 22.
Hence we must see the Coalition and Raheel’s appointment in this context.
In my opinion, Raheel’s prime role is to get a dozen or two dozen, recently retired senior Pakistani military officers with hard core battleground experience in counter terrorism to help the AL Saud ruling family, on 4 counts.
1. Address the problem they’ll face very soon from the Saudi terrorists now defeated and driven out of formerly Daesh controlled territories in Iraq and Syria. Remember, 40% of Daesh foreign fighters are Saudis. They will be a serious and very grave threat to the Al Saud rule.
2. Help counter the restive insurgency of the Saudi Shias in the Eastern provinces being stoked and inflamed by Iranians to try and oust the Al Saud from power.
3. Help counter the support and interference by Iranians in Bahrain to its Shia majority, against the minority Sunni King, and thereby causing huge problems to Al Saud, given the Eastern provinces next door.
4. Counter the threat on its southern border from Yemen and the Houthis and destabilizing the Al Saud.
That is why I think the coalition label is just a facade and a farce. The real reason being to create a forum to support the Al Saud ruling dynasty to remain in power.
And, in my opinion, the only way the Al Saud ruling family, could get access to significant Pakistani Army brainpower was to create this forum, appoint Raheel, given his stature, so he could get others from Pakistan.
As those who know Raheel, and likely Raheel does as well, he has no pretensions of being a brilliant strategic mind. He’s been a simple soldier who with a truck full of luck, the opportune mentorship of Gen. Musharraf as Army Chief, the support of a very strong lobby, since his PMA days, kind courtesy his brother’s legacy, and the prayers of his well wishers, which eventually got him to become Chief.
But he’s a soldier’s soldier, always found with his troops and greatly raised the morale of the Army and improved it’s image. These, along with Zarb e Azb is his greatest legacy. Would be sad to see this legacy diminished and tarnished.
And he was really fortunate to be Chief to strike the final blow in North Waziristan via Zarb e Azb at a time when the backbone of the TTP insurgency had been broken in 6 of the 7 FATA agencies during Gen.Kayani’s watch.
And he was also fortunate that the vast majority, if not the entire fighting group of foreign fighters, primarily Saudis, Egyptians, Tunisians, Chechens, and many hard core Afghan and Pakistani fighters, had escaped North Waziristan and gone to Syria and Iraq to join DAESH.
However the increasing support to this appointment one sees from the government in recent days, stems from a desire to placate ruffled Saudi feathers, with unconfirmed reports of a Pakistani brigade being deployed on the Southern Yemeni border.
If the latter be true, then we’ve taken a clear position, and Raheel’s appointment is one part of this position.
For those advocating the position that Raheel’s appointment is good for the Muslim Ummah and be key in bringing about a Saudi Iranian rapprochement, either don’t understand Regional Geo Politics or know something the world doesn’t.
Or give Raheel, now completely devoid of all his previous powers of a serving Pakistan Army Chief, and a paid employee of the Saudis, extraordinary magical powers to somehow tell his employer to do what he says. And in that process also convince the Iranians! A feat no one has been able to achieve since 1979.
If he can pull this off, it’ll clearly be the diplomatic coup of the century, and in all seriousness, deserving of a Noble Peace Prize.
How? Haven’t a clue.
If Saudi Arabia could muster 40 odd governments to support this so called coalition, why can’t it muster the same and even more countries, under the aegis of the OIC, to create a permanent Nato like alliance?
They can then continue to provide all the support and funding and logistics, as they are doing now, but with one proviso, that the Alliance, under OIC, has a transparent Charter and Terms of Reference.
It is then that General Raheel’s appointment as Commander in Chief of this OIC Military Alliance makes sense in the context of a Muslim Military alliance.
Otherwise, answers to the above will provide clear insights about intentions and objectives of this so called coalition!
My perspective on how I see this whole game!