Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Saudi Arabia's second biggest export

I don't think people pay enough attention to how much Saudi anti-Shiite paranoia is driven by the domestic situation in Saudi Arabia. KSA has a Shia minority which is not viewed kindly for theological reasons by the Kingdom's Wahhabi establishment. But on top of that the Shiites of Saudi happen to live in the Northeast, where a lot of the oil is. Any nationalist sentiment, or even just sectarian sympathy with their Shia brethren who currently rule Iraq or Iran is a potential threat to the source of the KSA's wealth and influence.

That's why the Saudis are inclined to see every instance where Shiites seek political power anywhere as a Iranian plot. It is in their self-interest to deny that the Saudi Shia have any legitimate grievances. Any Shia who tries to improve their situation can be dismissed as pawns of hostile Persians, rather than face that the oppression of an religious minority is a real domestic problem. That's the lense through which the Saudi leadership sees the world. And that is why every Shia group is viewed as an Iranian pawn.

While it makes some sense for Saudis to view every Shiite as an Iranian agent--their domestic politics pushes them to see the world like that--what really surprises me is how thoroughly Saudi self-interested paranoia has infected the rest of the world. The Junior Senator from Arkansas views Shiites like the Saudi leadership does. So does the Prime Minister of Israel. Pundits throughout the Western World have adopted the trope that Iran controls Sana, Beirut and Baghdad simply because Shiites are in charge. I have called it the Shia have no agency unless they are Persian theory. It really has conquered the world.