On the 4th of April 2015, and in the wake of the Saudi-led coalition attack on Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hasan Nasrallah gave an unprecedented speech in which he openly and overtly attacked Saudi Arabia and predicting its defeat in Yemen.
In his previous public presentations, Nasrallah strongly criticised his local and regional opponents, but remained adamant to stick to “self-distancing”, and turned his strategy into a slogan, reiterating that his prime and only objective was the “resistance” and protecting the resistance (against Israel).
Nasrallah has always mirrored the voices and strategies of the Supreme Leader of Iran, and in this context, Iran had been openly critical of the policies of its Saudi neighbour, but with a diplomatic reconciliatory tone. It was not till nearly a week after Nasrallah’s latest speech that Iran’s Supreme Leader announced that the “Saudi noses will be rubbed in the dirt”.
Khamenei’s predecessor Khomenei was quick to create anti-American slogans such as “Death to America” and described the US as big Satan. But those terms were meant to be for consumption. It seems that Western media and observers do not discern the subtle difference between such slogans and real messages.
A look to the east of Iran clearly reveals the difference. Pakistani leadership proclaims that it will always protect Saudi Arabia and the Muslim holy land. This is slogan talk. But when the talk was pushed to walk, to the horror and dismay of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the Pakistani parliament voted against intervention in Yemen.
Erdogan, the other mighty Sunni leader that the Saudis were hoping to rally up, even went a step further and visited Iran in the height of the Iranian-Saudi tension, snubbing the Saudis in the worst manner and at the worst time.
Only Sisi responded to the Sunni call of duty, for a handful of dollars. Now that no one else put the hand up, he can go for a few dollars more, standing out as the ugly with Erdogan being the bad and Pakistan the good.
One positive outcome of the recent developments is that thus far the Saudis have failed to rally up a pan Sunni army to fight the Shiite “infidels”. The Pakistanis and Turks understand well what would the consequences of such an alliance, and they are not fools like the Saudis.
Saudi Arabia now stands alone and poised to face a quandary. The aerial strikes are not achieving their objective, and even if they did, it is only the boots on the ground that rule. The Saudi army has two options; to retreat or to start a land invasion.
If they retreat, the Saudis will face grave consequences. They have stirred the hornet’s nest and retaliations will follow on the ground within Saudi Arabia as well as its borders.
If they launch a land assault, only the half-hearted Egypt will support them. But the big question is this, why does an army with a budget that surpasses Russia’s defence budget be scrambling for allies and begging for help? The simple answer to this is that the Saudi army is a toothless tiger of Bedouins and mercenaries.
The bigger question is this. With its overt criticism and threat to the Saudi royals, to what extent will the Iranian leadership support the Houthis in Yemen?
Ghassan Kadi is the Lebanese political commentator and blogger. He is currently doing his PhD in sociology of the Middle East based on local knowledge and understanding of the Levantine culture, mind-set and politics.