Saudi Arabia is one of the most conservative and repressive regimes in the world. They practise a very austere and fundamentalist version of Islam called Salafism, that was introduced by the religious collaborators of the Saudis, known as Wahhabis, named after their religious leader. They consider themselves the natural leaders of the Muslim world because they control Mecca and Medina, where Mohammed founded Islam back in the 7th century, which is the center of the Sunni Islamic world. In Saudi Arabia, women have few rights, they are considered property, according to Islamic Sharia Law, and are not allowed to travel outside the home without a man and are not allowed to drive.
But, change is coming slowly and inexorably to Saudi Arabia. They are the focus of hostile forces, both Shia Iran and the Sunni Islamic State. The Shia are the traditional enemies of Sunni Islam and would love to capture Mecca and Medina and establish themselves as the leaders of Islam. The Islamic State regard the Saudi regime as an enemy because they are allied with the US and because they do not support the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate, which is the aim of the IS. They would love to capture Mecca and Medina in order to make it their center and capital. Although Saudi Arabia has spent billions on US arms, they are not considered competent in the military area. There is little doubt that the Saudi military could not withstand either the Shia or IS threats.
Two significant events have occurred in the past week regarding Saudi Arabia and Israel, two countries not often referred to together in the same sentence. First, according to a report in the Times of Israel, the director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, met with the head of Mossad and several other senior Israeli intelligence officials last month, while the Geneva nuclear talks between the P5+1 world powers and Iran were taking place, according to the semi-official Iranian news agency Fars. No one has denied this report. Second, in a telephone poll conducted by an independent agency of Saudi opinions about who are Saudi Arabia’s enemies, Israel came third with 18%. Iran topped the list with 53% and IS came second with 22%. These seem like reasonable estimates given that Israel has never been seen as a direct threat to Saudi Arabia, while the other two certainly are direct threats. Saudi Arabia is currently at war with the Shia Houthi rebels who have captured most of Yemen including the capital Sanaa and are currently attacking Aden. Also a large majority of Saudis (85%) supported the Saudi Peace plan for the Palestinian-Israeli issue.
Moreover, these two Muslim entities Iran and IS are common enemies to both countries. Certainly Saudi Arabia shares Israel’s concern over the pending deal being negotiated by the P5+1 States with Iran, being pushed by Pres. Obama. Both the Saudis and the Egyptians feel betrayed by Obama’s lack of commitment in withdrawing from the Middle East just when the threats are increasing, leaving them vulnerable. The only other power that can help protect Saudi Arabia from the twin threats of Iran and IS is Israel. It has been rumored for some time that there have been meetings between Saudi and Israeli officials sharing information about Iran, and that Saudi Arabia would allow IAF jets to overfly their territory if they are on a mission to attack the Iranian nuclear sites. So, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” may indeed apply. But, don’t expect open relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia any time soon.