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Are Saudi, Iran heading for war?

|TAP Special| Are Saudi Arabia and Iran heading towards a direct war? An opinion piece by influential Saudi commentator, carried by Al Arabia News, argues that the Saudi military operation against the Houthis is part of a Saudi policy combining diplomacy and war to stop Iranian influence and ultimately push it out of Syria and Yemen.

The veteran commentator, Jamal Khashoggi, quotes Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force and hero of Iranian forays into the Arab world, to the effect  that his army and Syrian military leaders are in the midst of preparing for battle.

“What do they have up their sleeves? Will they execute an airdrop on the Syrian coast to protect it from the rebels’ progress, or send a large contingent from the Iranian army to protect the Alawite state that they wish to establish as a foothold in Syria?

“I do not know what the Saudi military response for such a folly would be, but I am sure both the kingdom and Turkey categorically reject any direct Iranian presence or division of Syria. Thus, we might consider Soleimani’s broadcast as one of the demarcation lines that may lead to a direct Saudi-Iranian confrontation.”

Khashoggi argues that Saudi Arabia will not draw back from what it started, and will continue until complete victory. “Even though Riyadh is open to a diplomatic solution in Yemen, it is awaiting the outcome of the Muscat-Houthi talks under U.S. patronage. Meanwhile, it has not reduced the intensity of its military operations in Yemen, and was careful to let the Iranians know that the “Fahd line” still exists.”

Fahd line is described as an imaginary line drawn by the late Saudi King Fahd in the middle of the Arabian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war. Iran was informed that any of its planes crossing this line would be shot down without warning. This happened on June 5, 1984, with two Iranian F-4 planes. Saudi F-16 fighter jets shot them down in the Gulf Sea, Khashoggi points out.

After that incident, Iran fully abided by the Fahd line until two weeks ago, when a civilian plane tried to land by force in Sanaa airport. This was followed by another entry attempt by a ship claiming to carry relief materials at Hodeidah port. Both times, Saudi fighter jets and marine vessels intercepted the intruders and made them retreat by force. Iran is now fully aware that the “Fahd line” not only stands but has extended to Yemen, and that the kingdom will not hesitate to deal with any crossing attempt, the article concludes.