Expert thinks that conflict between Tehran and Riyadh could be a proxy war

02 November 2022

A direct military conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia cannot be ruled out, but a proxy war scenario between the two countries is more likely. Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), expressed this opinion in a conversation with TASS on Wednesday.

Reuters earlier reported, citing a National Security Council (NSC) representative, that the US is concerned about threats to Saudi Arabia from Iran, is ready to respond if necessary and is in constant contact through military and intelligence channels with the kingdom. The NSC representative issued this statement after The Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia had shared intelligence data with the US about Iran's plans to attack targets in the kingdom.

"Of course, a direct military conflict between Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran cannot be ruled out, but it is more likely to assume that this war would be of the nature of a proxy conflict. For example, on the territory of Yemen, we see that Iran actively supports the Houthis, while Saudi Arabia is at war with them. They [the Houthis] sometimes shell targets on the territory of the kingdom itself, and this is the form of confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia," the analyst described the nature of the conflict.

According to Kortunov, the possibility of a direct military confrontation is not very high right now, "because both sides understand the destructive consequences." In this regard, the analyst admitted that there could still be contacts between Iran and Saudi Arabia to de-escalate tensions.

US interests

According to Kortunov, the factor holding Iran back is the US presence in the region. "It is clear that Iran is stronger than Saudi Arabia in many ways, but it is also clear that they [Iran] would not like to get into a direct fight with the US," the expert stated.

Regarding Reuters' information about the United States' concerns, the analyst pointed out that Washington would now like to increase its own importance to Riyadh, given the tensions that occur from time to time between them, with regard to the Saudi decision to support an OPEC+ oil export cut. "The US is interested in demonstrating its irreplaceability as a strategic partner and protector of Saudi Arabia," the expert stressed.

The RIAC director general noted that "this build-up of tension [between Riyadh and Tehran] is certainly in American interests," as it ties Saudi Arabia more firmly to the United States. "I don't know if this is just speculation or based on some intelligence about Iran's activities, but the fact that the US wants to demonstrate that Saudi Arabia cannot do without them, so Riyadh has to make concessions, including in oil issues, is obvious," Kortunov concluded.



GSV "Russia - Islamic world"

Photo: RIAC

Based on materials from TASS