Syria plays hardball with the Saudis
By Sami Moubayed
DAMASCUS – In a further sign of just how low Syrian-Saudi Arabian relations
have sunk, Syrian authorities have banned the distribution of al-Hayat, the
Saudi-owned mass circulation Arab daily.
The step came nearly two years after al-Sharq al-Awsat, another Saudi daily,
was banned from Syria for running articles that were considered critical of
the Syrian government during the Israeli war in Lebanon in 2006.
Subsequently, the Syrians hailed Hezbollah in Lebanon as a resistance
organization while the Saudis criticized it because of its links to Iran,
claiming that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was an “adventurer” .
President Bashar al-Assad snapped back in a speech that those who had
conspired against Hezbollah in the Arab world (in clear reference to Saudi
Arabia) were “half-men”.
The cold war between Damascus and Riyadh continued between 2006-2008, over a
variety of issues related to influence in Lebanon, Iraq and to a lesser
extent, Palestine. The Syrians challenged Saudi Arabia by cementing their
relationship with Iran, arguing that while the Iranians were supporting
Syria’s positions with regard to its standoff with the United States, the
Saudis were only adding insult to injury by applying pressure on Washington
to keep the heat on Damascus and engaging in dirty intelligence tricks with
the aim of destabilizing Syria.
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