The pantomime is in full swing, but no one knows the end of the script.
Amid the severe tribulations afflicting the Middle East – horrendous clashes on the Gaza border, missile exchanges between Iran and Israel, the surprise success of the hard-line Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraqi elections and the perpetual wars in Yemen and Syria – one could be forgiven for missing an event that took place recently in Saudi Arabia, named (perhaps aptly) “The Greatest Royal Rumble”.
The stars of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) arrived in Jeddah for a show that saw them condemned for acceding to Saudi demands to leave their female performers behind and a willingness to voice Saudi state propaganda. Four aspiring but unknown Saudi wrestlers were pitted against the perfect villains, in the form of the Iranian-American wrestling star Ariya Daivari and his brother Shawn. The Daivaris, native Minnesotans, took to the ring waving the Iranian flag and began to trash talk the Saudis, only pliantly to accept a good beating in front of the baying crowd.
As absurd as this spectacle was, it says something that the Saudi state was willing to pay so much for it. Behind the pantomime propaganda, a jostling for psychological superiority is under way across the Middle East in the midst of a proxy war that is getting hotter every week. The Saudis and Iranians are two of the most active protagonists – having taken to flooding YouTube with computer game-style war simulations in which one vanquishes the armies of the other with a potent display of military force – but they are by no means the only ones taking part.
In recent weeks, a Twitter account that purports to be run by Mossad has been trolling some of Israel’s enemies, including Iran’s supreme leader. Although it turns out the account is a parody, this has not stopped some significant players in the region from taking the bait, with Hamas’s official account responding directly to the provocation. The showy way in which Israel has deployed its intelligence in the international arena – from Binyamin Netanyahu’s drawing of a cartoon bomb at the UN in 2012 to the recent PowerPoint presentation in which he accused Iran of bad faith in hiding its pursuit of nuclear weapons – has been much derided, but it has had a significant influence on US policy.
Some suggest that Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, a long-term advocate of “regime change” in Iran, has a steering hand in settling a radical new policy approach at the White House. But if any such ambitions to replace the mullahs exist, they run into the challenge of Trump himself, who has shown a profound disinclination towards any further Iraq-type ventures in the region. He prefers a foreign policy that is quick, cheap and gratifying.
When Trump announced the decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), he made some appeals over the head of the regime to the “long-suffering people of Iran”, with whom he …read more
Source:: New Statesman