Iran, Saudi Arabia "Clash" Over Syria At "Secret", Closed-Door Meeting In Davos

Tyler Durden's picture

In case you might have missed it, Saudi Arabia and Iran are teetering on the edge of open war.

For years, the two regional powers have been engaged in at least three proxy wars across the Mid-East.

In Syria, the Quds and the IRGC have been fighting to bolster Bashar al-Assad’s depleted forces since at least 2012, while the Saudis and the other Gulf monarchies have lent assistance to the various Sunni rebel groups fighting to destabilize the government in Damascus.

In Yemen, Iran-backed Houthi militiamen drove President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi from the country last year, prompting Riyadh to intervene in order to prevent Tehran from establishing what would amount to an Iranian colony on the kingdom’s southern border.

And in Iraq, the sectarian strife is as divisive as ever, with Iran dominating politics in Baghdad and the Ayatollah’s Shiite militias stoking fear in the hearts of the country’s Sunni minority even as the fighters function as the most effective force battling ISIS.

Through it all, Riyadh and Tehran haven’t yet squared off directly. That is, where Saudi Arabia has troops and planes Iran fights by proxy and where Iran has ground troops, the Saudis are fighting through their own proxies.

Saudi Arabia’s move to execute prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr has the potential to change all of that.

The Sheikh was a leading voice among Saudi Arabia’s dissident Shiite minority and his death sparked outrage and street protests across the Shiite community. Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran after the Saudi embassy was torched in Iran and the Sunni monarchies quickly followed suit.

Now, the stage is set for a potentially disastrous sectarian conflict that could reverberate for decades to come. Underscoring just how contentious the situation has become, Iran foreign minister Javad Zarif and Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal were reportedly involved in a “clash” at a closed-door meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday.

“The barbed exchange between Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at an invitation-only meeting on Wednesday underlined the hostility between the two Gulf rivals, who are waging proxy wars in Syria, Yemen and Iraq,” Reuters reports before recounting the spat. "It was a dialogue of the deaf," on witness recalls. Here’s more:

U.N. special envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa of Egypt, the foreign ministers of Italy and Austria and officials from Turkey and several other Western nations were also around the table.


De Mistura opened the meeting by saying the time was ripe for the Geneva peace talks because outside powers all wanted a political solution to the five-year-old civil war in Syria, the participants said.


However, several speakers questioned Russia's motives for intervening in the conflict since September with air strikes in support of President Bashar al-Assad. They cast doubt on whether Moscow and Tehran wanted any deal that would involve Assad's eventual departure.


Zarif said Iran supported a political solution and had set out a four-point peace plan when it was finally invited to join international diplomacy on Syria last year. It had been excluded for years at U.S. and Saudi insistence.


Without naming any country, he took a veiled swipe at Riyadh by condemning those, he said, who fanned and exploited sectarian differences between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims across the region.


At his news conference, Zarif accused Saudi Arabia of having spent millions of dollars to lobby the U.S. Congress against an international deal on Iran's nuclear program. An agreement with Iran led to the lifting of U.N. sanctions on the country this week.


He said Riyadh had panicked after the embassy attack and the Saudis needed to "come to their senses".


Prince Turki hit back in the closed session, blasting Iran's role in the Syria conflict, the participants said. Quoting an Arabic saying, he told Zarif:

"I really like what you say but when I look at what you do, I wonder."


Prince Turki, the 70-year-old youngest son of the late King Faisal, accused Iran of having 10,000 fighters on the ground in Syria supporting Assad, participants said. He described the Syrian leader as a "terrorist killing his own people" who was directly kept in power by Tehran, the participants said.


One participant said the prince's remarks were sharper than expected and shocked some of those attending the meeting.

There were already doubts as to whether John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov would succeed in bringing the "moderate" Syrian opposition to the bargaining table in Geneva next week and the verbal jousting match between Zarif and Prince Turki suggests that diplomacy may be impossible given the current hostilities between Riyadh and Tehran. 

Meanwhile, Pentagon chief Ash Carter just can't seem to understand why the Sunni powers aren't more helpful in fighting ISIS. “It’s strange that a Sunni extremist group running rampant in Iraq and Syria should attract as little Sunni Arab counterweight as it has so far,” Carter told Bloomberg TV on Friday.

No, Mr. Carter, it is not "strange", nor is it a coincidence.

There is no "Sunni Arab counterweight" because Saudi Arabia promotes a similar brand of ultra puritanical Islam as that espoused by ISIS. Once again, if the US wants help in defeating Islamic State, Ash Carter may want to look to the nations that actually have a vested interest in bringing about the group's demise, namely Iran and Russia. As long as Washington insists on keeping up this charade wherein everyone pretends to be mystified as to why the Gulf monarchies and Turkey don't seem all that interested in seeing ISIS destroyed, this ridiculous dog and pony show will continue, and Javad Zarif's contention that it is in fact the Saudis that are fomenting sectarian discord will continue to fall on deaf ears.

For those who missed it, this is now the most important map in geopolitics:

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kato's picture

i hope that we just let them fight it out against each other. let them occupy each other.

somebody miss sadaam hussein now?

hedgeless_horseman's picture



The Saudi's weakness is that they have been domesticated by the United States.

Their unpublished research has shown that the brains of domestic chickens are smaller than those of junglefowl, relative to their body size, and organized differently.


Like chickens, other domesticated animals tend to have smaller brains than their wild cousins, relative to body size (see 'Free bird'). And brain regions involved in processing things such as sight, sound and smell are among the most diminished, perhaps because humans bred animals to be docile and less wary of their surroundings.


Likewise, feral dogs, cats and pigs often lack the savvy of their wild brethren and still depend on human niches for their survival, notes Melinda Zeder, an archaeologist at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. Packs of feral dogs, for instance, do not form the complex hierarchies that make wolves such fearsome predators. “There's no leadership the way you get in a wolf pack. It's just a bunch of shitty friends ,” says Greger Larson, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Oxford, UK, who is part of a team examining the mixed ancestry of Kauai's feral pigs.

Father Thyme's picture
Father Thyme (not verified) hedgeless_horseman Jan 23, 2016 9:37 AM

"Christians to Beirut; Alawites to the grave."

That's the Middle East for ya.

hedgeless_horseman's picture



Prince Turki, the 70-year-old youngest son of the late King Faisal, accused Iran of having 10,000 fighters on the ground in Syria supporting Assad, participants said. He described the Syrian leader as a "terrorist killing his own people" who was directly kept in power by Tehran, the participants said.

Contrast the House of Saud, with about 15,000 Saudi Princes.  Ready for war, or domesticated pigs?

the phantom's picture



Packs of feral dogs, for instance, do not form the complex hierarchies that make wolves such fearsome predators. “There's no leadership the way you get in a wolf pack. It's just a bunch of shitty friends ,” 



Bumpo's picture

However, several speakers questioned Russia's motives for intervening in the conflict since September with air strikes in support of President Bashar al-Assad. They cast doubt on whether Moscow and Tehran wanted any deal that would involve Assad's eventual departure.


Russia has been quite clear. Removing Assad is not for others to decide. It is up to its own people. STFU already about removing Assad.

Freddie's picture

So they are going to fight when the mercenaries getting destroyed in Yemen decide fighting for SA is s suicide mission?

The Yemenis, Iranians and other Shia are coming.......

two hoots's picture

From protracted to eternal:

VP Biden’s speech in Istanbul: “U.S. Vice President Biden says prepared for military solution in Syria” (Reuters)


Escrava Isaura's picture



Good luck to Biden.


Middle East reminds the Balkans with Saudis trying to be the Archduke—run the dynasty. Wonder what will happen when their Archduke—king—get killed.  

two hoots's picture


US, Russia, EU, UN, Davos;  all the minds of power and no solution for this war?  Seems the only thing they haven’t tried is peace, as in everyone just go home?


The world has changed and is like Chalmun's Cantina (often called the Mos Eisley Cantina or the Star Wars Cantina).   We gotta learn we are different and accept it.  Doesn’t mean we have to accept anothers BS if they interfere.




Escrava Isaura's picture



two hoots: …..minds of power and no solution for this war? they haven’t tried is peace………….The world has changed and is like Chalmun's Cantina (often called the Mos Eisley Cantina or the Star Wars Cantina). We gotta learn……………..

Th, how about this: Stop watching and using stupid movies. Life is much more complex than that. b) Stop putting forth opinions, such as if there are solutions where there are none. And c) learn from the facts. An example: Saudi Arabia Per Capita Income:

Despite possessing the largest petroleum reserves in the world, per capita income dropped from approximately $18,000 at the height of the oil boom (1981) to $7,000 in 2001, according to one estimate. As of 2013, per capita income in Saudi was "a fraction of that of smaller Persian Gulf neighbors", even less than petroleum-poor Bahrain.

Luckhasit's picture

Saudia Arabia has a new monarchy, that is when Iran made it's move!  They are moving against the new king.

At least, that is my angle.

froze25's picture

Or the new Saudi "King" is moving against all non-Sunnis

cajun robear's picture

Sadaam and Gaddafi. Two neighborhood bullies with no intent on invading the USA. Eliminating a known for an unknown is always a bad risk.

nevertheless's picture

Its all about destabilization, and we all know who makes an art of destabilizing its neighbors...

East Indian's picture

Saddam and Gaddafi were two of the self-made leaders Arab world produced as a result of its interactions with the western powers after 1918. Nasser, etc are others. They were educated in the modern sense. They hated the tribal and medieval rulers of Arab world. They tried to overthrow the outdated ruling class. They were not lovers of liberal democracy as fancied in the west, but they were far more better than the medivalists. Unfortunately Britain first and USA later found it expedient to support the sheikhs over these leaders. Saudi Arabia of Ibn Saud's progeny was the result.

USA went even further; it destroyed the Ba'athists in favour of these sheikhs. This is a criminal mistake. Ba'athists, for all their faults, had modern outlook. They encouraged women to get education, suppresses the mullah class and modernized their army and bureaucracy. But USA decided that their outlook makes them closer to the Soviets (incidentally this reveals the outlook of the USA's rulers). This led the USA to destroy them. Now the field is oen only to the sheikhs, the "bulwarks of capitalism".

History has marked the sheikh class for extinction. And USA is tying itself with this class.

nevertheless's picture

Because the real power behind this conflict is Israel, Saudis are just pawns. Take away their oil and they are nothing. Israel, or rather their rabid racist, nepotistic, and conspiring zionist supporters, who own US politicians. 

FireBrander's picture

The best way to eliminate two threats is to get them to eliminate each other...

Augustus's picture

kato :

"somebody miss sadaam hussein now?"


Only some nutters on Zero Hedge.  It seems that there is a shared love of Saddam and Puutie among the Paid Puppies.

Pazuzu's picture

...I and every fucking body in the shit hole that Iraq has devolved into. Ask an Iraqi if they'd take Saddam back to get back all they lost when America came calling again. Our track record for exporting democracy is umblemished. !00% failed states and 100% invadee remorse.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Davos! Where despots (corporate, governmental or private) go to plot. Sounds like an implausible fictional novel.

Truth is always stranger than fiction because fiction must at least make sense to the reader.

Father Thyme's picture
Father Thyme (not verified) Cognitive Dissonance Jan 23, 2016 9:41 AM

I met a despot sexpot once.

Urban Roman's picture

I'll bet she was the life of the party.

o r c k's picture

No, she was an independent.

bamawatson's picture

i had sex n pot at depot once

Moe Howard's picture

Why aren't the Muslims in Israel identified as to sect?

overmedicatedundersexed's picture

the DC solution: lets give shiite's a nuke..then peace will commence.. somebody wants death and destruction on a masssive scale. evil for lack of a better term. ISIS has no nukes yet.

11b40's picture

If ISIS gets nukes, they won't come from Iran. Iran is threatened by at least one Sunni country with them - Pakistan - and, of course, their good friends, Israel. Any Iraian leader who did not want them would be crazy, and who the hell are we to tell another country on the other side of the world tha they have no right to defend themselves.

Winston Churchill's picture

Not to worry, Iran has  had them for 25 years already.MIRV warheads aquired during the USSR breakup.

What other reason keeps Israel from attacking them ?

What other reason stops the US from dropping 'freedom" on them ?

The Iran deal is all kabuki theater cover to prop up the petrodollar by forcing Iranian oil sales in USD.

emersonreturn's picture

thank you, WC, your insights invariably do just that, shed light.  

beijing expat's picture

They are all identified as terrorists. No need for distinctions.

Lumberjack's picture

Let KSA know that the red flag with a white cross is not a hospital...or OTOH....

__Usury__'s picture
__Usury__ (not verified) Jan 23, 2016 9:39 AM

nice hit piece on Trump at Natioal Review:

Donald Trump: Jewish National Review Launches Anti-Trump Hate Attack

“Some are calling it the longest Jewish suicide note in American history.”

Father Thyme's picture
Father Thyme (not verified) __Usury__ Jan 23, 2016 9:48 AM

I like Trump for his fascism. Fascism isn't nice. Nonetheless, the "emergency makeshift" that is necessary to the "salvation" of European civilization does actually have great "merit."


"It cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aimed at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has for the moment saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history. But though its policy has brought salvation for the moment, it is not of the kind which could promise continued success. Fascism was an emergency makeshift."

--Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism



nevertheless's picture

I think it is noteworthy that many "isms", liberalism, feminism, socialism, started out with great motives, but were highjacked by Jews and turned into divisive, instruments of manipulation. Feminism may be the best example. Feminism started out being for women's rights, voting employment, and creatures like Gloria Steinem, turned them into man hating institutions. 

Jerome Lester Horwitz's picture

I bet you think Nazism would have been just great had it not been for the Jews messing that up as well. The idiocy spewed in the comments here is epic.

Father Thyme's picture

Need a safe space?

SuperRay's picture

We already have fascism in this country. Trump will interrupt that movement and bring it broadly into the public mind. Chaos to follow.

Babalooee's picture

I hope Jerome you aren't just referring to todays comments as especially idiotic. If so, you would be doing great disservice to many others. Nevertheless,Nevertheless did manage to vault him (her) self way up there in the rankings with that one.

nevertheless's picture

Interesting how history is repeating itself: Today we have the zionist USAID/US backed NGO's as well as George Soros funded organizations fomenting a coup in the Ukraine, and installing neo-Nazis to run the government.


So one has to ask themselves why? 

nevertheless's picture

If you know anything about Nazism, many powerful Zionists of the time helped instigate Nazism, AS THEY DO TODAY IN UKRAINE. 


Hitler was a nut job, and how did Hitler get into power when Jews controlled the banks and the media????????????


George Soros an arch Zionist is certainly behind the coup in Ukraine, so ask yourself why would a zionist allow for a Nazi regime to move into the vacuum he created with his coup? 


Israel established Hamas ( to undermine Palestine's government. They created a terrorist organization, period. This exemplifies the type of people we are dealing with here. They will do ANYTHING to achieve their goals. Happily, the world is no longer bound to their control of media, thanks to YouTube and the internet, information abounds. 





nevertheless's picture

News flash: THIS IS NOT HUFFINGTON POST, so you can't dismiss honest debate with ad hominem attacks, or cries of "antisemitism" you actually need to make a point, which is not very likely.