By Carol Rushton

The Middle East is not a boring place to live. It is many things, but definitely not boring. Quite the opposite. I know because I lived there for almost 8 years during the 1990s.

Those of us who watch the Middle East have noticed the increasing ties of Saudi Arabia with Israel, at least on the surface. For some years Israeli media have reported sightings of Israeli military jets resting on the tarmac of Saudi airports. In September 2017, The Jerusalem Post and other Middle East media outlets announced a surprise secret visit to Israel by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Ben Salmon which Saudi Arabia quickly denied. Some are excited by what they see as a softening of the hardline position the Saudis have always had toward Israel and the Jews and a turning point in Saudi-Israeli relations.

I hate to spoil the party, but I can promise everyone right now that Saudi school textbooks are still describing Jews as being descendants of apes and pigs. So what is really going on between Saudi Arabia and Israel?

The Saudis feel the same way about Israel and Jews today as they always have. They have never accepted Israel as a country in its own right and never will. However, the crazy Islamic regime in Iran with their dedication to radical Islam and determination to develop nuclear weapons to wipe Israel and the United States off the face of the map has caused Saudi Arabia to become pragmatic in their approach to the situation in the Middle East overall and toward Iran specifically.

It also does not help that Saudi Arabia is fighting a proxy war with Iran in Yemen. The Houthis, supported by Iran, incited a civil war in in Yemen and were successful in ousting former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who fled for his life in 2011. The Houthis then proceeded to expel the next Yemeni government and then killed Saleh in 2017 after he returned to power in Yemen, supposedly because of an appeal by the Houthis.

Another underlying tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran is that the Saudis are Sunnis and Iranians are largely Shi’ites. The easiest way for Westerners to understand this dichotomy is that Sunnis accept the first four of Mohammed’s successors while Shi’ites only accept Mohammed’s son-in-law, Ali, as the sole legitimate successor of Mohammed and reject those who followed him.

Americans need to understand the Saudi royal family. They have it “made in the shade.” The royal family is incredibly wealthy. They have a lifestyle that most people in the world can only dream about – palaces, yachts – whatever their hearts desire. The men project a superficial adherence to Islam and Islamic law while in the country but every year the royals take a number of trips to European capitals (women in the family are not included) in which they indulge their penchant for wine, women, and song. A more decadent group would be hard to find.

The Iranian mullahs and ayatollahs are a vastly different lot. Many in that regime are known as the Twelvers. According to Shia Islamic tradition, imams are infallible. Eleven imams have lived and died so far. The twelfth imam disappeared as a child and is thought to be in hiding until the opportune moment arrives for him to be revealed to the world and establish a worldwide Islamic caliphate. All who refuse to accept this twelfth imam, or Mahdi, will be murdered. Some scholars have compared this to the biblical end-times scenario of the Tribulation period.

Twelvers within the Iranian regime feel it is their duty to help the twelfth imam appear and install the promised caliphate. If they are able to acquire or develop nuclear weapons, they can jumpstart their Islamic Tribulation by engulfing the world in a nuclear conflagration. Their first targets would be the Little Satan and the Big Satan – Israel and the United States.

Everyone in the Middle East knows Israel has nuclear weapons; Israeli citizens know Israel has nuclear weapons, and Israel ‘s enemies know they have nuclear weapons. As much as the Saudis despise Israel and the Jews, they know the Jewish State will never use the nuclear weapons they have unless they are absolutely forced to do so.

Iran has no such scruples. The Iranian regime has let the world know in no uncertain terms they will practice no restraint or restrictions when it comes to the Little and Big Satans. When they acquire nuclear weapons, they will not hesitate to use them. While the Saudis, who follow Sunni Islam, can’t stand Jews they look at the Iranians and think, “These people are crazy.” A Middle East with Israel and its nuclear weapons will still allow the Saudi royal family to keep its hedonistic lifestyle with lip service to Islam and Middle East peace. A Middle East with Iran and nuclear weapons will destroy the Middle East completely, including Saudi Arabia and the Saudi royal family.

The Saudis have made a practical decision based on their own self interests – what is best for them. If push comes to shove, Saudi Arabia will allow Israel use of Saudi airspace and their military bases if that is what it takes for Israel to rid the Middle East of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. That way, the Saudis can continue the status quo – condemn Israel for the lack of progress concerning the peace process, refuse to have direct diplomatic relations with Israel, and describe Jews as descendants from apes and pigs, all the while continuing their lavish parties and trips and keeping their positions in the corrupt state monarchy.