[To be updated]
Official and Semi-official: Restraint
The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs was guarded in its official statement, despite implicitly referencing past Iran-associated actions as justification and motivation for the act. The Kingdom “calls for the importance of self-restraint” to avoid “aggravating the situation, with unbearable consequences.”
Adel Jubeir (Minister of State for Foreign Affairs) followed this up by calling for تهدئة or “de-escalation.”
Abdelrahman al-Rashed published back-to-back op-eds on developments in Al-Sharq al-Awsat, first on Qassem Suleimani, the loss suffered by the regime, and the potential for targeting countries in the region:
“Americans seem more confident and audacious than ever. Although the Iranian regime has killed hundreds of Americans in the past forty years, this is the first time that Washington has taken revenge on the regime directly… The Americans have a list full of Iranian targets that they can hit if Iran tries to challenge them. That is why it is unlikely that Iran would dare infringe on American power, and it is more likely that it will resort to revenge by hitting Gulf or European allies. this could be a plane, ship, embassy, or facilities, or direct targeting of individuals. Iran has arms in Afghanistan.”Abdelrahman al-Rashed, Aawsat, 1.5.2019
And then on Iraq’s positioning after the assassination:
“The Baghdad government siding with Tehran will not serve Iraqi interests, nor will it benefit Tehran in confronting the Americans. The Tehran regime has for some time wanted to control billions of Iraqi oil dollars to finance its costly military operations in Syria and support Hezbollah in Lebanon.”Abdelrahman al-Rashed, Aawsat, 1.6.2019
In a further op-ed on Jan 9, Rashed expressed hope that the Iranian response would be limited, and that the establishment of a clear red line could lead to a diplomatic outcome:
“We all know that Iran only respects the language of force and this is what makes the American resort to force without borders and red lines against it a political act par excellence, capable of changing the situation in the region for the better…Abdelrahman al-Rashed, Aawsat, 1.9.2019
The conclusion will be positive. After these painful strikes on the Supreme Leader’s regime, diplomatic options become available within a reasonable framework from that are in the interest of the region, including Iran itself.”
Still, the general mood of patriotic Saudi commentators was more jubilant than anything else.
“If the Iranians do not fully digest the killing of #Qassem_Suleimani and feel a chill setting in around them, they will pull the temple down on their own heads, then it will be said of them: they were hoist by their own petard!”
There was certainly no sympathy for Suleimani in any extent of Saudi media, as exemplified by a Riyadh op-ed entitled “General Blood”:
“With the death of General Soleimani, the Iranian regime is losing one of its most important pillars, one that implemented its expansionist policies. This has created a jolt that the regime is trying to overcome with statements from all sides calling for revenge. This indicates state of confusion that has arisen in its ranks.”Editorial, Al-Riyadh, 1.3.2019
Thus far, responses outside the highest levels of Saudi officialdom have been somewhat more bellicose, reflecting a similar dynamic to the outbidding seen in online discussions over the STC this summer.
From the editor of Okaz:
“Abolishing the role of the sinister Suleimani is undoubtedly a gain. But that will not mean stopping at this stage. Iranian evil is, in fact, a very complex project in strategic and geopolitical terms. It does not target the United States and its allies in the region, but rather the world…Jamil Al-Dhiyabi, Okaz, 1.4.2019
What is certain is that the world will not rest until the mullahs’ regime is completely removed and the enclaves created by it are eliminated worldwide.”
Others warned against the potential for Iran to undermine ties between the US and the Kingdom, while lumping together all of the Kingdom’s rivals and enemies in the region as part of the same organized effort.
“Iran has learned through harsh experience that Trump is not Obama. Iran will not respond, but will continue to throw its cheap pawns into Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen for the appearance of gains. But I think striking the relationship between the Kingdom and America is the revenge that Iran seeks to achieve by using its donkeys, the Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda.”
Unsurprisingly, Muhammad Sa’id of Okaz had the most fantastical, conspiratorial take:
Today, Saudi Arabia is benefiting from – having accomplished – the resolute and clever policy that it pursued. This policy protected itself from efforts to target it from abroad in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon and the Houthis, led by Qassem Soleimani, and internally from the fifth column. It also protected them from the agent of the international organization of the Brotherhood, loyal to an additional group represented by Turkey and Qatar.
Not were these the only enemies. The deep states in the world, which are controlled by the left forces and the security services in America, Germany, Britain, and Canada, were allied with the former two groups [Qatar and Turkey], because Riyadh is the last stronghold of the independent national state, and with its fall the whole region becomes permissible and accessible.
Muhammad Sa’id, Okaz, 1.9.2020
“This is the position of Hamas and the Brotherhood from Turkey to Tehran, passing by Qatar. Between all of their “guides,” there is rightly guided one among them, even if they called “Qassim Suleimani the Martyr.” The Brotherhood who follow me, and all who tweeted about the Brothers in attacking me, do they have any minds left or were their brains replaced with shoes?”
“Mourning for Qassim Suleimani in Gaza. Look how far the Safavids have penetrated! This is what the Brotherhood does in every land where they are. Don’t forget that Morsi did, restoring flights [to Iran] and opened tourism [to Iran – visa on arrival] until Sisi came and canceled all that!! You could have seen this scene in Egypt and Sudan and Libya Were it not for the fall of the Brotherhood!!
Some pointed to the visit of Qatar’s FM to Tehran as a sign of Qatari subordination to Iran (including mocking a bad photo-edit job to suggest Qatari penance for being the source of the drone launched to assassinate Qasssimi).
“Qatar was humiliated by changing the color of its flag from maroon to black on the visit of the Qatari foreign minister to Tehran after the killing of Qassem Suleimani. The Iranians know that the plane that killed Soleimani was launched from Doha, and they know that this base is the greatest danger to the Iranian presence, but they are trying to exploit Qatar financially.”
“The Daily Mail reports on the killing of the terrorist Qassimi. It declares that the plane that killed the terrorist took off from the American base in Qatar. Perhaps this explains the rushing of the foreign minister of Qatar And his team to Iran, and blackened their flag…”
Even from the normally more staid editor of the Independent Arabia:
Worn-out sovereignty. The plane that killed Qassim Suleimani was launched from the base of many in Qatar, and the first Arabs notified of his death were the Doha government. Do not forget that when a billion dollars was the ransom for the release of Qatari fishermen from Iraq, the share of Suleimani was 50 million.
These statements were joined by surprisingly anti-Qatar comments in (mostly English-language) media.