This is a scenario I have not seen discussed anywhere, hence the need for me to lay it out.
As it will become clear, there are good reasons why such a scenario is not only possible but it is likely to happen at some point in the future.
First, the good news: There is no intelligence (as far as I know) indicating that my scenario is going to happen in the immediate future.
The bad news: There are good geostrategic reasons and historical precedents that would make such a scenario possible,logical and likely.
The Geostrategic Overview
It’s no secret that Iran wants to become the dominant power in the region.
It is also no secret that the Saudis fear a nuclear Iranian as much as the Israelis.
The Saudis have good reason to fear Iran. There is not only the struggle between Shias and Sunnis going on for about 1300 years, a struggle for dominance of the muslim world, but there is also a struggle for control of resources and territory of strategic and religious importance.
Let’s look at a map for an overview of the geostrategic situation.
We see that the strait of Hormuz (circle 1) goes between Iran and Oman. 85% of all the oil from the gulf goes trough this strait.
This means that Iran can disrupt the flow of oil at least for a limited amount of time.
Iran threatened to do this as a response to an Israeli/US-attack on Iran on multiple occasions.
Yemen, the country of the latest huge Iraian success is situated on another chokepoint.
The part of Yemen controlled by Iran’s proxies, the Shia Houtis, is near the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb (circle 2).
This means that the Houtis, equipped with mobile Iranian anti-ship missiles could seriously disrupt, if not block, all maritime traffic in that strait.
A large amount of the maritime vessels travelling between Europe and the far East are passing through that strait coming and going to and from the Suez canal.
There should be no illusion that the Houti uprising is merely a local movement.
As was made crystal clear by Iran:
“The Houthi group is a similar copy to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and this group will come into action against enemies of Islam,”
“The Islamic republic directly supports the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the popular forces in Syria and Iraq,”
The next big prize for Iran is Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Árabia is not only the home of the two “holy” cities Mecca (circle 3) and Medina (circle 4) but it has also huge oil reserves.
56% of the world’s oil and gas reserves are located inside the red triangle on the map (credits to Mark Langfan for his ‘Black gold triangle’ map).
It’s obvious that much of that oil and gas is already under Iran’s control in Iran itself and in the Shia populated areas of Iraq. Most of the Saudi oil and gas is also located inside the triangle and much of it in an area with a Shia majority.
Furthermore, the state of Bahrain (cirlce 5) which has also a Shia majority is, despite it’s tiny size, of huge strategic importance since it is the home of the 5th US fleet.
That tells us all we need to know about the geostrategic importance of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
The Players And The Scenario
The US administration acts on the premise that Iran has a common goal in defeating or decimating the Islamic State and would therefore cooperate with the US to achieve that goal.
This premise is fatally flawed for multiple reasons.
According to former CIA officer Claire Lopez the American counter terrorism efforts in Yemen are paralized despite the amazing fact that the US is sharing intelligence with the Houtis.
Moreover the premise is flawed because it fails to acknowledge the fact that Iran and the Islamic State have bigger common strategic goals.
1. The destruction of Israel.
2. Bringing down the West.
3. To drive out the “infidels” from muslim lands, especially to end Western/American presence in the Middle East.
4. To conquer/control Saudi Arabia.
Conquest/control of Saudia Arabia would help greatly achieving the other goals and is becoming increasingly important by the day because of the low price of oil we currently enjoy and the Iranians suffer greatly from.
The Saudis have only one way to defend themselves against an Iran that is in the process of becoming a nuclear state which has made no secret about its regional and global ambitions.
They flood the markets with oil, thus keeping the price of oil low, thus hurting the Iranian economy which depends on much higher oil prices. As a neat side effect this hurts also the Russians who support the Iranians and the Shia Assad regime in Syria.
The other player, the Islamic State makes no secret about its desire to conquer Saudi Arabia and its hatred for the Saudi regime.
In an interview a member of the Islamic State declared: “We Will Annihilate Saudi Arabia”.
Individually both Iran and the Islamic state are not yet strong enough to bring the Saudis down.
A Shia revolt in Bahrain in the wake of the “Arab Spring” was quickly crushed.
But if both coordinate to execute a simultanious attack they would have good chances to bring the Saudi regime down.
Though the Saudis have a functioning state with a decent army they have internal weaknesses.
The regime essentially bribes the people by spreading the oil wealth around,
The prevalent islamic brand “Wahabbism” is ideologically not much different from the ideology of the Islamic State.
While the Islamic State is waging the violent fast jihad the Wahabbis are waging slow jihad by financing terrorists and mosques preaching jihad around the world and by subverting politics and institutions in the West.
If the Saudis were attacked on two fronts (by islamic jihadis and by a Shia uprising supported by Iran) it would be much more difficult to defend themselves.
If a Shia uprising could significantly disrupt Saudi oil production it would cripple Saudi economy which would quickly put the Saudi King under pressure from his own population.
Moreover, we can expect that at least some Saudis would, because of the shared ideology, join the islamic state.
If the Saudis would fall Bahrain would fall next. That would deal a huge blow to America because the headquarter of the 5th US fleet would be gone.
If the US would defend the Saudi regime against the jihadis it would galvanize support for them.
More Saudis could be expected to join the fight against the “infidels”.
For both the Islamic State and Iran such a scenario would be a win-win situation.
The US would be dragged into another war, losing men and resources while the hated Saudi regime is becoming weaker and weaker until it breaks down.
For Iran it would be a win because the hated Saudis, the Islamic State and the Americans would kill each other.
If the US would simply pull out of Saudi Arabia it would mean practically the end of the US presence in the gulf.
As oil prices would skyrocket all the bad guys (Iran, Russia and Venezuela) would make big, big money.
Because this scenario is so dangerous the West should destroy the Islamic State in Sysria/Iraq before it metastazises further.
Iran should be rolled back and its nuclear program should be destroyed.
The current threat from Iran should be used to offer the Saudis assistance on the condition that they stop all funding of mosques spreading jihad in the west and that they stop all subversive activity in the West.
The Historic Precedent
Is such a scenario realistic?
Would the Iranians and the Islamic State who want to destroy each other work together?
I say yes, if the Iranians would be confident that they could defeat the Islamic State after the collapse of the Saudi regime.
For those who still believe that the Iranians and the Islamic State hate each other too much I want to show a historic precedent.
The year was 1944.
Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union were fighting each other to the death.
One could not imagine two regimes hating each other more than these two.
The war in Russia was fought with a brutality that was unprecedented.
Huge armies annihilated each other in the greatest battles ever seen.
Whole cities were destroyed and huge numbers of civilians were killed by the Germans and by Stalin himself.
In their unstoppable advance the Russians reached the gates of Warshaw.
As the Russians were advancing the Poles were expecting them to go into Warshaw and rose up in resistance.
But the Russians didn’t go further.
In a cynical move that disgusted the world Stalin ordered his troops to halt and wait until the Germans had annihilated the Polish resistance. It took the Germans two months to annihilate the resistance completely.
Stalin’s calculation was very simple. He was absolutely confident that his military would defeat Germany and since he planned to absorb Poland in his communist empire after the war would end he wanted all potential resistance to be annihilated.
The Germans were very willing to oblige.
The rest is, as they say, history. Germany lost the war and the Soviet Union won. Poland was behind the Iron Curtain till 1989.