Egyptians and Saudis Simulate War with Iran

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are preparing themselves for war with Iran. The two Arab countries just held their first joint military exercises called Tabuk-2 over a one-week period, simulating a scenario unofficially based on a potential conflict with the Iranians. The exercises took place in the northern Egyptian desert and included F-16 aircraft, helicopters, and artillery units. The forces practiced defending against an enemy offensive and counter-attacking with an invasion into the attacker’s territory.

The Israeli intelligence website Debkafile accurately analyzes what this scenario means. They note that the commander of the Saudi forces in the exercise was Prince Khaled Bin Sultan of the Ministry of Defense and Aviation. His most recent experience was in leading the Saudi forces fighting the extremist Shiite Houthis in Yemen that spearheaded a proxy war waged by Iran. The Egyptians and Saudis are preparing to defend Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province from an Iranian assault. This province is about three-fourths Shiite and is the location of about 90 percent of the Saudi oil production. It is ripe for instability and Iranian-backed subversion.

These exercises indicate that the Egyptians are committed to quickly sending reinforcements to the Saudis in the event of Iranian intervention in the Eastern Province, as well as a joint counter-offensive into western Iran to force the regime to pull back its forces. Iran has experienced much internal strife in this area, particularly in the Arab-populated province of Khuzestan. This province holds 90 percent of Iran’s oil production, making it the Iranian equivalent of the Saudi Eastern Province. The Egyptians and Saudis seem to believe that the Arabs in this area, as well as possibly other disgruntled minorities, will rise up in arms against the regime. Acts of violence by these minorities against the regime’s security forces, military bases, and infrastructure have been rising in recent years.

The two Arab countries have a right to be worried. The Iranian proxy war in Yemen showed that the regime is becoming increasingly aggressive in the Gulf. And shortly after the Egyptian government arrested 49 Hezbollah operatives in April 2009 for involvement in a terrorist plot, the terrorist group called for the overthrow of the moderate Arab regimes, specifically that of Egypt. The country’s prime minister flatly stated that Hezbollah had “virtually declared war.” During the fighting in Yemen, the Iranian regime threatened to bring the violence to Saudi territory and warned the royal family that their actions could cause their overthrow.