In a harsh statement, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias condemned the rocket attacks launched by the Houthi militia in Yemen against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Especially the attack at the end of last month against its capital, Riyadh, is considered the most dangerous after that on Aramco in September 2019 and came a few days after the removal of the Houthi militia from the US terrorist lists. This was seen as a sign of weakness by the militia and the green light to raise the level of its demands and confirm its ability to harm its opponents, especially Saudi Arabia.
Nikos Dendias (source: Voliatki.gr)
Back in Greece, the Greek Foreign Ministry statement expresses a change in Athens' policy on the Middle East in general. Although Nikos Dendias did not blame the Houthis or Iran, it is a new addition to Greece's handling of the events taking place there. Despite the scale of the Aramco attacks and their negative effects on Saudi Arabia and the international community as a blow to global energy, Greece was one of the few countries that did not issue a statement on the incident. This was done in the context of the policy adopted by previous Greek governments in order to keep distance from the sensitive scene of the Middle East. However, it seems that this statement of condemnation will not be the last, given the escalation of tension in one of the most complex areas of the world.
First of all, it should be noted that the conflict between Iran and the Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, has its roots in Khomeini's arrival in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on February 1, 1979, with the success of the Islamic Revolution, the overthrow of the Shah's rule and the announcement of the goal of the leadership of the Iranian revolution to spread throughout the region. Over the past four decades, Tehran has managed to build alliances with various forces in the region, while the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has sought to resist Tehran's rise. This conflict was reflected in a series of crises such as the one in Lebanon with the support from both sides of the country's opposition forces. The militarization of the Syrian revolution created a new field for the ongoing conflict between Tehran on one side and Riyadh and Abu Dhabi on the other. The last battlefield, Yemen, which has been in a state of ongoing war since 2013, manifested in the civil war but is in fact a chronic regional conflict.
This battle-laden situation, following the arrival of Biden at the White House, who has limited ability to deal with conflicts, can gradually develop into a snowball and a state of polarization that is more dangerous than ever. This charged atmosphere cannot be separated from another conflict on one side of which is Tehran and on the other is Israel, which is worried about Iranian expansion in the region. In the midst of this scenario, Athens has chosen to normalise its relations with Abu Dhabi and Riyadh on the one hand and Israel on the other, a step whose results are in doubt.
Athens has always chosen to build friendly relations with the countries of the Middle East in general, as well as to be neutral in any conflict that occurs in this complex region. Greece is one of the safest countries in the world and with the fewest enemies. During the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it built peaceful relations with Israel and good relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization. On the one hand, it prepared an official visit for former Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos to Riyadh in February 2017, while allowing the reopening of the Saderat Iran bank in Athens and training Israeli pilots in the Greek south.
The shift to the above policy is radical but tacit. Today, the Greek army participates through a Patriot battery in the protection of Saudi Arabia's air security from external attacks, while the frigate Hydra of the Greek navy patrols in the Arabian Gulf in coordination with Paris to protect the security of the region. Until the joint military defence agreement between Athens and Abu Dhabi came to confirm a new reality, namely that Greece is now part of a Sunni Arab alliance, whose first and only enemy is Iran, which puts Athens in a similar hostile position to Tehran. This new reality, however, has another chapter related to Tel Aviv.
During a hurried visit, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with his Israeli counterpart Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, under the public title of cooperation between the two countries to combat Covid-19. But a Greek diplomatic source assured that this visit has a significant dangerous military aspect. The two sides stressed the need to expand military cooperation between them and Athens requested the lease of two drones for military use for a period of three years, while the final touches were made in the agreement for the construction of an air training base in Kalamata by an Israeli company. This sensitive visit and military rapprochement between the two countries was reflected in statements by Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi when he placed Greece at the top of Tel Aviv's list of allies against Iran and its allies. In this way, Athens is again in the position of Tehran's enemy.
Indeed, the public diplomatic relations between Athens and Tehran remain calm and stable and there are no statements from officials of the two countries that give another impression. But we cannot deny that the new military strategy recently adopted by Athens, will soon have new chapters, all aimed at supporting countries that are openly hostile to Tehran. In the same context, discussions have begun within the Greek-Arab-Israeli diplomatic line for the creation of a new alliance in the near future that will include Arab countries hostile to Iran plus Israel, in which Greece may also participate.
If this is done, it could be interpreted as a lack of confidence by members of this alliance in Washington's new Democratic leadership, led by Biden, which clearly does not want to take a hostile stance towards Tehran. The Greek side will use it internally as an acquisition of allies against Ankara and its plans in the eastern Mediterranean.
Given that we are at a time when war is closer than peace, increasing the level of relations between Greece and the rich countries of the Gulf is considered reasonable and its economic return can help Greece in its economic difficulties. Correctly. Certainly, these countries will not impose conditions for military cooperation in Athens in exchange for this economic cooperation. However, the truth is that the desire of the current Greek government to play a greater role in the region pushes it to dangerous and hasty steps, the negative medium and long-term consequences of which can be catastrophic. Gambling in an area that hardly passes through a decade without a war shows either naivety or ignorance of danger.