How Saudis Rally Support Against Iran

How Saudis Rally Support Against Iran How Saudis Rally Support Against Iran

Somalia received a pledge of aid for $50 million from Saudi Arabia this month on the same day it announced it was cutting ties with Saudi rival Iran, a document seen by Reuters showed.

The government, which did not confirm or deny the pledge, has said there was no link between long-running Saudi financial support and its diplomatic decision to break ties with Iran.

But diplomats said it was the latest sign of financial patronage used by the kingdom to shore up regional support against Iran, a rivalry that deepened this month when Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and Iranian protesters responded by storming Saudi missions in Iran.

“The Saudis currently manage to rally countries behind them both on financial grounds and the argument of non-interference,” a diplomat said.

A document from the Saudi Embassy in Nairobi to the Somali Embassy in the Kenyan capital showed the kingdom pledging $20 million in budget support and another $30 million for investment in Somalia, a nation trying to rebuild after two decades of war.

The two grants would come from the Saudi Development Fund, according to the document that was dated Jan. 7, the same day Somalia cut ties with Tehran.

Somalia cut relations with Iran claiming that Tehran had meddled in Somali affairs and threatened national security. Mogadishu gave Iranian diplomats, among the few stationed in the Somali capital where bomb attacks are frequent, 72 hours to leave.

Somalia’s Finance Minister Mohamed Aden Ibrahim declined to comment on the pledges, but said any financial assistance from Saudi Arabia was not related to Mogadishu’s stance against Iran.

“Our relationship with Saudi Arabia was longstanding and is not something that has just started,” the minister told Reuters.

Several other Arab states such as neighboring Bahrain, a long-time close ally and recipient of Saudi largesse also cut ties. Other wealthier Persian Gulf states withdrew envoys. Sudan, which like Somalia and Saudi Arabia is a member of the Arab League, said it had cut ties with Iran.

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud met King Salman bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud in Saudi Arabia in October. A Saudi team had visited Somalia in late 2015 to discuss further Saudi support for the country.

“Any financial and other requests that we made to the Saudis were way before” Somali cut ties with Iran, Foreign Minister Abdusalam Omer told Reuters.