An animated video depicting a Saudi Arabian military victory over Iran dominated social media this week in the Arab world against the backdrop of mounting tensions between the Sunni and Shi'ite powers, vying fiercely for power in the Middle East.
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The five-minute long cartoon titled “The Saudi Strike Force,” produced by Saudi “youngsters,” according to the Saudi Sabq news site, opens with a quote attributed to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying that Iran’s primary goal is to reach the Qibla – i.e., the "direction" toward which Muslims pray, the Kaaba in Mecca. Furthermore, Salman warns that his country “will not wait until the battle takes place in Saudi Arabia” and as such, “will work toward having the battle in Iran.”
The video, with English narration and captions in Arabic, garnered over 860,000 views on YouTube as of Tuesday, and was widely shared on Twitter with translations in French, Turkish, Farsi, Spanish and Hebrew.
“The Saudi Strike Force” begins with the image of a Saudi humanitarian aid ship sailing through the Arabian Gulf. (The term "Arabian Gulf," used by U.S. President Donald Trump, among others, is typically perceived as a provocation by Iranians, who refer to it as the Persian Gulf.) Three small Iranian boats attack the aid ship, which is apparently fully weaponized and fires back, destroying them with ease.
Next the video shows an aerial attack by Iranian missiles, which are shot down by an American-made Patriot surface-to-air missile activated by a Saudi control center. The Saudis go on to thwart the Iranian offensive with other U.S.-made aircraft and the Europhyter Typhoon, and by activating the Chinese-made East Wind nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile, aka Dongfeng, which hits Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant and Badr Air Base.
The scene involving the East Wind missile prompted the Saqb news site to comment that the video was a way for the Saudis to showcase their weaponry and military might, flexing their muscles in order to intimidate Iran.
The video goes on to show Iran’s Mehrabad Air Base being destroyed and Saudi paratroops landing on Iranian territory, whereupon military commanders inform Crown Prince Salman that “the operation is moving as planned,” as the invading Saudi troops wave their flags enthusiastically. The troops corner an unknown Iranian leader and he surrenders, as planes drop notes reading. “Peace be upon you, Saudi Arabia is with the people of Iran” to an apparently grateful Iranian populace. The closing scenes show Iranians in the streets, celebrating their “liberation” by the Saudis, holding up pictures of the crown prince and waving Saudi flags, and masses of Muslims praying together at the holy site of Kaaba.
Reports on the Arabi21 Egyptian website suggested that “The Saudi Strike Force” was a "sarcastic reaction" to the Saudi Arabian government’s recent decision to reopen movie theaters, which were closed by the Sunni-dominated regime in the 1980s.
On Tuesday, Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed to have fired a ballistic missile at the Saudi capital of Riyadh, and the Saudi-led coalition reported that it intercepted the missile south of city.
Last week, the United States presented what it called conclusive evidence that Tehran has indeed supplied weapons to the Houthis, violating UN resolutions.
In early November, the Houthis reportedly shot a missile at Riyadh’s international airport. Saudi officials claimed that the missile was intercepted, a fact later disputed by The New York Times. After the Saudis blamed that attack on Tehran, an Iranian government newspaper, Kayhan, published a headline threatening that the next Houthi missile would hit Dubai, implying that Iran regime may have some control over the targets selected by the Houthis. (Kayhan, ironically, was suspended from publication for two days by the regime in Tehran and reprimanded for what was called a “belligerent” headline.)
Following the November attack, Mohammed bin Salman called Iran’s Supreme Leader “the new Hitler of the Middle East.” Subsequently, Tehran accused the Saudis of colluding with Israel and not preventing President Trump from making his declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.