[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] F [/yt_dropcap]oreign policy of President Trump is slowly but steadily working to increase its arms sale to the world. The advantages of arms trade for USA without any expenditure on US part are great. Upon his visit to Saudi Arabia that resulted in tensions in the Arab world as Qatar is being targeted by other Arab nations, Trump has got a lump sum trade deal from Qatar to the tune of whopping $ 12 billion. It is a big deal as US regime attempts to navigate an ongoing diplomatic crisis in the Gulf.
On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain announced they were cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar for its support for “terrorism”. Along with severing diplomatic ties, the Riyadh-led blockade was imposed against Doha. Saudi, which shares the only land border with Qatar, shut the crossing and stopped goods being transported to its gas-rich neighbour. Saudi, UAE and Bahrain also closed their airspace to flights to and from Qatar, forcing airlines to remove Doha from their list of destinations.
President Trump’s first ever recent foreign tour in Middle East, where a fanatically arrogant Israel behaves like the regional superpower with US made illegal nukes plus high precision conventional terror goods, including cluster bombs that are being bought by third world counties across the globe, has cussed ripples among Arab nations, leading to the ouster of Qatar from the Gulf States club. This, as foreseen by Washington, has obviously isolated Qatar to search for alternative routes to secure its security.
Qatari Defense Minister Khalid Al-Attiyah and his US counterpart, Jim Mattis, completed the $12 billion agreement in Washington to buy F-15 fighter jets from the USA, according to the Pentagon. The aircraft purchase was completed by Qatari Minister of Defence Khalid Al Attiyah and his US counterpart Jim Mattis in Washington DC on June 14 Wednesday.
The weapon transfer comes just weeks after Trump signed a deal with Saudi Arabia for almost $110bn in US arms. It also comes amid a diplomatic row between a Saudi-led bloc of nations and Qatar. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain and a number of other countries severed relations with Qatar earlier this month, accusing it of supporting armed groups and Iran – allegations Qatar has repeatedly rejected. Riyadh also closed its border with Qatar, the only land border the emirate has. In addition, the closure of Saudi, Bahraini, and Emirati airspace to Qatar-owned flights has caused major import and travel disruptions.
Huge Qatari deal for 36 F-15 jets from the USA is significant as the two countries navigate tensions over President Donald Trump’s backing for a Saudi-led coalition’s move to isolate the country for supporting terrorism.
The deal was completed despite the Gulf country being criticized recently by US President Donald Trump for supporting terrorism. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and representatives from Qatar were all set to meet to seal the agreement for 36 jets. In November, the United States approved possible sale of up to 72 F-15QA aircraft to Qatar for $21.1 billion. Boeing Co is the prime contractor on the fighter jet sale to the Middle East nation. Boeing declined to comment. Trump on Friday accused Qatar of being a “high-level” sponsor of terrorism, potentially hindering the US Department of State’s efforts to ease heightening tensions and a blockade of the Gulf nation by Arab states and others. The sale will increase security cooperation and interoperability between the USA and Qatar, the Pentagon said.
The deal is “yet another step in advancing our strategic and cooperative defence relationship with the United States, and we look forward to continuing our joint military efforts with our partners here in the USA”, said Attiyah. The sale “will give Qatar a state-of-the-art capability and increase security cooperation and interoperability between the United States and Qatar”, the Defence Department said in a statement.
Last year, after the State Department approved the jet sale, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency issued a report saying that the proposed sale enhances the foreign policy and national security of the United State by helping to improve the security of a friendly country and strengthening our strategically important relationship. “Qatar is an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Persian Gulf region,” the agency said. Good for them and their defense in the long run. The current dispute between us should hopefully be temporary and end soon. The real enemy is and has always been the Persian Iranians on the other side.
American terror base
Qatar has long been accused of funneling money to the Muslim Brotherhood — which has officially forsworn violence but is still accused of terrorism by some countries — as well as to radical groups in Syria, Libya and other Arab nations. But it is also home to two major American command posts, including a $60 million center from which the United States and its allies conduct their air war on Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
Qatar hosts the biggest US military base in the Middle East with US 11,000 troops and coalition service members deployed to or assigned to Al-Udeid Air Base in the desert outside the Qatari capital of Doha. More than 100 aircraft operate from there. The Al Udeid U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) military base in Qatar was set up in 2003 after it was moved from the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. The base, which boasts a long runway of 12,500 feet, is an important facility for the U.S. as it can accommodate up to 120 aircrafts. The base in Qatar serves as logistics, command and basing hubs for the U.S. CENTCOM area of operations, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
In another development, two US Navy vessels arrived in Doha for a joint exercise with Qatar’s fleet. The American boats arrived at Hamad Port south of Doha “to participate in a joint exercise with the Qatari Emiri Navy,” according to a Ministry of Defence statement posted on QNA. The crews of the two vessels were received by Qatari navy officers. It was unclear if the arrival of the two warships was planned before the Gulf rift or if it was a sign of support from the Pentagon.
Saudi led GCC wants USA to shift its airbase from Qatar. The US military lauded Qatar for its “enduring commitment to regional security” and said U.S. flights out of Al-Udeid airbase in Qatar were unaffected by the Gulf diplomatic crisis and also said that it has “no plans to change our posture in Qatar”..
Trump accused Qatar of being a “high-level” sponsor of terrorism, potentially hindering the US Department of State’s efforts to ease heightening tensions and a blockade of the Gulf nation by Arab states and others. Officials at White House said Trump was not trying to cause a rupture among Sunni Muslim nations in the Middle East. A US diplomat noted that Russia had much to gain from divisions among Iran’s rivals in the region, particularly if they made it more difficult for the United States to use Qatar as a major base. “For sure, this is an attempt at regime change”
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Qatar needed to end its support for Hamas before ties with other Arab Gulf states could be restored. Hamas responded to the statements saying they “constitute a shock for our Palestinian people and the Arab and Islamic nations”, and that the remarks gave Israel an excuse “to carry out more violations against the Palestinian people”.
Gulf Arab states and Egypt have long resented Qatar’s support for Islamists, especially the Egyptian-based Muslim brotherhood, which they regard as a dangerous political enemy. The coordinated move, with the Maldives and Libya’s eastern-based government joining in later, created a dramatic rift among the Arab nations, many of which are in OPEC. Announcing the closure of transport ties with Qatar, the three Gulf States gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave. Qatar was also expelled from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.
Turkey’s presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said on June 14 that the crisis surrounding Qatar is damaging for the Islamic world and Turkey is working to help resolve the issue through diplomacy. Speaking at a press conference, Kalın said Ankara was sending food assistance to Qatar after neighboring Gulf Arab states severed ties with Doha and imposed sanctions saying it supports terrorism and courts regional rival Iran. Kalın also said a Turkish military base in Qatar, set up before the regional spat, was established to ensure the security of the whole region and did not have an aim of any military action against any country.
The current Qatar-Gulf crisis has offered Israel a golden opportunity to normalize its presence in the region, undermine the Palestinian cause and deliver a diplomatic blow to the Islamic Resistance movement, Hamas. Under the pretext of fighting “terrorism”, the anti-Hamas, anti-political Islam coalition seems to be emerging with the Saudi-led bloc and Israel at its heart. Israel’s rapid adoption of the Saudi position confirms that the two countries share Israel’s vision on regional developments and the Palestinian cause.
Israel, which has only signed peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, stands to benefit most from the Qatar-Gulf crisis. The Gulf crisis “will serve to undermine Hamas and redraw regional policies in accordance with the Israeli visions as Israel seeks to normalize its relations with the Arab states while isolating the Palestinian question”. Following the crisis, Israeli officials’ repeated statements centered on fighting “terrorism” and hopes for “cooperation” with the Gulf States on security concerns. “There can be no doubt that this opens many opportunities for cooperation in the war against terror. The state of Israel is more than open to such cooperation. The ball is now in their court,” said Avigdor Lieberman, the Zionist illegal settlers’ leader and Israeli military minister, at the Israeli parliament on June 6.
Israel is in need of Qatar’s mediation to deal with some of the pricklier issues in the Hamas-administered Gaza Strip, such as funds for reconstruction. The Gaza Strip, a small enclave that is home to about two million residents, has been under an Israeli blockade for more than a decade. It has witnessed three Israeli assaults that have resulted in the destruction of essential infrastructure and the impoverishment of its residents. In the face of the Israeli siege and its occupation of Gaza, Qatar has been one of the biggest financial contributors to the strip’s reconstruction.
Israel is hoping to make political gains from the Gulf crisis and the blockade on Qatar by weakening Hamas and undermining its influence in the Gaza Strip, and demonizing it in the Arab world under the pretext of “terrorism”. The Saudi attack on Hamas and its portrayal of the movement as a “terrorist organisation” serves the Israeli agenda and is consistent with Israel’s goal to eliminate the Palestinian cause.
The purpose behind Israel isolating Qatar was to pressure it to withdraw its support for Hamas and to pressure it to fall back in line with Saudi policies, or what Israel describes as the “moderate” Arab camp.
Playing on regional rifts in the Arab world, with the divide between the Gulf States and Iran, Israeli officials and analysts often speak of an unofficial “moderate axis” of Arab countries that are purportedly working behind the scenes with the Israeli government. In this “alliance”, Western-backed countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and several of the Gulf states, as well as Jordan and Morocco, are said to be pitted against their “common enemies” such as Syria, Iran, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, etc.
These are longstanding tensions that have been bubbling under the surface but with the reported comment from Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani last week where he was alleged to have said positive things about Iran and negative things about other states was seen as an opportunity for the other powerful Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and the Emirates to actually clamp down on Qatar.
The US stance amid the Gulf’s diplomatic rift was thrown into further confusion when Tillerson called on Saudi Arabia to ease the blockade on Qatar. The US’ top diplomat has since attempted to mediate between the two sides, and on Tuesday the State Department said efforts to resolve the crisis were “trending in a positive direction”.
Meanwhile, President Trump thrust himself into a bitter Persian Gulf dispute, taking credit for Saudi Arabia’s move to isolate its smaller neighbor, Qatar, and rattling his national security staff by upending a critical American strategic relationship. In a series of tweets, Trump said his call for an end to the financing of radical groups had prompted Saudi Arabia and four other countries to act this week against Qatar, a tiny, energy-rich emirate that is arguably America’s most important military outpost in the Middle East. “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology,” he said, pointing to Qatar — look!” The president also appeared to be trying to ease tensions. In a call with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Trump said that unity among gulf nations was “critical to defeating terrorism and promoting regional stability,” according to a White House statement.
Trump during his visit focused his attention on Saudi Arabia and the UAE perhaps ignoring Qatar suggesting Trump’s policies are directed towards the two countries at the expense of Qatar and other weaker states in the region. But the current standoff between GCC nations and Qatar has put the U.S. in a tough spot for a number of reasons. US Defense Secretary James Mattis and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered US support in brokering a solution between the feuding nations.
The Pentagon military has been eager to avoid political quarrels with the Qataris, a goal reflected in statements by its spokesmen. “The United States and the coalition are grateful to the Qataris for their longstanding support of our presence and their enduring commitment to regional security”. An American diplomat in Doha said that Qatar’s relationship with the United States was “strong” and that it had made strides: prosecuting people suspected of funding terrorist groups, freezing assets and putting stringent controls on its banks.
Tension and confusion
Thanks to US interference and Israeli mishcief, Arab world is not undergoing a phase of continued tension and unavoidable confusion.
Everyone wants USA on their side and hence the Qatari deals with it in a hurry as Qatar knows only arms deals and pumping of money into USA can make USA be in good humors.
Saudi Arabia is just doing the monkey’s job of doing exactly what is told by the Super power. Saudi Arabia might feel elated that it has done a great favor to the new US President so that he would ask the NATO to attack Iran, thereby appeasing the Saudis.
Everybody and every nation are free to day dream. Riyadh also can do that but cannot expect the USA to listen to it just like American leaders obey Israel with which it conducts secret destabilizing operations globally, especially in West Asia. Here the winner is obviously the USA-Israel fascist twins- and not Saudi Arabia that managed the Arab show as the leader of Sunni world by gathering all other Arab nations to slam and boycott Qatar.
Perhaps, Arab world is destined to become and stay destabilized. There could be widespread instability in the region if the situation between Riyadh and Doha deteriorates further. Meanwhile, Israel also fears that if the Gaza crisis escalates, causing major splits and disputes within the Hamas movement, which could lead to an armed confrontation between the movement and Israel. But if the Saudi and Egyptian pressure leads Qatar to stop supporting Hamas, this could worsen the economic distress in Gaza as well as the military tension with Israel.
Religion is an important factor but this is a political struggle between the Saudis and the Iranians and of course the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt all fall in line with this. Arab leaders think exactly as US leaders want.
The danger in besieging Qatar lies in the potential adoption of a new tone governing diplomacy between Arab countries, which could have negative repercussions on the Palestinian cause.
Arab nations with their own foolishness have time and again proven that they are indeed the root cause of Hamas-Fatah inner fight and confrontation that directly helps Israel and USA.
Beyond the friendship diplomacy between Morocco and Mauritania
Over the past decade or so, many politicians and diplomats have held that the most significant bilateral relationship has been between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. That remains true today, and it will be likely the case for long- term partnership to come, even as the sort of that relationship changes over time. Due to, diplomatic rapprochement between them and bilateral cooperation on several levels, Mauritania, tends formally to withdraw its full recognition of the Polisario Front “SADR” before the term of the current president, Mohamed Ould Al-Ghazwani, ends.
Yet, the truth is that Mauritania has unalterably shifted from the previous engagement with Morocco to the recent conflict with it on nearly all the key fronts: geopolitics, trade, borders security, finance, and even the view on domestic governance. To that extent, Mauritania was the most affected by the Polisario Front militia’s violation to close the Guerguerat border crossing and prevent food supplies from reaching their domestic markets. This crisis frustrated Mauritanian people and politicians who demanded to take firm stances towards the separatists.
In the context of the fascinating development in relations between Rabat and Nouakchott, the Mauritanian government stated that President Ould Ghazwani is heading to take a remarkable decision based on derecognized the so-called Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and Polisario Front as its sole representative and follow up the recent UN peace process through the case of Western Sahara conflict under UN Security Council resolutions.
Similarly, the United States announced that “Moroccan (Western) Sahara is an integral part of The Kingdom–a traditional Ally, and it supports the Moroccan government’s constitutional procedures to maintain Moroccan Southern provinces strong and united.” It was rapidly followed by all major countries of African, and the Arab Middle East also extended their supports to the government in Rabat. What a determined move against the Polisario Front separatism in a sovereign state!
During the Western Sahara dispute, the Moroccan Sahrawi was humiliated to the end by Polisario Front: it not only lost their identity but also resulted in the several ethnics’ claim for “independence” in the border regions within. currently, Morocco is the only regional power in North Africa that has been challenged in terms of national unity and territorial integrity. The issues cover regional terrorism, political separatism, and fundamental radicalism from various radical ethnic groups. Although the population of the “Polisario groups” is irrelevant because of Morocco’s total population, the territorial space of the ethnic minorities across the country is broadly huge and prosperous in natural resources. besides, the regions are strategically important.
In foreign affairs doctrine, the certainty of countries interacting closely, neighboring states and Algeria, in particular, have always employed the issue of the Western Sahara dispute in the Southern Region of Morocco as the power to criticize and even undermine against Morocco in the name of discredit Sahrawi rights, ethnic discrimination, social injustice, and natural resources exploitation. therefore, local radical Sahrawi groups have occasionally resisted Morocco’s authority over them in a vicious or nonviolent way. Their resistance in jeopardy national security on strategic borders of the Kingdom, at many times, becoming an international issue.
A Mauritanian media stated, that “all the presidential governments that followed the former President Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidala, a loyal and supporter to the Polisario Front, were not at all satisfied with the recognition of the SADR creation due to its fear that it would cause reactions from Algeria. however, Mauritania today is not the state of 1978, it has become a well-built country at the regional level, and the position of its military defense has been enhanced at the phase of the continent’s armies after it was categorized as a conventional military power.”
This is what Mauritania has expected the outcome. Although neighboring Mauritania has weeded out the pressures of the Algerian regime, which stood in the way of rapprochement with the Kingdom of Morocco, and the Mauritanian acknowledged that Nouakchott today is “ready to take the historic decision that seeks its geopolitical interests and maintain strategic stability and security of the entire region, away from the external interactions.” Hence, The Mauritanian decision, according to the national media, will adjust its neutral position through the Moroccan (Western) Sahara issue; Because previously was not clear in its political arrangement according to the international or even regional community.
Given the Moroccan domestic opinion, there is still optimistic hope about long-term collaboration on the transformation between Morocco and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, even considering some temporary difficulties between the two in the Western Sahara conflict. For example, prior Mauritania has recognized the Polisario since the 1980s, but this recognition did not turn into an embassy or permanent diplomatic sign of the separatist entity in Mauritania, the Kingdom has a long-standing relationship with Mauritania and the recent regional politics would not harm that, because it’s a political circumstance.
Despite the strain exerted by the Polisario Front and Algeria on Mauritania, and intending to set impediments that avoid strategic development of its relations with Rabat, the Mauritanian-Moroccan interactions have seen an increased economic development for nearly two years, which end up with a phone call asked King Mohammed VI to embark on an official visit to Mauritania as President Ould Ghazwani requested.
For decades, the kingdom of Morocco has deemed a united, stable, and prosperous Maghreb region beneficial to itself and Northern Africa since it is Kingdom’s consistent and open stance and strategic judgment. Accordingly, Morocco would continue supporting North Africa’s unity and development. On the one hand, Morocco and Mauritania are not only being impacted by the pandemic, but also facing perils and challenges such as unilateralism, and protectionism. On the other hand, Rabat opines that the two neighboring states and major forces of the world necessarily established their resolve to strengthen communication and cooperation with each other. To that end, both states would make efforts to set up long-term strategic consensus including mutual trust, reciprocal understandings, and respect to the United Nations and the current international system based on multilateralism.
In sum, both Morocco and Mauritania are sovereign states with a strong desire to be well-built and sophisticated powers. Previous successes and experiences in solving territorial disputes and other issues have given them confidence, which motivated both countries to join hands in the struggles for national independence, equality, and prosperity. In sense of the world politics, two states promise to advance the great cause of reorganization and renovation and learn from each other’s experience in state power and party administration.
Getting Away With Murder: The New U.S. Intelligence Report on the Khashoggi Affair
It was October 2, 2018 when a man walked into the Saudi Arabian consulate to collect some documents he needed for his impending marriage. He had been there earlier on September 28, and had been told to allow a few days for them to prepare the needed proof of divorce from an earlier marriage.
So there he was. His Turkish fiancée had accompanied him and he asked her to wait outside as it would only take a minute or two. She waited and waited and… waited. Jamal Khashoggi never came out.
What went on inside is a matter of dispute but US intelligence prepared a report which should have been released but was illegally blocked by the Trump administration. Mr. Trump is no doubt grateful for the help he has had over two decades from various Saudi royals in addition to the business thrown his way at his various properties. “I love the Saudis,” says Donald Trump and he had kept the report under wraps. It has now been released by the new Biden administration.
All the same, grisly details of the killing including dismemberment soon emerged because in this tragic episode, with an element of farce, it was soon evident that the Turks had bugged the consulate. There is speculation as to how the perpetrators dispersed of the corpse but they themselves have been identified. Turkish officials also claim to know that they acted on orders from the highest levels of the Saudi government. They arrived on a private jet and left just as abruptly.
The egregious killing led to the UN appointing a Special Rapporteur, Agnes Callamard. She concluded it to be an “extra-judicial killing for which the state of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible.” She added, there was “credible evidence” implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior officials.
Now the US report. Intelligence agencies conclude Jamal Khashoggi was killed by a Saudi hit squad under the orders of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. They add that the latter has had unitary control over Saudi security and intelligence organizations and thus it was “highly unlikely” an operation of this nature would have been possible without Prince Mohammed’s authorization.
Mr. Biden’s reaction is plain. Although the Crown Prince is the de facto ruler with his father the King’s acquiescence, Mr. Biden has not talked to him. He called the king and emphasized the importance placed on human rights and the rule of law in the US.
President Biden is also re-evaluating US arms sales to the Kingdom with a view to limiting them to defensive weapons — a difficult task as many can be used for both, a fighter-bomber for example.
There are also calls for sanctions against the Crown Prince directly but Biden has ruled that out. Saudi Arabia is after all the strongest ally of the US in the region, and no president wants to jeopardize that relationship. Moreover, the US has done the same sort of thing often enough; the last prominent assassination being that of the senior Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, by the Trump administration.
US intelligence report leaves Saudi Arabia with no good geopolitical choices
The Biden administration’s publication of a US intelligence report that holds Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi creates a fundamental challenge to the kingdom’s geopolitical ambitions.
The challenge lies in whether and how Saudi Arabia will seek to further diversify its alliances with other world powers in response to the report and US human rights pressure.
Saudi and United Arab Emirates options are limited by that fact that they cannot fully replace the United States as a mainstay of their defence as well as their quest for regional hegemony, even if the report revives perceptions of the US as unreliable and at odds with their policies.
As Saudi King Salman and Prince Mohammed contemplate their options, including strengthening relations with external players such as China and Russia, they may find that reliance on these forces could prove riskier than the pitfalls of the kingdom’s ties with the United States.
Core to Saudi as well as UAE considerations is likely to be the shaping of the ultimate balance of power between the kingdom and Iran in a swath of land stretching from the Atlantic coast of Africa to Central Asia’s border with China.
US officials privately suggest that regional jockeying in an environment in which world power is being rebalanced to create a new world order was the key driver of Saudi and UAE as well as Israeli opposition from day one to the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran that the United States together with Europe, China, and Russia negotiated. That remains the driver of criticism of US President Joe Biden’s efforts to revive the agreement.
“If forced to choose, Riyadh preferred an isolated Iran with a nuclear bomb to an internationally accepted Iran unarmed with the weapons of doom,” said Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Washington-based Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and founder of the National Iranian American Council. Mr. Parsi was summing up Saudi and Emirati attitudes based on interviews with officials involved in the negotiations at a time that Mr. Biden was vice-president.
As a result, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel appear to remain determined to either foil a return of the United States to the accord, from which Mr. Biden’s predecessor, Donald J. Trump, withdrew, or ensure that it imposes conditions on Iran that would severely undermine its claim to regional hegemony.
In the ultimate analysis, the Gulf states and Israel share US objectives that include not only restricting Iran’s nuclear capabilities but also limiting its ballistic missiles program and ending support for non-state actors like Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iraqi militias, and Yemen’s Houthis. The Middle Eastern states differ with the Biden administration on how to achieve those objectives and the sequencing of their pursuit.
Even so, the Gulf states are likely to realize as Saudi Arabia contemplates its next steps what Israel already knows: China and Russia’s commitment to the defence of Saudi Arabia or Israel are unlikely to match that of the United States given that they view an Iran unfettered by sanctions and international isolation as strategic in ways that only Turkey rather than other Middle Eastern states can match.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE will also have to recognize that they can attempt to influence US policies with the help of Israel’s powerful Washington lobby and influential US lobbying and public relations companies in ways that they are not able to do in autocratic China or authoritarian Russia.
No doubt, China and Russia will seek to exploit opportunities created by the United States’ recalibration of its relations with Saudi Arabia with arms sales as well as increased trade and investment.
But that will not alter the two countries’ long-term view of Iran as a country, albeit problematic, with attributes that the Gulf states cannot match even if it is momentarily in economic and political disrepair.
Those attributes include Iran’s geography as a gateway at the crossroads of Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe; ethnic, cultural, and religious ties with Central Asia and the Middle East as a result of history and empire; a deep-seated identity rooted in empire; some of the world’s foremost oil and gas reserves; a large, highly educated population of 83 million that constitutes a huge domestic market; a fundamentally diversified economy; and a battle-hardened military.
Iran also shares Chinese and Russian ambitions to contain US influence even if its aspirations at times clash with those of China and Russia.
“China’s BRI will on paper finance additional transit options for the transfer of goods from ports in southern to northern Iran and beyond to Turkey, Russia, or Europe. China has a number of transit options available to it, but Iranian territory is difficult to avoid for any south-north or east-west links,” said Iran scholar Alex Vatanka referring to Beijing’s infrastructure, transportation and energy-driven Belt and Road Initiative.
Compared to an unfettered Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE primarily offer geography related to some of the most strategic waterways through which much of the world’s oil and gas flows as well their positioning opposite the Horn of Africa and their energy reserves.
Moreover, Saudi Arabia’s position as a religious leader in the Muslim world built on its custodianship of Islam’s two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, potentially could be challenged as the kingdom competes for leadership with other Middle Eastern and Asian Muslim-majority states.
On the principle of better the enemy that you know than the devil that you don’t, Saudi leaders may find that they are, in the best of scenarios, in response to changing US policies able to rattle cages by reaching out to China and Russia in ways that they have not until now, but that at the end of the day they are deprived of good choices.
That conclusion may be reinforced by the realization that the United States has signalled by not sanctioning Prince Mohammed that it does not wish to cut its umbilical cord with the kingdom. That message was also contained in the Biden administration’s earlier decision to halt the sale of weapons that Saudi Arabia could you for offensive operations in Yemen but not arms that it needs to defend its territory from external attack.
At the bottom line, Saudi Arabia’s best option to counter an Iran that poses a threat to the kingdom’s ambitions irrespective of whatever regime is in power would be to work with its allies to develop the kind of economic and social policies as well as governance that would enable it to capitalize on its assets to effectively compete. Containment of Iran is a short-term tactic that eventually will run its course.
Warned former British diplomat and Royal Dutch Shell executive Ian McCredie: “When the Ottoman Empire was dismantled in 1922, it created a vacuum which a series of powers have attempted to fill ever since. None has succeeded, and the result has been a century of wars, coups, and instability. Iran ruled all these lands before the Arab and Ottoman conquests. It could do so again.”
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