Iran in the new talks on the Nuclear Treaty
In the current Iranian economic and political system there are many old and new geopolitical and economic tensions.
At a time when many countries, including China, but not the United States, are adopting the criteria of the Paris Climate Agreement- signed, however, by 196 countries – it is obvious that oil will see its economic and technological importance decrease, while the role of alternative energy resources and, above all, natural gas will increase.
This is the first aspect to be studied: Saudi Arabia does not possess significant reserves of natural gas which, however, is much more “environmental-friendly” than oil, while Iran and Qatar have plenty of it.
Incidentally, the two countries which were accused of “sponsoring terrorism” during the meeting gathering 13 countries in Riyadh in May 2017 to establish the “Sunni Arab NATO” – a meeting where President Trump-led America which, however, is supposed to have some intelligence, had to say only yes.
This is exactly the reason why Saudi Arabia wants to immediately double its gas production up to 23 million cubic feet per day, while the country is also thinking about an OPEC oil reduction of 1.8 million barrels per day until the end of 2018.
This situation has nothing to do with the situation prevailing in the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has 18% of all natural gas reserves in the world, the second in size after the Russian Federation’s.
Another political problem in the use of natural gas, as can be easily imagined.
Conversely, Qatar has “only” 14% of global natural gas reserves, the third largest region in the world in terms of oil and gas.
This is the reason why, for example, the issue of renewables is at the core of Vision 2030, the great Saudi reform project.
Saudi Arabia still ranks sixth in terms of natural gas reserves, and the new leader of the Saudi Kingdom, Mohammed bin Salman, wants to expand gas extraction in the country by approximately 4% or at most 6% on a yearly basis – with savings currently estimated at 71 US dollars for each oil barrel “replaced” by an equivalent amount of gas for the same energy production.
Hence the Saudi natural gas is mainly used at domestic level so as to avoid the energy additional cost of using national oil, which must be sold in huge quantities, while for Iran and Qatar gas is the only great economic and geopolitical opportunity of the future.
Moreover, Prince Muhammad wants to increase the production of solar energy, again to be sold to Europe, considering the obvious difference in sun exposure of Saudi lands compared to the European ones.
Hence new formulas for exporting oil and gas require different strategic configurations compared to the current ones, which arise from the now old invention of petrodollars after the Yom Kippur War but, above all, are unavoidable after the transformation of power potentials within the OPEC system.
Even today Iran often sells oil barrels in euros – Saddam Hussein’s original sin.
New energy routes to be established and defended towards Western markets and hence new distribution of satellite or enemy countries in the very long passage from the origin of energy sources up to European end consumers.
Also the United States relies on said consumers. I am afraid that, in the near future, it will try to sell us its shale oil and gas.
This explains the “materialistic” root of the Iran-Saudi Arabia tension in Yemen for the Shi’ite and Zaydist rebels of the Fifth Imam, the Houthis – officially called Ansar Allah – who should be supported by Iran, Eritrea and other Iran’s friendly countries.
Who controls Yemen controls the Suez Canal.
On the contrary, Saudi Arabia is helped there – although softly – by the United States and the United Kingdom.
I have not yet well understood the reason why the United States and Great Britain have long put all their eggs in the Saudi basket, thus relinquishing a more balanced action for hegemony over the Greater Middle East.
Obviously Mohammed Bin Salman still wants to sell significant shares of ARAMCO – the state-owned Saudi oil company – to major foreign investors and later diversify the Saudi economy.
The deal of the century for many US investment bankers.
The Saudi Prince has also planned to spend tens of billion US dollars on US armaments, mainly to support the Saudi invasion of Yemen and, again, to fight the Houthis, who inflicted heavy losses on Saudi Arabia itself and finally to strengthen the strategic friendly relationship with the United States, the primary axis of Saudi Arabia also after Mohammed Bin Salman’s “purges”.
Therefore, if Iran’s economic potential is released, the strategic potentials inside the Greater Middle East and relating to the link between Shi’ites and Sunnis are placed on an equal footing and, indeed, change in favour of Iran.
This is the real problem underlying the “reform” or the termination of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program, signed on July 14, 2015 between the P5 + 1 (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States, plus Germany) and later by the EU and the Shi’ite Republic of Iran.
Furthermore, obviously the post-1979/1981 sanctions against Iran had already seriously harmed Iran’s economy, which began to recover after 2015.
At the time, the cost of international sanctions for the Shi’ite Republic had been calculated at 100 million US dollars per day.
Pursuant to the JCPOA agreements, 1.3 billion US dollars have so far been returned to Iran for interest on frozen assets, while approximately 53.8 million dollars of “frozen” funds have not yet been returned to their legitimate owners.
The United States is keeping on indicating Iran’s persona non grata.
There are still other unresolved issues between Iran and the United States – many years after signing the JCPOA – but, as always happens in these cases, negotiations are very complex.
Iran has many advantages over Saudi Arabia: it has a more developed and diversified industrial structure; a lower fertility rate, as well as a less exploited oil production – and this precisely because of sanctions.
Nevertheless, for the time being Iran and the Caspian gas-producing countries can meet the energy demands of two major global players, namely Europe and China.
Both regions signed the Paris Climate Agreement.
Furthermore, within three years, Iran will have 24.6 billion cubic meters of gas available for being transferred to the pipelines, which can be calculated in addition to the current level of Iranian gas sales to both Europe and China.
What is the connection between this new Iranian geo-energy system and the probable US withdrawal from the JCPOA?
Let us consider the most important data: pursuant to the agreement, the IAEA can check every phase of the process for enriching Iranian uranium and plutonium – to an extent never experienced before in such international agreements.
Iran, however, must explain to the IAEA the relationship existing between the reprocessing of its uranium-plutonium and the probable military applications.
Again controlled by the IAEA, Iran shall certify it does no longer produce High-Enriched Uranium (HEU) or maintain reserves of such material. Furthermore, Iran must convert its heavy-water reactors (HWR) into research centres that can no longer produce plutonium suitable for nuclear weapons, under penalty of termination of the Treaty.
This is still enshrined in the JCPOA and in the IAEA’s practice.
Hence, since July 2015, the International Atomic Energy Agency based in Vienna has been monitoring every phase of the Iranian fuel cycle.
Nevertheless, the strictly military aspects of the Iranian nuclear system are not explicitly dealt with by the P5 + 1 agreement of 2015, but have been tackled in a separate document signed by both Iran and the IAEA, which defines a mechanism through which Iran replies directly to the questions put by the IAEA.
Iran, however, has currently no interest in manipulating or rejecting the 2015 agreement. Nevertheless, it is equally evident that the JCPOA has so far had no noticeable effects on the transformation of the Iranian support to Assad in Syria; to the Houthis in Yemen, who were initially attacked by Saudi Arabia, and to Iran’s operations on Saudi Arabia’s peripheral interests in the Middle East.
In short, the JCPOA works well in itself, but it is not politically useful to influence and condition Iran.
The agreement that President Trump wants to reject alone, possibly in contrast with his European allies, technically counteracts both ways through which nuclear weapons can be achieved, namely enriched uranium and plutonium.
However, with specific reference to uranium, pursuant to the P5 + 1 agreement, Iran must remove all the IR-2 centrifuges – developed from an old and now inefficient Pakistani model – and must also make the IAEA monitor the most modern IR-4 ones. According to the IAEA agreements and checks, they are fewer than thirty.
In the agreement already signed, it is also clear that for 15 years Iran cannot enrich uranium over 3.76% – a level that is very different from the previous 20%.
25 kilos of 20%-enriched uranium are needed to make a nuclear weapon.
Before signing the JCPOA, however, Iran possessed as many as 10,000 kilos of low-enriched uranium, which were enough to make ten nuclear weapons if the material had been further enriched.
With specific reference to plutonium, again pursuant to the P5 + 1 agreement, Iran accepts to immediately stop the construction of the Arak reactor and later turn it into a “normal” heavy-water reactor.
In 2016 Iran even made the Arak system unusable, by cementing the internal pipes.
In accordance with the JCPOA, the IAEA can carry out very intrusive checks.
The Vienna-based Agency can have free access to all Iranian nuclear facilities for the next 20 years.
An arbitration is also envisaged if the IAEA and the Iranian government disagreed with checking a site deemed “suspicious” by the Agency.
The arbitration time is approximately one month, but it is enough to check whether activities not permitted by the agreement have been carried out in that site.
However, every nuclear processing, operation and activity, even the hidden ones, leaves signs and traces that are very evident for the IAEA.
Furthermore, if Iran decided to organize a new production line of nuclear weapons on its own, it should at first build a new series of reactors and centrifuges, by using the scarce uranium it could find both internally and in covert international trade.
Nothing could be easier to discover.
Certainly the JCPOA lacks the immediate and selective procedures to carry out checks, where needed, without limits from the Iranian government but, once again, any deviation from the rule would be easily and quickly discovered by both the IAEA and any intelligence service operating on site.
With regard to the above stated matter of sanctions, it is worth recalling that Europe lifted its sanctions, including the 2012 oil embargo, on the day when the Treaty was signed.
Other sanctions were lifted by the European Union on trade in precious materials and gold, as well as on shipping and insurance.
As already mentioned, after signing the Treaty, the United States lifted sanctions on the Iranian funds frozen in their banks and on the financial assets of the Shi’ite Republic, as well as on part of the oil ones.
Nevertheless, currently President Trump does not want to maintain the agreement reached with Iran in 2015, unless it includes “expanded” safeguards.
Is it a way to favour Saudi Arabia unilaterally? Why? What does the United States get for it? Would it be more useful than a peaceful Iran entering the world market and, consequently, also abandoning dangerous anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli positions?
The US President essentially wants in-depth international inspections for Iran’s specifically military facilities, be they nuclear or not, besides additional sanctions if the Islamic Republic exceeds specific levels of missile tests, be they nuclear or not.
Certainly if President Trump participated in the talks on the North Korean nuclear system with a tough and isolated position, at least as far as the JCPOA is concerned–which many US analysts predict will “be dead and gone in May” – it would be impossible for Kim Jong-Un, for example, to take him very seriously.
Moreover, a few days ago the US President announced an increase in tariffs and duties on Chinese products to the tune of 60 billion dollars.
Obviously President Trump is putting pressures on China for North Korea to make less military investment, but China has well-known and powerful commercial countermeasures to take and it will certainly not leave North Korea alone, especially in a situation of exacerbated Sino-American relations.
Finally, the US President threatened to withdraw a substantial amount of US troops from South Korea.
This makes the traditional US ally in the Korean peninsula, namely South Korea, less loyal and provides to Kim Jong-Un additional cards to play during the negotiations – and the North Korean leader has already proved to be an excellent poker player.
The strategic aim underlying President Trump’s operation is obvious. He wants to favour- far too much – the old circle of interests between the United States and Saudi Arabia, which is connected with economic assessments (the military and non-military Saudi investment in the United States) or with the maintenance of the petrodollar system – which is essential for the whole Sunni and US horizon – so as to later isolate Iran as a “rogue state” and only terrorist country, thus forgetting the well-known ties existing between the Gulf petromonarchies and the Salafist, Qaedist and neo-Caliphate Middle East jihadism.
In simpler terms, “withdrawing” from the Treaty means that the United States wants to return to the pre-JCPOA sanction regime, which implies the return to stricter regimes for both the UN and the ever more reluctant European allies, who have already much business in place with Iran.
Germany is already lobbying in the EU for new sanctions against Iran, which, in its opinion, would convince President Trump not to withdraw from the JCPOA.
As Voltaire used to say, “a little evil is often necessary for obtaining a great good”, but in this case it is unlikely that the mechanism will work.
In this case President Trump would say that sanctions are fine with the EU and would add new ones.
To the delight of Saudi Arabia which, if deprived of geopolitical and military control east of the Middle East, would become much less tractable than it currently is.
Fighting each other – “Befriend a distant State and strike a neighbouring one”, as taught by the everlasting Chinese 36 Stratagems of the Art of War (and not only applying to war and military strategy).
This holds true also for Israel.
Certainly the pressure on the border with Syria must be relieved and Israel is right in conveying harsh signs of its presence. However, are we sure that an all-powerful Saudi Arabia throughout the Middle East still remains friendly to the Jewish State, albeit secretly? What about Palestine?
If, on May 12, President Trump reintroduces sanctions, Iran will no longer be able to export oil or anything else, since it would incur US “secondary sanctions” and any bank acting as a broker in Iran’s transactions would be excluded from the North American circuit, which is certainly no small thing.
The US President, however, can reduce the financial isolation of any country by declaring that one of its banks “has significantly reduced Iranian oil imports”, which provides further room for political autonomy for President Trump.
In fact, the EU is studying mechanisms to shield against US secondary sanctions, but May 12 is very close.
There is also the concrete possibility that President Trump may want to “make an agreement to have another agreement”: the US President may want to make a new JCPOA, with more sanctions, to force the Europeans to follow him in this adventure.
This would be the US President’s real goal, i.e. a EU economy again ancillary to the US cycle – as at the time of Kissinger’s “Year of Europe”.
This would be currently impossible.
The EU Member States also know that the sanctions on Iran increase the oil barrel price by one or two dollars.
And these sanctions against Iran cost to the United States over 272 million US dollars a year.
Approximately 315,000-420,000 fewer jobs for the US rednecks.
What are the possible solutions? A proposal for a new JCPOA to be redrafted immediately, with a specific note in addition to those already present in relation to the IAEA checks on any nuclear weapon systems that could be installed on ICBM carriers.
Abolition – after a three-month standby period – of any secondary sanction procedure, after Iran declaring the size and structures of its missile program which may be used with very unlikely nuclear warheads.
Apart from the technical work carried out by the Vienna-based Agency, political control powers should be granted to a joint committee including JCPOA members and representatives appointed by the UN Security Council, without fearing any possible overlap, which can only do good.
We should make President Trump understand that, while it is true that the EU is the largest commercial region imposing import duties, repeating this model in the United States is not at all useful, neither for America, nor for Europe, nor for the Middle East countries which must let be developed in peace.
It is our primary interest for three main reasons.
Firstly to avoid being tied up, hand and foot, to Saudi Arabia alone; secondly to avoid financial transfers from the Sunni Middle East in one direction only and thirdly to avoid having to cover up, indefinitely, some countries which pay lip service to the fight against “terrorism” and, indeed, finance terrorists massively.
Iranian Strategic Patience: Israel and the Soft Wars
Unfortunately, by tracking the pattern of strategies of many countries based on exaggerated interest in human rights, women’s and democracy issues in Iran (such as the case of the death of the Iranian girl Mahsa Amini), it is no longer possible to ignore the extent of the political, security and cultural exploitation that is taking place. This pattern was adopted previously in Syria, which led to its entry into the quagmire of war since 2011. Therefore, based on the presence of Iran in the same political direction, the same pattern was followed, as the issue is linked primarily to confronting Iran’s rising power.
In principle, there is a strategy that has become clear and known, it is based on cultural backgrounds whose main goal is to fragment societies from within (soft wars). As many countries (Israel in particular) cannot accept at all the reality of Iran’s presence as a major regional power. Where, despite all the sanctions policies pursued to isolate and marginalize Iran during the past 45 years, Iran was able to build its own strength and consolidate its regional influence.
Consequently, those countries that are hostile to Iran have no choice but to move towards exploiting some controversial issues within Iranian society related to human rights, women and democracy, in order to destabilize and weaken it. Accordingly, these countries moved towards the option of soft war through:
- Cultural penetration within Iranian society to tear apart its political structure.
- Supporting terrorist movements, including trying to reproduce a new ISIS.
In this context, there is a lot of evidence confirming these external interventions aimed at plunging Iran into internal conflicts and wars, including but not limited to:
- Seizing arms shipments coming from abroad, which coincided with the internal riots.
- Dismantling terrorist cells that were planning to assassinate figures of Arab origin and carry out terrorist operations in religious places in order to ignite a civil war.
- Arresting terrorist groups linked to foreign intelligence working to smuggle weapons.
Based on these facts, it seems that the main goal is to destroy the societal structure, exaggerate political polarization, and undermine security stability. So that Iran becomes more fragile and subject to division. Practically, the Iranian Republic is facing a hybrid war, whose political goal is based on confronting Iranian influence, where this influence is based on:
– Sticking to the nuclear program.
– Supporting the resistance movements in their confrontation with the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
– Being present in Syria and assisting the Syrian army in its war against terrorist movements.
– Supporting the Houthis in Yemen permanently.
– Consolidate influence in Iraq at all levels.
– Strategic rapprochement with both Russia and China.
Here, it must be recognized that the internal Iranian tensions are a winning card that the United States and Israel have tried to exploit to incite the Iranian people against the regime and clash with it. This new situation or challenge required the Iranian government to adopt a different vision on how to deal with such developments. Where the Iranian government and its security institutions followed a policy of restraint and not taking any provocative step that might lead to a clash. On the contrary, work has been done to:
1- Absorbing the anger of the people and allowing demonstrations.
2- Closely monitoring the security situation and controlling terrorist cells.
3- Revealing to Iranian society the dirty policies of mobilization and media incitement.
4- Evidence that many opposition movements are linked to the agenda of foreign countries.
5- Linking the internal events with the pattern based on the implementation of the Syrian model in Iran.
In this context, and regardless of the extent of the Iranian government’s ability to confront these soft wars, there are very serious political, cultural and internal security challenges that can no longer be ignored, and they require a reconsideration of many policies that were thought to have become axiomatic, including:
– It is no longer possible to pursue a policy that is based on holding Iranian governments accountable and neutralizing the Supreme Leader of the Revolution or the institution of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist(Guardianship of the Faqih), from any responsibility.
– The existence of radical changes linked to security threats, which are no longer confined to the Israeli threat, but have extended to include terrorist movements.
– Increasing the complexities associated with foreign plans that seek to undermine the foundations of the Iranian state.
– Internal crises appear to be the most dangerous, and may lead to making strategic concessions at the level of the nuclear file, the Palestinian cause, and the relationship with Syria and the resistance movements.
In sum, the exaggerated interest in human rights issues comes in the context of the pressures that Iran has been exposed to for decades, to achieve geopolitical goals. However, according to how Iran faced the previous challenges, it seems that it is able to overcome the current difficulties, as the pillars of the state are still solid at all levels.
Furthermore, Iran’s ability to reassess its foreign relations should not be underestimated, based on the equation that Iran’s security is linked to the security of the region. Iran has many options that enhance this equation. There are multidimensional entitlements linked to the Iranian reality, whether in terms of the nuclear program or an increase in the intensity of the collision with Israel or energy security. For example, it is no longer possible to always rely on Iran’s continued restraint in Yemen, the resulting regional and global strategic repercussions, at least on the level of global energy security balances.
Not to mention that if Iran’s strategic patience runs out, it is not at all unlikely that Iran will directly target Israeli interests. Perhaps at some point the confrontation may be direct within occupied Palestine itself. As Iran is fully aware that all attempts to destabilize it cannot be separated at all from the reactions of Israel, which faces an existential danger after losing all its wars with the axis of resistance that is fully and unlimitedly supported by the Iranian Republic.
From our partner RIAC
Resumption of Saudi-Iranian relations, motives, and repercussions on the Middle East region
After 7 years of diplomatic estrangement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, recently announced in a joint statement between Tehran, Riyadh and Beijing that the two countries agreed to turn the page on their differences and normalize relations that have witnessed many tensions over the past decade. The two sides agreed to respect the sovereignty of states and not to interfere in their internal affairs, to resume relations and to reopen their embassies within a maximum period of two months. Tehran and Riyadh also agreed to the activation of their 2001 security cooperation agreement as well as their 1998 general agreement for collaboration in the areas of economy, commerce, business, technology, science, culture, sports, and youth.
The Saudi-Iranian agreement is considered the most important diplomatic event in the region during the past years, if it is adhered to, and it will have many repercussions and indications on the conflict-ridden Middle East region. After numerous unresolved rounds in Iraq and Oman in the years 2021–2022, the announcement of the agreement from Beijing is an unparalleled success for Chinese diplomacy, with significant repercussions on the international and regional arena. The agreement is a change in China’s strategy and foreign policy and an important geopolitical breach in the Gulf region, which will enable it to play an important and major strategic and pivotal role with the decline of the American role, which was the main player in the region.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have grown more aware of the necessity of a diplomatic resolution at this time and are more willing to do so, especially after the entry of China with its comprehensive strategic relations with the two parties, which played a significant role in bringing the parties’ differing points of view closer together following years of protracted negotiations. Each of the parties has its own reasons for reaching this diplomatic agreement. On the Iranian side, Iran is now in need of easing the external international isolation and calmed the situation inside Iran after the deterioration of the situation and the demands of the people to overthrow the regime there. Iran also felt the danger approaching after the halt of nuclear talks with the US side and the constant Israeli threat of a possible military strike to stop its nuclear program, and it is now trying to neutralize the Gulf side and relieve the increasing pressure on it.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia wanted to get out of this dilemma and having any role in the event that Iran will be targeted, which might make it and the rest of the Gulf countries vulnerable to danger. As a result, many Arab and Gulf countries declared their refusal to join any armed alliance against Iran prior to Biden’s visit to the Kingdom.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has also recently realized the failure of the United States to fulfill its promises to secure the Kingdom, especially in the wake of the attacks that targeted various important infrastructures in the Kingdom over the past few years. While it was anticipated that Washington would respond forcefully and firmly, Washington removed the Patriot batteries from the Kingdom and demonstrated that it had lost the ability to do anything to stop Iran and its arms in the region, despite the repeated targeting during the administrations of both American parties under Trump and Biden. Therefore, it is possible that Saudi Arabia tried playing it differently and went for a political deal that would spare it the negative effects of the conflict with Iran and the betrayal of its allies.
The relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia is clearly deteriorating, and the gap has grown since Riyadh recently refused to increase oil production despite Biden’s visit to the Kingdom, which Washington interprets as Saudi support for Russia in financing its war on Ukraine.
There has also been a discernible shift in Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy, favoring negotiation over conflict and emphasizing economic growth. As a result, Saudi Arabia has tried to improve ties with the majority of its regional rivals recently, as was the case with Turkey. The political solution with Iran may have been reached after all other options had been exhausted, the most recent of which was direct involvement in Yemen to assist the Yemeni government in its fight against the Iranian-backed Houthis.
It is obvious that there will be many shocks in the days to come. The decline in US-Saudi ties and Saudi Arabia’s openness to China and Russia could change the balance of power in the region and the world. The Iranian-Saudi deal, which was supported by China, was also a serious setback for the United States of America and its ally Israel, which may force the United States to change its foreign policy and rearrange its cards again to restore its influence in the region, after it witnessed a major shift towards East Asia, away from the Middle East and the Arabian Gulf.
The Iranian-Saudi deal, if it is upheld and carried out by both parties, will have great and positive repercussions on the Middle East region, which has been enflamed by conflicts for many years, and will mark the beginning of a political solution to many heated and crisis files in the region such as, the Yemeni, Syrian, and Lebanese crises.
This agreement between the two major regional players in the region will not be the end of all of their conflicts, but it is an important step towards developing common visions for thorny issues in a way that contributes to resolving the internal crises of many countries in the region, which may need a long time to be resolved, due to the lack of trust between the two sides, as well as the existence of International and regional countries which are not satisfied with the agreement and will try hard to thwart it.
The commitment of the two parties to the deal and the impact it will have on the regional and international situation will become more clear in the coming months, as well as whether it will result in stability and security in the region or spark new, more complicated confrontations.
Saudi sports blitz encounters headwinds
Saudi Arabia’s sports blitz is encountering headwinds.
Activists, athletes, and the soccer associations of Australia and New Zealand will celebrate their thwarting of world football body FIFA’s plans to accept Saudi Arabia’s tourism authority as a sponsor of this year’s Women’s World Cup.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino admitted as much at a news conference convened this week shortly after he was re-elected unopposed for a third term, even if he belittled it as “a storm in a teacup.”
Nevertheless, the thwarting sent a rare message that money can buy a lot but not everything.
It constituted the first setback in a string of successful Saudi bids to sponsor or host everything under the sporting sun.
Despite its abominable and worsening human rights record, Saudi Arabia has secured hosting rights for the Asian Football Confederation’s 2027 AFC Cup, the Olympic Council of Asia’s 2029 Asian Winter Games, and the 2034 Asian Games.
A regional human rights group, ALQST for Human Rights, has asserted that at least 47 members of the Howeitat tribe in Saudi Arabia have been arrested for resisting eviction to make way for Neom, a US500 billion futuristic science fiction-like region under development on the Red Sea.
Trojena, a mountainous part of Neom, is where the Winter Games are scheduled to be held.
Saudi Arabia is also bidding to host the 2026 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, and, together with Greece and Egypt, the 2030 World Cup.
The World Cup, like this year’s women’s tournament, is likely to produce headwinds. Not only because it involves not one, but two of the world’s most serious violators of human rights, but also because it will encounter stiff competition.
A joint bid by Morocco, Spain, and Portugal could prove to be a serious challenge on multiple fronts to the Saudi-led effort.
It represents a trans-continental bid that, unlike the Saudi-led proposition, is not designed to circumvent FIFA’s practice of spreading out the tournament across continents.
On its own, Saudi Arabia, as a Middle Eastern state, would not stand a chance so short after last year’s World Cup in Qatar.
The circumvention element is borne out by the kingdom’s willingness to fund all of Greece and Egypt’s World Cup-related expenses in exchange for the right to host three-quarters of the tournament’s matches in Saudi Arabia.
Moreover, the Moroccan-Spanish-Portuguese bid is likely to spark less controversy than its Saudi-led competitor.
While Qatar demonstrated that human and migrant rights criticism need not put a serious dent in the reputational benefits of hosting a sporting mega-event, it also showed that once a focal point of attention, always a focal point of attention.
Three months after the Qatar World Cup final, one million people signed a petition demanding the Gulf state compensate workers and/or their families who had been injured or died or suffered human rights abuse while working on tournament-related projects.
For Morocco, winning the bid would have special significance. Coming on the back of its darling status during the Qatar World Cup, a win would amount to payback for Saudi opposition to Morocco’s failed effort to secure the 2026 tournament hosting rights.
Saudi Arabia supported the winning US-Canadian-Mexican bid as a way of punishing Morocco for its refusal to back the 3.5-year-long UAE-Saudi-led diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar. The boycott was lifted in early 2021.
Perhaps the strongest headwinds the kingdom’s sports effort has encountered emanate from its controversial creation of LIV Golf, a US$405 million, 14-tournament league, to compete with PGA Tour, the longstanding organizer of the sport’s flagship events.
LIV Golf is “an exercise in public relations. A foreign government’s dollars are being used to enhance that government’s brand and positioning here in the United States,” US Congressman Chip Roy, a Texas Republican, said.
Even worse, circumvention was at the core of a ruling last month by a US federal judge ordering Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), to answer questions and produce evidence as part of the discovery process in a legal battle between LIV and PGA. The PIF funds LIV Golf.
The discovery could cast a spotlight on the secretive fund’s decision-making. The fund’s powerful governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, is a Cabinet-level official.
Judge Susan van Keulen’s ruling rejected an attempt by the PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan to evade turning over information connected to the courtroom battle because they allegedly enjoyed sovereign immunity as a state institution and official.
Earlier, US District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman, an avid golfer, ruled that the PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan fell under a commercial exception to US laws on sovereign immunity.
Some analysts suggest that Mr. Roy’s comment and the judges’ rulings could lead to LIV Golf being deemed a foreign influence campaign.
This would mean that its employees in the United States would have to register as foreign agents under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, or FARA.
The rulings call into question assurances provided in 2021 to England’s Premier League to assuage concerns that the PIF’s acquisition of England’s Newcastle United Football Club would put it under the control of the Saudi state.
The League’s chief executive, Richard Masters, said at the time that the Premier League had been given “legally binding assurances that essentially the state will not be in charge of the club” and that if there was “evidence to the contrary, we can remove the consortium as owners of the club.”
The League has so far refrained from taking the PIF to task in the wake of the US rulings because the Newcastle agreement stipulated that the Saudi state would not exercise control over Newcastle, not that it would not have the ability to do so.
Lawyers for Newcastle said there would only be a case if the Saudi state used its power to intervene in the club’s affairs.
“There’s an unmistakable irony in the sovereign wealth fund declaration emerging in a dispute about another arm of Saudi Arabia’s growing sports empire, but the simple fact is that Saudi sportswashing is affecting numerous sports, and governing bodies need to respond to it far more effectively,” said Peter Frankental, an Amnesty International executive.
Terrorism a Collective Problem and its Challenges
Terrorism has become a global problem that affects everyone regardless of race, religion, or nationality. The recent US report that...
The impact of AUKUS against China and Russia on the security of Asia and the world
The United States, the United Kingdom and Australia revealed the details of a joint plan aimed at establishing a new...
The Impact of Crypto-Assets on Governments and the International Community: A Forecast for 2035
As the financial and technological sphere rapidly develops, it will increasingly impact the entire globe, including global governance structures, and...
Iranian Strategic Patience: Israel and the Soft Wars
Unfortunately, by tracking the pattern of strategies of many countries based on exaggerated interest in human rights, women’s and democracy...
Accelerating the Use of Digital Technologies is Key to Boosting Economic Growth in Africa
With Africa’s share of the global workforce projected to become the largest in the world by 2100, it is critical...
Economic Diversification Away from Oil is Crucial for the Republic of Congo
Economic diversification away from oil is crucial for reversing recent economic setbacks in the Republic of Congo and put the...
Canada lacks capacity to lead Haiti mission
Canada’s top general said he was concerned that his country’s armed forces, already stretched thin by support for Ukraine and...
Finance3 days ago
NYP: The US dollar has become an at-risk currency
Africa4 days ago
Russia’s harmful influence in Africa
Middle East4 days ago
China and the Saudi-Iranian agreement: Curtailing the U.S. – Israel influence in the Middle East
World News4 days ago
POLITICO: The U.S.-Ukraine war unity is slowly cracking apart
Intelligence3 days ago
High-Altitude Espionage (Spy Balloon) and India’s National Security
Finance4 days ago
SVB fall: This is the financial catastrophe, but it’s just getting started
East Asia3 days ago
Organizational structures in formulating China’s decisions to manage international affairs Under Xi Jinping
East Asia4 days ago
India and South Korea: An Alliance for the Asian Century