by Ghassan Kadi
Ever since Saudi Arabia signed its agreement with American President Roosevelt in February 1945, it never ever considered, or even contemplated to be outside the American sphere of influence and protection.
In my previous article https://thesaker.is/the-price-of-bin-salmans-head/ I elaborated on some of the personal issues that define the nature of the relationship that Saudi royals have with American lawmakers as men, not as politicians, not as allies, but simply as men trying to understand and deal with each other.
With all the dirt, greed, blood and guts, when one looks into the American-Saudi relationship from the outside, it’s clear that they are very different to each other and couldn’t have worked together successfully whether on good or nefarious projects. Neither of them had any good intentions toward the other or to the rest of the world; they deserved each other.
The Saudi-American marriage “was” at best a marriage of convenience, in which both parties looked at each other with the view of a one-stop-shop convenience store.
To the Saudis, the American one-stop-shop meant a customer with great thirst for oil, wealth to buy it with, and military might and determination to protect its flow.
To the Americans, the Saudi one-stop-shop meant a supplier of virtually endless supplies of a crucial commodity, one that is unable to stand on its own feet and dictate its terms, and one that will bend over and backwards to ensure continuity of sales for and protection.
The marriage was perhaps an epitome of pragmatism, though it was not often perceived as such.
But think about it, just look at the irony; an anti-democratic fundamentalist Muslim nation that sees all non-Muslims as infidels, signing the deal of the century with a nation that is secular, predominantly Christian and allegedly the protector of democracy.
But back in early 1945, pre-Hiroshima America was not technically a superpower yet, and Saudi Arabia was an insignificant and, by-and-large, an unknown kingdom to the rest of the world. Back then, the paradox was not as pronounced as it is now.
And even though by 1945 the Zionist Lobby was well and truly preparing for the creation of Israel, the American-Saudi deal would have gone ahead with or without any Israeli presence and role. It goes without saying though, that the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 has, among other things, created geopolitical turmoil which made it more pertinent for the Saudi-American marriage to withstand the ravages of time.
The marriage has lasted, and it’s not time for divorce, at least not yet, but perhaps the time has come for a serious revision; from both ends of the bargain.
If MBS hasn’t yet realized that the Americans can drop him personally like a hot potato, then he must be stupid. Indications are he is ruthless, arrogant, ambitious, megalomaniac, hasty, but stupid he is not.
The manner in which the Khashoggi episode has been manipulated by the media and the whole West is partly to be blamed on the Saudi state, and partly on MBS personally. And when Saudi FM Al-Jubair tries on several occasions to distance MBS from the story, he is actually expressing the biggest Saudi fear and inadvertently putting MBS in the centre court and line of fire.
Saudi Arabia is therefore facing two Western “attacks”; one that is general and centered on the whole regime and another that is centered on MBS himself. It is most hypocritical of the EU nations to suddenly consider enforcing an arms sales embargo on Saudi Arabia. The Khashoggi story did not have any impact on the war on Yemen. The suffering of the Yemeni people has been going on ever since the needless criminal war started. And although the current EU stand can go a long way in isolating Saudi Arabia and perhaps weakening its military ability, it has come, if it comes, too little too late, and for all the wrong reasons.
For MBS, he now has many confrontations to contend with. His money-grabbing November 2017, Ritz Hotel house arrest of his cousins has left him with very few supporters from within the Royal Family. He is the Crown Prince to a throne that no longer has a formal lineage for succession and, it doesn’t even now have a second-in-line to MBS. In essence, every descendant of founding King Abdul Aziz is eligible and there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of grandchildren.
His biggest domestic, or rather home battle therefore, is to make sure that the current impasse with America does not generate a strong contender for the throne, one that he is unable to set aside. And given that he has already been blemished by brutality after the Khashoggi drama, any stifling of royal dissent, even revolt, can easily be manipulated by the West again in a manner that portrays him as a new Saddam.
I have used the term “new Saddam” before, and we may need to get used to hearing it.
MBS will then have to tread very carefully with his cousins to ensure his position as Crown Prince is stable and unchallenged. Will he be able to do this? No one knows, especially if one of the challenging contenders suddenly receives bottomless Western support.
The other battle that MBS has to contend with is his diplomatic one with America and the rest of the West. The events of the last few weeks would have proven to him that without the façade of Western impunity, he is finished. He now knows that he doesn’t have a safe haven on the top of the hill with the big boys. And once again, he will have to pay America a price for his survival. He does not seem to have better choices.
But this situation is persuading him to scale down his reliance on America. However, when Saudi officials try to alarm America by making statements to the effect that they can buy Russian weapons instead of American ones, the American position becomes more resolute. Such ploys backfire on the Saudis.
Saudi Arabia cannot replace America with Russia, and for many reasons. If the Saudi-American marriage had its own ideological contradictions which both parties managed to overlook, a prospective Saudi-Russian marriage would have many more obstacles that would make it impossible to come to fruition; especially if Saudi Arabia demands the kind of military protection from Russia as it has demanded from the USA.
Saudi Arabia and Russia can engage in trade, sales of military hardware, etc., but they cannot and will not have a relationship that is akin to the Saudi-American marriage.
For starters, the two nations have never trusted each other, and they are not about to start doing this now. The support of Saudi Arabia to Jihadi fighters in Afghanistan in the early 1980’s and their continued support to Chechen terrorists are still fresh in the minds of Russians. After all, it was only five years ago that Prince Bandar Bin Sultan threatened President Putin with restarting the Chechen war if Putin did not support him in Syria.
And unlike the hypocritical West, Russia would not tolerate Saudi-sponsored fundamentalist religious schools to be spawned all over the Russian landscape.
And let us not forget that Russia does not need Saudi oil like America did, and if anything, to this effect, the two nations are competitors.
Knowing that flagging snuggling up with Russia made MBS’s impasse with America even worse, he seems to be taking a slightly different interim approach based on creating a situation that reduces his immediate need for America’s support, without having to go to bed with its mortal enemies.
An “allegedly” Pakistani initiative has been launched in an attempt to end the war in Yemen https://timesofislamabad.com/27-Oct-2018/yemeni-houthi-rebels-responds-to-pakistan-offer-and-stance-over-yemen-peace-talks .Whilst any attempt to end the war on Yemen is welcome news, the timing of such an initiative now draws suspicion.
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have a special and strong relationship despite some serious hiccups in the past. It is alleged that Saudi Arabia has contributed largely towards the development costs of the Pakistani A-Bomb, and in return, it expected to be supplied with A-Bombs, but Pakistan refused. And even though Pakistan also later on reneged on its promise to support the Saudi war on Yemen, neither Pakistan nor Saudi Arabia make any public negative statements about each other. In more ways than one, Saudi Arabia does not want bad blood with the only predominantly Sunni Muslim nation with nuclear arms, and Pakistan does not want bad blood with the richest Sunni nation either.
It is possible, in fact highly likely, that MBS whispered into Pakistani PM, Imran Khan’s ear, to launch the initiative of peace with Yemen. Thus far, the Yemenis have welcomed it (see reference above), and they cannot be blamed. They are suffering a huge humanitarian catastrophe that the world does not want to know about. As yet, there hasn’t been an official Saudi comment, and this implies acceptance. Had this “initiative” been made at a time when the war was winnable or had MBS personally not been under such enormous pressure, the Saudis would have immediately rejected it outright.
If MBS manages to end the War on Yemen, he will be setting aside one huge problem, and without a battle raging, his need for Western weapons would not be as critical as it is right now. Such a move would also preclude his immediate need for Russian weapons to replace American weapons with.
It seems that MBS has finally come to the realization that he is trying to bite off more than he can chew. But ultimately, unless he de-escalates his stand against Iran, he will remain under American stranglehold. On the other hand, if he indeed manages to find a face-saving exit from Yemen and also finds a way to manage less hostile relationships with Iran, he would be putting himself in the cross fire of America and Israel which he is trying hard to normalize relationships with.
Whilst contemplating all options available, MBS must see himself in the position of a dead man walking; with the choice of method of his own execution.
If he holds his ground against America, America can tighten the noose and suspend the arms supplies that he desperately needs for his war in Yemen. His Kingdom of Sand is a country that has a military budget exceeding that of Russia’s, but is unable to manufacture even bullets. Everything is imported, and if the war runs out of ammunition, MBS will have to beg other nations to supply him. This carries the potential risk of having the Houthis encroaching on Riyadh itself. But America can choose another course. With many Saudi princes begrudging MBS and harbouring strong vendettas against him, America can sponsor and support a rival prince who can challenge MBS for the position of Crown Prince. America can even sponsor a number of would-be contenders to the throne instead of just one, and thereby creating a fertile ground for a civil war that lures in other rival factions and not only necessarily royals. This can generate a state of chaos similar to what we now see in Libya. A civil war of this nature can go on for years with no clear winners. Such chaos, however, will not necessarily disrupt the flow of oil because its geographical theater will be centered around the precincts of the royals and their palaces around Riyadh and Jeddah, far away from the oil fields in the Eastern Province.
Knowing Americans and, judging by their history, they may opt to incite strife and prince-vs-prince rivalry. And even if the instability expands to the Eastern Province, the USA can always find a way to enact some resolution or another to put its hands on the oil fields as a measure of “national security”.
Unless MBS magically and miraculously finds a way out, he may have to choose between peace with his cousins plus, much to his dismay, peace with his regional enemies and rivals, or face the prospect of seeing his kingdom sliced into pieces. On the other hand, if MBS gives in to America’s demands, he may be able to keep his head and throne, but he will end up with an empty wallet and oil fields with title deeds in the name of the US Federal Reserve. Painful as it may sound, it is perhaps his only way out of this mess.
It’s a tough one for MBS. He is in a damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don’t situation, but in reality, he only has himself to blame. He and his evil predecessors have a long history of cruelty, arrogance, criminality and creating mayhem. Karma is catching up with them, and they deserve what they get.