Posts Tagged ‘Mohammad’

 

The geopolitical reality in the Middle East is changing dramatically.

The impact of the Arab Spring, the retraction of the U.S. military, and diminishing economic influence on the Arab world – as displayed during the Obama Administration – are facts.

The emergence of a Russian-Iranian-Turkish triangle is the new reality. The Western hegemony in the MENA region has ended, and not in a shy way, but with a long list of military conflicts and destabilization.

The first visit of a Saudi king to Russia shows the growing power of Russia in the Middle East. It also shows that not only Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but also Egypt and Libya, are more likely to consider Moscow as a strategic ally.

King Salman’s visit to Moscow could herald not only several multibillion business deals, but could be the first real step towards a new regional geopolitical and military alliance between OPEC leader Saudi Arabia and Russia.

This cooperation will not only have severe consequences for Western interests but also could partly undermine or reshape the position of OPEC at the same time.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is currently hosting a large Saudi delegation, led by King Salman and supported by Saudi minister of energy Khalid Al Falih.

Moscow’s open attitude to Saudi Arabia—a lifetime Washington ally and strong opponent of the growing Iran power projections in the Arab world—show that Putin understands the current pivotal changes in the Middle East.

U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and even the UAE, have shown an increased eagerness to develop military and economic relations with Moscow, even if this means dealing with a global power currently supporting their archenemy Iran. Analysts wonder where the current visit of King Salman will really lead to, but all signs are on green for a straightforward Arab-Saudi support for a bigger Russian role in the region, and more in-depth cooperation in oil and gas markets.

In stark contrast to the difficult relationship of the West with the Arab world, Moscow seems to be playing the regional power game at a higher level. It can become an ally or friend to regional adversaries, such as Iran, Turkey, Egypt and now Saudi Arabia. Arab regimes are also willing to discuss cooperation with Russia, even though the country is supporting adversaries in the Syrian and Yemen conflicts and continues to supply arms to the Shi’a regime in Iran.

Investors can expect Russia and Saudi Arabia to sign a multitude of business deals, some of which have already been presented. Moscow and Riyadh will also discuss the still fledgling oil and gas markets, as both nations still heavily depend on hydrocarbon revenues. Arab analysts expect both sides to choose a bilateral strategy to keep oil prices from falling lower. Riyadh and Moscow have the same end goal: a stable oil and gas market, in which demand and supply keep each other in check to push price levels up, but without leaving enough breathing space for new market entrants such as U.S. shale.

Putin and Salman will also discuss the security situation in the Middle East, especially the ongoing Syrian civil war, Iran’s emerging power, and the Libya situation. Until now, the two have supported opposite sides, but Riyadh has realized that its ultimate goal, the removal of Syrian president Assad, is out of reach. To prevent a full-scale Shi’a triangle (Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon), other options are now being sought to quell Tehran’s power surge. Moscow is key in this.

Putin’s unconditional support of the Iranian military onslaught in Iraq and Syria, combined with its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon or Houthis in Yemen, will be discussed and maybe tweaked to give Riyadh room to maneuver into the Russian influence sphere. The verdict on this isn’t yet out, but Riyadh’s move must be seen

in light of ongoing Moscow discussions with Egypt, Libya, Jordan and the UAE.

A growing positive Putin vibe in the Arab world is now clear. The strong leadership of Russia’s new Tsar has become a main point of interest for the (former pro-Western) Arab regimes. The U.S. and its European allies have only shown a diffuse political-military approach to the threats in the MENA region, while even destabilizing historically pro-Western Arab royalties and presidents. Putin’s friendship, however, is being presented as unconditional and long lasting.

Even though geopolitics and military operations in the Middle East now are making up most headlines, the Saudi-Russian rapprochement will also have economic consequences. Riyadh’s leadership of OPEC is still undisputed, as it has shown over the last several years. Saudi Arabia’s eagerness to counter the free-fall of oil prices has been successful, but a much bigger effort is required to bring prices back to a level of between $60-75 per barrel. Russia’s role—as the largest of non-OPEC producers—has been substantial, bringing in not only several emerging producers, but also by putting pressure on its allies Iran, Venezuela and Algeria.

The historically important Moscow-Riyadh cooperation in oil and gas is unprecedented. Without Russia’s support, overall compliance to the OPEC production cut agreement would have been very low, leading to even lower oil prices.

The Saudi-Russian rapprochement could, however, be seen as a threat by the West and OPEC itself. Western influence in the region has waned since the end of the 1990s, not only due to the peace dividend of NATO, but especially because OECD countries are moving away from oil. Saudi Arabia had to find new markets, which happened with China and India. The Saudi future is no longer based on Western customers or support, but lies in Asia and other emerging regions. The FSU region has also popped up on Saudi screens. Investment opportunities, combined with geopolitical support and military interests, are readily available in Russia and its satellite states.

For OPEC, the Moscow-Riyadh love affair could also mean a threat. Throughout OPEC’s history, Riyadh has been the main power broker in the oil cartel, pushing forward price and production strategies; most of the time this was done in close cooperation with all the other members, most of them Arab allies. This changed dramatically after Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to cooperate in global oil markets. Through the emergence of this OPEC/ non-OPEC cooperation, Moscow and Riyadh have grown closer than expected. The two countries now decide the future of global oil markets before they discuss it with some of the other main players like UAE, Iran, Algeria and Nigeria. King Salman’s visit is seen as another step toward a more in-depth cooperation in oil and gas related issues.

Besides global oil market cooperation, Saudi Arabia is and will become more interested to invest in natural gas development, not only to have an interest in Russia’s gas future but also to bring in Russian technology, investment and LNG to the Kingdom.

At the same time, media sources are stating that Saudi Arabia is NOT asking Russia to take part in the long-awaited Aramco IPO in 2018. Russian individual investors and financial institutions, however, are expected to take an interest.

Putin understands not only Russian chess tactics but also the Arab “Tawila” approach. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman already will prepare his Tawila strategy, putting enough stones on the table to ensure his successful end game. MBS, currently de-facto ruler of the Kingdom, is targeting a full house—Russian cooperation in energy, defense and investments—while softening Moscow’s 100% percent support of the Shi’a archenemy Iran.

For both sides, Moscow and Riyadh, the current constellation presents a win-win situation. Moscow can reach its ultimate goal in the Middle East: to become the main power broker and knock the US from the pedestal. For Riyadh, the option to counter the Iranian threat, while also bolstering its own economy and hydrocarbon future, is now within reach.

King Salman’s trip could go down in history as the point of no return for the West. Pictures of Russian President Vladimir Putin and King Salman of Saudi Arabia could replace historic pictures of King Saud and U.S. President Roosevelt (Bitter Lake, 1945). In a few years, King-to-be Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman might tell his children that this was one of the pillars that changed not only the Middle East but also supported his Vision 2030 plan of becoming a bridge between the old (West) and the new (Russia-Asia).

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“You will see we are not in any particular animosity with the Americans,” Ayatollah Khomeini said, and promised to President Jimmy Carter that Iran would be a “tolerant democracy.”

  • Although the State Department has in its just released annual report on world-wide terror designated Iran as the world’s premier state sponsor of terrorism, the Obama administration has assisted Iranian militias in Iraq with air support, provided intelligence to Hezbollah’s allies on Israeli air strikes, and has steadfastly refused to use any military force against any elements of the Assad regime.
  • America is apparently bent on repeating — yet again — the historic wrong turn it took in 1979 by once again embracing the radical Islamic regime in Iran. Why would the U.S. administration think doing the same thing again will have a different outcome?

 

Senior leaders from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were in Washington last week, meeting with top U.S. diplomatic and defense officials, and are deeply concerned America has significantly worsened the situation in the Middle East by creating a “strategic partnership” with Iran.

Thirty-seven years ago, U.S. President Jimmy Carter paved the way for Iran’s Islamic theocratic dictatorship to come to power, according to newly declassified secret documents, reports the BBC Persian News Service. The documents show that Carter pledged to “hold back” the Iranian military from attempting a coup, which would have prevented the return of the exiled Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini from France.

The documents also reveal that the Carter administration believed — erroneously — that bringing Ayatollah Khomeini into power in Iran, and in the process abandoning the Shah, would preserve American interests, keep the Soviets out of the region, protect U.S. allies, and ensure the flow of oil to the world’s industrial nations.

In one of his many messages to President Carter, Khomeini played into that belief. “You will see we are not in any particular animosity with the Americans,” Khomeini said, and promised that Iran would be a “tolerant democracy.”

 Unfortunately, the mullahs did not stop their terrorist ways; and the U.S. government, through successive administrations, did not stop them, either.

The Reagan administration, for example, deployed “peacekeepers” to Lebanon under Congressionally-mandated rules of engagement that, tragically, only facilitated the Iranian- and Syrian-directed bombings of the U.S. Marine barracks and embassy in Beirut.

Then, the Clinton administration refused to lift an arms embargo and provide weapons to Muslims in the former Yugoslavia, ensuring that Iranian weapons and influence would fill the void.

The result of decades of the U.S. policy in Iran is that since Islamic terrorists took power in Tehran in 1979, Iran has murdered thousands of Americans — in addition to those killed in the bombings in Lebanon, the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, the African embassies, and the World Trade Center in New York.

U.S. court decisions have so far held Iran responsible for more than $50 billion in damages owed to American citizens for these terror attacks, which directed by the mullahs and their terrorist proxies.

America’s military has also suffered. Thousands of American and allied soldiers have been killed and maimed by Iranian Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It could be argued that the United States has at times had to make deals with unsavory countries. It was allied with the Soviet Union, for instance, in the fight to destroy Nazism in World War II. So, the thinking might go, a genuine agreement to eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons program might require some compromise and thus a type of “partnership”.


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during talks in Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2014. (Image source: U.S. State Department)

The Obama administration has, in fact, sought to justify its embrace of Iran by citing the assumed benefits from a nuclear agreement with Iran. But the current “nuclear deal” with Iran is not a real agreement. The Iranians never signed it.

Members of Iran’s parliament reviewed it and made it clear that they would only adhere to those parts of the agreement they liked, insisting in a public statement, released after the review, that the U.S. had no reciprocal flexibility.

While the Obama administration tried to portray the agreement as one which would “dismantle” much of the Iranian nuclear infrastructure, the facts were that Iran was able to keep an “industrial sized nuclear program“. Elliot Abrams describes the Iranian strategy on its nuclear program as trading “permanent American concessions for Iranian gestures of temporary restraint”.

Even worse, under the “deal” Iran would ultimately be able to become a full-fledged, legitimate nuclear power in roughly ten years. Additionally, despite promises and signed UN resolutions to the contrary, Iran’s ballistic missile program continues, giving Tehran the largest missile inventory in the Middle East.

Thus, the current US “tilt” toward Iran has not been a carefully calibrated outreach to a dangerous adversary. It has been instead a firm embrace of a dictatorship that has not only killed thousands of Americans, but continues to undermine U.S. and allied interests in the Gulf and elsewhere.

Moreover, although the State Department has in its just released annual report on world-wide terror designated Iran as the world’s premier state sponsor of terrorism, the Obama administration has assisted Iranian militias in Iraq with air support, provided intelligence to Hezbollah’s allies on Israeli air strikes, and has steadfastly refused to use military force against any elements of the Assad regime. In 2014, President Obama wrote to Supreme Leader Khamenei that any US military action in Syria would “target neither the Syrian dictator nor his forces”.

Destroying ISIS or stopping terrorism against America and its allies cannot be achieved by embracing Shia terrorists directed by Tehran.

The Sunni nations of the Gulf, North Africa and the Mediterranean might be willing to provide leadership and manpower in a coalition to oppose Iran’s doctrine of Shia conquest. However, although the U.S. administration has repeatedly talked about such a coalition, America’s actions have continually embraced and helped Iran. As Michael Doran has explained, the result of the American administration’s embrace of Iran “has been the development of an extremist safe haven that… stretches from the outskirts of Baghdad all the way to Damascus.”

The U.S. could enter into talks with the Saudis, Egyptians, other Arab states and other countries in the region to help them build a coalition to oppose Iran’s plans to achieve hegemonic status in the Middle East.

Is reform in the region even possible? Or is the U.S. now solidly locked into an embrace with an increasingly hostile and violent Iran?

Reform in the Middle East does not come easily, but the “Arab Spring” illustrates that positive change can take place. Unfortunately, the Obama administration, as President Carter mistakenly did in 1979, has embraced the mullahs, who immediately sidelined any reformers who might have been democratically inclined. In Egypt, the U.S. then actively helped bring the extremist Muslim Brotherhood to power, until twenty-two million Egyptians themselves apparently decided they had tasted enough of such repression and revolted; and in Afghanistan, the U.S. pathetically kept looking for the “moderate wing” of the Taliban

America is apparently bent on repeating — yet again — the historic wrong turn it took in 1979, by once again embracing the radical Islamic regime in Iran. Why would the U.S. administration think doing the same thing again will have a different outcome?