For the first time in a long time I feel concerned and worried about the prospect of war. The reaction of Saudi Arabia to the Russian intervention in Syria has always been the wild card in the shifting geopolitical power base in the Middle East. Turkey and Israel, along with Saudi Arabia are the three countries with the most to lose because of a strong alliance between Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia.
These three traditional American allies have been accustomed to Western support in regards to their own specific regional goals and ambitions. This support has been so staunch and counterproductive to regional stability that the growing comfort and alliance between Iran and the US should be both confusing and worrisome to Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
On the one hand the US is making agreements with Iran and lifting sanction while on the other hand it is indirectly supporting Saudi Arabia’s and Turkey’s proxy war against Syria. A war which Iran, along with the support of Russia and Hezbollah, are resisting and countering with massive aerial and ground support.
This contradiction is suggestive of another and more complex strategy which may be unfolding in the Middle East. A strategy which is beginning to look familiar.
Back in 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait the state of the Iraqi dictator’s mind was both paranoid and desperate. The once American supported leader at some point felt he would have the blessings of the US administration in his regional adventures. The controversy surrounding US Ambassador April Glaspie’s comments to Saddam regarding having no interest in Iraq’s border dispute with Kuwait, and her later vindication by the release of a memo, is somewhat irrelevant as Saddam obviously felt the support was there. Whether through direct and straightforward communication or through trickery.
Once Iraq invaded Kuwait the Western press mobilized and a massive propaganda campaign against Saddam Hussein commenced. The once American ally was isolated on the world stage and suffered one of the worst military defeats in the history of warfare.
The interesting parallels between 1990 Iraq and 2016 Saudi Arabia are unlikely to be coincidental. Both have militaries which were built with American equipment and support. Both were used by American interests to counter Iranian regional ambitions. Both supported the sale of their domestically produced crude exports in US dollars.
In support of this conclusion we find the recent statement of Iranian Armed Forces’ Chief of Staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, who stated:
“US Defense Secretary [Ashton Carter] is supporting and provoking the House of Saud to march to the war [in Syria]. This is an indication that he is at a loss. It also proves beyond any doubt that they have failed.”
Are we to assume that the US strategy in the Middle East is at a standstill? I seriously doubt that and America’s agreements with Iran would support something else being afoot. America may be misleading Saudi Arabia down the same road as it led Saddam Hussein in the buildup to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Except this time the aerial bombardment will come from Russian forces and the mop up crew will consist of Iranian and Hezbollah forces.
Further support for this conclusion comes from the recent comments of John Kerry where he said “what do you want me to do, go to war with the Russians?”
Why is there this disconnect and contradictory approach within the American government? I seriously doubt that it is caused by opposing factions within the US establishment. A potential war of this magnitude will not be left to the whims of domestic bantering and browbeating.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey are both pushed into a corner over the shifting power base in the Middle East. The paranoia and desperation, like Saddam in 1990, could very well cause both countries to commit to the very act of aggression which will lead to their ultimate demise and removal from a position of influence within the region.
Are we on the verge of another war?
Perhaps. But I still content that it will be a regional war only and that the objective of that war will be the removal of once American allies who have been funded and provided with the equipment which will now have to be destroyed and removed from the region.
In the post The Coming Islamic Revolution in Saudi Arabia I wrote the following:
“There is a growing consensus that there may be a division within the Saud family itself. This is the one thing that could very well finally topple the monarchy. The House of Saud could be tearing itself apart with opposing strategies.”
“One strategy is based on maintaining socioeconomic and military control over the country, and working with other nations, such as China, on developing business contracts which are not based on crude, but on other sources of revenue which can be gained from alternative energy sources, such as nuclear.”
“The other strategy involves a conclusion where the Shiite majority which is building up around Saudi Arabia will eventually incite revolution within the country as the conflict in Yemen spreads further across the border, and deeper regional integration between the Shiite players takes place.”
It is plausible that an overthrow of the House of Saud would benefit the American strategy against China. The divisions within Saudi Arabia make it ripe for such a strategy explained above. Especially if there is a faction of the House of Saud which would be willing to take control of what remains and fit within a larger Middle Eastern regional alliance.
A negotiation with China regarding crude sales in renminbi as discussed in the post The Petro-Renminbi Emerges, could very well be the macro-geopolitical and macro-socioeconomic strategy which is unfolding here. Such an outcome would benefit both China and Russia, while also maintaining a check on Iranian regional ambitions.
To think that the US would enter into a major war against Russia over Saudi Arabia is fraught with mindlessness and madness. The more probable strategy is the overthrow of the House of Saud, or at least a complete restructuring of the countries place within the Middle East.
Will Saudi Arabia take the bait and invade Syria? I think we may know that answer sooner rather than later.