Author Topic: Saudi Arabia & the Arabian Peninsula  (Read 49968 times)

DougMacG

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Re: Saudi Arabia & the Arabian Peninsula
« Reply #200 on: November 29, 2018, 04:16:32 AM »
Well expressed!  I went looking for evidence that he is MB or jihad supporting but he was not going to openly put that it a tweet.

Crafty_Dog

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ccp

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Re: Saudi Arabia & the Arabian Peninsula
« Reply #202 on: December 09, 2018, 02:09:17 PM »
" Tablet is very much a Dem/Progressive publication, but here it forthrightly defends President Trump "

of course ,  who if they are really  being honest thinks we should ditch our whole Mid East policy for this one freakin guy?
(only the trump deranged . they go to bed unable to sleep they can't focus during the day with 24 hr hate of Trump and thus us)

oBama did business with China  though they murder and torture and imprison all those who go against the Party.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2018, 01:22:26 PM by ccp »

DougMacG

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Re: Saudi Arabia, More on Khashoggi
« Reply #203 on: December 13, 2018, 01:11:23 PM »
https://spectator.us/jamal-khashoggi-time-person-year/

I don't know the author or the accuracy.

"Khashoggi represented everything that is repressive and repugnant about journalism in the Arab world. Why is he so honored?"

"Khashoggi became rich working for a Saudi royal family that was, and remains, among the world’s worst persecutors of journalists. He edited government-controlled Saudi newspapers, which are without exception regime propaganda outlets, and headed TV news channels that were owned by Saudi princes.

Then he outdid himself by working as a media adviser to a senior Saudi prince in London and Washington. He embraced with unbridled enthusiasm his role of justifying Saudi regime atrocities in the Western media. He even denied on the BBC that anyone was ever tortured in Saudi Arabia."
-------
We've heard about the brutality of his murder.  I don't know if we've heard the motive.  He knew something...

We heard over and over he was a "journalist".  I somehow don't think that was all of it.

I'm not justifying torture or gruesome murder in the least, just want to get at the whole story someday.

Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: The Senate on the Saudis
« Reply #204 on: December 16, 2018, 02:28:12 AM »
The Senate on the Saudis
A phony gesture on War Powers but a useful statement on Khashoggi.
54 Comments
By The Editorial Board
Dec. 13, 2018 7:21 p.m. ET
Senator Bernie Sanders speaks after the senate voted on a resolution ending U.S. military support for the war in Yemen on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Dec. 13.
Senator Bernie Sanders speaks after the senate voted on a resolution ending U.S. military support for the war in Yemen on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Dec. 13. Photo: joshua roberts/Reuters

Donald Trump scrambles political categories, and the latest evidence is Thursday’s Senate vote to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. The President who is so often criticized for wanting to retreat from the world and not standing by allies was rebuked for refusing to abandon an ally in a proxy war with Iran.

The Senate voted 56-41 for a bill sponsored by Vermont Socialist Bernie Sanders and Utah Republican Mike Lee to invoke the 1973 War Powers Resolution and yank U.S. troops home within 30 days. Never mind that the Pentagon says U.S. forces assisting the Saudis aren’t in harm’s way and thus the War Powers Resolution doesn’t apply. We’d go further and say this is also an unconstitutional intrusion on a President’s power as Commander in Chief.

But all 49 Democrats voted for it, as did seven Republicans. They had the political luxury of knowing the bill is going nowhere in the House this year. There’s nothing more senatorial than voting for something you know won’t pass and calling it an “historic victory,” as Mr. Sanders did.

The more useful effort was a resolution sponsored by Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker that condemned the Saudi murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and held Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible. The resolution passed unanimously, and while it won’t change U.S. policy, it is a warning to the White House and Saudis that America has values as well as interests to defend. The President’s political freedom narrows when Democrats control the House next year. Mr. Trump could lose control over foreign policy, and the U.S.-Saudi alliance, if he doesn’t somehow recognize the bipartisan disgust at the Khashoggi murder.

DougMacG

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Saudi Khashoggi, Qatari agent at the Wash Post
« Reply #205 on: December 25, 2018, 05:59:52 AM »
https://securitystudies.org/jamal-khashoggi-and-qatar-in-the-echo-chamber/

His columns and paychecks came right out of enemy propoganda.

G M

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Re: Saudi Khashoggi, Qatari agent at the Wash Post
« Reply #206 on: December 26, 2018, 04:02:47 PM »
https://securitystudies.org/jamal-khashoggi-and-qatar-in-the-echo-chamber/

His columns and paychecks came right out of enemy propoganda.

http://ace.mu.nu/archives/378858.php

December 26, 2018
Washington Post More or Less Confirms That Jamal Khashoggi Was a Paid Qatari Intelligence/Propaganda Asset
I can see how American "journalists" would regard this as the normal state of affairs and not really that different from a plain ol' "journalist."

Many journalists in the US are paid by Fusion GPS to plant Fusion stories, which in turn were funded by interested parties including foreign governments.

Quotes from the Washington Post below, with commentary added by streiff from RedState.

Perhaps most problematic for Khashoggi were his connections to an organization funded by Saudi Arabia’s regional nemesis, Qatar. Text messages between Khashoggi and an executive at Qatar Foundation International show that the executive, Maggie Mitchell Salem, at times shaped the columns he submitted to The Washington Post, proposing topics, drafting material and prodding him to take a harder line against the Saudi government. Khashoggi also appears to have relied on a researcher and translator affiliated with the organization, which promotes Arabic-language education in the United States.
...

Khashoggi was never a staff employee of the Post, and he was paid about $500 per piece for the 20 columns he wrote over the course of the year. He lived in an apartment near Tysons Corner in Fairfax County that he had purchased while working at the Saudi Embassy a decade earlier. [Note: how did he live in the DC Metro area for about $10K/year?]


Khashoggi also appears to have accepted significant help with his columns. Salem, the executive at the Qatar foundation, reviewed his work in advance and in some instances appears to have proposed language, according to a voluminous collection of messages obtained by The Post. [Journalists accepting "significant help" from government operatives in writing stories is a fact of how journalism is conducted in the Middle East, the Post eliding over this speaks volumes.]

In early August, Salem prodded Khashoggi to write about Saudi Arabia's alliances "from DC to Jerusalem to rising right wing parties across Europe...bringing an end to the liberal world order that challenges their abuses at home."

Khashoggi expressed misgivings about such a strident tone, then asked, "So do you have time to write it?"

So in other words, Khashoggi was largely just a frontman for anti-Saudi propaganda written by an operative of the Saudi's chief Arab rival, Qatar.


"I'll try," she replied, although she went on to urge him to "try a draft" himself incorporating sentences that she had sent him by text. A column reflecting their discussion appeared in The Post on Aug. 7. Khashoggi appears to have used some of Salem's suggestions, though it largely tracks ideas that he expressed in their exchange over the encrypted app WhatsApp.

Other texts in the 200-page trove indicate that Salem’s organization paid a researcher who did work for Khashoggi. The foundation is an offshoot of a larger Qatar-based organization. Khashoggi also relied on a translator who worked at times for the Qatari embassy and the foundation.

...

On Oct. 3, one day after Khashoggi's death, while his fate remained uncertain, his researcher contacted The Post to say that he had a draft of a column that Khashoggi had begun writing before his disappearance. It was published two weeks later. [The likelihood that Khashoggi's last column was ghostwritten to take advantage of his disappearance by making him appear to be an Arabian Thomas Jefferson approaches certainty.]

streiff quotes Dave Reaboi of the Strategic Studies Group noting that it doesn't make sense for the Washington Post to reveal that the man they've been painting as a patriotic martyr for two months was in fact a shabby operative working for a government hostile to his native country except if the Washington Post knew that there were rumors about these texts and possible payments to Khashoggi and they sought to get ahead of a story they knew could no longer be suppressed.

Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: Where is Crown Prince Mohammed?
« Reply #207 on: February 12, 2019, 08:03:06 AM »


Where Is Crown Prince Mohammed?
Out of public view, he attempts to control Saudi society with a combination of dread and circuses.
57 Comments
By Karen Elliott House
Feb. 11, 2019 6:44 p.m. ET
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

This is the winter of Mohammed bin Salman’s discontent. The young crown prince is beset on all sides by problems that would depress or deter most leaders, but there is no sign that his optimism or energy are flagging. Whether sheer determination will be enough to secure his success, however, seems more in doubt than ever.

Many of the crown prince’s challenges come from overseas. His international reputation is stained by the killing of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The U.S. Congress is increasingly determined to block arms sales to Riyadh for its stalemated war in Yemen. Then there’s the Saudis’ festering feud with Turkey, and their cold war with Iran. Finally, a global economic slowdown could erode oil demand, lower prices and diminish the revenue the kingdom badly needs to fund its biggest budget ever.

But the crown prince’s international challenges pale in comparison with those at home. His Vision 2030 plan to transform the kingdom foresees a vibrant private sector to wean the country off its dependence on oil revenues and its citizens off dependence on government. This vision—the product of more than $1 billion in consulting fees—already is proving overly ambitious in scope and time.

Over the past two years, consumer spending has collapsed and more than a million migrant residents have returned to neighboring South Asian countries as a result of the crown prince’s reforms. The Saudi private sector, long dependent on government contracts, was knocked to its knees by the government’s decision to halt contract payments to assess corruption. Riyadh’s moves to slash energy subsidies and raise non-oil revenues—by imposing levies on foreign workers as well as assessing a value-added tax on most sales—have also hit the economy hard.

In the capital, the heady optimism of previous years is giving way to a realization that change won’t be quick or painless. “We are trying to correct 50 years of bad policies in three to five years,” says one businessman. “It can’t be done.” An economist says of the crown prince: “The consultants sold him a development plan that can’t be done on the timetable given. It took South Korea 30 years to develop, why should Saudi think we can do it in 15?”

The crown prince has two responses to the dimming prospects of his reform program. On one hand, he seeks to distract Saudis with circuses. He has imported rock stars for concerts, has started construction near Riyadh of a new entertainment city three times the size of Disney World, and is developing a tourist industry that could open Saudi Arabia for the first time to millions of foreign visitors. These initiatives risk offending the most conservative Saudis while frustrating middle-class families for whom the new entertainment is unaffordable. Tickets to see Mariah Carey perform last month went for $80 to $500. The average office manager earns $4,000 a month but ordinary workers earn half that.

Yet while the crown prince gives with one hand, he takes with the other. Saudi Arabia has never been an open society, but the current government is clamping down on almost every form of actual and potential opposition. The space for public discussion—much less criticism—has over the past two years narrowed to nonexistent, even on social media. A liberal Saudi who used to tweet regularly says he has quit for fear that anything could lead to arrest. A conservative Saudi notes that “such exaggerated security control makes people ready to explode.”

But neither dread nor circuses are solving the problem. One father tells me he abhors that bargain. His teenage son has been in prison for two years because teachers reported to authorities a remark deemed treasonous. “When I visit him, I see Saudi mothers dressed in tight jeans and bare faces visiting their sons in prison,” he says. “I wonder, do they believe the freedom to dress like that is a fair trade for their sons having no freedom to speak?”

To be sure, not all Saudis feel alienated. Young women, especially, enjoy a measure of personal freedom that seemed unimaginable a year ago. More are moving into significant jobs. Crown Prince Mohammed is personally popular with progressive young Saudis who want the kingdom to enter the 21st century. Many have his smiling face as the screen saver on their iPhones.

Even businessmen disappointed with the pace of progress still credit the crown prince with his economic reform—notwithstanding the wreckage in the private sector along the way. The young ruler also has the support of the two men who matter most: President Trump and King Salman, who has given no indication of abandoning his ambitious son.

Since the Khashoggi killing, the king has assumed a more active public role, meeting foreign dignitaries without his son at his side. But by all indications the crown prince remains entirely in control of the levers of power. Government ministers still are hauled in regularly to report to him. Some are fired for failing to meet the targets of the Vision 2030, plan, whose 1,300 initiatives are tracked and reported quarterly to him by a new government entity.

The kingdom’s religious conservatives have been silenced if not entirely subdued. And members of the extended Al Saud family have been reduced to playing roles in a supportive chorus or sitting silently in their palaces. A royal relative as prominent as Prince Al Waleed bin Talal, who once strutted on the Saudi stage, now appears publicly as a hapless courtier. No one has failed to grasp the message the crown prince sent by incarcerating his royal relatives in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in November 2017 and freeing most only after taking $106 billion.

If the royal family is quieted, normal Saudi families face a new type of tension. This is a society in which men traditionally have ruled while women and children obeyed. No longer. Male domination is under challenge as more women seek financial independence. When men object, women can and do cite royal decrees affirming their rights to work and drive without a male guardian’s consent. “On the outside we hear change, change,” says a Saudi sociologist. “But inside the walls of every house there is war about who gets to make decisions.”

This is the winter of discontent not only for the crown prince, but also for the society he rules. Still, the chaos in surrounding states seem to resign most Saudis to grudging patience with their prince.

Ms. House, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, is author of “On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines—and Future” (Knopf, 2012).

Crafty_Dog

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America and nuclear power for Saudi Arabia?
« Reply #208 on: March 09, 2019, 07:23:48 AM »
I've not read this with care yet, but what I have read shows not a little bit of superficiality but OTOH there most certainly is something to keep an eye on here.

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/giving-the-bomb-to-saudi-arabias-dr-strangelove/

OTOH, this is just stupid:  "Iran, a mortal enemy of Saudi Arabia, will have no choice but to begin a nuclear weapons program if the Saudis build nuclear reactors. "
« Last Edit: March 09, 2019, 07:30:52 AM by Crafty_Dog »

DougMacG

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Re: America and nuclear power for Saudi Arabia?
« Reply #209 on: March 10, 2019, 09:58:36 AM »
...
OTOH, this is just stupid:  "Iran, a mortal enemy of Saudi Arabia, will have no choice but to begin a nuclear weapons program if the Saudis build nuclear reactors. "

Yes, just stupid.  Iran doesn't need another motive; they have been pursuing this decades and had the completion of their nuclear path paved by the Obama Iran deal.  The problem now is vice versa.

They call Kushner the half-wit son-in-law, then write this:  "Iran, is closely monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)."  Who then is the half-wit?  If the IAEA really had control over these things, the threat of Saudi going from power generation to weapons would be nil.

Saudi's most immediate motive is Iran's pursuit and the world non-proliferation agreement was wrecked by the free world tolerating the programs of NK, Pakistan, Iran and others.

The article starts with this point:  "...decision to share sensitive nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia and authorize U.S. companies to build nuclear reactors in that country."

Can't we separate those decisions, build and operate a carbon-free nuclear power plant in Saudi at their expense without sharing all the technology?   Why not lease the land and sell them the energy or charge them the costs?

Prior to Obama paving Iran's path we were speculating that Bush-Cheney would conduct an Ozarik-like strike on Iran's facilities before they left office and they didn't.  Cheney lost influence in the second term and Bush lost or never had the nerve.  Like Clinton on NK, Bush kicked the can down the road, left the world more dangerous.  Now the goal of non-proliferation is in the rear view mirror.  India needed nuclear because of Pak, or is it the other way around?  Japan needs nuclear because of NK and China.  Saudi because of Iran.  Israel because of existential threat from all directions and so on.  Put all those "secrets" back in the bottle?  Good luck.  I doubt Saudi needs US help.  If snubbed by the US they can change their alliances.

Meanwhile there is a power generation issue on earth between nuclear power and fossil fuels.  Which one is really the existential threat?  IF it really is fossil fuels, we better start building the nuclear plants.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2019, 10:49:44 AM by DougMacG »

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Why Saudi Arabia and US will diverge
« Reply #210 on: March 15, 2019, 06:14:08 PM »
Why the U.S. and Saudi Arabia Are Destined to Diverge
By Matthew Bey
Senior Global Analyst, Stratfor
Matthew Bey
Matthew Bey
Senior Global Analyst, Stratfor
U.S. President Donald Trump leads a U.S. delegation at a working lunch with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his aides.
(KEVIN DIETSCH - Pool/Getty Images)
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Highlights

    The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States has long been a volatile one, but that volatility will become more frequent in the coming decades, outgrowing some of the personal relationships that provide its framework today.
    U.S.-Saudi cooperation has always been based on common interests rather than common needs. While those interests have changed over time, they are now entering a phase in which they will not be as closely aligned.
    The shale revolution and its effect on global energy markets is driving Saudi Arabia ever-closer to Russia and China economically and politically.
    An ascendant China will force the United States to complete its pivot toward Asia, with a resulting reduction in the attention it pays toward the Middle East. More and more often, Riyadh will struggle to get on the same page as Washington in balancing against China.

President Donald Trump's current enthusiasm for Saudi Arabia notwithstanding, the relationship between the United States and perhaps its most important ally in the Middle East is undergoing a significant transformation. U.S. political pressure on Saudi Arabia is rising, led by a growing congressional discomfort over the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen and the circumstances surrounding the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Beneath the surface of the politics of the day, a pair of more significant geopolitical shifts is helping pull the longtime allies apart: the evolution of the global system away from U.S. dominance toward an intensifying, near-peer competition with China, as well as the fundamental reshaping of the global oil and gas markets upon which Saudi Arabia has built its wealth and power. As both countries adjust to these changing dynamics, their shared strategic relationship will evolve away from the foundation of oil, counterterrorism and the mutual desire to contain Iran. It's likely that, as those changes play out, the countries' future priorities will not align as they have in past decades.
The Big Picture

The fundamental relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia is changing dramatically and will continue to undergo significant shifts over the next two decades. Their alliance has always been beset by complications — becoming downright antagonistic at times — but the distance will only grow as their mutual strategic importance declines in the coming years.
See The U.S. and the Balance of Power
See The Saudi Survival Strategy
A Relationship Built on Pragmatism

Despite their obvious differences, Saudi Arabia and the United States have maintained a nearly eight-decade friendship. From the beginning, the U.S.-Saudi relationship has rested on mutual needs, not necessarily shared values. A meeting in the waning weeks of World War II aboard the USS Quincy between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz (better known in the West as Ibn Saud) set the stage for their countries' close ties. The stark contrast between the lands that they governed could not have been more apparent. Roosevelt, arguably the leader of the world's most powerful and industrially advanced country, had just attended the Yalta Conference, where he helped decide the postwar future of the globe. King Abdulaziz, on the other hand, came from one of the least developed countries in the Middle East, its oil industry still in its infancy.

Almost three-quarters of a century later, the countries' differences remain just as stark. The United States, which touts one of the world's most liberal economies, is a democracy that prides itself on religious and cultural tolerance. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia, a state that derives legitimacy from a religious foundation, is one of the world's last remaining absolute monarchies with little space for political opposition. Although Saudi Arabia has worked to shed its image of intolerance, there's only so much it can do. Unlike U.S. relationships with allies that possess a shared set of values, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, Saudi-U.S. ties are based on pragmatism at their core. Although they share interests in certain areas, significant disagreements on others will remain.

History has borne this out.

At the time of the USS Quincy meeting, Saudi Arabia had been looking to establish a close alliance with an outside patron capable of pushing back against colonial interests in the Middle East. The United Kingdom, which controlled most of the surrounding Middle Eastern territory, certainly eyed the monarchy's newfound oil reserves. The United States, meanwhile, also wanted access to Saudi Arabia's oil but had little desire to forge a colonial empire. This drove the two together, as did mutual opposition to the rise of communism, which threatened the legitimacy of the monarchy. But their relationship over the next three decades was not without its complications. As far as Saudi Arabia was concerned, the United States would not drop its support for Israel and would not budge far enough on the Palestine issue, eventually leading to two oil embargoes.

The fall of the shah of Iran in 1979 pushed their relationship in a different direction. This time, the United States and Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia found themselves on the same side of the issue — with the Shiite-led Islamic Republic of Iran on the other. The Americans and the Saudis still were fighting communists, as their cooperation against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan evidenced, although once the Soviet Union collapsed, so did the battle against communism as a unifying priority. Just a few years after the Cold War ended, however, another common foe emerged: Iraq's Saddam Hussein. The Gulf War and subsequent U.S. dual containment policy targeting both Iraq and Iran in the 1990s brought the United States and Saudi Arabia closer together. But other events over the years have also pushed them apart. The Iran-Contra affair complicated the relationship in the 1980s, while the rise of the global jihadist movement emanating from the Wahhabism sect, which is closely identified with Saudi Arabia, added another wrinkle, particularly after 9/11.
This timeline shows key events in the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

For most of their history as allies, Saudi Arabia has needed the United States more than vice versa. From the beginning, King Abdulaziz needed the United States to provide a counterweight to the United Kingdom. Later, the United States provided a powerful buttress girding the monarchy against populist movements, including communism. Today, Saudi Arabia counts on Washington to support its struggle against Iran and help it battle transnational militant groups. At every step, Saudi Arabia has had to appeal to the United States by proving its utility to Washington.
A World that is Shaken, not Stirred

Two significant geopolitical shifts are altering the fundamental way that Saudi Arabia and the United States interact: the dramatic transformation in global energy markets and the rise of China, which is reducing the dominance of the U.S.-led Western order that emerged after the Cold War.

The shale revolution in the United States is driving U.S. crude oil production to record levels — more than 12 million barrels per day (bpd) — far eclipsing the 5 million bpd it produced just a decade ago. Rystad Energy projects that by 2025, the United States will become a net exporter of crude, with production of about 16 million bpd. And 2018 marked the first time in three decades that the United States imported less than 1 million bpd from Saudi Arabia.

Unsurprisingly, the astronomical rise in U.S. oil production has caused major ripples in global oil markets, contributing to the glut that caused oil prices to plummet below $100 a barrel in 2014. Riyadh's desire to balance the increasing U.S. supplies has prompted it to lead the effort by OPEC and other major producers to trim production — something that has driven Saudi Arabia closer to Russia. The close cooperation that both countries must achieve in order to micromanage oil markets is driving their political cooperation on other levels as well.
These graphs show oil production in the United States and Saudi Arabia.

As the United States' thirst for its oil decreases, Saudi Arabia has pivoted more forcefully to Asia to find alternative markets. Increasing Chinese consumption and falling production make it an attractive substitute. Thus, China, along with the rest of Asia, represents Saudi Arabia's oil market of the future. And as with Russia, the growing economic interdependence is driving political cooperation at the highest level between Riyadh and Beijing.

To be clear, even though U.S. dependence on oil from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East has fallen, that does not mean that it is losing significant interest in maintaining stable energy production in the region. Any crisis in the Middle East that would reverberate through the global economy would bring the United States – which is deeply tied to the global financial system – down with it. Beyond 2030, however, even this could shift as alternative energy sources, electric vehicles and battery technology continue to alter the structure of energy geopolitics.
Toward a Multipolar World

After the Cold War ended, the United States was left standing as the global system's dominant power. But with China's emergence, that is evolving into a more multipolar structure, and the United States has, naturally, refocused its attention on countering its rising rival. This includes not only economic competition – as the trade war represents – but also shifting its security posture away from places like the Middle East to free resources to manage the burgeoning great power competition.

In fact, it is this shift in focus, especially the U.S. overtures to Iran under President Barack Obama, that concerns the Saudis the most. For Obama, striking the nuclear deal with Iran meant reducing the risk that yet another Middle Eastern conflict would draw in the United States. But for Saudi Arabia, the deal meant losing its close U.S. support in its campaign against its regional nemesis. With a new administration in the White House came a shift in U.S. attitude back toward more hostile relations with the Islamic republic. Over the next two decades, however, the prospect of at least a partial normalization with Iran will present a tantalizing option for U.S. presidents as national priorities continue to change.

The new normal of relations with the United States will present a difficult adjustment for most regional powers like Saudi Arabia. Absent an emerging need, Riyadh may find itself filling a lesser role in the grand U.S. strategy than it has for nearly a century. Saudi Arabia's increasing economic interconnectivity with China and Russia may also mean that soon, for the first time since that initial meeting between FDR and King Abdulaziz, the kingdom may find itself dropping down the list of U.S. strategic partners.

Unlike U.S. relationships with allies that possess a similar set of values, Saudi-U.S. ties at their core are based on pragmatism.

A Relationship that Bends but not Breaks

Even if Saudi importance in the eyes of the United States declines, their relationship would not necessarily reach a breaking point, but it would certainly become more volatile. Status as a less important partner would mean that the amount of political capital a U.S. president would be willing to invest in Saudi Arabia will decline, both domestically and internationally.

But perhaps the biggest consequence for Saudi Arabia over the next two decades will be the likely inevitability that Tehran and Washington will one day reach some form of understanding. A strategic reversal on Iran would make sense for the United States on several levels as the global picture changes. For one, Iran would be more inclined to cooperate with the United States and India in South and Central Asia, particularly as Pakistan and China's cooperation on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor deepens. In the short term, progress on the U.S.-Iran relationship is likely to be minimal, but significant generational shifts in both countries will bring to power additional political leaders whose views are not as colored by the immediate events surrounding the Islamic Revolution and subsequent U.S.-Iran hostage crisis. U.S. detente with Iran would allow Tehran to consolidate the regional gains it has made in places like Iraq, meaning that the competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia for regional hegemony would likely increase.

The potential decline of the U.S. role as a security guarantor will continue to force Riyadh to diversify its relationship with the other power poles in the global system. This is already happening in the area of weapons sales. Saudi Arabia is trying to build an indigenous defense industry, and while the United States is reluctant to include the technology transfer rights that would accelerate that process in its arms deals with the kingdom, China and Russia are more than willing to do so. That said, there are significant limitations to how far and how quickly Saudi Arabia can diversify away from U.S. weapons suppliers. Nevertheless, a Saudi turn toward U.S. rivals will certainly alienate Washington, as happened with a drone factory that China built in Saudi Arabia to serve the local market.

Another key area to monitor will be how Saudi Arabia moves forward with its nuclear energy ambitions. It has been negotiating with the United States, China, Russia and others over the construction of nuclear power plants in the country. But the kingdom has demanded that much of the fuel enrichment and reprocessing cycle remain under its control, an idea that has not sat well with Washington over concerns that it could allow Riyadh to develop nuclear weapons. But if the United States is unwilling to budge on its position, Saudi leaders will certainly consider a deal with China or Russia, which may not adhere to the same standards.

The kingdom's human rights record is also likely to increase the distance between Saudi Arabia and the West. The outcry against the Saudi war in Yemen and Khashoggi has been growing in the U.S. Congress. But no real change in Saudi behavior can be expected as long as oil prices remain low and the kingdom continues to struggle to implement long-term economic reform under Saudi Vision 2030. That means that as the U.S. need for a close relationship with Saudi Arabia declines, Washington's responses to such issues are likely to become increasingly harsh.

While the Saudi-U.S. relationship is not destined to crash, it will grow increasingly rocky over the next two decades as the imperatives that brought them together continue to change. The countries will continue to cooperate on key issues, especially if resurgent transnational terrorist groups like Islamic State or al Qaeda target the West, again derailing the U.S. pivot to Asia. But in the end, the Saudi-U.S. relationship will always be defined by mutual interests, not mutual values. That means that as the global system evolves to a place in which neither needs as much from the other, their friendship is unlikely to be as steadfast.



Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: Saudi Arabia is changing fast
« Reply #213 on: November 06, 2019, 12:31:48 AM »
Saudi Arabia Is Changing Fast
Social liberalization has outpaced economic reform, but there doesn’t seem to be any turning back.
By Karen Elliott House
Nov. 4, 2019 6:12 pm ET

A woman runs in ‘The Happiest 5K on the Planet,’ in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 2. PHOTO: AMR NABIL/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

For Saudis these days, life is a roller coaster. Even as Iranian missiles threaten their national security and livelihood, previously unimaginable social freedoms accelerate. All this leaves some Saudis squealing with delight; others are frozen with fright.

During a three-week visit, the public delight is visible everywhere from the capital city to remote rural provinces like Jizan in the south and Tabuk in the north. Teenage Saudi girls scream hysterically at a performance here by the Korean boy band BTS. Young Saudi women with bared faces run a 5K through city streets clad only in short-sleeved T-shirts and tight leggings. Groups of young men and women relax together in Starbucks. Hotels are no longer permitted to ask Saudi couples for proof of marriage at check-in. All this change and more in a society where until very recently women, uniformly clad in floor-length abayas, couldn’t exercise, drive or appear in public with men other than close relatives.

This most puritanical of Islamic societies is increasingly mirroring Western mores as the government seeks to attract foreign tourists and investors whose money is needed to diversify the kingdom’s oil-dependent economy.

The regime no longer worries about the erosion of the kingdom’s distinctive culture. Its view is that in a world of ubiquitous social media all cultures are destined to blend and it is no longer feasible, let alone desirable, for Saudi Arabia to shut itself off from inexorable global trends.

Exactly how this is affecting the average Saudi is difficult to assess. Open debate and discussion aren’t allowed, leaving public opinion in a fog. Some Saudis undoubtedly are frightened by the arrests of even mild dissenters, the violent death of critic Jamal Khashoggi last year, and the public stripping in 2017 of prominent princes’ wealth and right to travel. Such fears are expressed only in deep privacy. The country is operating under what might be called the Thumper Rule, after the little rabbit in “Bambi” whose father teaches him, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

“We are all riding in the back seat of a speeding car,” says one nervous Saudi. “We can’t see where we are going. We just pray the driver knows so we avoid crashing.” This is as close to overt criticism as Saudis dare get these days. Another Saudi sums things up this way: “We used to debate and never decide. Now we”—or rather, the king and crown prince—“decide but never debate.”

There is no doubt that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 34, effective ruler of the kingdom, has decided to press ahead full speed with economic and social change (the former much tougher than the latter). Nothing will deter him. The crown prince, those close to him say, is absolutely convinced his reforms are essential and urgent. So in his view, debate is pointless. There is no possibility of reversing course—and no apparent concern about a conservative backlash. The once-powerful religious authorities have been reduced to mouthpieces for the regime and are widely ignored by the public. Even immediate foreign threats are more distraction than deterrent to Crown Prince Mohammed’s domestic agenda.

Thus change continues at a dizzying pace. The government is spending billions on bringing entertainment—wrestling, tennis, car racing, expensive restaurants, musical performers—to the kingdom to jump-start tourism. Joining a Saudi family for dinner, I am driven by golf cart through a park to the restaurant by a young Saudi woman with a bare face, cropped hair and no abaya. Such dress or employment for a Saudi woman was unthinkable even a few months ago. “I feel out of place in my own country,” says one Saudi woman in shock at seeing a Lebanese singer entering a Riyadh hotel in a sleeveless midthigh dress. Such “indecency,” unlike dissent, runs no risk these days.

Economic reform, unlike social change, will require massive investment as the nation transforms from an oil-dependent kingdom into a diversified economy. One big step to finance investment is the decision, announced days ago, to sell the public shares in Aramco, the kingdom’s oil company. The main threat to the reform agenda comes not from within Saudi Arabia but from outside. Shortly before dawn on Sept. 14, Iranian missiles and drones struck Saudi oil fields, knocking out 50% of the country’s production. Aramco restored most production within a few weeks, but the strike underscored the vulnerability of the Saudi economy.

“I wept the night of the attack,” admits Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the new Saudi oil minister and a half-brother of Crown Prince Mohammed. “The next morning I wept tears of gratitude when our Aramco engineers assured us they could repair things quickly.”

Remarkably, hardly anyone I meet here speaks of the attack on the oil fields. If pressed, almost all Saudis insist the kingdom did the right thing by not retaliating. “We have too much to lose” is the typical comment. The truth is Saudi Arabia is in no position to go to war with Iran even if it were so inclined. The Saudi military is too weak, its U.S. ally too reluctant. And war would spell the end of ambitious domestic reforms.

To rule out retaliation, Saudi government officials insist the attack wasn’t really aimed at Saudi Arabia; they say the kingdom is simply a proxy for Iranian anger at the U.S. “This was not an attack on Saudi Arabia,” says the oil minister, “but an attack on every household in the world.” He insists the Iranians lash out at Saudi Arabia because they are feeling the pain of U.S. economic sanctions but can’t strike the U.S. directly.

Crown Prince Mohammed has privately called the Iran strike “super stupid,” insisting that Tehran, not Riyadh, is the loser. The evidence: Iran is more isolated than ever as Germany, Britain and France all blamed it for the attack—even though Europe hasn’t imposed sanctions on Tehran. Also, Saudi officials say the Houthis, whom Iran blamed for the attack, are now more willing to find a solution to the war in Yemen, which is draining Saudi Arabia’s finances as well as its international reputation. The Saudis are putting the best spin possible on the vulnerability revealed by Iran’s attack, but those at the top seem to believe it.

Meantime, the Saudi government is putting maximum pressure on the U.S. to provide additional military support to the regime. Failure to stand visibly with Saudi Arabia, say officials here, could encourage Iran to strike again and lead to higher oil prices for the U.S. and world-wide. Or the Saudis could opt to price oil in a currency other than the dollar, with severe ramifications for the U.S. and the global economy.

Crown Prince Mohammed is said to have been livid about the slow U.S. reaction but mollified by the Trump administration’s recent decision to dispatch 2,000 additional American troops to Saudi Arabia along with two Patriot missile batteries and a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or Thaad. The American buildup looks intended to deter future Iranian aggression, but whether the Trump administration would engage or duck is anyone’s guess given the lack of a formal U.S.-Saudi mutual-security treaty. The Saudis are understandably nervous after President Obama failed to enforce his “red line” in Syria and President Trump made no response to Iran’s downing of an American drone in June or its attack on Aramco six weeks ago.

Ms. House, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, is author of “On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines—and Future.”