So…. here we go again.
Forget all the contrived outrage over the Saudi breathtakingly brutal torture and murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Or Joe Biden’s long forgotten campaign promise to render Saudi Arabia into a pariah state. When push comes to shove – as it has over global energy supplies – Washington’s “human rights concerns” evaporate. Poof… gone and quickly forgotten.
As news filters out about the Biden Administration’s upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates next month, it appears that the American president’s trip is about more than simply requesting that the two Middle East oil and gas producers increase production to meet growing global demand, although that is an essential part of the mix.
Is a Washington-Riyadh enhanced security relationship in the making, one that will include (the usual) flooding the region with U.S. aid, arms sales and more troops on the ground in both countries in exchange for yet closer cooperation with Washington?
Frankly there is nothing new – beyond the yet to be determined size of the package the Biden Administration will offer – in showering Middle East oil producers with their medieval governments and Wahhabist religious orientations with big bucks and military hardware. Same old song, just a new version. Nor will it work again.
My own cynical take: the Saudis are learning from their arch rival Turks how to have the best of both worlds – to use enhanced relations with Russia and China to extract more financial and security concessions from Washington and its European allies. Both the Trump and Biden Administration have been worried – if not panicked – over improved Saudi and Emirate relations with China and Russia and the increased trade and energy flows involved.
The other concern: Iran’s growing regional influence despite all U.S. and Israeli efforts to counter it with sanctions (now more than 40 years of these) and Israeli thinly veiled denials of targeted assassination programs. The apparent failure of the negotiations to get Washington to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA – Iran Nuclear Deal) has resulted in Iran’s increased enhancement of nuclear fuels. The growing cooperation between Iran, Russia and China has boosted Iranian confidence not to give in to Washington’s pressures.
No doubt the balance of power in the Middle East – as in the world at large – is shifting away from Washington’s “unipolar” global dominance and moving, to Washington’s (and Tel Aviv’s) dismay, toward more “multipolar” arrangements. Watching regional allies formally considered entirely within the U.S. camp – Turkey and Saudi Arabia – in particular – open serious and cordial relations with Russia and China must result in serious heartburn for the likes of Jake Sullivan and Anthony Blinken..
The solution, the only solution both Democratic and Republican Administration’s seem to have in their tool kits: throw money, military hardware, and troops into the mix in an effort to stop History.