This month, pressure of other business has repeatedly interfered with my intention to take the ‘law not war’ theme to a further point. A light has dawned in my mind, but it is still too dark to discern the detail. In the meantime, to keep to my fortnightly postings routine, I had planned to substitute a relatively brief blog on some international trouble-spot or other.
The Korean ‘crisis’ has now largely subsided. Firstly, POTUS has come to realise the full extent of the constraints on his freedom to manoeuvre. Secondly, despite the for-public-consumption wails emanating from Washington, the current status quo and a nuclear-armed North Korea are perfectly compatible with US foreign policy goals. The more Japan and South Korea are frightened of the North’s missiles, the less likely they are to abandon their military bonds with the USA and be drawn into Beijing’s sphere of influence.
In the current global context, it is the Middle East, which is the most obvious theatre in which to go looking for trouble. The Syrian civil war is fast running down and Putin seems to have the multiple parties well under-control. There is maneuvering and conflict between the different US agencies and factions, egged on by Israel. Currently, internal arguments are raging as to whether or not US Special Forces should be deployed to try and carve out a permanent, US-controlled focus of disruption in the centre of Assad’s territory. Likewise, there all sorts of alarms being raised that Israel, supported by the new regime in Saudi Arabia, is about to launch a preventative war on Lebanon and/or Syria. However, it seems most probable that in both instances, common sense will prevail. With the Levantine pot not yet boiling, there is too much uncertainty and so many developments yet to come that, were I to write on it, I would have much too great a chance of being proven wrong!
Instead, to my mind, the most interesting developments are all happening in Saudi Arabia, where a coup d’état, which will have wide-ranging ramifications, has undoubtedly taken place. Again, as with most such coups (Ukraine and most recently in Zimbabwe, etc.) it has been with a nudge and a wink from America.
The young princeling at the epicentre of turbulence is Mohammad bin Salman. He will almost certainly and shortly, be succeeding his decrepit father to the throne His vaulting ambition has already been responsible for multiple deaths in Yemen (with impending famine and pestilence ensuring that many more are now inevitable.) MbS, as he is known, in his initial impetuosity, appears to have joined Israel in attempts to persuade the USA to attack Iran. It is a forlorn hope. Even with the current chaotic state of its foreign policy development procedures, it is most unlikely that the US could be persuaded to make such a fatal misstep.
I was going to write at length on the subject of the Saudi transformation, but yesterday, I came across two articles presenting different perspectives, but which, between them say everything that I could wish to have said on the subject. Duplicating wheels is not the intention behind my blog – so I would instead, strongly recommend these two articles, hyperlinked below, to all my readers.
The Asia Times article, by Bhadrakumar, is most significant in that it gives notice that one should not be lulled into believing that the new style ‘enlightened’ autocracy in Saudi Arabia is doomed to failure. In the present state of international flux, with the rise of one empire in seeming lockstep with the steady decline of another, nothing is as it seems. Tectonic plates are shifting deep below the surface. Whereas, in the Middle East, the USA seems to have real difficulty in distinguishing between its own and Israel’s, national interests, China has no such problem of blurred focus.
East meets Middle East
China has two overriding goals in the Middle East and most precisely in Saudi Arabia. Firstly, it wants no interruption to the flow of Saudi and Iranian oil. It wishes no conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as it wishes to take oil from them both, without some conflict interrupting supplies and raising the price to intolerable levels. It also wishes to see the end of Saudi Arabian encouragement of Islamist terrorism.
By supporting MbS in his ambition to wean his kingdom away from Islamic fundamentalism and to open up its economy to external investment, China, which has no effete squeamishness in regards to autocratic rule, will be helping realise several foreign policy goals simultaneously. Not the least of these, being to weaken the USA’s long-established grip over Saudi affairs and to undermine the currently budding Saudi romance with America’s closest ME ally, an Israel intent on the destruction of Iran.
By making itself indispensable to MbS as he consolidates his power, China can ensure that he backs off from his confrontation with Iran. As the Information Clearing House article makes clear. MbS will face a multiplicity of very serious problems. In these circumstances, Chinese support will be eagerly welcomed and China is likely to greatly increase its influence at the expense of a USA with its far too vocal ‘liberal’ faction, which, no doubt, MbS will find increasingly vexatious.
Having read both articles, you will be up to speed with developments in Saudi Arabia and be better able to interpret events as they unfold and to draw your own conclusions as to where this is all likely to head.