Who lost Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabian King Salman’s visit to Russia is an acknowledgement of Russia’s new role as a power broker in the Mideast and the relative decline of U.S. influence and prestige. In the wake of the King’s visit, Saudi Arabia will be buying Russian missile systems, investing in Russia, and having Russia build a Kalashnikov automatic rifle factory in Saudi Arabia.
Who lost Saudi Arabia? — to paraphrase an earlier controversy. The short answer is that former former President Obama did, namely by:
- Refusing to honor his own declared red line in Syria;
- Welcoming Russia to Syria to mediate between Assad and the Sunni majority fighting him;
- Declaring that Assad had to depart but then refusing to arm the moderate Sunni groups fighting him — with the predictable result that Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Gulf States increased their funding of radical Islamist groups (ISIS, al-Nusra, al-Qaeda, and others) as the remaining alternative for defending their Syrian Sunni co-religionists (see here, here, and here);
- Accepting Iran’s eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons and rescuing Iran’s economy by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The Saudis realized they could no longer rely on the U.S. to defend it against an ever strengthening Iranian axis. The physically weak, possibly drug-dependent, and overly U.S.-linked Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef was removed by palace coup as next in line to succeed the king and replaced by the king’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The king is said to be suffering from early Alzheimer’s disease, which explains why the son is now effectively the kingdom’s ruler.
Prince Salman is trying to pry apart the Russia-Syria-Turkey-Qatar-Iraq axis by intervening in Qatari royal family politics and fostering better relations with Iraqi Shiite leaders. He is also trying to modernize Saudi Arabia so that women can participate in the economy. The move to allow them to drive is a prerequisite so that they can get to jobs.
Back to the Obama policy now?
President Trump attempted to reverse U.S. neglect of the Saudi relationship by traveling to Saudi Arabia, concluding a major arms deal there, and backing Saudi Arabia in its dispute with Qatar. This is now being walked back by his military advisors, who oppose the break with Qatar and support Obama’s Iranian nuclear deal.
The CIA is also likely backing the military advisors, because it is unhappy at the ousting of its favorite, the traditionalist Mohammad bin Nayef, in favor of the modernizing Prince Salman. It is also likely supporting the replacement of Secretary of State Tillerson by Trump’s trusted independent CIA director Mike Pompeo so that it can install one of its own CIA veterans in the director’s post.
Concerns over U.S.-Saudi relationship
But the U.S. has a balance-of-power and nuclear-security motivation for not allowing a Russian-Iranian takeover of the Mideast. This may limit the ability of President Trump to deliver on his campaign promise of disentangling the U.S. military from the region once ISIS has been defeated. For this reason it is astonishing that Trump has been allowing Tillerson and his military advisors to turn their back on the Kurds and their independence movement. A U.S.-encouraged Saudi-Israeli-Kurdish alliance would represent a formidable challenge to Iran’s shaky Russia-Hamas-Hezbollah-Turkey-Syria-Iraq axis.
The U.S. has just approved the sale of a $15 billion missile defense system to Saudi Arabia. That together with the purchased Russian S-400 system should protect the Saudis against Iranian missiles if not palace coups.
Today’s Other News mainly concerns Progressives and their offshoots:
- Antifa is planning to celebrate Columbus Day by damaging monuments to the renowned explorer.
- The New York Times surprises us by publishing an op-ed which explains why “banning ‘bump stocks’ won’t solve anything.”
- The Times also garners praise for its “withering expose of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s long history of sexual harassment against women.” This has inspired well-deserved indignation against Hollywood’s chutzpah in lecturing the nation on politics and morality.
- But the Times returns to its norms — e.g., disparaging middle-class institutions such as male-female marriage — with another op-ed, “The Secret to Marriage is Never Getting Married.”
- More insanity in the Americans with Disabilities Act is noted here, following an earlier report by us here.
- President Trump’s latest deregulatory intervention in favor of religious freedom has provoked indignation at the Progressive-dominated Associated Press.