Coat of Arms of Saudi Arabia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is a powerful and important article from Tony Walker in the Australian Financial Review. It’s a must-read!
The article welcomes a newly assertive Saudi foreign policy in the shadow of a disintegrating Middle East.
Source: Saudi Arabia takes an unexpected lead in the Middle East | afr.com
Whilst I agree with some of the individual observations, I do not necessarily agree with the overall argument. For me, Tony Walker comes across an Arabist, with the associated bias in his writing.
Let me try to join the dots differently.
The change in Saudi Arabian foreign and military policy has been triggered by Obama‘s disastrous foreign and military policy in the Middle East. Obama’s premature withdrawal of troops from Iraq had two consequences. Firstly, there was a vacuum which was occupied by ISIS. Secondly, Iraq has come under the orbit of Iran as far as Saudi Arabia is concerned – and Iran is Saudi Arabia’s biggest threat strategically, in terms of religion, influence and foreign policy.
But Obama’s strategic disasters went deeper, as far as Saudi Arabia was concerned. Obama’s weak position with Iran was strongly questioned by two important allies in the Middle East, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Whilst Israel made most vocal objections, Saudi Arabia’s reaction triggered the current policy shift.
The article does not make enough reference to Saudi sponsoring of terrorist activities, including ISIS. Nor does the article consider Saudi Arabia in terms of personal freedoms. This is part of the context.
Meanwhile, America is desperate to find an army to take on ISIS, so it willingly steps up sale of armaments to Saudi Arabia, including smart bombs.
Let us turn to consider the Saudi military capability. So far, it is dependent upon a wealth of Western advisors and technological and maritime strength from the US. Also Saudi Arabia’s ability to hold together military and foreign policy interventions in the Middle East is not fully tested.
I also take exception to the assertion the Russia is the strategic loser in the Middle East.
What this article has highlighted is the dangerous confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which has been precipitated by Obama’s weak American policies. Indeed this week Russia has demonstrated its ability to convince America to change its position with regard to a political solution in Syria.