Washington’s new policy in the Middle East looks like a sandcastle. Targeting Mohammed bin Salman means endangering a region. The new media frenzy over a possible full-blown confrontation between the US Biden administration and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a sign that Western political leaders have nothing to do with reality. What was revealed last week in a classified report issued by the US security services about Mohammed bin Salman’s role in the assassination of a suspect not only shows the lack of existing evidence but may also lead to a widespread divorce between Saudi Arabia and the United States. An increasing amount of Western media. The posts argued that not only should the crown prince be punished, but Washington should reconsider its deep cooperation with the kingdom.
International media reported that several American experts called for a clear change in the American strategy towards the Kingdom, including the removal of Mohammed bin Salman from the position of the crown prince by supporting the former Saudi crown prince between Nayef or other Saudi kings. In a clear break with the US power politics that we have witnessed over the past few decades, in which the exclusion of third-party power brokers has been prevented, a new era appears to be on the horizon.
At the same time, Biden finds himself on a slippery slope regarding the ongoing confrontation with Iran, by imposing more sanctions on Iran, but at the same time removing one of the main Iranian armed groups in the region, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, from the US terrorism list. . The results of this policy change are already very clear. The Houthis began a new offensive campaign with ballistic and missile missiles to strike Saudi strategic airports and oil infrastructure targets in the Red Sea and the eastern coast. This week’s media attack on Aramco’s oil infrastructure shows that the kingdom remains in danger. The main oil and gas production area in Saudi Arabia could not have taken place without a full military and logistical support from Iran.
Iran is pressing to develop a major oil region under a 25-year agreement with China
Today, however, the military capabilities of the Houthis and Iranian rebels are the kingdom’s least concern. The direct diplomatic fall from the publication of an intelligence report by the Biden administration, in which the Saudi crown prince, who is expected to be king of Saudi Arabia in the coming years, as a potential instigator and supporter of the suspected assassination, is unprecedented. Being American citizens and politicians calls for new inquiries about the role of Mohammed bin Salman and his security services in the assassination in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul is one thing, but official documents, classified by the Biden administration, directly blame Mohammed bin Salman for this possibility.
The attack on Ras Tanura, the main export facility for crude oil and poultry products, had an impact on the market. Crude oil prices rose, but the effect was only marginal. Although the current offensive did not receive the same attention as the 2019 APEC attack, which had a much greater impact on Saudi oil production, it appears to be diminishing the importance. The potential destruction of critical facilities in Ras Tanura could come as a shock to the market, even given the world’s largest storage volumes. It appears that the flow of oil has not been restricted, so the future has calmed down again. However, the market still needs to carefully monitor the area, as potential new attacks or even joint attacks on the Houthis and/or Iran on Abqaiq-Ras Tanura could be an option now under discussion by hard-liners in Tehran.
So far, the impact has been only superficial, but given the increased capabilities of Houthi drones and missiles, or their formidable semi-Russian capabilities, on the other side of the Gulf, other options have clearly been put in place.
What should worry the markets is the fact that in the eyes of Iran, Biden and the Europeans almost gave the green light to hardliners in Tehran to show their muscles. The Houthi’s ongoing actions are a clear sign that Biden’s current soft power approach or even the current dispersion has already been replaced.
Washington’s fragmented approach to Iranian sanctions and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is another rock of controversy. In his early months in office, Biden showed no clear strategy and left much room for interpretation. Regardless of what people think of former US President Trump’s policy, his Iran policy has been clear. Iran appears to have virtually backed off the list of White House decisions, not showing an open and clear path. The only clear path currently is that Riyadh and Washington are on a collision course, and the Biden administration believes that the United States is still the only mediator in the region, and therefore the soft power or pressure exerted on the Arab regimes will reap the desired fruits. This is an obvious misconception, based in part on Obama-era estimates that are not yet correct.
Perhaps to the surprise of analysts in Washington, Mohammed bin Salman did not sit still. The Saudi crown prince is making many headlines with his bold plans and dreams for economic diversification, and he has shown that his international standing has not yet diminished. In recent days, a high-level diplomatic meeting was held in Riyadh, where Russian Minister Lavrov, King Abdullah of Jordan, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, and others held meetings to discuss economic and geopolitical issues. The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, received the top Saudi diplomat, Prince Faisal, in Doha on Monday and showed renewed interest in expanding cooperation.
Meanwhile, Saudi ministers travel to major clients in Saudi Arabia, such as China. Russia is currently using the cold Saudi-US relationship as a potential wedge. Moscow and Riyadh are already cooperating fully in energy and logistics, as confirmed today’s statements. Both have stated that OPEC + cooperation is still very strong and will continue. Moscow is very pleased that the Biden administration lacks a strategy for the Arab region. Putin and his envoy Lavrov hope to take advantage of Biden’s persistent mistakes not only in Riyadh, but also in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, and Egypt. One of the decisive consequences of the US pressure on Mohammed bin Salman will be the growing anxiety in Cairo, Abu Dhabi, and elsewhere. The potential realignment of these leading Arab states, leaving the Atlantic sphere of influence while joining the growing Moscow-Beijing axis is not the outcome that Washington or Brussels would like to see.
There is a need for new pragmatism and realism. Since Machiavelli and Wayne Clausewicz have stated clearly “to control or influence the region, possible strong relations with the Prince must be considered.” If the prince’s removal results in a new prince, the result is instability. Stability is required, and to say the least, Biden’s strategies in the Gulf are fruitless. By securing the goals of the “future king” or conspiring, enemies of the “future king” are made. Washington’s culture of backstabbing and circulating rumors may be effective in the West, in the Arab world “a man’s thing remains forever, even friendship”… But the same is for winning over enemies.