NEO – Obama Went On a Mending Mission to Saudi Arabia

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… from Salman Rafi Sheikh,  … with New Eastern Outlook,  Moscow

We have come a long way from the war time beginning

We have come a long way from the war time beginning

[ Editor’s Note: Salman Sheikh has a nice condensed review of the struggling US-Saudi relationship, which is not an easy task with all of its layers and complications. I don’t know how much mending Obama could have done when some serious marriage counseling seemed to be in order, if it is not too late.

But maybe we are seeing what is the natural life cycle of this relationship. The US reliance on Saudi oil has not been critical for a long time, and more so with a world afloat in excess oil capacity and proven reserves sitting undeveloped while more are sought out.

Africa is floating on an ocean of oil, and it seems the terrorism game has been chosen to postpone any development for some time. That is one reason we see the battles for the pipelines now, as that gives all those hooked up to the European market a key edge over oil tanker deliveries, an edge that it seems countries are willing to kill for.

The Saudis, when they are running in the red, are planning a huge diversification of their economy to not be so oil dependent. Good luck on that, as they will find the business world very competitive and not as easy as drawing up the plans to do it.

They are a decade late and have whizzed away enough money to have already done this. But that takes work, and the kind of diversification I suspect they have in mind is the sweatshop kind like the modern slave state labor models we see in the Gulf. Do they really think they are going to compete in business with the Iranians?

The good news is that once they have made that investment, they will not want to see it blown up in a big war, and that might have them dampen their dreams of glory as the Muslim leaders of the world. The terrorism stain they are going to find is hard to wash outJim W. Dean ]

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– First published  …  April 27, 2016

Are the Saudi lost in time and looking for a place?

Are the Saudis lost in time and looking for a place?

Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia has happened at a time when political friction between the two states has reached a point where both have started to ‘threaten’ each other—hence, the need for bringing their ties back to ‘normal.’

While this is seemingly what both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia aim at achieving, the gap seems to be too big to be filled by visits merely. It would require massive policy changes, particularly by the U.S. with regard to its revamped relations with Iran, to re-cultivate Saudi Arabia as its ‘vessel’ in the Middle East. This, however, seems to be too ambitious a task at the moment.

The ‘best friends falling apart’ scenario owes its existence to multiple failures that both, as allies, have had to face on various fronts in the Middle East. For the Saudis, failure to topple Assad in Syria and defeat the Houthis and Saleh in Yemen constitute major blows to its claims of leadership of the ‘Sunni Muslim’ world.

Besides it, hit by massive cuts in revenue earnings due to low oil prices—a situation that is a direct result of Saudi Arabia’s own policies—and consequent inability to respond to the on-going crisis situations has created panic among the Saudis and its allies—hence, wayward political and economic decisions.

The Saudis, on their part, have blamed the U.S. for their multiple failures. Policy makers across the kingdom have long said that they feel Mr. Obama does not share the country’s regional interests. And after Obama criticized them as “free raiders” due to their war of atrocities in Yemen, the Saudi policy makers were forced into re-thinking terms of their relations with the U.S. in particular and the West in general.

However, despite the fact that both countries do not necessarily share deep common interests in the Middle East, their mutual dependence (read: Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of the American weapons and the U.S. happens to be a big importer of Saudi oil) tends to play the role of a ‘fire fighter.’

US arm sales were designed to help the balance of payments for Saudi oil imports

US arm sales were designed to help the balance of payments for Saudi oil imports

Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of American military hardware and services, and those sales have expanded under Obama, with more than $100 billion in sales approved by 2015. Yet, their mutual friction is real and the cardinal purpose of Obama’s visit is to reduce it.

While Obama is in Saudi Arabia to ‘fight the fire’, the U.S. also continues to maintain pressure on Saudi Arabia to a certain degree. This is evident from the way the U.S. government and the U.S. Congress are pressing the Saudis from both sides.

John Kirby, the State Department`s spokesman, when asked to characterise the US-Saudi relationship, said that Saudi Arabia `remains a key partner` and the United States would `continue to look for ways to improve` these ties.

But the U.S. lawmakers do not seem to share the State Department`s enthusiasm. Besides the bill seeking to sue Saudi Arabia for 9/11, the U.S. Senate is also considering another piece of legislation that proposes a restriction on sales or transfers of US-made air-to-ground weapons to Saudi Arabia.

They argue that the Saudi bombing of Yemen was not in the US interest. The resolution, moved last week, followed a Human Rights Watch report alleging that Saudi Arabia used US-supplied bombs in one of its deadliest attacks yet in Yemen.

And in an interview to New York Times, former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al Faisal acknowledged that US-Saudi differences were deep. `America has changed, we have changed and definitely we need to realign and readjust our understanding of each other, ` he said.

This seems to be an oversimplified version though. Far from being a ‘change of heart’, this ‘change’ is a display of the deep divergence between the two countries that has slowly, yet surely, emerged over the years. This divergence can be observed in a number of political decisions that both countries took during past few years.

The US’ refusal to rescue Hosni Mubarak was the defining moment.

After this, the principal divergence has taken the form of myriad of contradictions. They range from the Obama administration’s engagement of Iran instead of confronting the “satanic Safavid regime” to the Obama administration’s prevarication over the regime change agenda in Syria.

Saudi oil has always been easy to extract

Saudi oil has always been easy to extract

This divergence is also glaring in Saudi Arabia’s oil policies aimed at preserving the Saudi market share (which factor in the North American shale revolution as a fierce competitor) and the inevitable shift in the U.S.’ regional and global priorities toward the Asian continent or the ‘rebalance strategy’ to counter China and Russia.

For Saudi Arabia, this pivot to Asia has an altogether different meaning. It tends to interpret it as weakening U.S. security commitments in the Persian Gulf.

Therefore, part of the president’s mission on this trip is reassuring the Saudis and their Persian Gulf neighbors of the U.S.’ ‘ever-lasting’ commitment to their security against Iran. However, this mantra of re-assurance itself contradicts the U.S. President’s other policy of forcing the Saudis and their allies into a ‘easy mode’ vis-à-vis the Iranians.

This, however, is too much to expect from the Saudi ruling elite who, in turn, owes its existence to the very existence of an ‘enemy at the border’: Iran. Obama’s visit, although important in the current scenario, is, therefore, unlikely to put the U.S.-Saudia relations on the path to normalization.

However, while Obama has expressed his frustration at times with his Saudi allies—who themselves deeply opposed the U.S. nuclear deal with Iran— foreign policy emergencies in Syria means that the U.S. president is highly unlikely to challenge the Saudis on matters of foreign policy and human rights.

For the U.S., the short term objective is to cool the Saudis down. Long-term normalcy does not seem to be forthcoming until the new U.S. administration comes to office next year.

Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.
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6 Responses to "NEO – Obama Went On a Mending Mission to Saudi Arabia"

  1. captain obvious  April 28, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    asking again, what happened to that saudiland prince caught someplace with a large amount (lbs!) of cocaine in his luggage? swept under the rug or is he in a jail cell like any of the rest of the world would probably be? I don’t doubt they’re all about money dope and weapons just like any other gangster clan controllin their turf, ruthlessly.

  2. drbhelthi  April 28, 2016 at 2:02 am

    Interesting, the focus on Saudi sheiks and the alias, Barack H. Obama, an excellent distraction.
    As though the israeli-Judaism-MOSSAD and the Bush Crime Family were not involved. Did the Bush-Carlyle Group hire the Saudi decoys or was it a gratis, family-type service ?

    I suspect that former OSS general Russell Bowen would either cry or laugh – or both – at the continued distraction and cover-up. “The Immaculate Deception: The Bush Crime Family Exposed,” August 1992
    von Russell S. Bowen.

  3. George Bowling  April 27, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    Hey Jmmy Dean! Another really in depth, concise and well written piece of journalism. Always appreciated by myself and I suspect the rest of us here at VT. Well. I really didn’t see too many surprises stated. Anyone watching the desert-show over the past months could almost see the handwriting in the sand. I personally think that our “rudderless leader” went over there, for one to offer a promise that he would not expose their hand in the 9/11 stunt, and to see what kind of compensation he can get out of it! Obama does have he cards in this one, but the Saudis are doing the 700 zillion dollar retal threat, hoping the debt amount will sway the Pres from totally sinking their flounder desert ark. Well, like at any camel race, we can all have our viewed consensus as to which unwise sheik will loose his harem and shoot his camel! ..

  4. Howie  April 27, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    Truth be told, the only real “mending mission” to “Saudi Arabia” would necessitate a squadron of reaper drones with red-and-white seeker head missiles.

  5. ProtectUSA1st  April 27, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    Mr. JD __

     Not only for the USA, but also for the World, if there is a way, it would have been a Blessing, if we could get rid off the Current Buddies Israel “The Poor Evil Empire” for Our Survival & the Saudis “The Evil Oil Kingdom” for Our Economy.  Because of the Saudis, OPEC Members & Non-Member Countries’ Economies are going down the drains.
     If the Saudis are out, the others could start a New OPEC without the Politics.  The Good News, the Saudis themselves are in a Bad Shape to a point of trying to Diversify their Oil dependent Economy.

  6. roger  April 27, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    It could be interesting to know about the ARAMCO venture. Do US corporations still have any share in it?
    About weapons purchase, Saudis keep buying to American providers as well as Europeans, they even have some Russian material. In any case, Saudi defense relies more on US equipment than on any other source. Hardly the AWACS/F-15 duo can easily be replaced as there is no other western equivalent, even more, the ground defense electronics is mostly from US origin.

    Perhaps, Saudis count on a new White House tenant, being either Democrat or Republican, having a more pro Israeli/Saudi stance, and cool down any sway from the traditional links between both nations.
    Since 1967 and 1973 wars, Saudi Arabia began a 180° turn around, from being a fund supplier to the nations that fought against Israel to be an Israel accomplice in instrumenting the PNAC. Indeed, Saudi investing in major Jewish controlled corporations and banks, has played its part in Saudi royalty minds to place the chips on the Jewish field with benefits for both parties, Saudi´s Red Sea control and a proximity source for oil supply, makes an alternative route for Eilat destination tankers. The Yemenis Houthis then became a bothering stone in the Israeli/Saudi entente which explains Jewish controlled MSM total silence about Saudis bombing Yemeni civilians, like it does about Israelí massacring of Palestinians.

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