Saudi Arabia flexes Middle East might with Iran deal
The recently announced Iran-Saudi Arabia deal isn’t good for Israel. The Americans might be trying to undersell it, but behind closed doors, they’re panicking. The optimism of the late 2020s, when the Abraham Accords were signed normalising relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain – Sunni Muslim countries – mediated by the United States (US), now seems premature.
At the time, Israel thought it was making inroads into the Sunni world against Shia Iran. I was one of those who completely bought into it. I remember saying that Tehran’s attempts at building a nuclear bomb were primarily to use it against Saudi Arabia and only later, against Jerusalem. I was wrong.
At the time, I attended a women’s conference in Bahrain and was proudly introduced as the first delegate ever from Israel to participate. I’m still in contact with some of the lovely women I met there, many of whom were curious to find out more about a country they’d grown up hating. But they consistently warned that without Saudi Arabia – the big brother of the Muslim world – recognising Israel, there would be little positive movement on the ground. And now everything’s been turned upside-down.
Saudi Arabia will always be the main player in the Middle East. It has more money and oil than Iran, and although there have been generations of conflict between the two countries, at base they’re both Muslim.
For Tehran, the deal affords it massive Saudi backing in terms of global power, finance, weapons, and defence. For Riyadh, Iran is a good ally to have and it’s a slap in the face of its fast-becoming former ally, Washington, from which the Saudis have long since grown tired of taking dictation.
As the world’s biggest oil producers, Iran and Saudi now have a significant control over the market, and Riyadh recently started accepting purchases in local currencies. This is in stark contrast to the deal US Secretary-of-State Henry Kissinger secured in the 1930s that prevented Saudi Arabia from selling oil in any currency but the US dollar (petrodollar). This guaranteed the value of the dollar and secured American currency as a trading currency for oil. In return, Kissinger promised that the House of Saud would remain in power.
Fast-forward a few decades, and though the US’s official standpoint is that it’s glad there’s now “peace” in the Middle East, financial institutions are reeling at the very real possibility of the petrodollar being replaced. Washington is already courting countries like Nigeria and south Sudan for their oil.
At the same time, Russian diesel is flooding the Saudi market and Russia, China, India, and Africa are lining up against the West. They’ve shown a complete disregard for America and anything it has said or done.
A case in point: Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Moscow this week meeting his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. The American government asked him to convince Putin to respect Ukraine sovereignty and also said it wouldn’t accept a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine brokered by China. I don’t think the requests were even dignified with a response!
The Americans are waking up a little too late. They seem surprised that the Iran-Saudi deal was brokered by China, which is fast becoming the world’s big brother – a prediction French astrologer Nostradamus made hundreds of years ago – and filling a role the US has so inconsistently tried to fill itself.
Until now, Beijing has stayed out of world politics. Unlike America, it hasn’t invaded any country to broker peace and its agenda is more economically driven. Whereas America wants to control countries, China wants to control economies and is prepared to provide military assistance to protect its trade deals.
For decades, US foreign policy has focused on Europe, which sadly today is a continent falling apart. Beijing isn’t wasting its time there. Instead, it’s looking to the Middle East with whom it shares a basic culture and worldview. What’s acceptable in China and the Middle East isn’t always socially acceptable in Europe or the US.
For years, Beijing has been open about wanting to be the number-one world power and economy, and the more allies it has, the less does America.
So what does all this mean for Israel?
It’s a reminder that the Middle East will never – and cannot ever – turn its back on Saudi Arabia. Riyadh will partner with a Muslim brother, albeit Sunni versus Shia, long before it will partner with an Israeli brother who is completely different.
The US isn’t averse to using proxies to fight its wars, as history has repeatedly shown. Neither is it averse to flying false flags to start those wars. Just think of its claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that it used as the pretext for destroying a modern, functioning country.
It saddens me to write that I believe America would use Israel to start a conflict against Iran in an attempt to drop oil prices and weaken Tehran. But I believe it could. Washington will probably bank on the fact that the Saudis won’t back Iran militarily, but I think they will, as will Russia and China. American arrogance and desperation seems to have given them a G-d-like complex, with little appreciation of how much they are despised in the region.
Israel will be in a fix, and while I believe Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is an excellent negotiator, I don’t think he’s a wartime leader. It’s one thing to talk of war; it’s another to lead your country through it. But he’ll have no choice but to comply. Israel needs America.
We could have a scenario in which America fires weapons into Israel, claims it was Iran, and insists that Jerusalem responds. It’ll turn into a Ukraine-like scenario, where Washington won’t send troops to help Israel but will back it with money and equipment.
We’re not yet at the stage where artificial warfare led by artificial intelligence is feasible, so Israeli soldiers will end up meeting the Iranian army on the battlefield, and from the military minds I engage with, it will end badly for Israel. Jerusalem will also be held to a set of standards that Iran won’t be held to. I pray I’m wrong, but I fear I’m not.
- Paula Slier is the Middle East bureau chief for RT, and is currently launching RT Africa.