Saturday, May 21, 2011

Regional Update

Hi Folks!

The Editor has been busy monitoring the news, holidaying in various locations in the med.

First Stop: KSA and the US relations.

This is a must read article on the US - Saudi split in relations.

Amid the Arab Spring, a U.S.-Saudi split

By Nawaf Obaid, Published: May 16

A tectonic shift has occurred in the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Despite significant pressure from the Obama administration to remain on the sidelines, Saudi leaders sent troops into Manama in March to defend Bahrain’s monarchy and quell the unrest that has shaken that country since February. For more than 60 years, Saudi Arabia has been bound by an unwritten bargain: oil for security. Riyadh has often protested but ultimately acquiesced to what it saw as misguided U.S. policies. But American missteps in the region since Sept. 11, an ill-conceived response to the Arab protest movements and an unconscionable refusal to hold Israel accountable for its illegal settlement building have brought this arrangement to an end. As the Saudis recalibrate the partnership, Riyadh intends to pursue a much more assertive foreign policy, at times conflicting with American interests.
The backdrop for this change are the rise of Iranian meddling in the region and the counterproductive policies that the United States has pursued here since Sept. 11. The most significant blunder may have been the invasion of Iraq, which resulted in enormous loss of life and provided Iran an opening to expand its sphere of influence. For years, Iran’s leadership has aimed to foment discord while furthering its geopolitical ambitions. Tehran has long funded Hamas and Hezbollah; recently, its scope of attempted interference has broadened to include the affairs of Arab states from Yemen to Morocco. This month the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, Gen. Hasan Firouzabadi, harshly criticized Riyadh over its intervention in Bahrain, claiming this act would spark massive domestic uprisings.
Such remarks are based more on wishful thinking than fact, but Iran’s efforts to destabilize its neighbors are tireless. As Riyadh fights a cold war with Tehran, Washington has shown itself in recent months to be an unwilling and unreliable partner against this threat. The emerging political reality is a Saudi-led Arab world facing off against the aggression of Iran and its non-state proxies.
Saudi Arabia will not allow the political unrest in the region to destabilize the Arab monarchies — the Gulf states, Jordan and Morocco. In Yemen, the Saudis are insisting on an orderly transition of power and a dignified exit for President Ali Abdullah Saleh (a courtesy that was not extended to Hosni Mubarak, despite the former Egyptian president’s many years as a strong U.S. ally). To facilitate this handover, Riyadh is leading a diplomatic effort under the auspices of the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council. In Iraq, the Saudi government will continue to pursue a hard-line stance against the Maliki government, which it regards as little more than an Iranian puppet. In Lebanon, Saudi Arabia will act to check the growth of Hezbollah and to ensure that this Iranian proxy does not dominate the country’s political life. Regarding the widespread upheaval in Syria, the Saudis will work to ensure that any potential transition to a post-Assad era is as peaceful and as free of Iranian meddling as possible.
Regarding Israel, Riyadh is adamant that a just settlement, based on King Abdullah’s proposed peace plan, be implemented. This includes a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem. The United States has lost all credibility on this issue; after casting the sole vote in the U.N. Security Council against censuring Israel for its illegal settlement building, it can no longer act as an objective mediator. This act was a watershed in U.S.-Saudi relations, guaranteeing that Saudi leaders will not push for further compromise from the Palestinians, despite American pressure.
Saudi Arabia remains strong and stable, lending muscle to its invigorated foreign policy. Spiritually, the kingdom plays a unique role for the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims — more than 1 billion of whom are Sunni — as the birthplace of Islam and home of the two holiest cities. Politically, its leaders enjoy broad domestic support, and a growing nationalism has knitted the historically tribal country more closely together. This is largely why widespread protests, much anticipated by Western media in March, never materialized. As the world’s sole energy superpower and the de facto central banker of the global energy markets, Riyadh is the economic powerhouse of the Middle East, representing 25 percent of the combined gross domestic product of the Arab world. The kingdom has amassed more than $550 billion in foreign reserves and is spending more than $150 billion to improve infrastructure, public education, social services and health care.
To counter the threats posed by Iran and transnational terrorist networks, the Saudi leadership is authorizing more than $100 billion of additional military spending to modernize ground forces, upgrade naval capabilities and more. The kingdom is doubling its number of high-quality combat aircraft and adding 60,000 security personnel to the Interior Ministry forces. Plans are underway to create a “Special Forces Command,” based on the U.S. model, to unify the kingdom’s various special forces if needed for rapid deployment abroad.
Saudi Arabia has the will and the means to meet its expanded global responsibilities. In some issues, such as counterterrorism and efforts to fight money laundering, the Saudis will continue to be a strong U.S. partner. In areas in which Saudi national security or strategic interests are at stake, the kingdom will pursue its own agenda. With Iran working tirelessly to dominate the region, the Muslim Brotherhood rising in Egypt and unrest on nearly every border, there is simply too much at stake for the kingdom to rely on a security policy written in Washington, which has backfired more often than not and spread instability. The special relationship may never be the same, but from this transformation a more stable and secure Middle East can be born.
The writer is a senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research & Islamic Studies.

I don't think I need to comment further as the article has spelt out clearly the current status of US-KSA  relations.


Next Stop: GCC Integration with Jordan and Morocco.

Readers have been emailing in asking why this has taken place? One word: Iran.

With a possible clash with Iran over meddling in the GCC, KSA has decided to strengthen its alliances by adding Jordan and Morocco.

The obvious meaning of this deal is that these countries will be automatically integrated with the GCC. GCC money will flow into both countries, thereby strengthening them economically. The lower cost labour will flow in and perhaps replace Asian labourers. This of course makes sense, as nations would rather have individuals who can easily integrate and have language and religious affinity (E.g. Poland integration into EU).

The real reason in our opinion is, in the event of a faceoff with Iran, shia Iraq will be allied with Iran and MAY attack or work with Iran to fight Sunni GCC.

During the Bahrain crisis, Muqtada Al Sadr had threatened to send shia tribesmen to the border with Kuwait and KSA to open a armed front in solidarity with so called peaceful protesters in Bahrain.  Therefore, to secure themselves Jordan and Morocco will be able to tie down Iraq and prevent Iraq from attacking Kuwait.

Yes this does sound like the nuclear scenario, where borders may be redrawn on religious lines. But GCC can't afford to take chances if Iran continues its behaviour of meddling in internal affairs of other countries.

This story further continues when we discuss Syria and Iran.


Syria is facing a lot of protests. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) appears to be playing a small clandestine role against Bashar Al Assad. The KSA GID (General Intelligence Directorate) has established contacts with the MB via tribal networks. Saudi's are prepared to deal with sunni islamist MB to prevent any expansion to Iranian influence in the region and therefore corner Hezbollah in Lebanon.

There are rumours afloat that KSA is funding and arming various groups via Jordan to defeat the Assad regime . This rumour also suggests that Prince Bandar bin Sultan (Former KSA Ambasador to the US) is running this operation from Jordan. The rumour was given further credence as Syria had closed of the Jordanian border and lately Syia has accussed Saudi of supporting Syrian terror cells.

Jordan is a major front for most US intelligence operations and have worked together with the Saudi's  in Lebanon. So the accusation coming from Assad's government does make sense to this editor.

80% of the population in Syria is sunni. So a sunni Syria may also be a potent deterent against any potential moves of Iran and Iraq against Sunni GCC.

Iran: Ahmadinejad - Khamanei spat

To justify Ahmadinejad's decision to sack the minister for intelligence Haidar Moslehi, in a meeting with Iranian supreme leader, Ahmadinejad complained of recent failures to take advantage of protests in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

In Kuwait, various iranian spy networks have been dismantled and diplomats expelled. The Ministry of Intelligence and Security was reduced to organising protests outside the KSA embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashaad.

These were the main reasons why Ahmadinejad and Khamanei had a fall out. Khamanei wanted to keep Moslehi due to upcoming elections and various other reasons.

This further confirms that Iran did attempt to capitalise on protests in Bahrain and KSA.


Thats all for now folks. Feel free to post a comment or email us your views at eye.on.middleeast "At" Gmail "dot" com.

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