Friday, 16 October 2015

The Saudi-Yemen War Possibilities and Dangers of US-Russian Proxy Conflict in Syria.

'other branches of government seem to have outsourced British foreign policy to Saudi Arabia and other members of the coalition – allowing them, in effect, carte blanche to wage war in such a way that causes unnecessary civilian casualties and makes even more aid necessary'.
Written on October 8 2015. Britain seems to have outsourced foreign policy to Saudi Arabia. Andrew Mitchell, Guardian October 8 2015.

It is good that Andrew Mitchell is 'addressing these concerns'. But that is about all as the Cameron government he supports simply does not care that much. Cameron made plain this week it is a special relationship vital for 'national security' and this alleged benefit of the alliance means only 'raising' human rights issues.
'As honest friends of both Yemen’s government in exile and of Saudi Arabia, we should make clear that their method of waging this war has the potential to unleash chaos in an already turbulent region. End the attacks on civilians and get back to the negotiating table for peace talks..'
It could be Mitchell's criticism of Saudi Arabia might indicate a potential shift in British foreign policy. But it looks high probable British weapons and aircraft have been used to kill civilians in Yemen: that not a mere "possibility" or a "risk", and, even if it were only that, caution would err on the side of stopping arms.

Saudi Arabia has already unleashed chaos in the region by bankrolling Wahhabi teachings and directly sponsoring Sunni jihadists affiliated with Al Qaida. This is nothing new and the way the Saudis have waged war in Yemen has gone beyond a "potential" and is, in reality, very actual in having allowed ISIS to gain ground.
' an ally of Saudi Arabia we should be ensuring it takes immediate steps to reverse the fuel blockade, reopen Yemen’s Red Sea ports to humanitarian and commercial traffic, and ensure that vital supplies can reach desperate civilians in need throughout the country. The alternative is a famine
The problem ,though, is that it would appear Saudi Arabia with its oil wealth and huge investments and arms deals with BAE holds all the cards. Britain does not have the leverage over Saudi Arabia by being tied so closely to the Saudi establishment that proponents of this alliance claim it gives London.

The real and only question is what Britain would be prepared to do if the Saudis ignore Britain or indicate they might like to consider arms deals and investments with more constructive partners. Having said that, Russia is hostile to Riyadh and China has spent far more time courting Iran for oil and arms.

There is a real danger Saudi Arabia could collapse as a consequence of ISIS blowback from Yemen and the huge financial strain of the Yemen War as it draws the Saudis deeper into quagmire rather as the US was in Iraq after 2003 to 2011. Low oil prices and war have relentlessly eroded its currency reserves.

In early October 2015 there were rumours that a Saudi prince was calling for a palace coup against King Salman and his government including Prince Mohammed bin Salman who is blamed for launching a "reckless" war. Huge budget deficits and the prospect of downgraded credit ratings and capital flight loom larger.

The danger is of a "perfect storm". The rapidly expanding demand for domestic oil consumption through huge population growth with lower oil revenue earnings and lower production relative to it could mean diminishing social subsidies to buy off potential discontent.

In the context of the prevalence of intolerant forms of Salafi-Wahhabi Islam, Saudi Arabia could prove the most fertile territory for ISIS which is positioning itself as the real Islamic State' in rivalry with Riyadh. Saudis under 30 comprise two-thirds of the population and around 30 percent of them are without work.

The next time bomb would be the fact that growing sectarian fissures within Yemen and Bahrain could result in Saudi Shii'ites becoming radicalised. Iran and Hezbollah have been backing the Houthis and discontented Shi'ites live close to the main oil producing regions of the east towards the Persian Gulf.

The US since 2011 has sought to extricate itself from Middle East entanglements and balance Iranian regional interests with those of the Sunni Gulf states as a means to keep Iraq secure in the oil producing regions from militant Sunni Islamists and to keep combat troops out of Iraq, much to Saudi discomfort.

Britain usually follows the US position but what on earth it would do if Saudi Arabia collapsed, thus putting some of the most sophisticated weaponry in the world in the hands of ISIS, is a very real question. Leaving so much oil up for grabs would both be a colossal security threat and would send the global economy into chaos.

The prospect of Saudi collapse is the stuff of nightmares and could indeed trigger off a region wide conflagration that would invariably drag the Western Powers in militarily as well a huge wave of jihadi-terrorist blowback that would make the threats of Al Qaida look trivial by comparison.

With Russia trying out its attempt at an endgame in Syria, the time for an urgent regional political initiative and forceful diplomacy with the Gulf states no matter the risk to short term economic interests and arms deals. The consequences of not asserting an end to the proxy war with Iran, jihadi funding and the Yemen War are far graver.

The Saudi alliance could arguably have been justified during the Cold War and, of course, for the US and France as a source of oil. But with other sources coming on, most obviously in Shia and Kurdish Iraq and US shale oil, the benefits in allying with a major supporter of Sunni jihadism are diminishing.

The real danger is of the Saudis trying to divert internal discontent outwards by swinging ever greater and decisive military and financial support behind the newly proclaimed Sunni militia front in Syria against "the Russian occupation". This would be a replay of the mujahedeen in 1980s Afghanistan.

Even worse, if the US were foolish enough to align covertly with that strategy, as the $500 million support for training mythical "moderate rebels" has been dropped, the US would indeed be involved with what Obama has, at least, said he does not want-a proxy war with Russia.

The fear has to be that Russia and Assad's forces get bogged down with fighting a new Sunni mujahedeen supported by the Gulf states that lasts into the course of 2016. With US Republicans heavily involved with the Saudi lobby, a new president could be pushed towards the old Cold War option.

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