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Thread: Saudi Arabia Scrambles to Limit Regionís Upheaval

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    Saudi Arabia Scrambles to Limit Regionís Upheaval

    Today, The New York Times reported:

    Saudi Arabia is flexing its financial and diplomatic might across the Middle East in a wide-ranging bid to contain the tide of change, shield fellow monarchs from popular discontent and avert the overthrow of any more leaders struggling to calm turbulent republics.

    From Egypt, where the Saudis dispensed $4 billion in aid last week to shore up the ruling military council, to Yemen, where it is trying to ease out the president, to the kingdoms of Jordan and Morocco, which it has invited to join a union of Gulf monarchies, Saudi Arabia is scrambling to forestall more radical change and block Iran’s influence.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/28/wo...t/28saudi.html

    These latest measures illustrate that Saudi Arabia understands its critical interests and remains willing and able to take measures to sustain those interests. Tragically, such decisive leadership may also reflect a kind of leadership vacuum that has been created by an inconsistent and overly idealistic U.S. policy in the region.

    Over the course of the past few years, over two Administrations, one has witnessed the U.S. adopting a posture that Israeli-Palestinian peace is at the crux of the region’s problems (it isn’t) and, in the face of historic experience concerning the intractability of ethnic conflicts, artificial timelines for a complete resolution of the historic dispute. One has also witness increasing U.S. pressure being placed on Israel (a reliable strategic ally) when, in fact, Palestinian intransigence has blocked progress. Afterward, that pressure spread to Egypt where the U.S. essentially made clear that it wanted to see a friendly President ushered from power even when the contours of the post-Mubarak Egypt were somewhat murky, even if the “revolution” was not as radical as the Iranian one.

    For Saudi Arabia, Iran’s growing power has been a major concern. Bahrain, with its proximity to Saudi Arabia and its majority Shia population constituted a “red line” of sorts. That the U.S. failed to provide reaffirmation of support for Bahrain’s embattled moderate Sunni government raised alarms in Riyadh. That the U.S. seemed to lack awareness of the potential balance of power implications at stake and seemed to embrace an assumption that all of the popular movements in the region were benevolent and liberal in nature made the situation even more urgent. Saudi Arabia, as it did in Iraq in lending support to some of the embattled Sunnis, joined with the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council in moving to secure the survival of Bahrain’s government. With a strategic conception of the perils associated with a potentially radical overturning of established political institutions and power relationships and the linkages involved, Saudi Arabia has embarked on a more ambitious “counterrevolution” of sorts aimed at promoting stability or, at least, a more orderly transition that allows moderate regimes to evolve toward a more representative approach to governance.

    Until the U.S. rediscovers a balance between its interests and ideals—U.S. policy has shifted excessively toward its ideals—and puts concrete substance ahead of hopes and best case assumptions, the U.S. may find Saudi Arabia’s new posture unsatisfactory. Given its vast distance from the region, the U.S. has much larger room for maneuver. Saudi Arabia, in contrast, has much less room for error. Events are occurring on its doorstep. The shadow of Iran’s growing power and continuing revolutionary activities via its proxies looms over Saudi Arabia and other moderate Sunni governments. The U.S. was able to absorb the Iranian revolution of 1979 with far fewer consequences than Iran’s neighbors. Similarly, if Bahrain became an Iranian satellite, the U.S. would suffer far lower costs than Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the U.S. remains the world’s foremost military power, hence it would not have to live with the kind of threat that would confront Saudi Arabia.

    In short, Saudi Arabia’s strategic approach to recent events in the Middle East is rational and consistent with its critical interests. At the same time, Saudi Arabia’s posture may actually bolster U.S. regional interests, if its strategy succeeds in forestalling opportunities that could be exploited by a rising Iran and its proxies.
    Last edited by donsutherland1; 05-27-11 at 10:42 AM.

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    Re: Saudi Arabia Scrambles to Limit Regionís Upheaval

    I found the following in bold interesting and somewhat surprising considering the source.

    Quote Originally Posted by donsutherland1 View Post
    One has also witness increasing U.S. pressure being placed on Israel (a reliable strategic ally) when, in fact, Palestinian intransigence has blocked progress

    That the U.S. (why didn't they simply say The Obama Administration, or Obama?) seemed to lack awareness of the potential balance of power implications at stake and seemed to embrace an assumption that all of the popular movements in the region were benevolent and liberal in nature...
    Then they go through how US policy corners SA, and then say... Oh well... it could work out in the end. It could... but it could be disastrous, just as Carter's action/non-action in Iran has proven a massive disaster.

    .
    Last edited by zimmer; 05-27-11 at 11:51 AM.
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    Re: Saudi Arabia Scrambles to Limit Regionís Upheaval

    It is in our best interest that the revolutions in the Arab World end activities, and stabilize and we know what direction they are really headed.

    My fear is that Obams doesn't know how to repond.

    We could be headed for a much greater set of problems than we face today.

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    Re: Saudi Arabia Scrambles to Limit Regionís Upheaval

    Quote Originally Posted by Councilman View Post
    We could be headed for a much greater set of problems than we face today.
    Such as one massive country named Nation of Islam. Make no mistake, that is the goal of the Muslim Brotherhood, who is at the heart of all these revolutions.

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    Re: Saudi Arabia Scrambles to Limit Regionís Upheaval

    Saudi Arabia is a corrupt dictatorship, that tramples on human rights. Let's not forget that women are not allowed to drive. Saudi Arabia is obvisoulsy not interested in seeing democracy spring up in the arab world. They were unhappy when a dictator of nearly 40 years fell in Egypt. Saudi Arabia's ideals are the complete opposite of the western world.Amazing how oil allows you to get away with anything you want. The hypocrisy of the world is astounding sometimes.

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    Re: Saudi Arabia Scrambles to Limit Regionís Upheaval

    Quote Originally Posted by 24107 View Post
    Saudi Arabia is a corrupt dictatorship, that tramples on human rights. Let's not forget that women are not allowed to drive. Saudi Arabia is obvisoulsy not interested in seeing democracy spring up in the arab world. They were unhappy when a dictator of nearly 40 years fell in Egypt. Saudi Arabia's ideals are the complete opposite of the western world.Amazing how oil allows you to get away with anything you want. The hypocrisy of the world is astounding sometimes.
    Although I have profound disagreements with Saudi Arabia's human rights record, including but not limited to its treatment of women, I am hesistant to take an overly optimistic view on the ongoing turmoil in parts of the Middle East. I am not sure that revolution will achieve greater lasting progress toward more representative government than steady but slower evolution.

    Some of the popular uprisings might well aim to achieve more democratic and inclusive government. Some might seek political change, embrace the banner of democracy, but have little conception of what they seek in place of the status quo. Egypt and Tunisia might--and "might" is a key qualifier--fall into the former category, though recent efforts to "punish" former President Mubarak suggest motives other than more democratic governance may also be in play. Libya is highly uncertain, especially as the rebel movement has engaged in some reprisals of its own, has yet to articulate a clear design for post-Gadhafi governance, and has offered no generous amnesty/guarantees of basic rights to gain broad popular support. Yemen may well mark a slow renewal of civil war over old grievances, the timing which became convenient in the midst of the current turmoil that appeared to be weakening central authority throughout the region.

    Clearly, I very much hope that the most benign outcome plays out. The region and its people would greatly benefit. They deserve the chance to improve their social and economic welfare to the maximum extent of what their abilities and opprotunities would make possible in a free and inclusive society.

    IMO, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made a keen observation concerning the timing of reforms and revolution. He observed:

    The fundamental challenge of a revolution is this: Certainly wise governments forestall revolutions by making timely concessions; indeed the very wisest governments do not consider adaptations as concessions, but rather as part of a natural process of increasing popular support. However, once a revolution is in train it cannot then be moderated by concessions. Once a revolution has occurred, the preeminent requirement is the restoration of authority. These concessions , which had they been made a year earlier might have avoided the sitaution, accelerate the process of disintegration. After authority is restored there is another opportunity to make concessions.

    Some of the countries affected by strife failed to make the changes necessary to avoid the rise of popular discontent. As the gap between the needs/requirements of their people and what they offered grew, they reached a breaking point. President Mubarak's greatest strength was his commitment to continuity. He consolidated Egypt's peace with Israel, patiently rebuilt relations with Egypt's neighbors, and avoided the rise of significant terrorism. That commitment to continuity was also his greatest weakness in the long-term. Egypt stagnated relative to the world around it. It lost access to opportunities and its people could not fully leverage the opportunities that benefited, among others, the BRIC nations. Their overall living standard lagged improvements taking place in many other parts of the world.

    Amidst the turmoil, there is opportunity for others such as Iran to exploit events. If Saudi Arabia's strategy seeks to buy the time necessary to allow for a more managed evolution toward more representative government, it won't be a bad thing. If it is aimed at perpetuating a status quo, it is a strategy that will ultimately fail.
    Last edited by donsutherland1; 05-27-11 at 02:45 PM.

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    Re: Saudi Arabia Scrambles to Limit Regionís Upheaval

    Quote Originally Posted by donsutherland1 View Post
    Although I have profound disagreements with Saudi Arabia's human rights record, including but not limited to its treatment of women, I am hesistant to take an overly optimistic view on the ongoing turmoil in parts of the Middle East. I am not sure that revolution will achieve greater lasting progress toward more representative government than steady but slower evolution.

    Some of the popular uprisings might well aim to achieve more democratic and inclusive government. Some might seek political change, embrace the banner of democracy, but have little conception of what they seek in place of the status quo. Egypt and Tunisia might--and "might" is a key qualifier--fall into the former category, though recent efforts to "punish" former President Mubarak suggest motives other than more democratic governance may also be in play. Libya is highly uncertain, especially as the rebel movement has engaged in some reprisals of its own, has yet to articulate a clear design for post-Gadhafi governance, and has offered no generous amnesty/guarantees of basic rights to gain broad popular support. Yemen may well mark a slow renewal of civil war over old grievances, the timing which became convenient in the midst of the current turmoil that appeared to be weakening central authority throughout the region.

    Clearly, I very much hope that the most benign outcome plays out. The region and its people would greatly benefit. They deserve the chance to improve their social and economic welfare to the maximum extent of what their abilities and opprotunities would make possible in a free and inclusive society.

    IMO, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made a keen observation concerning the timing of reforms and revolution. He observed:

    The fundamental challenge of a revolution is this: Certainly wise governments forestall revolutions by making timely concessions; indeed the very wisest governments do not consider adaptations as concessions, but rather as part of a natural process of increasing popular support. However, once a revolution is in train it cannot then be moderated by concessions. Once a revolution has occurred, the preeminent requirement is the restoration of authority. These concessions , which had they been made a year earlier might have avoided the sitaution, accelerate the process of disintegration. After authority is restored there is another opportunity to make concessions.

    Some of the countries affected by strife failed to make the changes necessary to avoid the rise of popular discontent. As the gap between the needs/requirements of their people and what they offered grew, they reached a breaking point. President Mubarak's greatest strength was his commitment to continuity. He consolidated Egypt's peace with Israel, patiently rebuilt relations with Egypt's neighbors, and avoided the rise of significant terrorism. That commitment to continuity was also his greatest weakness in the long-term. Egypt stagnated relative to the world around it. It lost access to opportunities and its people could not fully leverage the opportunities that benefited, among others, the BRIC nations. Their overall living standard lagged improvements taking place in many other parts of the world.

    Amidst the turmoil, there is opportunity for others such as Iran to exploit events. If Saudi Arabia's strategy seeks to buy the time necessary to allow for a more managed evolution toward more representative government, it won't be a bad thing. If it is aimed at perpetuating a status quo, it is a strategy that will ultimately fail.


    You apparently approve the fact that we support the Saudi scumbags.

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    Re: Saudi Arabia Scrambles to Limit Regionís Upheaval

    Quote Originally Posted by DaveFagan View Post
    You apparently approve the fact that we support the Saudi scumbags.
    Having a good working relationship with Saudi Arabia is in the national interest. There is no way around it, but access to Saudi oil is in the critical interests of the United States and its allies.

    I have frequently posted that the U.S. should pursue a robust investment program modeled after the Manhattan or Apollo projects on account of its energy-related vulnerability, even if that requires eliminating other lines of expenditure. A disproportionate share of the world's energy resources lie in geopolitically unstable or even hostile regions. The longer the U.S. delays, the less its leverage will be should a crisis erupt or global demand gradually approach the limits of production.

    Resource nationalism is a very real threat in the latter scenario and other states are not obligated to satisfy the demands of the global marketplace if it does not suit their national interest. In the context of scarcity that would result from a business-as-usual course, the temptation to use their energy resources for leverage will increase.

    Today's lack of alternatives, should a massive supply shock occur, is the result of deliberate decisions that have been made repeatedly since the twin energy crises of the 1970s. The decision to avoid difficult choices has reduced the United States' strategic flexibility. During high energy prices, both the former and current Administrations have professed that they are essentially powerless. The great tragedy is that the lack of options is the result of deliberate choices that have been made over the years, deliberate choices that continue to guide today's continuing absence of a credible and coherent energy policy. Deeds and investments, not words and promises, matter. Contemporary energy policy, if one can call it that, is essentially the same as it has been for decades.

    In that context, Saudi Arabia carries far more geopolitical and economic weight than it otherwise would. Consequently, the U.S. can ill-afford to have a dysfunctional relationship with Saudi Arabia.
    Last edited by donsutherland1; 05-27-11 at 03:42 PM.

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    Re: Saudi Arabia Scrambles to Limit Regionís Upheaval

    Quote Originally Posted by Erod View Post
    Such as one massive country named Nation of Islam.
    If by this you mean all of the Middle East becoming one "country" I can say this will never happen. Anymore than South America can become one christian country, or Europe. What welds a people together is their common heritage not their common religion. In the M.E. tribal loyalty comes first, and the M.E. has hundreds/thousands of disparate tribes and the strongest tribe usually rules the country by either buying out the others or by over powering them militarily and economically.
    Make no mistake, that is the goal of the Muslim Brotherhood, who is at the heart of all these revolutions.
    In Egypt the MB is already evolving, and the MB is different in all countries. It doesn't have much power in Saudia Arabia, where the Wahabi rule religion and civil life. But then to you they might be the same; they are not. The next revolution in the M.E. will be between secular and fundamentalist factions.

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