By Saeed Naqvi
26th Oct 2013
Saudi refusal of the rotating Security Council seat has been seen for what it is: a tantrum. But it also indicates a much greater political reality: West Asian politics may well be reverting to normality. The frenetic pace at which events moved in the Bush years after 9/11, when the United States could ride two horses, Israel and Saudi Arabia at the same time, on the gallop, is only possible on an extensive straight. This was the delusionary part of the neo-con thinking. They thought the US would be on the "straight" forever, having defeated the Soviet Union.
As we know, other powers have arisen. The threesome, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US, must perforce pause and take stock. What have been the gains? What we are witnessing is the coming apart of the triangular alliance. Marxists have a fine way of analysing international affairs. As long as Israel and Saudi Arabia serve imperialism's basic interests in the region, their influence in Washington cannot be discounted. But if this "basic", interest, that of being economically and strategically indispensible, to imperialism is not being served, special relationships or powerful lobbies in the US will not be able to keep the three together. Riyadh and Tel Aviv must ponder. Are they useful or a drag on US' "core interests"?
The trio was focused on one vision of West Asia. But the opening to Iran now being followed up by the British re-opening their embassy in Tehran next week has rendered unfeasible that vision. That was the scheme on which the Saudis had set their heart. Oh, how they pressed their nose against that sweet shop window.
The alliance had gummed up a fundamental regional contradiction. How can the Saudis, in their original incarnation as leaders of the Arab world, be in an alliance with Israel, which has occupied Palestinian Arab lands and will not budge?
One implication of the apparent Saudi estrangement with the US is that Riyadh will now pull out its peace plan of 2002. This brings into focus such of the Kingdom's foreign policy thinkers as Prince Turki Al Faisal, former intelligence chief and ambassador to the US. Note the tone of the article he wrote in the New York Times over a year ago. "The special relationship between the two countries would increasingly be seen as toxic by the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims, who demand justice for the Palestinian people."
As the Saudis dissipated their energies promoting Shia-Sunni strife on the unspeakable scale simply to keep the Iranians in check, the US too was dragged into this mess. But they did not stay steady on their anti Shia plank alone. They began to see Muslim Brotherhood ogres in all the GCC countries and when Mohammad Morsi began to consolidate the Brotherhood in Egypt, they rushed and supported the Army coup, embarrassing Obama, whose photographs were plastered in Egypt as a supporter of Morsi. Indeed, photographs of the US ambassador Anne Patterson also came up as a Brotherhood "stooge".
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's head was popping up at the same time as the Egyptian army's supporter. The Saudis came barging in with their billions and billions to keep the armed forces buoyant. Such a mess.
Then Prince Bandar bin Sultan flew into Moscow. His conversation with Vladimir Putin is a study in how diplomacy is not done. Give us Syria, said Bandar, and take the world. It was like the Biblical yarn about the Devil tempting Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. "Get thee behind me, Satan," said Christ, refusing the blandishments. When Bandar offered all the guarantees for a "terror free" Sochi Winter Olympic games next year, Putin said we know you control terrorists.
This amazing conversation was supposed to be under wraps but one of the two sides leaked it to the Russian press. Bandar's other startling undertaking was that whatever he offered the Russians had American backing.
This was the trump card Bandar handed Putin at the global casino's high table.
US, Saudis and Israelis overwhelming everything else in the region, is no longer the name of the game. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran will have to seek their salvation together slowly, step by step, with other countries of the region. Until, of course, a story appears: Israelis Plan to Attack...