While turbulent during the best of times, gigantic waves of change are now sweeping across the Middle East. The magnitude is such that the impact on the global price of oil, as well as world markets, is likely to be enormous.
A dramatic geo-political realignment by Saudi Arabia is in full swing this month. It’s upending many decades of established strategic relationships among the world's superpowers and, in particular, is throwing the Middle East into turmoil.
So much is currently in flux, especially in Saudi Arabia, that nearly anything can happen next. Which is precisely why this volatile situation should command our focused attention at this time.
The main elements currently in play are these:
- A sudden and intense purging of powerful Saudi insiders (arrests, deaths, & asset seizures)
- Huge changes in domestic policy and strategy
- A shift away from the US in all respects (politically, financially and militarily)
- Deepening ties to China
- A surprising turn towards Russia (economically and militarily)
- Increasing cooperation and alignment with Israel (the enemy of my enemy is my friend?)
Taken together, this is a tectonic change happening at blazing speed.
That it's receiving too little attention in the US press given the implications, is a tip-off as to just how big a deal this is -- as we're all familiar by now with how the greater the actual relevance and importance of a development, the less press coverage it receives. This is not a direct conspiracy; it's just what happens when your press becomes an organ of the state and other powerful interests. Like a dog trained with daily rewards and punishments, after a while the press needs no further instruction on the house rules.
The brazenness of the killing in Istanbul is stunning. Moreover, it targeted an American resident who was a powerful advocate of free speech and political accountability. The even bigger problem, however, is that this murder fits a pattern of outrageous and harmful Saudi behavior. The kingdom’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is a brash young man who has by now made many mistakes because of arrogance and inexperience—from his brutal and extralegal “anti-corruption drive” to his abduction of the Lebanese prime minister to his unnecessary public standoff with Qatar. Against this background, the Khashoggi murder is less an exceptional act of recklessness than an emblem of the new normal for the kingdom.
One tempting option would be to stop U.S. arms sales—a measure that could impose pain on Riyadh without disrupting America’s de facto security guarantee, or the world’s unquenchable thirst for Saudi hydrocarbons. Yet President Trump resists this step, arguing that American jobs are on the line.
But there’s a natural compromise. We should use this crisis as a chance to do what we should have been doing all along—namely, to force the Saudis (and, ideally, their key ally, the United Arab Emirates) to rethink their disastrous war in neighboring Yemen.
Three years into the Saudi intervention, there is no longer any reasonable argument for believing that what the Saudis are doing will work. Meanwhile, the intelligence support, logistics assistance and specific types of weaponry that we provide Saudi Arabia have made us complicit in all the airstrikes gone wrong and the ensuing carnage among civilians.
Image courtesy: Google
Information Courtesy: Google