Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saudi Arabia: Hey US, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner!

Melanie Phillips writes that Obama's performance during the Egyptian protests has pushed Saudi Arabia away:
By reaching out his hand of friendship to the enemies of America and the free world and dumping on its allies, he has alienated those upon whom America has depended. By trying to push Mubarak under the Islamist bus, Obama has now managed to lose Saudi Arabia which, we learn, has actually been moved to revolt against America’s ditching of the Egyptian president -- indeed, the Saudis actually threatened the US that if it withdrew its aid programme to Egypt in order to force Mubarak out, the Saudis would step in to bankroll Egypt themselves. For King Abdullah has well understood the message that is flashing round the world in neon lights as a result of Obama’s behaviour: America shafts its allies.

...Moreover, the outcome of losing trust in the US is that Saudi – and the rest of the relatively less extreme Arab states – will now line up instead with the regime they recognise as the strong horse in the region and which is getting stronger by the day as a direct result of Obama’s policy: Iran.
Now this might seem a bit extreme--after all, it is hard to imagine the Sunni Arab world allying itself with the Shiite Iran. But guess what?

It's already happening.

Just last week, Iranian ships paid a visit to Saudi Arabia:
Iranian peace and friendship flotilla have reached Jeddah port to continues navigation activities, ISNA reported.

"Islamic Republic of Iran's navy flotilla arrived in Jeddah port on Sunday to continue mighty presence in high seas with the aim of fostering amicable relations and sending message of peace and friendship to regional countries," said Iranian naval force commander Habibollah Sayyari.
And of course, what Iranian 'peace and friendship flotilla' is complete without Iranian warships--in this case Iran's Khark warship and Alvand destroyer.

Change is coming to the Middle East, and it is not a wave of democracy.

J.E. Dyer points to the Iranian visit to Jedda as part of a larger picture power-plays in the region:
Hezbollah, Iran’s client, triumphed in Lebanon in January; the Egyptian unrest has seen the emergence of Hezbollah and Hamas operatives from detention in Egypt and an increase in violence at the border with Gaza. It’s not just that the Saudis are running scared. Iran sees opportunity.

In the absence of US leadership, the only way the other regional actors can deal with Iran is through appeasement and the forming of counter-coalitions. We are already seeing the beginnings of those patterns. Turkey is vying for regional leadership; Egypt may do so as well, depending on the outcome of the popular revolt. Russia and China are in the mix already, but we can expect their roles in cultivating and backing clients to become more prominent. We can sit passively and watch the others sort out their priorities and their new BFFs, or we can declare our priorities and act like a leader.
Dyer concludes that "we cannot trust this situation to inertia and silence"--two qualities that exemplified the Obama administration during the Iranian protest. It spoke up in pushing out Mubarak--will it take action now in countering the efforts of Iran and its proxies?

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