Thursday, December 12, 2019 | ePaper

US-Saudi alliance in today's realpolitik

  • Print
Yana Popkostova :
The US shale revolution will transform the traditional US thirst for energy and the compounding effect on its international relations into a global energy dominance, thereby curtailing the Saudi grip over US foreign policy and obviating the Carter doctrine's determination to expel blood for stability in the Middle East. But the current Khashoggi saga dispels that mantra. Saudi Arabia remains a strong shaper of US rhetoric and action, an actor that cannot be alienated for a crime that cannot be punished - and this is both shuddering a realisation and awakening to the reality of today's realpolitik.
Since the mercurial rise to power of MbS - the enigmatic Prince Mohammed bin Salman, US strategy for the region has hinged on his vision - for domestic economic transformation, ostracizing Iran, pushing against Isis and thus increasing the demand for US arms, crushing the clergy establishment while improving relations with Israel. Donald Trump's first trip as an elected president was to Riyadh, a gesture full of symbolism about the power of Saudi Arabia to shape the Middle East geopolitics and the ability of the affluent kingdom to whittle the global hegemon's path forward.
Charming as he is, alongside an uplifting vision for Saudi transformation and regional role, the Saudi Prince presided over a blockade of Qatar, meddling with Lebanese politics, and a bitter feud against the domestic 1%, the bombing of Yemen and a humanitarian crisis, culminating in the imprisonment and mysterious disappearance [alas murder] of a dissident journalist. While the famished Yemeni kids never came to the shores of the European continent or featured on covers of acclaimed American journals, Jamal Khashoggi moves were recorded and publicized by the Turkish authorities - him entering the consulate, followed days later by cleaning ladies, never to go out.
All business heavyweights decided to boycott the Future Investment Initiative [the Davos of the Desert conceived by MbS to attract foreign investment for the diversification of Saudi economy]. Blackstone, BlackRock and JPMorgan CEOs were followed by the CEOs of all major European banks and the IMF head in withdrawing from the programme. Business took the helm of policy leadership, upholding the values and social imperatives previously the prerogative of Western democracies.
Harsh political reprimanding has been slow to follow. Trump mentioned "rogue killers" underlying the "flat denial" of King Solomon of any knowledge or order of a killing. The leader of the free world, the head of the cradle of rule of law and value-based foreign policy shrugged under his umbrella. With mounting pressure carefully orchestrated by Turkey's Erdogan in his own Machiavellian regional games, the US administration hardened the rhetoric with Trump proclaiming that the Khashoggi case has been a "bad original concept…carried out poorly and the cover-up was one of the worst in the history of cover-ups". 'They should have done a better cover-up, and no macabre reports of body parts found in the Saudi general council's garden will make me pursue punitive action' is a freestyle interpretation of Trump's remarks.
A tentative allusion to 'severe sanctions' if ordered state murder is proven, was met with assertive stance by Saudi Arabia bolstered by a denialist narrative in its state-run media, all perpetuating what Jamal Khashoggi warned against in his last column: "uninformed or misinformed populations" where the "public psyche is dominated" by state-run media. The kingdom still holds the world's most important spare reserve capacity, and its status of the global swing producer led to an unequivocal utterance that Saudi's "influential and vital role in the world economy" will be used under pressure, words that reminded the Western world, safe in its hubristic belief that its system of legal approximation and soft appeal rules the world, that in fact it has failed.
Amongst the noise of reporting and empty statements, Russia and China are notable by their absence - while the US attempts to conceive the truth, the EU observes as it does, and will, for sure, reprimand belatedly in the days to come [Germany already announced a freeze of its arms exports to the Kingdom and Mogherini asked for "a thorough investigation" in a dry statement about 10 days after the affair came to public attention], the bears of the East persevere in cushioning on arms and energy deals embracing the Kingdom, forming a new alliance of sorts, outside the global rule of law and principles system, in a realm of anocratic polities that are determined to reshape the regional power games.
China and Russia, independently, but also in a somehow combined effort to sway the balance of power, have entered into energy, arms and aide relationships with everyone. Myriad deals with Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Egypt and Israel surpass bilateral trade numbers between the US and any regional actor, and largely eclipse the remit of the EU, marking the burgeoning new axis of power where "…the US monopoly is disappearing. It's almost done." as Putin stated during his annual foreign policy address.
US power is waning, whether by design or lack of a solid strategy, but the effect will be long-lasting. The Khashoggi affair if anything demonstrates blatantly the changing geopolitics of the region and the realpolitik of power, where principles and values fade in importance. What is unfolding before a world duped in its belief in rule of law, is a flagrant disregard for legal approximation and basic principles of state action. This marks the sequence of the failed allure of Western values that catapults the liberal world into a Hobbesian grey zone where moral imperatives count less than arms deals, and where the dismembered bodies of journalists are hushed away as bad for business.
"I don't like the concept of stopping an investment of US$110 billion into the United States" "…here's what's going to happen - they [Saudi Arabia] will buy them from China, buy them from Russia." "We're not really hurting them, we're hurting ourselves," said Trump almost nonchalantly last week. "We continue to maintain a strong partnership with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia…Our shared strategic interest with Saudi Arabia will remain." insisted his Secretary of State yesterday.
The profound, emphatic logic of a reckless corporate leader [and his protege] of a brave new world that is shuddering, deprived of liberal values and impregnated by impunity, a world prone to bouts of demagogy, fake news and empty promises, where Europe remains silent [beyond one page written statements].
The end of history is not yet.

(Yana Popkostova is Founding director, European Centre for Energy and Geopolitical Analysis (ECEGA.EU).

More News For this Category

Project costs are increased for corruption

IN the latest effort, the executive committee of the National Economic Council on Tuesday made upward revision to the construction of the third terminal at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport by

Indian citizenship law to create instability in this region

PROTESTORS across India, particularly in northeast India, set fire to tyres and cut down trees to block roads on Tuesday after lawmakers approved the government's new citizenship bill. The legislation

Multimedia Problems And Prospects

Dr. Forkan Uddin Ahmed :Multimedia is a digital publication. In a house, one television is enough. There is no need for multiple televisions or newer models every day. The people

Climate COP 25 Reducing Global Temperatures?

Shishir Reza :Also, there are uncertainties over thresholds for climate change impacts and the pace and form of technological innovation that can take shape in the future. Furthermore, the effects

Government must care to respect human rights of our people

EVERY four years, the United Nation's Human Rights Council reviews Bangladesh's human rights situation as part of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR). During the UPR process, member states of the

Questions raised by President are valid but his govt doesn't care

PRESIDENT Abdul Hamid on Monday said commercial courses were turning public universities into business organisations and also disrupting the educational atmosphere on the campus.  "Thousands of graduates are being produced

Flaws Within Education System Bangladesh Needs To Wake Up

Sir Frank Peters :If, as they say 'ignorance is bliss', Supreme Court justices Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hassan Arif have profuse apologies to make to the entire nation,

Gulf Crisis Natural Gas To Frame Future Relations

Dr James M Dorsey :Natural gas could well emerge as the litmus test of how relations among the Gulf's energy-rich monarchies evolve if and when a Saudi-United Arab Emirates-led alliance

People paying high but getting low quality telecom service

A REPORT published recently by Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission said that quality of service of state-owned mobile phone operator Teletalk was the lowest in four divisions compared with that of

Save Buriganga to save Dhaka dwellers: Court can’t

THE High Court has directed the Department of Environment (DoE) and Dhaka WASA to take effective steps to stop polluting Buriganga River. On Sunday, the HC asked the DoE to