Why Saudis didn’t take Biden’s bait on Iran?
(This is a reprint from NewsBred)
Our good old Joe (Biden) went to Jeddah.
He was meeting more than half his age Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) — 36 to his 79 — and hoping his host would be wet behind the ears.
Maybe more pumping of oil; maybe a regional alliance; maybe the fear of Iran? None of his darts struck the target.
The crown prince, the de facto Saudi ruler, was in no mood to bail out the old man who could lose the US Congress in mid-term polls for Democrats before the year is out.
And the final two years of Biden’s presidency could go down in history as the tenure when the unravelling of US hegemony took a decisive dive.
Not long ago, the US had levelled Iraq, ruined Libya, was pounding Syria and raining misery on Yemen. The militias and Islamists were at their beck and call, never mind you call them ISIS, IS, Al Qaeda or whatever.
Now Syria is standing tall, Russia is in summits with Turkey and Iran, and Saudis — who keep the Dollar relevant — are furious.
The US first left the Yemen cause of Saudis — where Houthis do Iran’s calling; and then Biden preened on Jamal Khashoggi while not batting an eyelid on Shireen Abu Akleh, showing why Israel matters more to them than Saudi Arabia.
But now Iran is coming of age, a possible nuclear power, who has chums in Russia and China. Tehran has been admitted in SCO and eyeing BRICS as the Eurasia project of anti-US bloc has begun to take decisive shape.
US can’t afford Iran to go nuclear or in Russian-Chinese arms. It has to isolate and contain Iran which could only happen if fear is stoked and the region is organized against Tehran; as the Russian Bear was baited on Ukraine for Europe to come under Washington’s umbrella.
What Biden doesn’t understand is that a Middle East NATO is not possible. Two previous such attempts — the Arab League planned in 2015 and the MESA (Middle East Security Alliance) of 2017 have been non-starters.
And that’s because most of Arab nations have armies meant to handle internal troubles — not quite the kind which excel in external wars.
Not all are on the same page too: Qatar and Oman are friendly to Tehran; Syria is obligated; Lebanon and Iraq are following on the footsteps; and Saudi Arabia and UAE want to accommodate than confront an enemy which has often given them black eye. Bahrain and Jordan? Well, frankly, they don’t matter.
The real muscle of Arab security forces belong to North Africa where Egypt is ambivalent, far as it is from Tehran.
So if Iran goes nuclear — and Biden has vowed he would respond with his forces — all that is left is for Israel and US to do whatever they could do.
The other option for Washington is to revive the aborted nuclear deal with Iran which, if it comes to fruition, would mean the US would’ve to lift sanctions. It would only make Iran far more muscular.
Those wise call it a choice between the devil and the deep sea.
And then there is this matter of energy where prices have skyrocketed and the only one smiling is Moscow. The US is facing its worst inflation in 40 years; the threat of recession is real and Biden was hopeful Riyadh would pump more oil in the market for the prices to nosedive and Russia to lose one factor which is keeping it on its feet.
But Riyadh has made no such promise — and it can’t for it’s already pumping close to its maximum capacity. Further, it can’t overrule OPEC + which has Russia as the only other major producer. The OPEC+ is meeting on August 3 and Biden would hope to be obliged.
Saudi Arabia has deepened its political engagement with Moscow, not least because it hopes to be sufficiently armed. But then sustained higher oil prices would give the renewable push by the West a renewed push.
Biden, who was greeted by minors on his arrival at Jeddah, has gone home hoping for a helping hand from the Saudis in OPEC+ next month.
But till that happens, we could only term good, old Joe’s trip to Jeddah as a failure in true sense.