Consideration to Geostrategic Pulse no.191 - Saudi Arabia in search of a more powerful position in the Middle East

Saudi Arabia in search of a more powerful position in the Middle East
Corneliu PIVARIU

The American President Barack Obama met the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council on Thursday, 14 May 2015, at Camp David. The American Administration probably intended the meeting to be a guarantee for its Gulf partners that the probable conclusion of negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program between the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1), on which the GCC has no leverage, would not change the position of the US towards its allies in the Gulf. The guarantee was probably accompanied by promises for enhanced political support and provision of updated military technology of the newest generation.

We need to mention form the very beginning that the only heads of state attending the reunion were from Kuwait and Oman; the other countries sent high dignitaries, following the example of Saudi Arabia. Motivating with the conflict in Yemen, which required the permanent presence of the new King Salman in the country, Saudi Arabia was represented by Prince Mohammed byn Nayef (appointed only for about two weeks). The pretext of the conflict in Yemen could cover two more important reasons for the Saudi king: the dissatisfaction for the progress of the occidental negotiations with Iran and the general American strategic developments in the Middle East, as well as the possible major concerns for the control of the domestic political situation after the extended reshuffle and the chance of royal succession, imposing its own family. 

To be more exact, we mention that the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nuhayyan, has not been seen in public after his heart attack in January 2014 and the Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said, has been suffering for a few months of an illness that was not made public. However, it does not mean that Saudi Arabia did not focus on enhancing its position within the Sunni Arab countries, developing cooperation with Turkey (there are numerous comments of a possible cooperation between Riyadh and Ankara for an intervention in Syria aiming at removing Bashar al-Assad from power) and Qatar, both by supporting groups of Syrian rebels and by joining efforts for a wide coalition that would support an intervention in Yemen. 

We also mention that the new Saudi Prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, has had an important contribution in destabilizing al-Qaeda in the kingdom, being the only Saudi royalty directly targeted by an attack of the organization. Nayef has been raised under his father’s direct supervision. His father died in 2012, after having led the Saudi Minister of Interior for 37 years. The new prince is a Master of Political Science at an American university and attended specialized CIA training for the fight against terrorism. He also attended other secret services training courses in Saudi Arabia, at Taif.    

Another important appointment in the Saudi government is Mohammed bin Salman (one of the King’s sons) as vice-successor, placing him second in the order of succession, maintaining his official attributions of Minister of Defense, Head of the Royal Cabinet and Special Advisor of the King. He is a member of the Council of Political and Security Affairs and Chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs. Western sources consider him to be “the strong man of Saudi Arabia. He supervises everything that is important in the country”.

Saudi Arabia is a very important part of the Middle East for the United States (of course, after Israel) and beyond it, considering the importance of Saudi Arabia for a balanced OPEC policy as well for the driving of regional governments and of their allies into a broad action that would counteract the Soviet/Russian influence. We should remember that almost 44 years ago, at Camp David, President Nixon succeeded, with the support of Saudi Arabia, to implement the usage of the dollar as a main international currency. The Saud dynasty and Washington agreed to sell oil only in dollars and buy, with part of the income, billions of dollars in bonds from the American treasury. Because of this agreement, the American dollar maintained its position of global reserve, though other top geopolitical players are trying to undermine this position.

As indicated by the global and regional geopolitical context, the future conflicts in the Middle East will probably include the regional players and less great powers like the US or others. We will see Saudi Arabia’s actions and role in this context.  

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back Published in 2015-05-20 Print Download up