The Sustained Saudi-US Strategic Rift

Poor Saudis!  They have become the Rodney Dangerfield of the Persian Gulf, at least for the United States.  They have not been getting any respect from the Obama administration lately.  President Barack Obama, in a highly publicized interview, described the Middle East as a region that cannot be fixed, “not on his watch, and not for a generation to come.”  The Persian Gulf is a case in point.  That is a region where the Saudi-Iranian rivalry is getting hotter.  Since King Salman came to power, he appointed his 30-year-old son, Mohammad, as Defense Minister and the chief manager of his court.  In this latter capacity, he is generally regarded as the power behind the thrown.  The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Muhammad Bin Naif, though he holds numerous posts, is not number two in terms of his exercise of power.  Brash Mohammad, it seems, is the second most visible, and ostensibly, the second most influential man in that country.  Personalities are important in authoritarian states.  Thus, it is safe to say that defense and foreign policy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is being formulated and conducted through the most visible participation of Salam and his favorite son, Mohammad.  Mohammad is regarded as the architect of that country’s invasion of Yemen.

Under Salman, four issues seem to be driving the KSA’s foreign policy.  First, is the hatred, fear, and envy of Iran.  Second, is the Saudi military aggression in Yemen. Third, is the Saudi’s obsession with ousting Bashara Assad’s regime from Syria.  Fourth, is the defeat of ISIS, which is a very important goal for the KSA in Yemen, but only a secondary goal in Syria.

These issues clearly clash with President Barack Obama’s approach to the Middle East.  Obama is the first US president to envisage Syria as a place where the United States should not do “stupid stuff” by waging another war, since it is beyond repair.

The Saudis are still in a state of shock that Obama concluded a nuclear deal with Iran, whereby the latter was allowed to continue its nuclear research program.  Now, the Saudis have no choice but to work on a realignment of their foreign policy toward Israel, which hates Iran with equal intensity.  However, the chief problem with that alignment is that it may never be made public, given the intensely anti-Israeli environment among the Saudi powerful religious community.  Still, Saudi Arabia may be able to become a little overt about its policy realignment with Israel, in the sense that the same Saudi religious scholars also hate Iran on the basis of their long-standing views of the Shias stemming from Wahhabism.

The Saudis also remain envious of Iran because of the way it has handled itself against the United States during that country’s invasion of Iraq.  They are envious of the way Iran became an influential power inside Iraq after the US withdrawal from that country.  And, in a perverse way, they admire Iran’s commitment to confront the United States in Syria through their resolute support of Bashara Assad.

The United States has long nurtured a strong antipathy toward the Islamic Republic.  However, that antagonism is secular in orientation.  As such, the United States was open to—and indeed, it sought and concluded—a nuclear agreement with Iran.  Even if a Republican president succeeds Obama, chances are that the United States is likely to keep its doors wide open for negotiations with Iran, for at least two reasons.  First, Iran remains a powerful player in the ongoing anti-ISIS war in Iraq, where the United States’ military involvement is primarily for the same purpose.  Second, as long as the United States continues to seek a political resolution of the Syrian ongoing civil war, Iran will remain an important player around the negotiating table, along with Russia.  The United States also knows that there can never be a stable peace in Iraq without active participation and approval by Iran.  In other words, in the making and sustenance of peace and stability in Iraq, Iran is likely to have a definite say.  Washington has begrudgingly accepted that reality, since it knows how destructive an alienated Iran can be in Iraq.

The Saudi leaders are watching these developments in Iraq, and all they can do is remain covetously on the sidelines.  For its own long-term advantage, Iran must ensure that the Iraqi Sunnis are not alienated.  For that purpose, it also knows that it has no choice but to ensure the emergence of a negotiated power-sharing agreement guaranteeing political participation and economic integration of the Sunnis in the governance of Iraq.  Again, despite being an Islamic Republic, Iran has demonstrated, time and time again, that it is fully adept at negotiating political agreements and deals and then ensuring their implementation, as it has been doing in the enactment of its promises within the nuclear deal.

Regarding the resolution of the Syrian civil war, Iran is likely to remain open to a power-sharing agreement, as long as such an agreement also guarantees its presence in Syria, and provided that agreement does not disturb the current status of Iranian-backed Hezbollah in the Levant.

On the contrary, the only card the Saudis and their GCC allies have in Syria is to back the so-called moderate Islamists.  However, the chief problem with those groups is that, despite recognizing that it has no other credible option but to allow them to play a meaningful role in the fight against Assad, the Obama administration has never stopped suspecting their loyalty.  Besides, the United States is also fully aware that a Saudi-backed post-Assad government in Syria is likely to be intensely Islamist.  And that type of government is likely to remain a source of abundant apprehension to both Jordan and Israel.

So, the US-Saudi strategic drift has not only become a reality under President Barack Obama, who has remained highly skeptical of any US military involvement in the Middle East, but who also steadfastly refuses to become a tool for Saudi Arabia’s continued proxy war with Iran and with the KSA’s military aggression in Yemen.  He knows how potentially destructive both of those developments are for the United States’ own undisputed priorities to see the emergence of a peaceful and stable Middle East.  A lot of Western strategic analysts believe that Obama’s aforementioned conclusions are the result of the fact that his country is no longer dependent on Saudi oil.  That is one reason, but the paramount reason is Obama’s conclusion that Iran is likely to be the future major regional power of the entire Middle East.  As such, he seemed to have concluded, it should be engaged on a variety of issues that are quite important to the United States. That is why he has openly advised the Saudis to share the Persian Gulf with Iran.

Examining President Obama’s conclusions that Saudi Arabia has long served as a “free rider,” and an actor that refuses to play a constructive role in the Middle East, it is hard to envision that Obama’s successor would draw conclusions that are radically different from his.

Thus, in order to engage Iran in a dialogue, it behooves Saudi Arabia to abandon at least the aspect of its Wahhabi ideology that has remained highly scornful of Iran as the leading Shia state.  Saudi Arabia has to conclude on its own that its mindless bombing and other military actions in Yemen is creating a powerfully adverse image of its country in the global community.  More importantly, those policies, because their pursuit is wasting so much money, appear to be pushing it toward a certain economic backwardness and political instability.  Having Yemen as the poorest country of the Arab Middle East has been bad enough; now, it is also becoming a fertile place for the nurturing of the two bloodiest terrorist entities: Al-Qaida and ISIS.  Saudi Arabia cannot afford to have either of them remain active in Yemen, from where their infiltration inside Saudi Arabia would be considerably simple.  Saudi Arabia has to conclude on its own that, only by cooperating with Iran, can both of them become sources of peace and stability from West Asia to the Levant.  Obama’s criticism of Saudi Arabia should be taken by its rulers as a clarion-call and an eye-opener, rather than a source of acrimony and anger.  Finally, Saudi Arabia also has to realize that President Obama’s thinking and conclusions about that country have become a powerful precedent, which his successor will have a hard time discounting.


Islamophobia in the West: Playing into the Hands of ISIS

Fear of Islam and Muslims has been a visible trend since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.  In Europe, this trend was given fictional respectability in the name of freedom of speech.  However, the same alleged commitment to freedom of expression was not applied to those who denied the Holocaust.  The point here is not that anyone should deny the Holocaust.  Rather, the point of emphasis here is the hypocritical application of the selective use of that practice and the related double standard.  The same hypocrisy was applied in various cartoons disrespecting the Prophet of Islam.  For those who only read how capable the Europeans can be about insulting or even hating other religions need no proof other than the frequent nefarious acts of insulting the Prophet and Islam through the drawing of these offensive cartoons. Continue reading “Islamophobia in the West: Playing into the Hands of ISIS”

Anti-ISIS War Underscores the End of Western Dominance

The emergence of ISIS/ISIL/IS is just one more example–albeit a significant one–of the passage of an era of Western dominance of the Arab/Muslim world.  President Barack Obama’s anti-ISIS strategy (which is anything but a strategy) and his war on that entity in Syria and Iraq should be examined in that context.  The most prominent members of Obama’s coalition to bomb ISIS are Arab monarchies of West Asia, whose very survival remains under constant threat not only from the Islamists, but also from the anti-authoritarian forces that played a crucial role in initiating the Arab Awakening in December 2010.  As much as the Arab Awakening has become a somewhat dormant force, its turbulence is still being felt on a daily basis in Yemen and Jordan.  As much as the Saudis succeeded in suppressing the rebellion of largely Shia masses against the Sunni rulers of Bahrain, no one really knows how stable that sheikhdom is likely to remain and for how long.  The Arab states are experiencing the worst form of turbulence, in general, since the outburst of the Arab Awakening in 2010. Continue reading “Anti-ISIS War Underscores the End of Western Dominance”

Neocons: They Are Alive and Itching for War!

If you thought that the American neoconservatives (aka “chicken hawks”) of the George W. Bush administration–persons who brought us the Iraqi invasion based on a mission to destroy the imaginary arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussain was hiding–you would be wrong. They are very much alive and are coming back through cyberspace and the airways trashing President Barack Obama’s handling of Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.  When they are reminded of the atrocious mess originally created in Afghanistan and Iraq by Bush and these very same neocons, they deny this linkage and then quickly proceed with their warmongering rhetoric.  A factor to keep in mind about these neocons is that none has actually fought in a war.  However, their palpable penchant for war–as long as someone else’s son or daughter is going to die in it–has rightly earned them the pejorative depiction “chicken hawks.” Their proclivities are very much alive; they are itching for another war.

Continue reading “Neocons: They Are Alive and Itching for War!”

So Long, 2013; Welcome 2014…I Think!

Happy new year to all my global friends and contacts!

2013 has been an okay year for the United States, in terms of its foreign policy in the Middle East and in the Asia-Pacific.  Continue reading “So Long, 2013; Welcome 2014…I Think!”

Nawaz Sharif’s Domestic and Foreign Policy Options

The chief problem faced by most heads of state is that, despite their well-intentioned endeavors to prioritize their countries’ major problems in order to decide which should be tackled first,  they are almost invariably frustrated by changing circumstances, emergencies, and/or natural calamities.  Those shifting circumstances also affect the hierarchy of importance to be tackled.  Such is especially the case with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan. Continue reading “Nawaz Sharif’s Domestic and Foreign Policy Options”

“Real Reason for the Strategic Tensions Between US and Pakistan is the Haqqani Group”‘کشیدگی Ú©ÛŒ اصل وجہ حقانی گروپ ہے’

This is interview with the BBC Urdu of this monring (August 1, 2013)

‘کشیدگی Ú©ÛŒ اصل وجہ حقانی گروپ ہے’

آخری وقت اشاعت: جمعرات 1 اگست 2013 ,‭ 16:49 GMT 21:49 PST

پاکستان کے تناظر میں امریکی اہداف کیا ہیں؟ دفاعی امور کے تجزیہ کار ڈاکٹر احسان احراری کی بی بی سی کے پروگرام سیربین میں گفتگو


اس مواد کو دیکھنے/سننے کے لیے جاوا سکرپٹ آن اور تازہ ترین فلیش پلیئر نصب ہونا چاہئیے

تازہ ترین فلیش پلیئر یہاں دستیاب ہے

متبادل میڈیا پلیئر چلائیں

پاکستان کے تناظر میں امریکی اہداف کیا ہیں، وہ کیا چاہتا ہے، پاکستان سے وزیر خارجہ کے پاکستان کے دورے سے یہ توقعات کہاں تک پوری ہوئی ہیں۔

امریکہ میں مقیم دفاعی امور کے تجزیہ کار ڈاکٹر احسان احراری کی بی بی سی کے پروگرام سیربین میں گفتگو



The Abbotabad Commission Report and the United States

The Abbotabad Commission Report, in some corners of Pakistan, is depicted as “scathing,” while another school of thought calls it a mere whitewash.  The fact of the matter is that it is both.  It is scathing in its criticism of some security institutions and practices, such as the lack of coordination.  However, its only whitewash is either ignoring or soft-pedaling the real culprit, the possible involvement of the higher ups in either approving the presence of Usama Bin Laden (UBL) in Pakistan or  being a party to it.  Continue reading “The Abbotabad Commission Report and the United States”

The Synonymity Between Dispensability and Decline

In his second inaugural address in January 1997, President Bill Clinton stated, “America stands alone as the world’s indispensable nation.”[1]  Since then, that phrase has been used on a regular basis.  America, as an indispensable nation, underscores its dominance in resolving conflicts of all portions since the end of World War II.    It has been a major enabler of global economic stability and prosperity of Western Europe and Japan, and, most important of all, it contained the former Soviet Union–playing a crucial role in bringing about its eventual implosion.  Continue reading “The Synonymity Between Dispensability and Decline”