Egypt Marches to a Saudi Drummer

Yves here. This may seem a bit wide of our usual finance and economics beat, but the Middle East continues to be a potential flashpoint, as well as the most visible sphere of jockeying for geopolitical influence. It’s relevant for domestic policy, both in terms of our ongoing military commitments and their budgetary impact, as well as the fact that shale gas development does not reduce the need for oil for the overwhelming majority of vehicles in the US (ie, they would need to be converted to natural gas or replaced).

This piece caught my attention because it gives a plausible and in-depth assessment of Saudi policy in the Middle East, now that it is in the process of divorcing itself from the US. In particular, it also in passing addresses a question that flummoxed Moon of Alabama: why did the Saudis reject what would normally be a prized seat on the UN Security Council? If nothing else, it will hopefully stir reactions from informed members of the commentariat.

By Felix Imonti, an investor, retired business founder/operator, and author of Violent Justice and numeerous articles in the areas of international relations, international economics and history. Cross posted from OilPrice

General El-Sisi may have found the solution to Egypt’s economic woes.  It is called war.

During the weeks up to the coup, General El-Sisi had much to consider.  With his access to the presidential palace and the trust of the Muslim Brotherhood, the general would have known the well-kept secret that Egypt was facing in a few short months a currency collapse and a famine that would very likely throw the country into a bloody revolution that his soldiers would be forced to quell.

Throughout the growing crisis, the Brotherhood offered no solid plan to revive the economy.  Sixty billion dollars had been sent offshore for safety and nothing being done would lure any of it back.  Qatar, Libya, and Turkey had contributed twelve billion dollars, but Egypt would require a billion dollars per month to remain solvent and there was no sign that would be forthcoming.

Something had to be done quickly and whatever was to be done would require the agreement of General El-Sisi.  He was the Minister of Defense and the commander of the half million strong Egyptian military.  He was the most powerful man in Egypt.

Regardless, a coup would not solve the economic stresses.  Egypt needed a benefactor with a full purse and a willingness to spend.  Only one country fitted that picture, Saudi Arabia; and the king has reason to favor the Egyptian general.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had watched Mubarak removed from office and replaced by Mohammed Morsi.  He had seen the Muslim Brotherhood grow from a problem to a threat.  The Brotherhood was not only active in Egypt.  It was involved in Tunisia, competed with the forces supported by the Saudis in Syria, and had been seeking to overthrow the King of Jordan.  The Saudi king had proposed that the Gulf Cooperation Council be expanded to include Jordan and Morocco in an alliance of the monarchies in an effort to blunt the spread of the Arab Spring and the Muslim Brotherhood.

One of General El-Sisi’s many admirers might go so far as to say that he had been chosen by a Divine Hand to save Egypt.  The general had been based at the Egyptian Embassy in Saudi Arabia and knew many of the leaders of the Kingdom who could provide the desperately needed funds that would make a coup possible. On the other hand, the Saudis had found the one man who could break the Muslim Brotherhood after which they would be free to focus on the destruction of their other enemy, Iran and the Shia.

There is nothing new in the objective.  It is the continuation of a war that the Saudis have been pursuing for four decades that dates back to the reign of the Shah.  Saudi Arabia had manipulated the oil price on several occasions in order to inflict economic damage upon the Iranians.

Beyond the economic arena, they have battled each other through proxies in Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, and currently in Syria.  In spite of all of those efforts, the Saudis are still confronting their traditional foe and seeing Iran a more dangerous rival than ever before with the Shia control of Iraq and through the growth of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s asymmetric warfare skills, and penetration by Al-Qud of the Shia communities throughout the Middle East.

Seven hundred billion dollars in foreign reserves gives the impression of an economic powerhouse, but the Saudi future is dire.  A twenty-five percent unemployment rate among the youth and little prospect for improvement present a potential source of social unrest.  After depending upon the strength of the United States for seventy years, their American protector is no longer a reliable ally.  Looming in the not too distant future, new technological improvements are increase quantities of recoverable oil that will force down world prices, unless Saudi Arabia can restrict Middle Eastern supplies to compensate for the increased worldwide production

King Abdullah called for the beheading of the Iranian snake in the midst of the Arab Spring and heightened conflict with Iran.  He would have liked to have seen the U.S. accomplish it before Iran developed nuclear weapons, but it did not happened and appears that it never will happen.  If the kingdom is going to become the dominant power in the region that will give it control over the flow and cost of oil, it must do so before Iran acquires nuclear weapons and before the American shield is withdrawn.  The current willingness by the Iranians to negotiate a settlement over the nuclear program is treated in Riyadh as diplomatic theatrics intended to deceive an eagerly to be deceived United States.

 

The Saudi outburst at the United Nations when the Kingdom refused to take its Security Council seat that it had struggled to acquire was a tactic and not a tantrum.  The Saudis were sending the message that the unsolved problems that have been long festering in the region would have to be resolved.  If the others would not act, then Saudi Arabia would deal with the issues without the aid of the retreating United States or the impotent UN.  What they were saying was that they are being forced to do whatever they are going to do; and their actions would come in many forms.

At the end of October, the newly formed Saudi supported Army of Justice, Jaish Al-Adl killed fourteen Iranian border guards in the Province of Baluchistan.  The organization declared that the attack was retaliation for Iranian involvement in Syria.

Baluchistan was merely a pinprick compared to the confrontation at the beginning of August between President Vladimir Putin and Saudi intelligence chief and former ambassador to the United States, Bandar Bin Sultan.  The Saudi prince came with carrots and sticks to have the Russians drop their support of Bashar Al-Assad.  According to the leaked news report, Washington was in full agreement with the Saudi offer.

What the prince presented was an agreement for Russia and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to set production quotas and prices.  Combined, they control forty-five percent of oil production.

The Saudis would not interfere with Russian gas sales to Europe and would guarantee Russia’s presence in the Port of Tardus in Syria.  How the Saudis could keep their promises was a question that President Putin must have been asking and not liking the answer.

The stick in the prince’s bag was to unleash Chechen Terrorist that he claimed to control to disrupt the Winter Olympics in Sochi.  The Saudis threatened to escalate the conflict to the point that it would be too costly at home for Russia to bear, but the Russians were already bearing it.  The Shia-Sunni conflict in the form of bombings and assassinations has come to the Dagestan and Chechnya regions several years ago.

In spite of the likelihood of violence at the Olympics, Putin shows no inclination to appease Prince Bandar.  Instead, suspected potential women bombers are having saliva samples taken in order to identify their body parts and security measures are being intensified as the Sochi Olympics to be held in February.

Border raids in Baluchistan or terrorist attacks in Dagestan to disrupt the Olympics will create anxiety in Iran and Russia, but the actions will not force either to alter the strategy in Syria.  In order to accomplish that, Saudi Arabia must put into operation tactics that will overwhelm the opposition.  The first sign to achieve that was a statement on August 8, 2013 by the chair of the National Syrian Coalition, Ahmad al-Jarba that Saudi Arabia was to form a national army outside of Syria.

All of this was announced more than two months before the United States agreed with Russia to a program of destroying Al-Assad’s chemical weapons and before Presidents Obama and Rouhani were chatting on the telephone.  Deputy Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz was selected to organize the national army.  His plan is to build a force of forty to fifty thousand troops and is prepared to spend several billion dollars on the project.

The ultimate goal is the organizing of the Army of Mohammed.  It is to merge numerous smaller units into an army of two hundred and fifty thousand to be ready by March of 2016, but there are problems with the plan.  The Pakistani military that has been training smaller size units on bases in Jordan cannot provide the instructors for a quarter million size force; and Jordan cannot accommodate that many troops.

If Al-Assad is the target of the Army of Mohammed, the Saudis are calculating that it will take two more years and an army double that of Syria’s to defeat the regime.  If there is another enemy on the agenda, then we have to ask on which country are the bunker busting bombs that are included in a eleven billion dollar order placed recently with the United States to be dropped; and at what targets are the CCS-2 missiles with their nuclear warheads that the BBC says that Pakistan has supplied been aimed. Then, there are those quarter of a million troops in the Army of Muhammad to be send somewhere.

The Saudis have no doubt who their enemy is.  A recent attack by tank supported Houthi troops against a Wahhabi madrassa in the Yemen town of Damaj near the Saudi Arabian border is a clear reminder.  So is a bombing in the Shia majority Kingdom of Bahrain that is a near province of Saudi Arabia.  Of course, the Saudis are certain that there is an Iranian hand stirring the pot of trouble.

 

The Saudi see the Houthis as a dangerous threat on the southern border that could give the Iranians through a proxy a direct route into the Saudi oil fields that are the sole source of the national wealth.  It is a good reason for the Saudis to worry, especially because a large percentage of the workers in those oil fields are Shia.

In 2009, the Houthis crossed into Saudi Arabia.  It was mainly with Pakistani forces that they were driven back.  During the first Iraqi War, while Saudi and other armies were focused upon the Iraqi forces in Kuwait, Pakistani troops guarded the southern border and other troops have been held at ready in Pakistan to come to protect the vital oil fields and installations.

The Saudis have been supporting Pakistan with generous grants for decades.  Now, Pakistan is facing an unusual convergence of problems that it making it impossible for the Pakistanis to provide their customary military support for the Saudis.

At the end of November, the chief of army staff General ashfaq Parvez Kayani will retire.  His successor has not been named.  Whoever he is, he will have to deal with the consequences of the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan.  Only the most optimistic are expecting the days to follow to be peaceful and that violence is likely to spill over the borders where it will be necessary for the army to be waiting to confront it.

Saudi Arabia will be vulnerable without Pakistani support.  The skirmish in Damaj and the bombing in Bahrain have to be taken as a forerunner of what will be coming on a greater scale.

Saudi Arabia needs a replacement for the Pakistanis; and Egypt is the only choice.  Large cash grants to Pakistan over many years have cemented those bonds of mutual dependents.  Saudi Arabia has been generous as well with Egypt through the decades of Mubarak’s rule and with El-Sisi without receiving much in return.  Now, both are in need and Egypt has debts to repay; and those debts are increasing by the billions.

Within a few days of the reduction of aid by the U.S. to Egypt, the Egyptians signed an agreement with Russia to purchase fifteen billion dollars in military equipment that includes MIG-29 fighters.  By financing the purchases, the Saudis are demonstrating to the Egyptian how important they are in Saudi plans and are sending a message to Washington that the separation has begun.

The Egyptian Foreign Minister Nadil Fahmy said in an interview that Egyptian and Saudi Arabian security are bound together.  “The Egyptian-Saudi relationship is one of identity. No matter how much we agree or disagree regarding part of this relationship, it’s a relationship of identity. But the Egyptian-US relationship is one of interests, regardless of our work it is not a relationship of identity. Egyptian national security is directly linked to Saudi national security, and vice versa. Whether we agree or disagree, national security in the two countries is linked.”

Saudi Arabia has risen to the forefront in Egypt’s dealings with other nations and recognition of their dependence upon Saudi largess was reflected by the interim president of Egypt, Adly Mansour making his first state visit to Saudi Arabia.  King Abdullah made it clear where the kingdom stands if Egypt is threatened.  “Standing against any attempts to touch Egypt’s internal affairs, particularly by the terrorists.”  “Terrorist” is the term used to describe the Muslim Brotherhood.

While the Egyptians were celebrating the generosity of their benefactors, there was a not so subtle warning that a subsidized lunch is not a free lunch.  On Oct. 27, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the deputy prime minister of the UAE and the minister of presidential affairs, said, “Arab support for Egypt will not last long, and Egypt must think about innovative, unconventional solutions.”

This warning came in the face of a ten percent inflation rate and a thirteen percent budget deficit.  Heavy borrowing just to maintain spending without investing in the economy has pushed the national debt to eighty-nine percent of the GDP with an economic growth rate of a mere two percent.  At least six percent is needed to absorb the increase in the labor force.

The violence and the political instability have blocked any investment in the economy.  What Egypt requires is a powerful economic stimulus.  The formation of the Army of Muhammad might be just what the economic doctor has ordered.  Supplying, training, and commanding an army of a quarter of a million could see a vast infusion of capital into the Egyptian economy.

Saudi Arabia does not want two hundred and fifty thousand foreign mercenaries even if they are Moslem mercenaries inside of the Kingdom.  The Saudis need to base them where there are facilities and control over them.  The only place that fills the qualifications is Egypt; and what is a more “innovative, unconventional solutions” to Egypt’s economic strife?

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23 comments

  1. Mark P.

    Interesting and fairly thoroughly thought through argument, as far as I can see.

    My hackles were raised by the bit about Bandar Bin Sultan’s carrots and sticks for Putin. Specifically, the stick part: “to unleash Chechen Terrorists that he claimed to control to disrupt the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The Saudis threatened to escalate the conflict to the point that it would be too costly at home for Russia to bear.”

    [1] How does the author know this?

    [2] It may nevertheless be true. However, if so, the Saudis are semi-desperate and/or bigger dumbasses than many thought. In which case ….

    [3] It’s been the supposition of knowledgeable observers that the Saudis remain a long way from calling in their chits in Islamabad and shipping in Pakistani nukes, and mostly it just served the interests of both countries (and of Israel) to make loud noises while the U.S., Iran and the other powers were sitting down in Geneva.

    Because the Saudis would really be fools to go ahead with something like that. And yet if this author is correct, there was Bandar Bin Sultan trying to play stupid games with Putin. So that’s worrisome.

    1. Gareth

      As reported in the London Telegraph:

      The details of the talks were first leaked to the Russian press. A more detailed version has since appeared in the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, which has Hezbollah links and is hostile to the Saudis.

      As-Safir said Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord. “I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us,” he allegedly said.

      Prince Bandar went on to say that Chechens operating in Syria were a pressure tool that could be switched on an off. “These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role in Syria’s political future.”

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/10266957/Saudis-offer-Russia-secret-oil-deal-if-it-drops-Syria.html

      Also:

      http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/tr/contents/articles/politics/2013/08/saudi-russia-putin-bandar-meeting-syria-egypt.html#

      http://assafir.com/MulhakArticle.aspx?EditionId=2547&MulhakArticleId=1831020&MulhakId=6431#.UoJYieLTDDe

    2. Massinissa

      Ive seen the same from other articles, the author didn’t come up with it.

      But that doesn’t mean it isn’t still BS.

      Would have been nice if the author cited his source, actually.

  2. middle seaman

    For unknown reasons, the Arab world, Israel included, tends to generate a lot of heated and distorted views and commentaries. This post is no exception. Egypt suffers from an urgent and deep economic insufficiency. That’s not news. It was true 20 years ago as well. The current military regime came to power after a somewhat free election of the Muslim Brotherhood to govern the country. The MB caused increase chaos; it killed its own citizens; failed basic governing of the country and behaved undemocratically.

    Without a democratic tradition, militaries tend to take over. It happened in Turkey and Greece in the 2nd half of the 20th century and recently in Egypt. The pretense that a democratic regime was overthrown in Egypt serves no purpose. The overthrown MB government was anything but democratic.

    The Saudis play the same role for almost 50 years now. They are the money man of the Arab world. The Saudi regime is conservative, religious, discriminatory and undemocratic. As the joke has it, it is a country run by 222 cousins.

    Why the post suddenly pounces is par for Arab world outside opinions. It’s too bad.

  3. washunate

    Concentration of wealth and power, unfortunately, is not just an American problem.

    Overall interesting – it certainly makes a lot of sense that Egypt and Saudi Arabia would work together.

    But I do have a major problem with the painting of Iran as an adversary or dangerous neighbor. Quite the opposite, it’s the West and the Arabs that have been aggressive toward Tehran.

    The multiple references in this piece to Iranian nuclear efforts without any sort of history or context basically undermine the entire credibility for me. And the notion that the presence of western military forces is preventing violence rather than causing it in Afghanistan and Pakistan is laugh-out-loud funny.

  4. DanB

    The author writes, “Looming in the not too distant future, new technological improvements are increase quantities of recoverable oil that will force down world prices, unless Saudi Arabia can restrict Middle Eastern supplies to compensate for the increased worldwide production.” The only thing that will force down oil prices is further demand destruction and accompanying economic contraction. This claim about technology increasing recoverable crude is oil industry PR. The geopolitics of a perpetually expanding economy are self-destructive in a world being forced into degrowth.

    1. Frederick

      Israel, Israel, Israel. It’s always Israel with thoroughly brainwashed Americans. If Israel suddenly disappeared today, it would mean a far more peaceful world, and a less corrupt US Congress. All that would be missing to make the scenerio even better would be for the US Congress, a few other Administration officials (we all know who they are), the Pentagon and Wall St. to vanish as well, along with The City in London. Now that would be a good “rapture”.

  5. Andrey Subbotin

    So the short version is, Saudis and Egyptians build a 250K strong army of Sunni fanatics, with Saudi money and Egypt infrastructure, right on Israeli border? And they plan to take over Syria, and surround Israel on both sides?

    And they think Israel will just watch??

    1. Fiver

      Agree Israel would have to be explicity involved with the planning, or would not tolerate such a force.

  6. steelhead23

    The most interesting aspect of this post is the view of the Saudi foreign minister that SA’s relationship with Egypt is based on cultural identity, while its relationship with the U.S. is based on economic interest. One wonders which they hold closer? I for one, think the assessment that SA is seeking a divorce from the U.S. is wrong. Instead, I believe SA is playing hardball. The Saudis, really, really, really want the U.S. to attack Syria and Iran.

  7. Trev

    And they think Israel will just watch?

    Of course, what the Saudis are doing in Egypt is in their interests. The Israelis support the army in Egypt and certainly not the Ikhwan–the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudis and Israelis work together. Ignore the Kabuki, not to mention the US media.

  8. Hugh

    I agree with middle seaman. This is fanciful conspiracy theorizing. The one and only priority of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the survival of the monarchy. The KSA is a repressive dictatorship and endlessly corrupt. At the same time, the House of Saud came to power by allying itself with an extreme puritanical sect of Islam known as Wahabism. This has set up a set of existential contradictions which can only be bought off for a while by the vast revenues of the oil industry.

    When we say the Saudis, we are really talking about the Saudi royal family, that nowadays numbers four or five thousand. This family doesn’t have allies. It has people it can use. I used to joke that the Saudis, i.e. the royal family was willing to fight in its defense to the last dead American. Of course, at the same time it was depending on the US for its defense, it was funding a radically conservative education system indoctrinating its hoi polloi against the West. The Saudi educational system was always very conservative but after the seizure of the Great Mosque in Mecca by militants, part of the deal (the royal family is always making deals) was to turn over the education system to these militant factions in exchange for political peace. Now supposedly in more recent years, the royal family has taken back the education system but any changes in it have largely been superficial. So the royal family has created this radicalized youth. How to buy it off and keep its attentions directed away from its most obvious target, the Saudi royal family itself?

    Well, it does so by being overwhelmingly oppressive, granting some subsidies, and providing international outlets for what is a great reservoir of rage. Wealthy Saudis have financed a system of radical madrassas around the world. And the royal family has encouraged its surplus population to go off and fight and die in them.

    The Saudi royal family’s quest for survival explains what would otherwise look, especially from a US point of view, like a thoroughly incoherent set of policies. The Saudis wanted the US in country to fight and defeat Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War. And then kicked them out of the country, even though they were largely in military bases far from public view, after it. At the same time, the royal family was supposed to be our great allies they were sponsoring the funding of radicals which led to the 9/11 attacks. It is important to understand that they promoted this funding, even as they opposed one of its recipients, Osama bin Laden, but their opposition to bin Laden was not because of his anti-Americanism but because he was anti-royal family.

    The ouster of US troops from the KSA sent US neocons in search of permanent bases in more secure locations. In their minds, this meant Iraq. Bush’s Iraq invasion was met by horror from the Saudi royal family, not because it happened but because the insane Americans were intent on installing a government led by the country’s majority, the Shia. The Saudis not only didn’t back the US occupation. They encouraged their young radicals to go off and fight it. Half of the suicide bombers in Iraq were Saudis. Did I mention that the Saudi royal family was our ally?

    Survival of the royal family is by far the most important objective of the Saudi regime, but this is not to say that there are not others. Iran is a competing regional power, but this competition feeds into older divisions between Sunni and Shia and Persian and Arab.

    So on the one hand, the Saudis help crush an uprising of the majority Shia in Bahrain and then proceed to back an uprising of the majority Sunni in Syria.

    And it is not just Sunni-Shia divisions. You might think that the Wahabist Saudis would see the Muslim Brotherhood as natural allies. Both are, after all, religiously conservative. But the Brotherhood is a popular movement, anti-corruption and anti-monarchal, and hence poison to the Saudi royal family. They prefer a military dictatorship in Egypt. Dictators they understand.

    While it is true the Saudis have a lot of reserves, the truth is they would burn through those maybe in as few as 10 years without high oil prices. It’s all those costs, the billions to keep the extended royal family living in style, the subsidies and oppression needed to keep unrest the domestic pot just below a boil, and, of course, these efforts to weaken or overthrow Shia regimes and strengthen Sunni ones.

    1. Fiver

      Hugh,

      Kleptocrats can’t do anything but by conspiracy. Granted, anyone who thinks there’s a real rift in US/Saudi relations has already followed the bouncing ball off the edge of the screen.

  9. Paul Tioxon

    Everyone in the world would like to out from underneath the thumb of Uncle Sam. The scrambling around from day to day is due to the crack up of the post WWII order and the new world order not yet negotiated. The failure of the war party to achieve the New American Century in the AfPak area was deepened by its diplomatic failure to achieve a military base in Iraq. This leads to the military exposure of Saudi Arabia, whose entire Northern border is Southern Iraq. Oh, if only the Americans had their tanks and arms depot deployed for rapid response in Iraq, the Arab world would be a much more stable place. But like dominoes, one falls and hits the next one and the next until they all fall down. For want of a New American Century the Middle East is lost! And who lost the Middle East? Mr. Unknown Unknowns and The Bush League. Time for change you can believe in starting with health care for the jobless who have too much time on their hands and may start to get ideas if they get too desperate. Wouldn’t want a bunch of Walter Whites running around just because of sub-prime health insurance, now would we?

    1. participant-observer-observed

      Related story?

      http://www.democracynow.org/2013/11/12/headlines#11129

      “Documents Show NSA Spied on OPEC

      Documents from Edward Snowden show the National Security Agency and its British counterpart have spied on OPEC, the coalition of countries that controls the global oil market. Der Spiegel reports both the NSA and GCHQ have infiltrated OPEC’s computer network. Among their discoveries, NSA analysts determined Saudi Arabia had released incorrect oil production figures. Der Spiegel found, “The typical ‘customers’ for such information were the CIA, the U.S. State Department and the Department of Energy, which promptly praised the NSA for confirming what it had suspected for years.” The NSA also received permission from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to spy on Saudi Arabia’s OPEC governor.”

  10. traffic

    Army of Mohammed in Egypt? Sounds like inviting the Cripps and Bloods to your Thanksgiving. To think that Egypt, a country with enough unrest as it is, would host this rabble seems pretty far fetched. Training a quarter-million men into some sort of force that could march off to Syria and then on to Tehran ain’t going to happen, not by the vaunted Egyptian millitary.

    The Saudis real Army of Mohammed is and has been the USA

  11. traffic

    Army of Mohammed in Egypt? Sounds like inviting the Cripps and Bloods to your Thanksgiving. To think that Egypt, a country with enough unrest as it is, would host this rabble seems pretty far fetched. Training a quarter-million men into some sort of force that could march off to Syria and then on to Tehran ain’t going to happen, not by the vaunted Egyptian millitary.

    The Saudis real Army of Mohammed is and has been the USA.

  12. Emma

    Just exited the cinema after seeing the new documentary film ‘The Square’ about the dawn of, and still on-going Arab Spring, with a pitiful audience of four including myself. This miserable turn-out was made all the more wretched with the initial exclamations of the others as the credits rolled, that the film was Oscar-worthy. Indeed it is.

    However, that the young Egyptian people followed in the film more than merited each Oscars in their own right – for their sheer courage and faith in the plausibility of democracy in the face of horrific adversity, and who are undoubtedly continuing even now, to endure the unendurable, – was somehow rendered pointless or immaterial.

    Anyway….the film leads me to conclude as this article from OilPrice intimates only so well, that in our world, as long as governments and companies enjoy the freedom to profit from lucrative deals of one kind or another, the lives of people are as valuable as newts in the desert.

    It is clear that ‘freedom’ only truly exists for a minority who profit from lucrative military deals and obtain access to unfettered markets and abundant oil supplies, all the while maintaining amicable relations with additional undemocratic, despotic states. The repression of people has little scope to impact the conduciveness of business transactions in our world today.

    Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt shrewdly recognize that laws must represent the interests of the minority ruling elite, and in this way, tyranny parades through the streets with adamantine strength. If elitism were to relapse, then a stamp of democracy would be that much harder to kick, wouldn’t it?

    Given that the US has overtaken Saudi Arabia as the world’s major supplier of petroleum, does the US really care what does happen in the Middle East now?! The US priority is to undoubtedly cultivate such a reversal in fortune, and ensure that US interests are further secured within the Middle East. It simply makes reaching agreements with previously contentious Middle Eastern states at odds with the US, all the more manageable. And any House of Saud disgruntlement will easily be subdued through a pampered shopping spree in London care of Harrods.

  13. Fiver

    This piece just doesn’t work.

    First, its the Saudis whose policy has blown up, as it was their (US-backed) importation into the Syrian fight of their re-constituted, re-oriented (today’s enemy is not the same as yesterday’s) lunatic “jihadist” death squads, Al Qaeda roots and all, that revealed the true nature of the conflict – yet another US/Saudi/Israeli unprovoked attack with the goal of regime change. Yet these same trained killers were themselves trained by the CIA in the handling and use of chemical weapons – for “safety” – some of them still holding 2 chemical weapons sites refusing to grant entry to UN inspectors. It was very likely the Saudis’ goons who concocted that incident, and only exceptional public dismay re war and a not-this-time Putin prevented an enormous miscalculation’s logical outcome – a far bigger war than anyone wanted.

    So its the Saudis who are in the dog house right now, and while they can rumble and roar, they are not going to risk a real break with the US under any circumstances (ditto Egypt) so it resolves to a question of whether or not the US is prepared to dumb-as-a-hammer up the ante by expanding the theatre of conflict even before the next attempt at regime change starts.

    As the Saudis would not pursue this on their own, and the US can’t be seen as supporting such an idiot move, I suspect any reality attached to this prospect has a fairly short half-life.

    As to the price of oil, the Saudis have already pocketed hundreds of billions, and probably trillions by helping the US and Israel engineer the destruction or severe impairment of its competitors (Iraq/Iran War, both Gulf Wars, Libya). In fact, the US “boom” in oil production was predicated on huge amounts of shut-in production. The Saudis will do just fine, as powerful interests within the US now support higher prices, not lower.

    The situation is quite scary enough without taking everything said in a blizzard of misinformation seriously.

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