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When Saudi Arabia's Credibility Is Damaged, So Is America's
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The Khashoggi affair has weakened President Trump’s campaign to impose stringent economic sanctions on Iran aimed at reducing its influence or forcing regime change. Saudi Arabia is America’s main ally in the Arab world so when its credibility is damaged so is that of the US.

On 5 November the US will impose tough restrictions on Iranian oil exports which have already been cut by more than half since Mr Trump announced the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement.

Other signatories, who disagree with him, are seeking to keep the nuclear deal afloat, but the threat of secondary sanctions on oil companies, banks and commercial companies for doing business with Iran is too great a risk for them to resist.

Iran is facing economic isolation but the US will find it more difficult to maintain a tight economic siege of the country without the sort of international cooperation it enjoyed before 2015 when sanctions were lifted as part of the nuclear deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

For sanctions to put irresistible pressure on Iran, they would need to be in place for years and to be enforced by many other nations. Paradoxically, the successful implementation of sanctions requires just the sort of international collaboration that Mr Trump has repeatedly denounced as being against American interests.

Mr Trump can scarcely back away from his confrontation with Iran because he has made it the principle test case for making America great again; or, in other words, the unilateral exercise of US power.

Saudi Arabia and Israel are exceptions but few other countries have a genuine interest in Mr Trump succeeding here even if they do not care much about what happens to Iran.

How has the prospect for sanctions succeeding been affected since dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi embassy in Istanbul on 2 October and failed to re-emerge?

Saudi Arabia has certainly been weakened by turning a minor critic and dissident into a martyr and cause célèbre, a mistake that is convincing many US foreign policy and intelligence experts that the operational capacity of the kingdom is even more limited than they had imagined.

The alleged murder of Mr Khashoggi is only the latest of a series of Saudi ventures since 2015 that have failed to turn out as planned. The list includes a stalemated war in Yemen that has almost provoked a famine; escalation in Syria that provoked Russian military intervention; the blockade of Qatar; and the detention of Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri.

ORDER IT NOW

For the first time, the US media is giving wall-to-wall coverage to negative stories about Saudi Arabia. One effect of this is to undermine Mr Trump’s effort to sell his confrontational policy towards Iran by demonising it as a uniquely criminal and terrorist regime. These denunciations are now being undercut by the drip-drip of allegations about the fate of Mr Khashoggi with even the case for the defence apparently resting on the claim that he was accidentally tortured to death by an overly enthusiastic security officer.

The importance of all this is that the essential political underpinnings of sanctions are being eroded.

The Iranian leadership is probably enjoying the Khashoggi scandal and wondering how it affects their long-term interests. The Iranians have a well-established reputation in the region for political cunning, but this often amounts to no more than patiently waiting for their enemies to make a mistake. They like to avoid direct confrontations and prefer long drawn out messy situations in which they can gradually outmanoeuvre their opponents.

The evidence so far is that Iran is choosing an unconfrontational response to impending sanctions. In Iraq, it has helped orchestrate the formation of a government that will once again balance between the US and Iran, but will not be vastly more pro-Iranian than its predecessor.

“It looks to me as if the Iranians were making a sort of peace offer to the Americans,” said one Iraqi politician who asked to remain anonymous.

Iran will need to make sure Iraq remains one of the many breaches in the wall of sanctions that the US is trying to build. It will probably arrange barter deals that avoid cash transactions in which, for instance, Iranian gas is exchanged for pharmaceuticals, vehicles and other imports from Iraq.

Another channel for Iranian sanction busting under Mr Obama was Turkey, so Iran will be pleased by anything that worsens US and Saudi relations with Ankara.

If sanctions fail, could Washington decide that military action might be a better option? For all his verbal belligerence, Mr Trump has yet to start a war anywhere and sounds as if he intends to force Iran to negotiate by using economic pressure alone. On the other hand, as the Khashoggi affair has demonstrated, almost anything could happen and not everybody acts in their own best interests.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Media, Iran, Saudi Arabia 
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  1. Sean says:

    Trump Complains About Rising Interest Rates, Calling the Fed ‘My Biggest Threat’
    Wall Street Journal 9 hours ago

    The Saudis went to the brink of ruin in order to o destroy fracking, and their last hope was rising interest rates drying up the financial hosepipe that keeps fracking companies solvent. Their future is looking grim and so they have gone full Stannis Baratheon against traitors (Putin is in a similar dilemma)..

    The Iranians have a well-established reputation in the region for political cunning, but this often amounts to no more than patiently waiting for their enemies to make a mistake. They like to avoid direct confrontations and prefer long drawn out messy situations in which they can gradually outmanoeuvre their opponents.

    Trump tends to take the initiative and Iran does not have its former strong position whereby it could sit tight while opponents tried to move against them. Sanctions alone they could cope with. Sanctions plus fracking lowering energy prices they can’t. The point will come where they are provoked into giving Trump an excuse.

    If sanctions fail, could Washington decide that military action might be a better option? For all his verbal belligerence, Mr Trump has yet to start a war anywhere and sounds as if he intends to force Iran to negotiate by using economic pressure alone. On the other hand, as the Khashoggi affair has demonstrated, almost anything could happen and not everybody acts in their own best interests

    I don’t think Israel is really afraid of Iran, which is largely a convenient excuse not to reach a final settlement with the Palestinians. Saudi Arabia knows it will become increasingly vulnerable to Iran.

    • Replies: @Verymuchalive
  2. Does Saudi Arabia have any credibility to damage?

    • Replies: @Bill Jones
  3. @Sean

    The Saudis went to the brink of ruin in order to o destroy fracking, and their last hope was rising interest rates drying up the financial hosepipe that keeps fracking companies solvent. Their future is looking grim and so they have gone full Stannis Baratheon against traitors (Putin is in a similar dilemma)..

    Actually, the “financial hosepipe” to US fracking companies is high crude oil prices. Such has always been the case. High crude prices stimulate increased exploration and utilisation of marginal fields.
    That being the case, why are the Saudis and the Russians doing nothing about the sharp increase in crude prices. This should stimulate increased fracking in the US. Obviously, Saudi Arabia and Russia are not concerned about US fracking at all. For example, only 10% of Saudi crude oil exports go to the Americas – that includes places like Brazil as well as the US.

    Whether the future is grim for the Saudi state is dependent on whether it can get its population growth under control. If not, then things really will be grim, as is the case with Yemen.
    And things are certainly not grim for Russia. It is doing even better than it was in 2008, before the recession. See below

    https://russia-insider.com/en/russia-inc-more-profitable-boom-years-and-heading-record-breaking-current-account-surplus/ri25070

    Your insinuation that President Putin is targeting “traitors” for assassination is laughable. I expect you are continuing to claim that the Skripals were poisoned by agents of the Russian State, despite the complete lack of evidence produced to substantiate this. Indeed, all evidence points in other directions, as Mr Slane ably demonstrates.

    https://www.theblogmire.com/the-other-bag-and-a-pointless-reconnaissance-mission/

  4. Sean says:

    I’m reading this book at the moment

    https://globalreports.columbia.edu/books/saudi-america/

    I expect you are continuing to claim that the Skripals were poisoned by agents of the Russian State, despite the complete lack of evidence produced to substantiate this.

    I really don’t care. Whoever it was trying to kill his daughter along with him. London would seem to be in need of Russian’s capital flight, but I expect the US action against MbS will mean the City of London getting the Aramco floatation.

    • Replies: @Verymuchalive
  5. Anon[195] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    Gruesome Audio Tape Details Murder of Jamal Khashoggi

  6. Anon[425] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    CIA – Mafia – MaCIA

  7. The Khashoggi affair reveals how nations ultimately base their human rights policy on how it influences their interests. Events are fulfilling the pattern of history. It is clear: power (manifested as interest) has been present in every conflict throughout history – no exception. It is the underlying motivation for war. Other cultural factors might change, but not power.
    Interest cuts across all apparently unifying principles: family, kin, nation, religion, ideology, politics – everything. We unite with the enemies of our principles, because that is what serves our interest. It is power, not any of the above concepts, that is the cause of war.
    It is the one thing we will destroy ourselves for, as well as everyone else. When core interests are threatened and existential threat looms nations go to war. There can be no compromise on these. Eventually everyone gets the war they are trying to avoid: utter defeat. Leaders and decision-makers delude themselves, thinking they can avoid their fate – they can’t. If survival is threatened, there is no alternative to war, however destructive.

    https://www.ghostsofhistory.wordpress.com/

  8. Bianca says:

    Steretypical suppositions are poor foundation for analysis. And those are aplenty in this article. Various sanctions bimposed by US — and those differ in intent
    by different administrations result historically only in target country adjusting to a more sustainable economy and one less based on speculative capital moving in and out on a whim. Yes, first impact is shick. Many countries, especially import libbies of thise countries never believed possible that US and West in general would undermine the financial world order based on the mechanusm they establushed. But with generally short term mindset in the Western capitals they opt for presumed short term gains and hope ling term will eventually work in their favor. But it is nit happening. Case in point Russia. Turkey has prepared itself for shock and is restructuring accordingly, ssustainability based on stronger regional and Asian component of their economy.

    As for oil — high price of oil may help defray some cosrs of fracking, but the point is — industry is yet to show profit. And more importantly, it is unable to influence global prices. With such productivity, why not protect domestic consumer against rising prices? The exporting capability is still weak, as investors dare not plunge money in port infrastructure, not knowing the real export prospects. Long term contracts that Asian countries and Russia favor will distort spot market in the long run.
    With Saudi Arabia in need of markets — like China — it must adapt to Chinese practices, such as accepting golf yuan in oul trade. That would substantially undermine dollar.

    Lets try to keep invmind that Trump trashed Saudi Arabia before Kashoggi affair. Predicting itbwill not last weeks without US protection. Why humiliation? Just because Saudis were not ibedient in increasing production? Or was it something else Saudis dud to displease?
    The bottom line on Kashoggi is that Saudis did it to force US in degrading relationship. Saidis depend for their economic growth and investments on China, Russia and the rest of Asia more then in US. And their business interests in Asia are adamant about protecting Iran. Since Saudis have ZERO support in Gulf (I consider UAE military zero) for Iran offensive, Saudis must walk fine line between US and its real markets. Kashoggi, being a rather minor problem, would not have been a target in such s splashy way, had it not bern on purpose. And Turkey’s role as a megaphone on global stage is very convenient.

    Saudi dragging feet on Iran, gold yuan, deals with Russia on investments as well as military defence systems, pulling money from Syria’s “rebels”, stalemate in Yemen — preventing US from controlling Bab Al Mandeb — look all to me as growing volume if irritants, and compounded by a very public humiliation of the Kingdom probably resulted in the deliberate act of outrage. US attempt to find a solution, excuses, and keeping relations unharmed, is not doing well.

    Expect soft landing to sputter and fury by all thise disappointing hopes in Iseaeli-Saudi alliance to be raised to a pitch. A reallity lesson to shorttermers. Nit that they will learn. This us why wait and see attitude may prevail elsewhere.

    The author also falls for the general dusapprobation by neocon media if the new Crown Prince. Forgetting that all the evils attributed to him were done or started during the tenure if their favorite, the ousted Crown Prince Nayaf. After the court coup, playing goid vs bad cop was the standard. This way, tge new ruler was at once blamed for all evils, snd courted and lraised at the same time.

    I am afraid we are not doing business with dunces. As mych as we would like to brlueve that. A little respect goes ling way.

  9. rosemerry says:

    “force Iran to negotiate” The arrogance of the USA again. it deserves NO support for its disgraceful behavior against all international law and agreements, trying to destroy an important sovereign nation for spurious reasons which only benefit Israel, if even then.
    What negotiations would they be? Like those with Russia, Venezuela and anyone else the USA decides to hurt.

  10. @Sean

    You’ve not replied to my substantive points. Don’t comment on an empty mind.

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