A Most Consequential Alliance

Washington may derive satisfaction by presenting the changes that happened in the Middle East as the Saudis balancing their security by playing the US against China. However, the brutal truth is that this transformation came about because the US and its toxic ‘with us; or against us doctrine’ was wholly excluded.

For many in the US ruling class, the China-Russia Entente consummated in Moscow earlier this month should never have happened — indeed could never have occurred, as the Washington beltway was fixated on all the reasons that make China and Russia adversaries. So the shock has been profound, and scepticism still permeates the Washington springtime air.

Nonetheless, there it is. It is what it is. And quite apart from the landmark documents signed in Moscow, any lingering doubts about the transformative nature of the Chinese-Russian accord should have been fully undone through a quick ‘take’ on the recent succession of events: This month, China struck an accord for a new regional security architecture by bringing together Saudi Arabia and Iran. Again in March, President Assad — long a pariah for the West — could be seen making a state visit to Moscow, with full honours.

President Assad shortly after was observed making a high-profile visit with his wife Asma to UAE, and at the same time, Iraq and Iran signed a security co-operation agreement designed to end the US-inspired Kurdish insurgency strikes into Iran.

Simply put, Saudi Arabia laid down its Wahhabi Salafist weapon, and Iran gave assurances that removed Saudi concerns about its nuclear programme, for the safe-being of Saudi energy infrastructure. Both agreed to end their respective propaganda wars against each other and jointly to end the war in Yemen.

This, at a stroke, makes the JCPOA irrelevant — for if the GCC are reassured through the China ‘deal’, what need is there for a JCPOA (Iran remains a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty)?  Of course, the GCC States never thought nukes were truly viable in the crowded and intermingled setting of the region, nor did they believe Iran was about to park tanks ‘on their front lawn’.

What the Gulf States feared was revolutionary Shi’a zealotry threatening monarchies, just as Iran saw itself in the jaws of a pernicious encirclement by Sunni jihadi extremists. Those weapons have now been laid aside.

President Raisi has been invited to Riyadh by King Salman after Eid. Could we have imagined such a thing two years ago?

And don’t forget, the mediation — though led by China — is guaranteed implicitly by both China AND Russia. That means a lot. Yet Americans may miss the most important part of this agreement: the changing regional roles of both Saudi Arabia and Iran.  Some months of smoothly integrated diplomacy not only showed both parties to be “skilful actors”, but also creative ones who know how to do ‘the hard lift’ of real diplomacy. As one leading neo-conservative US commentator acknowledged, “as frustrating as it may be, there is a method to US partners’ madness”.

Big changes then, triggered by the China-Russia rapprochement: Russian fighter jets regularly overfly America’s al-Tanf military base on the borders with Jordan and Syria, which hosts a small town of American-trained ‘insurgency’ forces.

That, and the frequent militia rocket attacks on American bases in north-east Syria, both signal that America faces ‘Time’s Up’ in respect to their Syria deployment.

“There was a time when all roads passed through Washington”, Trita Parsi has noted,

“But over the years, as America’s foreign policy became more militarized and as sustaining the so-called rules-based order increasingly meant that the United States put itself above all rules, America appears to have given up on the virtues of honest peace-making: We deliberately chose a different path. America prides itself on not being an impartial mediator”.

“We abhor neutrality. We strive to take sides in order to be “on the right side of history” since we view statecraft as a cosmic battle between good and evil, rather than the pragmatic management of conflict where peace inevitably comes at the expense of some justice…

“But just as America has changed, so has the world. Elsewhere, ‘Marvel movie logic’ is seen for what it is: Fairy tales where the simplicity of good versus evil leaves no space for compromise or coexistence. Few have the luxury of pretending to live in such fantasy worlds”.

Now, the region collectively has decided to ‘move on’. It can see that the world is on the cusp of a new era. Washington may derive satisfaction by presenting these changes as if this is some form of Henry Kissinger ‘triangulation’ (as David Ignatius suggests): “The Saudis now balancing their security by playing off the U.S. against China”.

The brutal truth, however, is that this transformation came about because the US and its toxic ‘with us; or against us doctrine’ was wholly excluded, and because “Israel” is too busy with introspection.

More changes than a new regional security architecture seem likely to flow from the Entente: Fareed Zakaria of CNN warned:

“Here’s my take … The most interesting outcome of the Xi-Putin Summit, and barely reported, was Putin saying: “we are in favour of using the Chinese yuan for settlements between Russia and the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.”

“So, the world’s second largest economy (sic!) and its largest energy exporter are together actively trying to dent the dollar’s dominance as the anchor of the world’s financial system. Will they succeed? … The dollar is America’s last surviving superpower. It gives Washington unrivalled economic and political muscle … The war in Ukraine combined with Washington’s increasingly confrontational approach [however] to China, have created a perfect storm in which both Russia and China are accelerating efforts to diversify away from the dollar …”

“Washington’s weaponisation of the dollar has led many important countries to search for ways [to avoid US sanctions]. Could the US currency suffer weakness through ‘a thousand cuts’?  A likely scenario. For the first time in memory, we have a international financial crisis in which the dollar is weakening instead of strengthening. A sign of a reckoning to come? “

“Americans should worry”, is how Zakaria ends his broadcast.


0 thoughts on “A Most Consequential Alliance

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *