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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Unintended consequences...

In replying to mynewsbot's query about where Iran fits into the Great Game I mentioned the German general Von Moltke's comment that all battle plans fall apart when the shooting starts. I suppose it is similar to the idea in economics of "unintended consequences", which in recent times has basically used as an ideological stick to cast scorn on the possibility of state planning ever producing anything useful.

In any case, it appears that an "unintended consequence" of Gulf War 2 is that many of the USA's allies may be reconsidering their place in the great scheme of things, as Robert Dreyfuss suggests.

January 25, 2006, Pushing Saudi Arabia into China's Arms

Not long ago, I took part in an informal discussion with a group of Saudi Arabian businessmen and academics visiting Washington. Their unhappiness with U.S. policies in Iraq, and with regard to the Arab-Israeli dispute, was obvious. I mentioned to the Saudis that it wasn't clear to me why Saudi Arabia insisted on maintaining the primacy of its relations with the United States in its foreign policy. Why not seek political and military guarantees from other countries? I asked. Certainly Saudi Arabia's oil would carry a lot of weight with any other nation, and by reaching out to Russia, Europe, and China, Saudi Arabia could throw a scare into the Bush administration, which has so far pretty much taken Saudi Arabia for granted.

So, I suggested, if I were king of Saudi Arabia the first thing I would go would be to get on a plane and fly to Beijing. And make nicey-nice with the Chinese.

Well (certainly not because of me) that's exactly what King Abdullah did this week. And it got the attention of the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, in the form of an intelligent, well-written op ed by Richard L. Russell of National Defense University:

It was no coincidence that Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah this week chose China for his first official trip outside the Middle East since acceding to the throne in August. The two countries are laying the foundations for a strategic relationship that challenges U.S. interests.

That's exactly right. That's the fruit of the Bush administration reckless invasion of Iraq and its feckless promotion of Shiite fundamentalist parties in Iraq. The instability in Iraq, the threat of civil war, and the gains by Iran there have all scared Saudi Arabia. And the Saudis don't want to wait around to find out if the neoconservative plan for targeting Saudi Arabia, too, after Iraq turns out to be White House policy. So they are covering their bets.

Since China, with its insatiable appetite for oil, is already America's biggest rival for Persian Gulf oil, the Saudi-Chinese flirtation is a big deal. China already has good ties with Iran, and will be the main roadblock against the Bush administration's scheme to impose sanctions on Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons program.

Thus-and this is a big, big irony - America's military effort to secure hegemony over the world's oil deposits in the Gulf looks like this: Iraq, a mess, governed by Iran-linked Shiites; Iran, angry once again at the Great Satan and looking toward Russia and China; and Saudi Arabia, the big enchilada, starting to learn to speak Chinese. Some hegemony.

If Saudi Arabia starts causing major ripples, expect the US to start making a big deal about its lack of democracy, awful human rights record, lack of women's rights (although I should imagine a lot of the Pat Robertson/Jerry Falwell brigade probably admire the Saudi legal system's attitude to adultery and lesbianism) and how of most of the 19 hijackers on September 11th had Saudi passports (as opposed to being described as merely "Arabs" or "Muslims")...


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