If Donald Trump is in fact the biggest friend of “Israel” to ever be in the White House, as Tel Aviv regime leader Benjamin Netanyahu has suggested, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman is the biggest friend of “Israel” to ever have a de-facto leadership position in Saudi Arabia. While not made public, a leaked itinerary of Muhammad bin Salman’s recent visit to the United States showed that the Crown Prince held meetings with AIPAC, the largest pro-Zionist lobbying group in the world, along with other pro-“Israel” bodies, including the ADL and American Jewish Committee.
Saudi Arabia trades Palestine for “Israel” and its Sunni religious ‘leadership’ to Turkey
While officially, Riyadh and Tel Aviv do not have diplomatic relations, it is well known that both countries speak frequently through covert and semi-covert channels. Recently and for the first time, an Air India flight was allowed to use Saudi airspace on its way to “Israel” in a clear indication of increased public cooperation between the two regimes.
Muhammad bin Salman’s meetings with some of the most pro-Zionist groups in the world has already been met with scorn and anger in much of the Arab world. While Saudi Arabia may still occasionally offer mild support for Palestine, in reality, under Muhammad bin Salman’s leadership, Saudi Arabia is pivoting away from the Arab world and is instead focused on striking a balance between its close American alliance and its growing economic partnership with China.
In this sense, Muhammad bin Salman has conceded ideological leadership of the non-secular Sunni world to Turkey, where the anti-Saudi Turkish President Erdogan is all too happy to assume such a leadership role. Crucially, unlike Saudi Arabia, Turkey seems at least partly willing to divide its ideological reign over Islamic politics with Iran. Not only does Turkey have a healthy relationship with Tehran in many crucial areas, but when Erdogan hosted leaders from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Iran’s President Rouhani gave a prominent speech after which he was seen speaking on clearly friendly terms with Erdogan. Thus, one sees a new dynamic where in Middle Eastern political Islam, Turkey and Iran have an unspoken agreement which allows the Islamic Revolutionary leadership in Tehran to guide Shi’a religious-political thought while Erdogan does the same among religious Sunnis.
Balancing China and the US in Saudi’s Petro-politics
Muhammad bin Salman has indeed sold out Palestine and he has done so in order to court powerful pro-“Israel” American politicians, businessmen and lobbyists in order to garner good will in preparation for a rapidly arrived moment when China will demand to buy oil from Saudi Arabia in the Petroyuan rather than the Petrodollar.
China’s issuing of oil futures contracts in Petroyuan is the clearest indication yet that China is keen to make its presence as the world’s largest energy consumer known and that it would clearly prefer to purchase oil from countries like Saudi Arabia in its own currency in the future, quite possibly in the near future.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince appears to understand this trajectory in the global energy markets and furthermore, he realises that in order to be able to leverage the tremendous amount of US pressure that will come down on Riaydh in order to force Saudi Arbia to avoid the Petroyuan, Riyadh will need to embrace other potential partners, including China.
More than anything else, the Petroyuan will have an ability to transform Saudi Arabia by limiting its negative international characteristics that Muhammad bin Salman himself described. As a pseudo-satellite state of the US during the Cold War, Muhammad bin Salman admitted that his country’s relationship to the US was that of subservience. China dose not make political – let alone geopolitical demands of its partners, but China is nevertheless keen to foster de-escalations in tensions among all its partners based on the win-win principles of peace through prosperity as articulated on a regular basis by President Xi Jinping.
Thus one could see China’s policies of political non-interference rub off on a potential future Saudi partner, in the inverse way that the US policies of ultra-interventionism are often forced upon its partners. Thus, whatever ideological views Muhammad bin Salman does or does not have, he clearly knows where the wind is blowing: in the direction of China.
In this sense, Saudi Arabia, under the Crown Prince’s leadership is looking to balance its burgeoning economic relationship with China against its desire to keep the US on good terms for the foreseeable future in order to avoid a would-be American attempt to dethrone Muhammad bin Salman in order to replace him with a more anti-Chinese leader.
“Israel”, Saudi Arabia and the US have a new policy: ‘Assad can stay–Iran must go’
Realistically, there is no better soft-power campaign that Muhammad bin Salman could wage in front of US audiences than by slowly coming out as someone who is ultimately pro-“Israel” in all but name. This is why he has repeated the contemporary “Israeli” policy which has given up on the now impossible task of deposing the legitimate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and is instead joining Tel Aviv in trying to coax Syria into downgrading its intense alliance with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Muhammad bin Salman stated,
“Bashar is staying. But I believe that Bashar’s interests are not to let the Iranians do whatever they want they want to do”.
Making things even clearer, Muhammad bin Salman told his American audience on his recent trip that Saudi Arabia may be at war with Iran in 10 to 15 years. In reality, this statement means that Saudi Arabia will not be going to war with Iran in the foreseeable future which is a tacit admission that Riyadh’s anti-Tehran rhetoric will be used to justify the increasingly futile quagmire in Yemen, while also helping the endear Riyadh to Tel Aviv and Washington, but beyond this, the Saudi Crown Prince has all but admitted that while pressure will be put on Syria to dislodge its Iranian partner, no direct action against the Iranian leadership nor the Syrian leadership will realistically take place.
Muhammad bin Salman’s actions and statements give insight into the new realities of the Wahhabi kingdom which have changed considerably under his rule. They can be summarised in the following way:
–Adopting a pro-“Israel”, less theocratic approach to western audiences to win good will, particularly in the United States
–Abandoning ambitions in the wider Arab and wider religious-political Sunni world in order to focus on balancing Saudi Arabia’s Chinese economic interests with its American alliance
–Tacitly allowing Turkey’s Erdogan to become the leader of religious-political thought in the wider Sunni world
–Given up on regime change in Syria along with the US and “Israel”
–Tacitly admitting that Iran won’t be invaded but that Iran will be pressured to leave Syria
While these realities have developed from a position of economic ambition, they have equally developed from a position of geopolitical weakness. The truth is that Saudi Arabia is a declining geopolitical/ideological force, just as it attempts to diversify its economy in order to become a more attractive place for non-energy related investments.