Thursday, September 25, 2014

Saudi Arabia Switches to Plan B for IS and Syria

From my ever interesting and amusing twitter feed @chinahand, with some minor edits:

China Matters crystal ball tells me: 

1) Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is switching from jihadi strategy to great power negotiations in response to IS fiasco

2) KSA is saying, "OK, we'll help clean up our IS mess, but Assad's gotta go. Syria's a natural pickup for the Sunni side and belongs in KSA's sphere of influence.” 

3) KSA's half-assed jihadi anarchy strategy for Syrian regime change has failed. Time for Plan B.

4) As long as Assad getting billions in financial support, military assistance from Iran, he's not going anywhere. If Iran cuts off aid to Assad, he'll be out on the first plane to Moscow or wherever.

 5) So I believe KSA is offering Iran peaceful coexistence in ME in return for dumping Assad

6) and US agreed to put Assad on table as part of Iran nuke deal. So after IS contained, US wants Iran to support "political transition".

7) and US/KSA/Iran all sing "kumbaya". Especially since KSA believes it will be able to shoulder aside whatever hapless transitional govt is installed in Syria and get their own people in. 

8) If this scenario plays out, would expect Israel to get nervous as KSA/Isr/US anti-Iran bloc crumbles. Will certainly demand any new government in Syria be acceptable to Israel (probably why it's now backing JAN). Wonder if it will try to upset applecart w/ quick JAN regime change dash to Damascus to pre-empt deal w/ Iran for transition.

Comment from Moon of Alabama:

Interesting idea - but don't think that's the way supreme leader does business -too dirty a deal
Back to chinahand

@MoonofA agree. Iran the only grownups in the room. But might consider modulating support for Assad in return for rapprochement w/ US, coexistence w/ KSA, commitment to Syria reconstruction. 

But I wonder if Israel would move first to queer the deal in any case.

Then KSA could just shrug its shoulders and say, Hey too bad our deal with Iran didn’t work out. Conspiratorial onion can be peeled:

KSA playing nice, Israel doing the dirty, Assad gone, Iran angry and re-isolated, US left holding its d*ck as seems to be usual case in ME.

If, as I’ve previously speculated, Saudi Arabia formed a protective alliance with Israel to shield KSA from America’s righteous post-9/11 wrath (and keep the notorious 28 pages bottled up), letting Israel take the more conspicuous role in the anti-Assad tag team would be expected.

At the same time, it’s not an Arab Spring, but there might a Theocratic Autumn and a change in Saudi-Iranian relations, supporting the idea that the Kingdom has decided to put its Wahabbi-Troskyite permanent global revolution against the Shi’a on hold in order to pursue some regional power horse-trading with Iran--especially since the US attempt at rapprochement with Iran seems to be gaining some momentum, in part thanks to the accurate perception that Iran is serious about doing something about IS, while Saudi Arabia is not.

Now, therefore, is not the time to bluster about the Iranian menace to Washington.  Time for some united-front happy talk instead, and demonstrate to the United States that Saudi Arabia is capable of anti-IS vigor equivalent to what's coming out of Tehran.

In addition to a rather unprecedented meeting of the Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers, Saudi Arabia was distinctly passive in its response to a takeover of the capital of Yemen by a Shi’a force, the Houthis.

But coexisting with Iran apparently does not mean tolerating Iran’s key ally/client Bashar al-Assad.  It looks like Saudi Arabia has not changed its objectives, merely the means of pursuing them.

As to the issue of what does Saudi Arabia care more about, getting rid of Assad or reining in IS, the jury seems to be in.  A Wall Street Journal backgrounder tells us that KSA and its minions in the Gulf decided to promise the United States the moon with regard to anti-IS support…as long as the US promised not to abandon the anti-Assad crusade.

It "took months of behind-the-scenes work by the U.S. and Arab leaders, who agreed on the need to cooperate against Islamic State, but not how or when. The process gave the Saudis leverage to extract a fresh U.S. commitment to beef up training for rebels fighting Mr. Assad, whose demise the Saudis still see as a top priority."

The Saudis also agreed to foot most of the bill for the “Third Force” of 5000 fighters that is supposed to be trained and led, I imagine, at rather close quarters by the United States, and offer the prospect of a capable, controlled force that will further US objectives in Syria, especially if/when the US follows through and coordinates its operations inside Syria with close US air support.

Hat tip, by the way, to Zero Hedge for stumping up for a WSJ subscription and summarizing the key points for the beleaguered anti-imperialist forces.

Prince Bandar was in on the meeting with Secretary Kerry, another indication that Saudi Arabia has not abandoned its indefatigable campaign to evict Assad from Damascus even as the proxies for its previous anti-Assad gambit wreak so much havoc in the Middle East that the US feels compelled to step in and step up.

One might speculate that IS was a devilishly clever scheme by Prince Bandar to force the United States to return to Riyadh and bargain for KSA support in return for trying to put a leash on IS.

But I am of the school that Prince Bandar performed his usual reverse Midas touch of turning chicken salad into chicken sh*t, and the Kingdom is scrambling to make the best of his murderous incompetence.


blowback said...

How long would Hezbollah outlast an Assad-less Syria? Any deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia would have to include the survival of Hezbollah, but Saudi Arabia can't give sufficient guarantees to Iran that they will fulfil their side of any bargain because if Iran takes action against Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States will protect the KSA.

Xinxi said...

How is this not an US-Saudi war against Syria? The "rebels" - or whatever you want to call them - would have never survived 14 days without massive outside support. Why is this no urgent topic for the UN? Isn't territorial integrity and the like a cornerstone of the supposed Western system of politics?