Monday, September 4, 2017

The house of Salmon has changed the ME forever

If the house of Saud can be described as a set of patient and plodding foreign policies, willing to spend their money and other peoples lives on radical adventures but also willing to spend money,  diplomacy and prestige on creating stability in a tumultuous region then the Salmon monarchy is taking a different direction. During the cold war, the Saudis would side with the US, after the fall of Iran the Saudis stepped up their counterreformation by increasing the export of Sunni radicalism which included helping the US route the Soviets in Afghanistan. Yet, the Saudis also found it necessary and important to support the stability of the primarily Sunni government in Lebanon, to keep Iraq as a protector against Iran and essentially finding ways to keep the overall political order no matter which parts of the Middle East fell apart that year.

The House of Salman hasn't been so patient nor so willing to the throw good money after bad. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia is waging a seemingly fruitless war to the keep the Iranian backed Houthis out of the Arabian peninsula but may effectively have driven Yemen's Shias further into Persian arms. Salman is leading a diplomatic embargo against Qatar and has inadvertently had Turkey, the old colonizer, step up fleshing out a military base in Qatar at time when Turkey is ruled by a Neo Ottoman president who waxes nostalgic for the old Empire. The most most interesting and most cataclysmic yet subtle change was in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia more or less cut off support for the Sunni faction in Lebanon after the Lebanese government shut down for over a year because Hezbollah could veto any government it didn't like. This led to the installation of a Christian President, Michael Aoun who is little more than a quisling to Iran's interests. During this period, Hezbollah invaded another country besides Israel but did so with a new army rather than just terrorist forces. While Hezbollah is an ally of the Syrian government, the Lebanese government is not. Hostile, pro-Iranian and Iranian forces in Syria and Lebanon put Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in play as potential hot spots. There was a time when Saudi Arabia would have continued to support the Sunnis in Lebanon no matter the problem since it only required colored paper, the Salmon regime seems to question the value of such expenditures and does not seem to be willing to settle for being reactionary.

With an expansionist Iran, the recent memory of the Arab Spring, ISIS and the increasing inability to avoid radical violence by exporting it -- Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salmon is willing the take risks as he sees Saudi Arabia's security being whittled away by new radicalisms and Iran's increasing ability to project force. However, the crown less able to wield peace. They have so far alternatively lukewarm and cold with Egypt, supporting its economy and then reducing funding when it doesn't get what it wants. There's little sense of genuine unity in either OPEC or the GCC council which is taking a stand against Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Arab Spring and Iran. Behind the scenes contracts with Israel have happened and there are signals that Saudi Arabia could be more flexible and realistic about the Israeli-Palestinian peace as well as accepting Israel diplomatically but not observable progress has been seen either in the region or on the PA government. The Salmon government is more of a Freshman than Senior government and their policies and actions may need time to play out which includes domestic restructuring of their economy. The question remains, how effective will Saudi Arabia be in rallying support against Iran, increasing regional stability, developing long term alliances and waging peace.