Where has Saudi Arabia gone? - MERVE ŞEBNEM ORUÇ

Where has Saudi Arabia gone?

Throughout history, the progress of wars has changed and the parties have changed their policies. However we have never seen changes happen within hours, or these sudden changes affect the policies of the parties, as we have in the recent regional chaos.

For example, no one can hear Saudi Arabia's voice this week; however, just 10 days ago Saudi Arabia was announcing that it was about to send its warplanes to İncirlik Air Base in Turkey, that it was going to start a ground offensive with 150,000 soldiers, and that the region was to experience the biggest ground offensive of its history. However, nearly overriding Turkey's voice on the Syrian issue on the one hand, Saudi Arabia sat at the table with Russia agreeing on some certain critical decisions.

The oil ministers of the two countries meeting at the table in Qatar to discuss the war in the oil market continuing parallel to the tension in the region is another point of importance on that table. Saudi Arabia was keeping the parties it was facing in Syria and the region under control with the high oil supply policies it had adopted for a while. Russia was economically affected by this situation; however, these policies negatively affected Saudi Arabia too. Yet, upon Iran entering the market after the nuclear agreement, the cards were revealed.

Although the frequent position changes are not very reassuring, the new King Salman following a consistent line in his leadership makes one think that he will be insisting on the economic war Saudi has created. Although it sometimes panics because of the budgetary savings... It did not happen. We had been talking about the changes that were expected to occur in the strategic alliances and animosities upon the Gulf-Russia traffic intensifying after the sanctions applied on Iran. However, as a person who said that a conflict of interest could arise between the two close allies Iran and Russia, I personally did not expect things to change so quickly.

Although the decision to adjust oil production to January rates is not enough to rectify the economic loss, and with the reality that prices will not be getting back to the old levels with Iran joining the game and decreasing production, this agreement looks like it is the lesser of two evils for both parties. However, Iran has already showed that it is displeased with the decision by saying, “Congratulations, but no thank you.” Furthermore, Iran's oil minister said he found this decision “ridiculous.” Iran approaching a decision with such an attitude in an international arena, made with its biggest supporter, Russia, is not something that can be underestimated.

On the other hand, the decision for a cease-fire which was announced by the foreign ministers of the US and Russia (as if for the first time) and supported by the Saudi King Salman, was declared by the Kremlin yesterday. While Russia pulled Syrian leader Bashar Assad's ear and made him say, “I am ready for a cease-fire” despite him previously saying, “I will fight until I get my country back,” Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir did not add anything new to the statement he made several times before in his squeaky voice, “Assad does not have a future in Syria in the long run,” during his interview with Der Spiegel.

Saudi Arabia's ever-changing policies may disappoint those who believe “The Islamic army is being established,” but this excitement is as romantic as the disappointment. While King Abdullah perceived the Muslim Brotherhood as the biggest threat to Saudi Arabia, Iran is the biggest threat for the new king. Therefore, the reality in the Gulf depends on the king of the period. In summary, the king died, long live the new king. King Abdullah believed that Assad will depart from Syria, therefore financed the coups against the Muslim Brotherhood so that it would not be active in the new Syria, just as it did in 2013. Later realizing that the Muslim Brotherhood's source of inspiration, Turkey, ruled by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), might be more advantageous in the region, King Abdullah stopped supplying arms to the opposition in some of the war zones. Just as King Abdullah does not see a problem in suddenly changing paths, King Salman does not see a problem in changing his policies, in the rapidly changing conjuncture, toward his only threat. Hence, as the issue was never the Arab Spring, Syria, Yemen or Egypt for Saudi Arabia, the new problem is Iran, which has a role in all the above issues. Therefore, the first point on the Gulf agenda is to weaken Iran which has drawn near to the West, whether it be oil prices with Russia or the cease-fire with Syria.

It is normal that Saudi Arabia overlooks the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)-Democratic Union Party (PYD) problem its cyclical ally Turkey is facing, that Syria is somehow in this, that there is tension between Russia and Turkey, and that Turkey, a country that overlooked denominational differences in Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Libya, is now trying to be regarded as the scapegoat. Despite the picture depicted by the political powers' attitude and the meetings the Chief of Staff attended, the news in the international media (said to be resourced by the military) like “the military does not want to interfere in Syria” and “We will not be a part of the Islamic army” can be said to create the impression that Turkey is not trustworthy. This is similar to some of the reactions toward Arabs in our country. The area of conflict which has turned into a matter of existence for all, in a region where let alone an Islamic Union, even an Arab Union cannot be formed, and the game is continuing with reaction-based policies rather than taking action with jointly developed alliances, brings along with it the “everybody for themselves” understanding.


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