Powered by WebAds

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Middle East's new priority: the Iranian threat to Saudi Arabia

There's an interesting article in Asia Times that argues that the priority for the Arabs in the Middle East right now is not the Arab-Israeli conflict, but the threat to Saudi Arabia from Iran. I wonder if the US State Department has gotten the message. The argument is that Iran is running out of oil, and is therefore looking for new sources - including in Saudi Arabia. Iran has no real exports other than oil, and its economy is on a crash course with total collapse. In this regard, it's interesting to note that the Mullahs today shortened the Presidential term of Mahmoud Ahmadinadinnerjacket. Maybe they've decided this isn't the time for a nuclear war after all?
When Jordan's King Abdullah demanded a speedy solution to the Israel-Palestine issue to quell the outbreak of multiple civil wars in the region, he meant the precise opposite: the Arab world has something more pressing on its mind than the plight of the Palestinians. The emergence of an Iranian threat to Saudi Arabia makes Palestine the odd man out. The Palestine problem has dropped to the bottom of the Arab priority list, and the fate of the Palestinians is to become cannon fodder for proxy wars.

By the same token, King Abdullah's warning of multiple civil wars meant the opposite of what it appeared to. What formerly were civil wars (or prospective civil wars) in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine have become three fronts in a Sunni-Shi'ite war, in which the local contestants are mere proxies. This is obvious in Lebanon, and becoming so in Palestine, particularly after Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's meeting with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in Qatar on Saturday.

As historian Niall Ferguson observed in his November 27 Los Angeles Times column, "some civil wars never end", although he neglected to add why this is the case: it is because someone on the outside keeps adding fuel to the fire.


"There are two sorts of rat/The hungry and the fat," wrote Heinrich Heine. The fault line between hungry Iranians and the fat Saudis may take precedence over the civilization divide between Muslims and the West, at least for the time being. That is why the Israelis have rediscovered the 2003 Saudi peace plan. The Saudi kingdom has threatened to intervene on the side of the beleaguered Sunnis of Iraq, and Iran (through Hezbollah) is seeking to overthrow the Saudi-allied government of Lebanon, as well as dominate the rejectionist wing of the Palestinians.

Iran, I warned on September 13, 2005, is running short of oil and soldiers (Demographics and Iran's imperial design). Its oil exports could fall to zero within only 10 years, according to new studies reviewed in the December 11 Business Week. Iran's circumstances appear far more pressing than I believed a year ago, when the consensus estimate gave Iran another 20 years' worth of oil exports. Apart from oil, Iran exports only dried fruit, pistachio nuts, carpets, caviar and, more recently, prostitutes (Jihads and whores, November 21).

Iran covets the oil reserves of southeastern Iraq, southern Azerbaijan, and northwestern Saudi Arabia. With 30% youth unemployment, 10% inflation, epidemic prostitution and drug addiction, Iran's fraying social fabric depends on an oil-derived government dole. Within a generation it will have half as many men of military age, and four times as many pensioners. As currently configured, Iran faces economic and demographic collapse eventually. If, as Business Week reports, Iran's oil exports are falling by one-seventh each year, the reckoning might come sooner rather than later. The theocratic regime is a wounded and dangerous beast, prone to hunt outside its own preserve.


More precisely, Iran has sufficient influence among the Palestinians to ensure that Hamas rejects a Palestinian national-unity government, leaving Israel no one with whom to negotiate, and a relatively free hand for the occasional raid. Jerusalem can stretch one hand in peace toward the Saudis, and hammer Iran's ally Hamas with the other.
Read the whole thing.


Post a Comment

<< Home