Saudi oil policy and KSA relations with radical Islamist structures, some of which (Al Qaeda and its many clones) support the kingdom, while others (the Islamic State) are afraid and trying to resist them, attracts close attention of experts. However, many important nuances of the foreign policy and foreign economic course of Saudi Arabia, which often play a key role in understanding the plans of the monarchy and the prospects for their implementation, are beyond the scope. This article is intended to correct this, which is based on the materials of the experts of the Institute of the Near East, G. G. Kosach and Yu. B. Shcheglovina.
Asian throne anabasis
29 August began the Asian tour of the heir to the throne (official title), the Minister of Defense, the second deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers and the head of the Council on Economy and Development of CSA Prince Mohammed bin Salman. As noted in the statement of the Royal Chancellery published on the eve, the prince went on official visits to Islamabad, Beijing and Tokyo, responding to “personal invitations” by the President of the PRC and the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and Japan and on the basis of the “personal indication” of King Salman bin Abdel Aziz. In Hangzhou, China, at the G20 summit, the prince, under the “personal instructions” of the monarch (his father), led the Saudi delegation.
In Islamabad, the prince met with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The Saudi press emphasized that the main topic of the talks was the discussion of “strong” bilateral relations and “ways of their further development and deepening”, when the heir to the throne gave N. Sharif personal messages from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naef related to “developing a common position of both countries "in relation to the" actual problems of the Muslim world. " Leading the agenda of the meeting took a discussion of the problems of Yemen. After spending several hours in the capital of Pakistan, the third person in the Saudi hierarchy left for Beijing.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman was accompanied by a representative delegation: Minister of Finance Ibrahim Al-Assaf, Minister of Trade and Investment Activity Majid Al-Kasabi, Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Khaled Al-Falih, Minister of Culture and Information Adil at-Tureifi, Minister of Ecology, Water Resources and Agriculture Abdel Rahman Al-Fadli, Minister of Construction Majid Al-Huqeil, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohammed Al-Swayil, Head of General Intelligence Khaled Al-Humaidan and Mi Foreign Affairs Nadr Adil al-Jubeir. In Riyadh, commenting on his future visit to Beijing, Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke of the importance of strengthening the Saudi-Chinese “strategic partnership”, which has two pillars - the plan for the socio-economic restructuring “The Vision of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: 2030” and the Chinese program “Economic Belt Silk Road.
On the eve of Mohammed bin Salman's arrival in the Chinese capital, the Sino-Saudi business forum “Towards Integration“ Visions: 2030 ”and the Silk Road” began its work. Saudi Arabia is the main trade and economic partner of China in the Middle East and North Africa. In 2015, the level of reciprocal trade amounted to 50 billions of dollars, and the number of joint Saudi-Chinese economic projects reached 175, primarily in the service sector and industry. 150 Chinese companies operate in Saudi Arabia, KSA investments in the PRC economy amount to 15 billions, and the volume of reciprocal investments is 5,6 billion dollars. KSA is one of the main suppliers of oil to China.
Realizing, as Minister of Trade and Investment Activity Majid al-Kasab noted during the China-Saudi Business Forum in Beijing, one of the most important provisions of the Kingdom Vision: 2030 on lifting restrictions on the work of foreign enterprises in Saudi Arabia, he presented the representative of the largest Chinese Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., specializing in information and communication technologies, the official permission to conduct business with one hundred percent foreign capital in Saudi Arabia. This is a landmark event for all Saudi foreign partners.
In Beijing, Prince Mohammed bin Salman and members of the government delegation held meetings with heads of Chinese ministries and departments, including the leadership of the Ministry of Defense. As reported by the Saudi press, at this meeting, the Prince - Minister of Defense noted that for his country a principally "strategic partnership" with China arises from "mutual political trust" between the two states and having military cooperation as a "solid foundation." According to him, KSA strives to make it more efficient and practical. In a situation where Chinese military advisers were announced to appear in Syria under the Assad government, while Riyadh supported the anti-government opposition there, it looked at least ambivalent.
The circle of meetings of the prince with representatives of Chinese commercial and industrial companies included ZTE, Huawei Technologies Co., the largest developer and supplier of telecommunications equipment. Ltd., Aluminum Corporation of China Ltd., China Communications Construction Company Ltd., China's leading construction company, steel companies, China National Petroleum Corporation and POLY diversified group. Saudi publications noted that the meeting was initiated by the Chinese side, interested in expanding investment in the economy of the KSA on the project "Vision of the Kingdom: 2030" and "The Silk Road Economic Belt". At the same time, they were aimed at expanding joint economic activities in West Asia and Africa.
The trip resulted in 17 signing bilateral agreements and memorandums of intent at the government level. They included cooperation in the field of energy, oil storage facilities, information technology, housing and metallurgy. Along with this, the talk was about cooperation in the use of water resources, banking and finance, science and technology (significantly expanding Chinese participation in the activities of the Saudi City of Science and Technology named after King Abdel Aziz). They didn’t bypass the sphere of culture - the parties signed agreements on the development of translation activities aimed at popularizing Arabic and Chinese classical literature in both countries, on the development of a “Saudi-Chinese strategy in the field of culture”, providing support for young initiatives.
31 August 2016 year Prince Muhammad bin Salman was received by PRC Chairman Xi Jinping. As noted by the Saudi news agency, they discussed ways to strengthen the Saudi-Chinese strategic partnership, as well as international and regional issues. The result was the prince’s statement (bearing in mind China’s position on Syria) on the “importance of mutual consultations and coordination of positions on issues relevant to both sides,” which is not an obstacle to “a positive strategic partnership between the two states.” This streamlined formulation is also suitable for the current state of Russian-Saudi relations, the benefit of which is the disagreement between Moscow and Riyadh, at least in Syria and Yemen, has not disappeared.
Syria: Islamists are being pushed onto the secular path
With regard to the Syrian direction of Saudi politics, experts point out problems in the camp of the banned in Russia "Dzhebhat an-Nusra", which recently changed its name to "Dzhebhat Fatah ash-Sham." This step was to signify, according to the organizers of the action, the transition of the group from the standpoint of jihadism to conditional secularism. If it is simpler, on the position of Sunni nationalism with an emphasis on the slogan of overthrowing President Bashar Assad. Such an option, according to the main sponsor of Dzhebhat al-Nusra - Saudi Arabia, should ensure the participation of this group in the political process and support, including material, from the Western states. Riyadh believed that this would give the West, primarily the United States, the opportunity to put before Moscow (and Damascus) the need to incorporate this “new” education into the political process, including at the Geneva talks, and to increase pressure on them for the cessation of hostilities near Aleppo.
Saudi logic was built according to the scheme: Americans cannot cancel the decision of their State Department and the Ministry of Justice to recognize Jebhat al-Nusra as a terrorist organization, which means that this player must be introduced under a new name. The very fact of these maneuvers, very late, indicates that Saudi Arabia is experiencing the strain of all its resources. The operation near Aleppo is a means of maximally bleeding the enemy, and not a classic military offensive. The Syrian army has an advantage in aviation and artillery, and war goes to exhaustion. The Islamists' use of gas cylinders as mines and landmines testifies to the impoverishment of their arsenals.
The Islamists threw all forces (up to eight thousand militants) to the breakthrough of the blockade of Aleppo, which are slowly but surely crushed by government troops. It will be extremely difficult for them to fill the growing shortage of manpower, especially given the ambivalent policy of Ankara, which is working to establish contacts with Damascus through the special services. Riyadh is trying to urgently increase its grouping in Syria, for which it organizes an additional set of recruits. Yemen’s volunteers who had recently been blown up in Aden, who were officially recruited to guard the Saudi-Yemeni border, were to be shipped to Syria.
The change of the name “Dzhebhat al-Nusra”, initiated by the Minister of the Interior and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naef, at the suggestion of KSA’s General Intelligence (EAR) Directorate Khaled al-Humaidan, should be seen as a manifestation of competition between him and his son the king, the minister of defense and also the heir to the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Mohammed bin Naef, who is considered close to the Americans, made an important, as he believes, step to legitimize the jihadist group in an attempt to achieve its recognition by the West as an independent political force. As Minister of the Interior, he oversees the charitable foundations of Saudi Arabia, which means that he has direct access to conservative theologians who oversee Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Dzhebhat al-Nusru in Syria as part of at least a set of new recruits. This made it easier for him to bring the desired ideological basis under the apostate step of the Saudi creatures in Syria.
The role of H. al-Humaidan is extremely important in bringing this process to a logical conclusion among the leadership of Dzhebhat al-Nusra through the operatives of the UOR KSA, who are present in its composition as financiers and advisers. Both crown princes are trying to win over al-Humaidan to his side, regularly taking him with them to foreign tours. For the time being, Mohammed bin Naef succeeds in doing this, who was able to “squeeze” the Dzhebhat an-Nusra leaders through him, forcing them to publicly reject the al-Qaeda ideology. Mohammed bin Salman, whom al-Humaidan accompanied during his visit to China, could not convince Beijing to distance itself from direct military support of Damascus.
Note that the change of name and departure from the formal alliance with Al-Qaida was not in vain for Dzhebhat al-Nusra, in which disagreements arose between the Saudi wing, its Syrian allies, and the Al-Qaeda faction. This disorganizes the actions of the group and sometimes leads to outright sabotage by the Jordanian Islamists. Experts note that the situation is affected by serious moral and physical fatigue of Jordanian militants who are stationed on the front edge of the front and do not want to act as “cannon fodder” anymore. Changing the name for them is only a reason to distance themselves from further participation in battles.
Oman is not a friend
Regarding the situation in Yemen, the KSA is gaining momentum in a campaign to discredit the position of the leadership of Oman, which Riyadh accuses of maintaining “too trustworthy ties” with Tehran and the hidden support of the Housits. The heir to the crown prince, KSA’s Minister of Defense, Mohammed bin Salman, and people from his inner circle became the initiators and main organizers of the campaign. Muscat’s weighted position vis-à-vis the events in Yemen, his refusal to support the Arab Coalition’s action in the Arab League format, and its special relationship with Tehran have long annoyed Riyadh, which made several attempts to compromise the Omani leadership in the hope of forcing it to transform the course and withdraw from contacts with Iran . However, Muscat firmly refused to do so.
Oman did not even respond to the burning of the Saudi embassy in Tehran in response to the execution in KSA of the Shiite preacher Nimr al-Nimr. For Riyadh, this is a declaration of the Cold War. For similar actions of Beirut, Saudi Arabia refused to support the modernization plan of the Lebanese army. As a result, the Omani site for the intra-Yemeni negotiations of the KSA was blocked and the last round of consultations was held in Kuwait.
The Saudi military and the leadership of the UOR KSA leadership are convinced that there is an Iranian lobby in Muscat that uses Omani territory for subversive activities against the forces of the Arabian coalition in Yemen. One of the main Iranian henchmen in Oman, Riyadh considers a native of the influential Omani family, General Sultan bin Mohammed al-Naamani, Minister for Office Affairs of the Sultan Qaboos and supervisor of the State Security Service (SSS), who acts in coordination with the British MI-5, whose employees reside in its headquarters. The UDB, in addition to monitoring the Omano-Yemeni border, is working to establish trust with various Yemeni political forces and factions. In South Yemen, this relationship is particularly close, because at one time the Democratic Republic of Yemen contained training camps for Dhofar rebels, and in the process of national reconciliation, many of them occupied leading posts in the government structures of Oman.
The UOR CSA believes that the State Security Service supports the Housits from Dhofar, including by supplying weapon across the Omano-Yemeni border to the airport of the capital of Dhofar, Salalah, which is distributed to warehouses on the islands in the coastal zone and then transferred to Yemen. The main smugglers here were and are Zaidis from Sa'ada with the mediation of merchants from Hadramaut. Not only Iranian weapons, but also Ukrainian and Bulgarian weapons are being shipped through this channel. The Oman leadership tried not to interfere in these processes, believing that this state of affairs was the main guarantee against the unrest of the local elite. However, the control of the border guards of Oman in this region is missing.
Muscat continues to adhere to traditional equidistance from regional conflicts, positioning itself as the main mediator in all matters of relations between the Gulf and Iran. On the pressure of Riyadh, he responds harshly. The leaders of the Housewits are frequent guests in Oman, they are regularly contacted at all levels. Since the failure of 31 in July of the Kuwaiti negotiation format, these contacts have intensified. Muscat is dissatisfied with Riyadh’s attempts to remove him from the role of the main negotiating platform on the intra-Yemeni settlement and demonstrates this openly. Suffice it to say that by order of the closest ally of Sultan Qaboos, the Minister of the Interior of Oman Youssef bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the floors in the elite hotel of Muscat "Al-Bustan" were allocated for the representatives of the Housits. The emissaries of an ally of the Housits of ex-President of Yemen, A. A. Saleh, live there permanently.
Muscat’s unbending stance showed when the Saudi military, controlling Yemen’s airspace, banned the flight of Sultan Qaboos’s plane with members of the Housit delegation that was heading home after talks in Kuwait, which stopped in Muscat, demanding to board the Saudi Air Force Base to inspect the baggage and “identify” passengers. " In response, they received a categorical refusal. As a result of this incident, Oman officially refused to cooperate with Saudi Arabia on security issues. This testifies: Muscat intends to continue the old line of behavior and will not give in to pressure from Riyadh. There are no methods of influence on Ibadit Oman from the Salafi KSA. That once again demonstrates - the regional hegemony of Saudi Arabia, which its leadership is trying to build, even the GCC neighbors, the monarchy of the Persian Gulf, are resisting.