US Middle East policy is increasingly distanced from the interests of the allies. It leads to a reduction in their numbers to a minimum or leaves the Trump administration alone.
Voting at the UN Security Council demonstrates this, as was the case in the situations of Jerusalem and the Iranian dossier. US diplomats say that Washington expresses the opinion of the whole world, in fact, the US does not even support the EU, not to mention Turkey, Pakistan and many countries in the Arab world. Attempts to criticize or crush lead to tougher resistance to Washington. Consider the US Middle East policy and the actions of the US allies, relying on the materials of Y. Shcheglovina, prepared for IBI.
Brilliance and poverty of billionaires
The main problems of Saudi Arabia - the confrontation with Iran, the struggle of elites for power in the transfer of the throne by King Salman to his son and the budget deficit. In moving to address the latter issue, the state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco was transformed into a joint stock company. The change in legal status is associated with plans for a public offering of shares (IPO). Saudi Aramco's capital is estimated at 16 billion dollars or 200 billion billion shares. It is assumed that the board will include 11 people. In January, 2016 of the year in Saudi Aramco announced their intentions to enter the stock market (initial public offering of five percent of shares, the package is estimated at two trillion dollars.). It was alleged that the company chose the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), but this was not confirmed. According to Bloomberg, Saudi Aramco’s IPO may be delayed until the 2019 year.
The funds from the privatization of the company in 2018 will not replenish the budget of the KSA, as, by the way, the finances withdrawn from opponents of Crown Prince M. Bin Salman. Despite his words that about 100 billions of dollars were confiscated, KSA does not know anything about this money. At the same time, the Saudi Arabian budget for 2018 year provides for a record spending part. About 20 percent will be spent on military needs, spending on social programs will be increased. Taxes on workers and entrepreneurs will increase, the consequences of which are unpredictable. The cost of defense in the absence of its military-industrial complex means the financing of arms purchases without return to GDP.
It is clear that in connection with the planned transfer of the throne, the shock of the economic reform program proposed by the Crown Prince, which supposes a reduction of state subsidies to the population for water and electricity, is softened and the alliance with the US is being strengthened as the basis of foreign policy. After two years of savings and budget deficits due to the fall in world oil prices in 2014, the KSA economy is in 20 in the world in terms of GDP. As in 2017, the 2018 plan for the year provides for high government spending - 978 billions of rials (61 billion dollars). Defense - the main article of budget spending. KSA increases funds for infrastructure projects and by 86 percent subsidizing utilities to the public. The efforts of the state are aimed at eliminating the budget deficit by 2023 year.
In 2017, the Saudi authorities managed to reduce it to 230 billion rials (8,9 percent of GDP) compared to 297 billion rials (12,8 percent of GDP) in 2016 due to the stability of oil prices after OPEC and other producing countries. The kingdom exceeded non-oil revenue by 30 percent. Growth in this area is expected to continue in 2018, with projected non-oil revenues of 291 billion riyals. Saudi Aramco's IPO placement will be another means by which KSA hopes to increase non-oil revenues. Proceeds from the sale are intended to replenish the state investment fund, which will allow to receive even more non-oil revenues, but this may take years.
The main thing that will determine progress in the implementation of the reform program is the preservation of public confidence in the government. At the same time, the support of M. bin Salman by a large part of the royal family and the elite associated with it is doubtful. The 2018 programs of the year include 32 billion riyals subsidies to compensate for new taxes for low- and middle-income families. The budget provides for an increase in spending on state programs by 169 percent. Great attention is paid to informing the population about reforms in order to prevent unrest. Special attention is paid to how people react to a sharp increase in military spending compared to social spending. At the same time, programs for financing the participation of the KSA in the Yemeni conflict and its controlled groups in Syria are classified. Experts say that it will take up to a quarter of the corresponding budget item. The participation of Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen is becoming increasingly unpopular with the KSA population.
The country will seek to double the non-oil revenues: the amount of tax revenue on it should increase from 97 billion to 189 billion rials by 2020 year. In this case, a five percent VAT and new excise taxes are charged as early as January. Another source of non-oil revenues should be a tax on Saudi enterprises using migrant workers, which will be raised annually. Among other things, it is an attempt to increase the employment of the Saudis and reduce the unemployment rate from 12,6 to 10,6 percent by 2020 year. But this gathering can cause serious discontent if Saudi private business cannot adapt to the situation. In any case, private sector stagnation is projected due to the lack of sufficiently trained national personnel. The role of such expenses in the interests of the military industrial complex of the USA and on the recommendations of American experts may become critical.
Bet on the "Lotus Revolution"
In the USA, special attention is paid to the pre-election race unfolding in Egypt. As an independent candidate, they single out lawyer H. Ali, who is under prosecution because of participation in protests against the transfer of two KSA islands. He faces a prison term, which is why he will not be able to participate in elections. Note: President A.F. As-Sisi, overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood regime, returned to the scheme of power, which in the last years of H. Mubarak’s government demonstrated its inability to cope with economic challenges. It is expected that he will run for a second term, but has not yet announced this and spoke several times about his unwillingness to run for election, provoking a ferment among supporters.
H. Ali is a popular candidate among the educated population of the AER, who is considered by the authorities to be an uncomfortable rival for the current president. Americans believe that his chances of participating in the campaign are insignificant, but they expect that administrative blocking will cause mass discontent and demonstrations, which will be coordinated through social networks. The authorities will be able to localize these phenomena, which will cause dissatisfaction with the policies of al-Sisi, a protest campaign through NGOs and social networks, sabotage and strikes. At the same time, Americans believe that Ali was able to enlist the support of a significant part of Egyptian society, including the clergy and the old guard Mubarak.
Thus, American analysts associated with the Republican wing of the US elite do not consider the Allied regime in Cairo and again put on a "color revolution." This is at odds with the public concept of Washington on the resuscitation of the axis Jerusalem-Cairo-Riyadh and completely contradicts the vision of Israel, where they believe the current regime is optimal for maintaining stability in the region. Washington is clearly annoyed at the attempts of the Egyptian president to balance between the US and the Russian Federation, his efforts in the Palestinian direction and not without Saudi influence do not believe in him as a leader capable of neutralizing the Muslim Brotherhood. That for strengthening Russian-Egyptian relations is just as useful as for weakening Egyptian-American ones.
INP is no reason for Maidan
Estimates of the causes and nature of unrest in Iran, from the point of view of the US Department of State, prove once again: Americans hardly recognize the causes of crises in Syria and Iran. Errors in the analysis of reasons for the collapse in the region do not allow them to develop optimal response algorithms. Thus, in Syria, it was important for Washington to overthrow President Assad, and the consequences were not taken into account, this led to the Islamization and radicalization of the resistance movement in the UAR and Iraq, putting the world on the brink of a war of civilizations. The number of the Islamic Sunni diaspora in the EU and the creation of a victorious “just state” in the form of an IG (banned in the Russian Federation) would have blown up the EU (and not only it), which could be prevented only thanks to Russia's actions in the SAR.
In Iran, there is a struggle in the Shiite elite. The price of the issue is the preservation of the positions of groups in the national economy against the background of the implementation of the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program (INP). As for the obstruction attempts during the demonstrations by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we note: a number of radical conservatives from the young generation who left the IRGC have long been in a hidden confrontation with the rakhbar. Enough to remember history the contradictions between the main protégé of this group M. Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah A. Khamenei. Ahmadinejad’s slogans in his election as president are similar except for denying the importance of Iran’s participation in the Syrian conflict and the implementation of the program of exporting the Islamic revolution to the current appeals of the protesters. This conflict is not one year.
The trial of the former deputy chairman of Halkbank, H. Attill, caused damage to relations with Ankara. On January 3, a jury of the federal court of Manhattan found Attill guilty of assisting in the transfer of funds received by Iran from the sale of oil and gas. Earlier, the Iranian-Turkish entrepreneur R. Zarrab, who was in the same case, revealed to the investigation the scheme of delivering money to Iran through the illegal sale of gold to Dubai and pleaded guilty to violating sanctions against Iran. The special meaning of this event is given by the fact that Washington continues a conscious aggravation of relations with Ankara, putting pressure on President R. Erdogan (members of his family and representatives of the inner circle are closely tied to the affair of the banker Attila).
If, as a result of the investigation, absentee verdicts are delivered to them or sanctions are imposed on them, we can assume that the restoration of US-Turkish relations on a scale that will threaten Moscow’s interests in the SAR can be forgotten. The pledge of this is the position of Erdogan, who will not be able to step over it without losing his face. The White House does not understand that there are moments for the Turkish leadership (the Kurdish dossier, the theme of F. Gulen) that it cannot ignore even to please the economy. Moreover, Washington makes such a move with obviously negative consequences for bilateral relations amid Ankara’s obvious attempts to establish contacts with him on Syria, as Erdogan announced on December 30.
The US is destroying the Turkish version of countering Russian influence. What is important in view of the shelling of the Khmeimim airbase, Ankara’s statements about disagreement with the Russian plans to get out of the Syrian crisis and reduce the combat potential of the prosaud Dzhebhat an-Nusra in Idlib. The anti-Turkish bias of the United States complicates the tendency to strengthen Riyadh and Ankara in the SAR Alliance. The latter loses the maneuver in the confrontation between Russia and Iran in Syria, losing the chance to play an Alliance card there with the United States. The Turks will be forced to compromise with the Russian Federation, especially if they are stimulated by air strikes against the detachments of the pro-Turkish SSA.
Dissatisfied with Pakistan and Palestine
Trump, dissatisfied with the way Islamabad opposes extremist groups, expressed the opinion that the United States had for many years rendered him financial aid for nothing, for it must earn it. Against this background, the National Security Council was convened in Pakistan to develop adequate responses. It noted the solidary position of civil and military society coming from Washington challenges. After the meeting, a statement was published, which referred to the victims of Pakistan in the fight against terrorism and anxiety was expressed about the statements of Trump. Simply put, the policy of Pakistan in the Afghan direction will not undergo any changes. At the same time, the leaders of the American intelligence community reported to the US President that "without cooperation with Islamabad ... no progress in the matter of an intra-Afghan settlement will be achieved." It is noted that the policy of Washington "will have the most negative impact on the uninterrupted channel of material and technical support for the American contingent and the supply of the local power unit." "The active rapprochement of Islamabad with Moscow and Beijing is predicted." Add: and with Tehran.
Approximately the same results the current US administration has achieved in the Palestinian direction. Ramallah will not succumb to the blackmail of the US president, who offered to stop providing financial assistance for his reluctance to negotiate peace with Israel. About this, as reported by France Press, said a member of the PLO Executive Committee H. Ashraoui.
Washington is clearly not aware of the fact that when it stops financing international projects or allies, it exponentially loses leverage over the processes. The United States does not have any other mechanisms for maintaining weight, since security guarantees after the events of the Arab Spring, during which Washington handed over its regional partners, have been devalued.
Islamabad will find financial support in the PRC and KSA, while the PNA will be the object of competition for the UAE, Turkey and Qatar, whose interests are far from American.
Iran is like an apple of discord
The meeting of the UN Security Council over the unrest in Iran revealed serious differences between the United States and the other participants. The US Special Representative tried to create the illusion that Washington expresses the opinion of the whole world, but the Americans faced a cold reaction to their initiatives not only from the UN Secretariat, Moscow and Beijing, but also from European allies. Although a number of small EU countries took the side of the hosts, the reaction of the main European capitals was obvious, indicating a growing crisis in relations between Washington and Brussels.
Political changes in Iran should be the result of the work of the people of this country, and not external influences, France’s Permanent Representative to the UN F. Delattre said on Friday, speaking at a Security Council meeting on protests in the Islamic Republic. He noted that the situation in Iran does not pose a threat to international security, although the protests cause concern, hinting at the destructive role of Washington and Riyadh in this.
With openly expressed position of Paris, Berlin and Rome stand in solidarity. The world has become multipolar, and the current American policy causes skepticism from Europeans, although it is too early to talk about the EU’s separation from the US in the field of defense. By focusing on Washington’s foreign policy exclusively on domestic interests, the EU isolation process will gain momentum. This will inevitably lead to a revision of the foundations of the current financial system. The Trump administration has shown an extreme reluctance to share with NATO allies, pushing French defense companies out of the Saudi market, which greatly spoiled the relationship between Paris and Riyadh.
The balance of forces in the UN Security Council excludes scenarios of US force influence on Iran. With such an attitude of European allies and the support of Tehran by Moscow and Beijing, Washington simply will not dare to go for it. The Americans have always tried to avoid isolation when making decisions about conducting military operations; they need at least formal support from the allies. In the case of Iran, it is not. And if the propaganda attack of the United States in the Security Council was viewed as a probe of the position of the Europeans on this score, it gave disappointing results. Moreover, the White House does not take into account the negative consequences of failure of such soundings on reputation. Washington’s foreign policy initiatives inflict unconditional damage to the United States as the sole global center of power. The next failure of American diplomacy will have obvious consequences for a more important task - the revision of the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program or its tight link to the Iranian missile program.
The discussion in the UN of the situation in the IRI showed the categorical unwillingness of the EU to participate in such an audit. Moreover, the Europeans made it clear to Washington that the deal on the Iranian nuclear program should be absolutely respected. In this regard, American diplomats are trying to combine the incompatible: to fulfill the promises of President Trump, to please the American legislators and remain a participant in the negotiation process with Iran.
Washington is afraid of being isolated, but wants to demonstrate political dominance. Doubtful tactics, because the levers of influence are limited. The United States cannot declare sanctions to everyone - this will mean the departure of the leading economic players from the basic principle of the global financial system: pegging to the dollar. The EU, Russia, China and India will not stop their efforts to penetrate the Iranian market. And the United States will only state this ...