Speaking of disagreements between the United States and Saudi Arabia, which last year went from the latent to an open form and even conflict, we need to ignore the current situation and try to understand whether these differences are of a tactical nature or they have the character of deeper faults.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies as a whole with the West and the United States carry several dimensions, each of which is self-sufficient and at the same time intertwined with the others.
The Achilles heel of all the "six" countries is the mono-commodity of their economy. The development of the oil industry of each of the monarchies followed roughly the same path - by donating oil-bearing areas in concession to foreign companies, the Gulf countries received developed oil production and transportation infrastructure in exchange for not very favorable conditions for concessions. Subsequently, all monarchies gradually bought out the shares of foreigners and concentrated in the state hands the oil industries of their countries. Subsequently, the participation of foreign companies helped the "six" countries to modernize the oil industry and maintain it at a high technological level.
This process was inextricably linked with the uninterrupted supply of oil to Western markets, which was an indispensable condition for the cooperation of the West and the United States with the Gulf countries. Monarchies were interested in a dynamic increase in oil prices, but this inevitably led to higher prices for all imports — the mono-commodity economy did not produce almost anything, including food, in necessary quantities. Gradually, a balance of prices emerged, which was supported by both economic and purely political methods.
The first three five-year development plans of Saudi Arabia 70-85 of the last century were mainly devoted to the development and modernization of the oil industry. The fourth to sixth five-year plans (85-2000) launched the processes of diversification and development of non-oil sectors of the economy. Industrial zones were established in Dhahran, Yanbo, Jeddah and Jubayla, which gradually became the multi-industrial centers of the Kingdom.
Naturally, priority attention was paid to the petrochemical industry with high degrees of redistribution. State "Saudi Arabian Basic Industry Corp." (SABIKO) produces about 50 product names. Petrochemical exports account for more than 10% of GDP. Moreover, if Saudi Arabia restrains the pace of oil production to maintain prices, the output of non-oil sectors increases production. SABIKO together with the monopolist in the oil industry of ARAMCO are subordinate to the Supreme Petroleum Council and parallel to the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources.
It is worth noting that the export of petrochemical products is very much focused on the Asia-Pacific region - it accounts for almost 60% of total exports. 20% of exports go to the Near and Middle East, and to the countries of Africa - more than the EU and the US together (about 10%)
The second largest non-oil industry in Saudi Arabia has become the electric power industry, which is managed by the Ministry of Water Resources and Electric Power Industry. Already at the beginning of the fourth five-year development period, the Kingdom switched to self-sufficiency, but so far the introduction of new capacities only slightly surpasses the needs of the country. This suggests that Saudi Arabia does not consider the electric power industry as an export industry, but develops it exclusively for domestic purposes. The desalination industry is developing in much the same way — there is no plan to sell water for export. Saudi State Electricity Company (SEC) is a monopolist in the market.
The gas industry of Saudi Arabia is focused on associated gas, which is more than 60% of all available reserves. Gas production is growing rapidly - in 15 years, having almost doubled to 80 billion cubic meters per year. All gas produced goes to domestic consumption. However, before 2030, it is planned to invest about 20 billion dollars in the gas industry and increase its production by another half - while again, focusing solely on domestic consumption.
What is characteristic is that the king of Saudi Arabia is personally involved in coordinating the management of these five key sectors and the planning of their activities through two key ministries and the Supreme Petroleum Council.
In general, the economy of Saudi Arabia developed until recently in a completely predictable way - export trade in oil and refined products with self-sufficiency in available natural resources and energy. Dependence on food from imports is considered as an inevitable payment for the development of other industries - although originally, the development of agriculture was considered as one of the priority tasks. As a result, these plans were adjusted, and food security was considered in terms of self-sufficiency in wheat, dates and poultry meat. The rest of the products are produced by the Kingdom in about half of the existing need, covering the lack of their imports.
At the same time, the self-sufficiency of Saudi Arabia with food compared to other monarchies looks more than weighty - the same Bahrain is almost completely deprived of food security and is not capable of providing itself with any of the most significant products, even fish.
Nevertheless, with all the achievements of economic development, all that has been said indicates that dependence on oil trade for Saudi Arabia remains absolute - the implementation of nine five-year plans has not been able to create a sustainable economy that can compensate for possible problems in the oil market. And these problems began to be denoted - the shale boom in the United States, which coincided with the global crisis and recession, put Saudi Arabia in a difficult position, forcing it to focus on new markets. At the same time, it is worth noting that the US market is already “collapsing” gradually for Saudi Arabia - the two leading industries export 20% oil and 7% petrochemical products to North America.
The three leading markets for oil in Saudi Arabia are Asia Pacific (about 60% of total exports), the USA (about 20%) and Europe (about 10%). The Chinese market is of the greatest interest, however, the redistribution of oil flows is possible only with tougher conditions and lower prices - which is a serious problem for the Kingdom.
It is possible to talk about the dependence of Saudi Arabia on the American market - but the main danger is not the volume of export reduction, but the dynamics of “collapse”. It is now a painful process associated with a faster reduction in exports to Europe and America, than Saudi Arabia has time to compensate for their access to other markets.
China can go on maintaining the current conditions on prices, but only if the counter conditions are met - providing favorable conditions for investing in the Saudi economy and entering new levels of military-technical cooperation to level the trade balance. This inevitably creates a conflict in Saudi Arabia-US and Saudi Arabia-China vapors over another set of problems - ensuring regional security and Saudi Arabia’s dependence on military-technical cooperation with the United States.
(The data are taken from the reports "Saudi Arabia Fuel and Energy Complex: Status and Prospects for the Development of Cooperation with the Russian Federation" 2011 g, monograph by IA Aleksandrov "Persian Gulf monarchies. Modernization stage", news agency reports)
The problems of external security of Saudi Arabia at the present stage can be considered from the moment that Harold Wilson’s government abandoned its military presence in the Middle East region in the 60-70 years.
Saudi Arabia took this decision very painfully, as England ensured the smoothing of problems between the Arabian monarchies, as well as the expansionist sentiments of Iraq and Shah Iran. This historical the period was marked by a sharp start to secular development projects in most of the Arab countries and the Middle East, the monarchical regimes of the Gulf against their background looked archaic and could not oppose these projects with any adequate answer.
The bipolar nature of the world order did not leave Saudi Arabia a choice - it could only focus on the United States as an adequate replacement for England that had left the region. Similar problems were experienced by the rest of the Arabian Six countries. In the end, a solution was found to suit everyone - creating a network of US military bases that did not allow the situation to go out of control and not bring the confrontation both within the "six" and between it and Iran and Iraq to an open conflict.
At the same time, there were several levels of security problems (the well-known researcher of the Gulf countries I.A.Andandrov calls them "tiers").
The first level is conflicts between the countries of the "six" themselves. These include the territorial problems of Bahrain and Qatar due to the Hawar archipelago and the northern part of Qatar Zubara. There are problems between Qatar and Saudi Arabia behind the Hofuz oasis bordering the United Arab Emirates. There were also less significant territorial disputes between the UAE, KSA and Oman. Despite the fact that they were talking about small territories, all of them were located in oil and gas regions, and the cost of the issue in each dispute could reach tens of billions of dollars.
The second level had much more serious security threats. This is the level of problems with Iraq and Iran. The desire for the annexation of Bahrain was also characteristic of Shah's Iran, which was reinforced by the origin of the Shiite majority and their kinship with Iran and the Shiite south of Iraq.
The Shiites of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia do not have such blood ties and are not willing to exchange the relatively stable income from work in the oil fields for political freedom and independence, but the Iranian presence in this province has always been a headache for Saudi special services. Another territorial problem between Saudi Arabia and Yemen was due to the presence of a Shiite majority in the disputed region of Asher, which Saudi Arabia rented and eventually bought out from the Yemeni imams.
Kuwait has always been threatened by the Iraqi invasion, which considered unfair borders and the very existence of Kuwait as an independent state.
Oman had very difficult problems with pro-Soviet South Yemen in connection with the Dofar conflict, where he fought against the radical left Front for the Liberation of Dhofar, whose fighters were trained in one of the Soviet training centers near Simferopol. This level of security problems was confronting the USSR and the USA - and here Oman was directly interested in cooperation with the USA.
The United States eventually created the Gulf security system, in which they did not so much oppose the Soviet Union, but were forced to smooth out the contradictions between the countries of the region, with each of which they cooperated to some extent. At the same time, the United States relied on the Shah's regime, to which they assigned the role of "gendarme of the region." Shah responded with real action - by entering a contingent of 1972 in Oman in 10, thousands of people to suppress the dophar insurgency. The "six" countries in this system occupied a subordinate position, and the system itself was called the "one and a half pillars", where half was Saudi Arabia and the whole pillar was Iran.
The 1979 revolution in Iran objectively hit US interests in the region and forced them to make a choice between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The Iran-Iraq war, unsuccessful in its consequences, convinced the United States of the incapacity of the Saddam Hussein regime as a regional leader. This largely predetermined the future Iraqi war and the “Storm in the Desert”, which were practically provoked by the United States itself, which inspired certain hopes for a favorable outcome for Iraq in the event of the occupation of Kuwait.
Saudi Arabia remained the only possible contender for leadership in the region under the umbrella of the United States - which resulted in a strategic partnership.
Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia could not become a full-fledged replacement for Iran - its development convinced the United States of the impossibility of creating a full-fledged industrial economy in the Kingdom capable of adequately competing with industrialized Iran, which showed steady growth even under blockade and sanctions.
The collapse of the Republican policy during the Iraq war forced a new democratic administration to think about leaving the region, which required exorbitant costs. The US economy could not bear such enormous costs to achieve unobvious results. The logic of the new policy was initially based on the destruction of the existing stable balance of forces in the region through large-scale “color revolutions”, during which moderate Islamist governments came to power, seeking to implement a new pan-Arab project, but no longer on romantic-socialist and nationalist slogans, but on the Islamist cosmopolitan ideology, which Obama found more natural and suitable for the civilizational essence of the Middle East.
The implementation of such a pan-Arab project was to compensate for the dependence of Saudi Arabia on direct US military assistance in the confrontation with Iran. The US withdrawal from the region would be accompanied by the transfer of territories under the control of the new Islamist governments, which were to create a buffer between Shiite Iran and Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The needs of new Islamist governments in ensuring their security were guaranteed by multi-billion contracts with the US military-industrial complex, which could help in restarting the crisis-weakened US industry. Government support for the “shale revolution” reduced the dependence of the United States on hydrocarbon supplies from the Middle East and made the positions of Saudi Arabia and its lobby in the United States less significant.
As a result, this policy worked in the second component - the “shale boom” really gave the desired result, but the bet on moderate Islamists did not. An additional, but extremely serious problem for Obama’s plans was stiff resistance to Syria and the explosive growth in the number of radical Islamist militant groups.
Here an objective reason arose for creating a rift in relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States - for the Kingdom, ending the war in Syria with the beginning of US withdrawal from the region and reducing their dependence on oil supplies inevitably leads to the transfer of this war to the perimeter of the Arabian Peninsula as an inevitable consequence of victory Iran The United States, on the contrary, has room for maneuver, which they took advantage of.
The course towards rapprochement with Iran returns the United States to a relatively comfortable situation for them at the beginning and middle of 70 of the last century. The revolutionary fervor of Iran has been replaced by a more sober look at the situation, and although the United States will remain the enemy of the theocratic regime in the foreseeable future, it is fully capable of guaranteeing the security of the region in the absence of the United States. True, in this case the task is complicated by the fact that Iran needs to distance itself as far as possible from Chinese expansion, since the United States does not see the slightest sense to leave the region and allow China to enter there - and here the positions of Republicans and Democrats coincide completely.
That is why in the current situation the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia is objectively beneficial to the United States. This conflict will create problems for the interests of China, which will be forced to solve an extremely nontrivial task for itself - either to become the guarantor of the region’s security, or intervene in the conflict on the side of one of the opponents, or generally stay away from it, limiting its presence in the region until the conflict ends .
The Chinese military-political doctrine does not consider the situation of its dominance in the zones of potential conflicts, so the first and second versions of China’s reaction seem extremely unlikely, which is quite satisfactory for Obama and makes the situation very predictable.
This also creates enormous problems for Saudi Arabia, which loses the “umbrella” of the United States, and the only hope for ensuring its security remains the active financing of troops and groupings of a radical Sunni orientation with the continuation of the war in Syria and Iraq.
This situation is very beneficial for the United States. They can allow the Kingdom to continue the war until a crisis in the transfer of power in Saudi Arabia itself. If necessary, these problems can be initiated at any suitable moment. Clan contradictions and exacerbation of social problems in the Kingdom will allow the transfer of control of the oil-bearing Eastern province to the US-controlled clan or clan bloc. Their security can be ensured by minimally strengthening the already existing bases in Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Perhaps one of the conditions for non-interference in the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia will be the inviolability of American bases in any regime change in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Thus, the United States will not allow China to penetrate the most important provinces of present-day Saudi Arabia, and the creation of a "Shiite corridor" will allow orient Iran in a European direction - safer than Pakistan’s corridor in the direction of China.
Saudi Arabia in the current situation is becoming for the United States a tool for reformatting the region, which will ensure its greater security. In this case, China will not be able to strengthen its presence in it, which is also an important element in the development of the situation.
Nevertheless, for the United States there is one extremely difficult task, the solution of which depends on the participation in this new security system of another player in the region - Israel. This task is Iran’s nuclear program.
Today, its peaceful nature is beyond doubt. The absence of a number of critical industries and the uranium (and therefore militarily dead-end) orientation of the nuclear program make it possible to confidently assume its non-military development in the near future. But to guarantee a sharp increase of this program and its exit to another level in the medium term, of course, no one can. Even Iran itself. Today it is very difficult to imagine the configuration that will emerge in the event of the collapse of Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the issue of the focus of Iran’s nuclear program, of course, must be guaranteed to be solved now. By the way, it is in Russian interests.
Therefore, the launch of the US policy towards Iran is due to two fundamental factors - the outcome of the peace conference in Geneva and the outcome of the negotiations with Iran in the "6 + 1" format. The speed with which the United States is trying to solve these two difficult tasks indicates that they are extremely interested in launching a new policy. Actually, the fate of Saudi Arabia depends on it - and the Saudis are doing everything possible to disrupt the peace conference in Geneva, which will delay the inevitable.