Prince Khalid bin Salman may not have planned it that way, but the timing of his trip to Moscow last week and message to Washington resounded loud and clear. By not postponing the visit, the signing a defense cooperation agreement with Russia. This took place just as the United States fumbled to evacuate thousands of people from after that country was captured by militants.deputy defense minister signaled that he was trying to hedge his kingdom’s bets by
would have wanted to be seen as hedging its bets with or without the US debacle. The kingdom realizes that Russia will exploit opportunities created by the fiasco but is neither willing nor capable of replacing the US as the Gulf’s security guarantor.
US Media Amplifies Afghan Chaos
Nevertheless,likely wants to capitalize on jitters in the US as Washington tries to get a grip on what went wrong and come to terms with the fact that will once again be governed by . In 2001, the US ousted the ultraconservative militants from power because they harbored al-Qaeda terrorists who planned the from .
, alongside various other militant groups, still has a presence . insist that no one will be allowed to operate cross-border or plan and/or launch attacks on other countries from soil.
Jitters in the Gulf
Yet the willingness to exploit US discomfort may also signal jitters in. The American withdrawal from raises questions for Riyadh. First, is the US still reliable when it comes to the defense of the kingdom and the Arabian Peninsula? Second, does the US move undermine confidence in Washington’s ability to negotiate a potential revival of the Iranian nuclear deal if and when talks start again? Third, could become a battlefield in the rivalry between and , despite both sides seeking to dial down tensions?
Neil Quilliam, a Middle East analyst at Chatham House, argues that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has increased its influence amongat the expense of the , who backed away from the group in the wake of the in 2001. The kingdom and the Taliban’s paths further diverged with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman liberalizing the once-shared ultra-conservative social mores while appears set to reintroduce them.
His analysis assumes that reducedinteraction and closer Iranian ties with mean that the group’s inclinations would lean more toward Tehran than Riyadh.
In a similar vein, some analysts have noted thatwas absent among the Gulf states that helped the US and European countries with evacuations from . Instead, it sent its deputy defense minister to Moscow.
Others suggested thatchose to remain on the sidelines and hedge its bets, given its history with . Until 2001, was a major influence among jihadists, whom it funded during the war against the Soviets in the 1980s. It was also one of three countries to recognize government when it first gained power in 1996. Fifteen of the 19 perpetrators of the were nationals. By then, influence had already waned, as was evident in the Taliban’s refusal to hand over before the attacks took place.
If proven correct, Quilliam’s prediction would amount to a break with said Fatemeh Aman, a nonresident senior fellow at the Middle East Institute.record of not operating beyond Afghanistan’s borders except in Pakistan, even though it tolerates al-Qaeda militants and others on territory it controls. Moreover, despite being strange bedfellows, the need to accommodate one another is unlikely to persuade to do Iran’s bidding. “ has tried to increase its influence within the group by getting closer to certain factions, but it is still suspicious of as a whole,”
Iran and Israel
Moreover,may want to steer clear of the Iranian- rivalry. This is particularly if those who believe that US unreliability, as demonstrated , leaves no choice but to escalate the war in Yemen and confront more forcefully get their way.
“We should take a lesson from the events said columnist Safouq al-Shammari, echoing other commentators in media. “Giving a free hand regarding the Iranian nuclear issue has become a reasonable [option] … It seems like [Israel’s] extremist [former prime minister] Netanyahu, was right to avoid coordinating with the [Biden] administration, which he considered weak and failing.”, and especially from the mistakes [that were made there], regarding Yemen. This is the time to crush the Houthis without considering the international forces,”
Shammari’s notions fit into Mohammed bin Salman’s effort to replace the religious core of warning that “for all its overwhelming material and technological superiority, the IDF stands no chance of defeating Israel’s Islamist enemies unless its soldiers are driven by a relentless belief in the national cause.”identity with hyper-nationalism. They also stroke with thinking among more conservative Israeli analysts and retired military officers. In Shammari’s vein, retired Major General Gershon Hacohen of the Defense Forces (IDF) walked away from the US debacle ,
By the same token, Major General Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser and head of military intelligence research, argued that the US withdrawal would drive home to the Gulf states the proposition that an “open relationship with is vitally important for their ability to defend themselves.” He added that could not replace the US as the region’s security guarantor, “but together with these countries will be able to build a regional scheme that will make it easier for them to contend with various threats.”
By implication, Amidror was urging the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which last year established diplomatic relations with, to forge closer security cooperation with the Jewish state. He suggested that may, in the wake of the events , be more inclined to build formal ties with . Yet while there is little doubt that Mohammed bin Salman would like to have an open relationship with , it is equally possible that the victory of religious militants will reinforce hesitancy to cross the Rubicon at the risk of sparking widespread criticism in the Muslim world.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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