Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.
Last week, I wrote a post on how it was unclear how Jordan would benefit from the US bombing Syria. Today, I want to focus on the one country that will be the unequivocal winner of this potential action – regardless of its size and scope.
That country is our long-term ally, a major player in the global oil industry, the biggest economy in the Middle East and the central hub of the Muslim world. A nation who has agreed to support and fund US action against Syria and sign whatever agreement we deem necessary to move this bombing along.
That country is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The primary reason why the Kingdom is so supportive of the proposed bombing action is because it is an avowed enemy of Iran and Syria, and thus benefits from any action that hurts the governments of these two countries.
Furthermore, a weakened Assad would also help Saudi-funded rebels and thus increase Riyadh’s influence in the currently unstable but, hopefully, future reliable Syria.
In addition, it faces no tangible blowback from any action against Syria.
Firstly, its not hosting any refugees so the chances of it being deluged by families leaving Syria following an external attack are negligible thus leaving its infrastructure and people safe and secure.
Secondly, it has the necessary resources to aid any new camps in other countries, thus increasing its image as a fair and generous leader, and raising its influence in the refugee-hosting nations.
Finally, it can provide support to the militaries of the countries hosting the refugees to strengthen them against any potential attacks and ensure further strengthening of the governments it supports (Egypt and Turkey, for example) and those it wants to influence (Iraq is one such case).
Oh, and the inevitable increase in oil prices will be welcomed by the Kingdom as well.
Interestingly, the two major winners of this US (or allied) action will be Saudi Arabia and Israel – thereby further proving the theory that in the Middle East, allegiances shift like sands through the hourglass.
Some could argue that by providing such overt support, Riyadh risks forcing Iran’s hand but even Tehran knows not to kick the Kingdom directly and, since the Saudis have been countering clandestine Shi’ite threats for decades, any risk would not be anything new.
Therefore, any bombing campaign will be a win-win for Saudi Arabia.
On the other hand, what about the United States?
Its public knowledge that Riyadh has long-supported Islamist rebels in Syria and because of its financial and arms support, these rebels are stronger and more successful than their, more secular, counterparts.
It has also been reported that the United States is, and intends to continue to, support the secular rebels through arms and training.
It also goes without saying that these groups do not get along and, in addition to fighting Assad, have, and will continue to engage each other.
Consequently, if the bombing campaign is able to weaken Assad and give the rebels an advantage, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that the rebels who will win this battle will be those who have the equipment on hand and funds at their disposal.
The question, though, is whether Riyadh will amend or stop its support to its rebels if the United States makes such a request or will it continue to provide them with the necessary tools?
The other question is how we intend to protect our rebel-allies without going there and putting boots (either troops or military trainers) on the ground?
The bottom-line is that a limited bombing campaign does not, in the long-term, protect either the rebels (regardless of whether we support them or not) or ensure a tangible transition of government.
However, it does greatly help Saudi Arabia and it also tells the world that when the US draws a red-line, even though it faces no direct risk from anyone crossing that line, countries better listen because our ego always writes checks that we can cash.