Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Does Obama have the time or the patience to pull that off?

Prince Turki al Faisal (son of late King Faisal) is a very smart man who at 71 commands a lot of respect for his distinguished service to his country as a senior diplomat and chief of its intelligence services. I have had the pleasure of listening to him in Washington and elsewhere on numerous occasions. For him to write a scathing article against President Obama in the Arab News the other day must have taken some urging by the young princes who are in power in Riyadh these days. 

In the last year of his Presidency, Obama is speaking his mind freely about International affairs. But he is not the only one who considers Saudis as free riders. Donald Trump and other Republicans also feel the same way. Saudi and the rest of Gulf rulers in spite of their countless billions are frightened by the developments in their region especially after the Arab Spring phenomena. They think all of their problems are caused by Iran and they want to target Iran militarily. They are raising mercenary armies involving Pakistan, Egypt, and others to create a fighting force to protect their shaky tinpot monarchies. It is true that after the 1979 Khomeni Revolution, Iran has followed an expansionary policy where Tehran considers itself as the Guardian of Shia population in the neighboring Arab countries just like Moscow considers itself the Guardian of Russian speaking people all over Europe and Asia. 

Shias of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, or the Gulf never identified themselves with Tehran during the Shah era but now they do. That has created insecurity and uncertainty in the hearts and minds of all the Gulf rulers who remain unpopular with their own people, both Shia and Sunni alike. Obama is happy to sell them arms but he no longer wants to do their bidding. That has allowed Putin's Russia to fill the vacuum and it will not be good news for the next American administration about to take over in January. The nuclear deal with Iran is a singular achievement of Obama. A similar deal to restrain Iran from exporting its Revolution to neighboring countries is needed urgently to calm the region. Does Obama have the time or the patience to pull that off?

Dr. Mahmud Awan 3/15/16

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