Saudi Arabia/Arabian Peninsula: The New Rebels…Friend or Foe


Events are continuing to unfold in the Arabian Peninsula although here in the United States there is less and less coverage in the national media.  American News media has focused more on the balancing (or lack thereof) of the US Budget or American Idol than reporting and analyzing what continues to take place in the Middle East and Africa.

Protests and anti-government rebellions (putting it in the mildest of turns) continue to take place in Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt, Syria and to a degree in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The protests in the Arab world are resulting in new partnerships and alliances as well as stretching the ties of long established relationships.

For example the United States and Saudi Arabia, a relationship that has been in existence with diplomatic relations between the two countries since 1933 is facing new challenges in bi-lateral relations.  The presence of Saudi troops in Bahrain is contradictory to the United States government policy of democracy and human rights.  But Saudi troops did not enter Bahrain without a request from another US ally, the Bahraini government.  Some analysts may say that Saudi Arabia had to send forces into Bahrain since unrest in Bahrain was/is backed by Iran.  Now Iran is viewed as a “mutual enemy” of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United States.  Could this then be an example of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” but in reverse?   Oil is a significant factor which must be taken into consideration too when taking a big picture view on any decisions which could alter good bi-lateral relations.

Saudi Arabia is not obligated to the United States.  China’s burgeoning population has resulted in high demand for Saudi crude with an increase in ventures between the two countries.  Saudi Arabia and Russia have a history of good relations.  Crown Prince Sultan traveled to Russia in 2007 forging new ventures between the two countries to include in the defense sector.  Another interesting triangle is formed consisting of Saudi Arabia – China – Russia which provides further challenges to the United States and its relations with these strategic countries.

Perhaps the biggest blow that has chilled the bi-lateral relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States was the removal of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the immediate support of the US to Egypt’s new government.  However unrest continues in Egypt despite Mubarak’s removal with a strong foothold gained by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Saudi Arabia and the United States are likely in full agreement that Libyan leader Maommar Ghadafi is a tyrant and dictator and should be removed.  Yet who are the rebel forces exactly?  Are they friends or foe?  Are they a friend now in the common goal to see Ghadafi removed? There are reports of multiple rebel forces.  That alone implies there are probably different agendas at play.

It would be easy to keep going on about events in the Arabian Peninsula.  However I will conclude this post with stating that in the quest for reforms and political evolution, how does one distinguish the new rebels as friend or foe?

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26 Responses

  1. “how does one distinguish the new rebels as friend or foe?”…easy enough in my opinion…any govt willing to kill its own citizens who are attempting to change enforced rule…should not be a friend of the US.

    Then again…that holds true for ourselves as well…right?

  2. Personal opinion here..if we drilled in our own country for oil, we would not have such concerns of what happens in the ME. Another personal opinion incorporating the first, we should leave and let the ME sort itself out.

  3. The US needs to get itself out of the middle east. If that means cancelling old treaties, so be it.

  4. High five Linda! But also we need to be working harder at looking to alternative fuels etc. Personally, I can’t WAIT for the day we have an affordable, American made, ELECTRIC car in EVERY driveway in America!

  5. I think there is more than oil at stake. How much of the US debt does Saudi own???? Ditto for China.

  6. Saudi owns ‘debts’? Isn’t that haraaam?!

  7. Thank you, Carol, for posting such a timely and interesting topic …..

    Understandably, what’s happening in the Middle East is different in every country. As we know, the news media is portraying these as democratic revolutions. But each country is going to have a different narrative. Stable democracy may become much easier for Tunisia, for instance, than for Libya. Tunisia and Egypt will probably evolve OK because they are strong states that can withstand some weakness in the years to come, which is the wages of democracy.

    But Libya and Yemen are vague, geographical expressions where the real issue is not so much democracy, but the crisis of central authority in the first place. I am sorry to say this, but sadly the political situation is going to stay the same in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GCC kingdoms, for some years to come.

    So, like I said, it’s a very varied picture around the Middle East with these democratic revolutions. Eventually, we’re going to see the rise of Egypt as another middle-level power like Turkey, with more and more contacts with places like Indonesia, India, and other Southeast nations. In other words, we’re going to see a fusing of the greater Middle East with the greater Southeast Asia.

    What’s happening now in the Middle East is absolutely spectacular. The courage and determination and commitment of the demonstrators has been remarkable, noticeably in Bahrain. And whatever happens, these are moments that won’t be forgotten and are sure to have long-term consequences, such as the Tahrir Square/Egypt and Freedom Square/Bahrain. It’s very hard to predict what’s going to happen. But the events have been truly spectacular. And, of course, it’s all over the Middle East. In Yemen, in Jordan, just about everywhere, there are the major consequences.

    The United States, so far, is essentially following the usual playbook. I mean, there have been many times when some favored dictator has lost control or is in danger of losing control. There’s a kind of a standard routine …. Marcos, Duvalier, Ceausescu, Reza Pahlavi, Suharto …. strongly supported by the United States and Britain; then, when it becomes unsustainable — typically, say, if the army shifts sides—switch 180 degrees, claim to have been on the side of the people all along, erase the past, and then make whatever moves are possible to restore the old system under new names. That succeeds or fails depending on the circumstances.

    I think President Hussein Obama has been very wise and prudent, so far, in not getting the United States involved in these Middle East “revolutions” (except in Libya enforcing the UN resolutions). The US cannot afford getting involved in another war.

    It is my understanding that the vast majority of ME populations are less than 30 years of age. We cannot control them from afar, and it is not moral to try to be the policeman of the world. America has its own problems, and they need attention far more than this matter. There are Americans of both the Left and the Right persuasions who want the United States to intervene but they are seriously mistaken if they think such actions are in America’s best interests. The lessons of Vietnam need to be remembered.

  8. So many hypothetical situations…I imagine only the high-ranking official government leaders in each country knows the truth (or at least more of it than the general population, anyhow)!

    I think it’s interesting how quickly news-watchers in the US lose interest in a subject if they don’t have an emotional attachment to it. Of course, this is probably true for most people everywhere. lol.

  9. @Lynn,
    Good luck with the electric cars! For whatever reason, I have noticed that their seems to be an upper limit for fuel-efficient cars in today’s market. The most fuel efficient car so far has been the 2000 Honda Insight. For some reason, car manufacturers haven’t been able to make a more fuel-efficient model since then? And the 2011 Honda Insight is less fuel efficient than its 2000 predecessor. Why is that? I haven’t been able to figure this one out…

    I believe that eventually, though, when it’s a good financial investment for everyone involved in the auto and gasoline industries, more American companies will “go green”.

  10. Lynn,
    Where is the electricity for the cars to come from? Since the disaster in Japan, no one is going to advocate for nuclear energy. Wind power is a viable option but no one wants the turbines in their back yard because they aren’t pretty. Solar power isn’t an option for the whole country and neither is hydro. That leaves coal and the EPA has been trying to shut down that industry for 30 years.

  11. Public transport people..public transport 🙂

    both me and my spouse take the train and then the sub to work. my son stays at the dorm and takes the train home and daughter ofcourse taked school bus ( complaining mightily of not getting her own car) .. but you won’t believe the no of people who questionthis choice of ours and wonder why we with means and 2 cars and 2 good incomes in sucha great profession are so stingy!!! so people have quite a bit of growing up to do…

    No one seems to believe that it’s quite realxing at the end of a long workday standing up to sit and listen to music/read a book and let the train sounds sooth you.. oh well guess we don’t want to reduce our oil consumption..

  12. Oh, Radha! If ONLY we had public transportation here in the Motor City! LOL Seems like a conspiracy doesn’t it?

    I don’t care where the electricity came from as long as we could flip off the ME Oil companies 😉 Oh, but the car would HAVE to be American made to be in MY driveway. 🙂

  13. No public transportation where I live either. Americans like cars…let’s face it. 🙂

    I did read today on another blog that Saudi is planning to cut oil production by 800K barrels a day because there is too much oil on the market.

  14. So if there’s too much oil on the market that means we are really being hosed by our governments with the increasingly higher prices.

  15. Our governments don’t control the price of oil, the markets do.

    Oh, wait…which govt are you talking about? lol

  16. “Apparently” speculators are buying up oil because it’s a good investment (like gold) so the market IS driving up the price of oil which is bad for the ones of us finding it hard to afford the higher prices.

  17. @lynn – i hear you ,MI is notorious for lack of public transport, I really love boston area for that. v accessible if you are willing to take the sub, commuter or walk. We pretty much don’t use our cars during the week.. barely spend <$100 on gas a month. most of that is to go grocery shopping and chauffer my daughter & friends to her classes 🙂

    As for electricity, we have solar panels on our roof and use it quite extensively so draw very little from the grid, in fact last yr sept/oct we got credits too. ofcourse we almost never turn on the a/c , fresh air with cross ventilation… you should hear my kids complain 🙂 we even have a solar cooker outside in the summer – a source of great amusement for the kids andput to good use by my neighbours.

  18. radha, you are a VERY good role model but I’m with your kids, I need my A/C!

  19. I have excellent public transit here I don’t drive at all.

    Where’s Assange when we need more WikiLeaks! In fact where is he????

  20. Truly, from my opinion, I think they are foes….Just Saying 😛

  21. I’m happy that you expressed your perspective, CJ!

  22. Susanne, is everything ok with your Syrian friends? Unbelievable news out of there right now.

  23. All the ones I’m friendly with are fine as far as I know. One was in Midan – a neighborhood in Damascus – yesterday when the thugs started shooting with no warning. They all are saddened by how the regime is responding to the protests the day after the emergency law was lifted (after 48 years of it). But they aren’t surprised. They knew this regime would not go without a fight. The gov’t is trying to make it sectarian, Iran is backing the gov’t .. it’s really ugly. The videos I saw yesterday were gruesome. I have one on my blog currently if you click my name you can see it. Horrible.

    Thanks for asking!

  24. 🙂

  25. Oh, that was for that they are all ok. Not about the situation. I saw some pretty gruesome videos last night and just couldn’t believe it and I instantly thought of your friends and hoping they were ok.

  26. Suzanne, I couldn’t watch the whole of that video, it was too gruesome!
    These governments are beasts, sick excuses for human beings.

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