Politics Magazine

Holy War for a Holy Land?

Posted on the 19 May 2015 by Adask

[courtesy Google Images]

[courtesy Google Images]

The New York Times


In the few months since the death of King Abdullah in January, the new king of Saudi Arabia, Salman, has moved fast to reshape foreign and domestic policies.  He has rattled alliances with the United States and regional powers that for decades have been the bedrock of stability for his kingdom.”

The US/Saudi alliance has also been fundamental to maintaining some semblance of order within the entire Middle East region.  The new king Salman’s activism not only threatens relationships with the US, but also magnifies whatever forces of instability already exist among Middle East sects and nations.

“King Salman, 79, has shifted toward an activist foreign policy, going to war in Yemen and increasing support for rebels in Syria as he positions his country as the defender of the region’s Sunnis.”

Globally, the Sunni sect includes roughly 85% of all Muslims; the Shia sect includes about 15%.  Insofar as King Salman regards himself as “defender of the region’s Sunnis,” he must be very serious about his Sunni faith and also regard the Shia as the principle threat to Sunnis.

King Salman is 79 years old.  He must recognize that: 1) he’s nearing the end of his life; and, 2) has only a limited time to act in ways that may please Allah.  If so, he’ll be a very “active” king who’s willing, even eager, to take risks that younger men might avoid.  We can presume that King Salman is a zealot eager to act on behalf of the Sunni sect.

Insofar as a spiritual antagonism has existed between Sunnis and Shiites for eight centuries, King Salman may be willing and even eager to settle ancient scores with the Shiite nations—especially Iran.  It’s therefore possible that Saudi King Salman may be more inclined to attack Iran than he is to attack Israel.

If King Salman lives long enough, we may be more likely to see the Middle East erupt in violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims than between Muslims and Israel.

“Domestically, he has made sweeping changes, promoting younger officials, firing those deemed unfit and giving enormous authority to his untested son Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 29. He has shown close ties to religious conservatives, raising questions about the fate of his predecessor’s limited reforms.”

King Salman is grooming his 29-year old son (Prince Mohammed bin Salman) to be heir apparent to the Saudi throne.  When Salman finally passes, Prince Mohammed will probably be the next king of Saudi Arabia.  We can assume that if king Salman is a religious zealot, Prince Mohammed is also zealous in his loyalty to the Sunni faith and therefore antagonistic to the Shiites.

Implication:  The current king of Saudi Arabia and the next (most-likely) king may both be more focused on fighting Shiite Muslims—especially Iran—than Israel.

Note that the Sunnis and Shiites have been engaged in “holy war” for most of eight centuries.  Modern Israel has existed for only 67 years.  Israel can’t pose the same magnitude of threat to the Sunnis as has been posed by Muslim Shiites for most of eight centuries.  In the end, potential conflict between Saudi Arabia and Israel would be primarily be about territory and therefore mostly secular.  But conflict between Sunnis and Shia would by “holy war”—and therefore fought without compromise.

More, Israel is unlikely to attack Saudi Arabia unless the Saudis first attack Israel.   The same can’t be said for the Shiites in general, and Iran in particular. Iran might attack Israel or it might attack Saudi Arabia.

If king Salman and Prince Mohammed both view themselves as “defenders of the Sunni faith,” they’re more likely to defend against Shiites than Jews, because they are more likely to be attacked by Shiites than by Jews.

Implication: with the loss of former Saudi King Abdullah, the Middle East is becoming increasingly volatile and perhaps more likely to erupt in widespread holy war between Sunnis and Shiites than between Muslims and Israel.

•  Another recent article from The New York Times (“Saudi Arabia Says King Won’t Attend Meetings in U.S.”) reported that,

As recently as Friday [May 8th], the White House said that King Salman would be coming” to a summit meeting with President Obama to “resume consultations on a wide range of regional and bilateral issues,” according to Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman.

“But on Sunday [May 10th], the state-run Saudi Press Agency said that the king would instead send Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Saudi interior minister, and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the defense minister.”

King Salmon’s sudden and unexpected refusal to meet personally with President Obama has to be viewed as a “slap” at the Obama administration.

“Arab officials said they viewed the king’s failure to attend the meeting as a sign of disappointment with what the White House was willing to offer at the summit meeting as reassurance that the United States would back its Arab allies against a rising Iran.”

In order to understand the potential implications of King Salman’s new reign in Saudi Arabia, we need to review a little history:

In A.D. 1971, President Nixon stopped redeeming foreign-held US dollars with gold, and the dollar became a pure, intrinsically-worthless fiat currency.  We might’ve expected the dollar to soon-after crash into oblivion.

However, the Nixon administration negotiated an audacious and brilliant agreement with Saudi Arabia whereby the US guaranteed Saudi security and the Saudis guaranteed to sell their crude oil only for fiat dollars.  Soon, OPEC followed the Saudis and also agreed to sell their crude oil for only fiat dollars.

Result?  If any nation wanted to purchase crude oil on the international markets, they had to have fiat dollars to do so.  The international demand for crude oil created an international demand for fiat dollars that gave those intrinsically-worthless dollars a perceived value.

Result?  The intrinsically-worthless dollar didn’t collapse into oblivion.  Instead, the fiat dollar assumed the mantle of “petro-dollar” and because, while it was no longer backed by gold, it was implicitly backed by crude oil.

The petro-dollar scheme worked brilliantly for about 30 years.  It provided a perceived value for the fiat dollar.  It allowed the fiat dollar to continue to serve as world reserve currency.

Then Saddam Hussein started selling Iraqi crude for currencies other than dollars and thereby threated the petro-dollar’s monopoly.  The US gov-co invaded Iraq and hanged Hussein, but the damage was done.  Other nations began to sell their crude oil for currencies other than dollars.  The dollar’s perceived value as the one-and-only “petro-currency” began to erode.  The fiat dollar’s purchasing power began to fall.

The point to this stroll down memory lane is to remind us all that Saudi Arabia laid the foundation for creation of the “petro-dollar” that gave the fiat dollar a perceived value on international markets.   It follows that if the Saudis simply started accepting other currencies in addition to the fiat dollar as payment for Saudi oil, whatever foundation remains for the fiat dollar to be perceived as the “petro-dollar” and even World Reserve Currency would tend to erode, and dollar inflation might become significant.  It’s possible that by accepting currencies other than the fiat dollars as payment for crude oil, the Saudis could badly devalue the fiat dollar and perhaps even precipitate its destruction.

This isn’t news.  Anyone who cared to look has known for years that the Saudi’s could “pull the plug” on the petro-dollar—but didn’t do so while king Abdullah was alive.

But, now the new king Salman is not only in charge, but “disappointed” with the US foreign policy.  This “disappointment” at least increases the possibility that the Saudi’s might start taking other currencies for their crude.  If they did, the dollar might not collapse, but it’s purchasing power on global markets might by be cut by, say, half.  If that happened, the cost of living in the US might jump by 30%, and our recession could become a full-fledged depression.

I can’t say that it’s likely that king Salman will soon start taking currencies other than the dollar as payment for Saudi crude.  But I can say that it’s true that:  1) the Saudis could pull the plug on petro-dollars at any time; and 2) It’s much more likely today that the Saudis will pull that plug than it was six months ago.

Point:  the fiat dollar’s status as “petro-dollar” and even World Reserve Currency is more in peril today, under the new king Salman, than it was under the old king, Abdullah.

Will the Saudi’s pull the plug?  Won’t they?

No one knows.  But it’s apparent that there’s one more “black swan” (King Salman) to worry about today than we had when king Abdullah was alive.

•  In a third article (“Saudi Arabia Promises to Match Iran in Nuclear Capability”) The New York Times wrote:

“When President Obama began making the case for a deal with Iran that would delay its ability to assemble an atomic weapon, his first argument was that a nuclear-armed Iran would set off a “free-for-all” of proliferation in the Arab world. “It is almost certain that other players in the region would feel it necessary to get their own nuclear weapons,” he said in 2012.

That was a reasonable supposition.

With the decline of US capacity to serve as “global policeman” and force the unruly nations of the Middle East to “play nice,” ancient rivalries between Iran’s Shiites vs the Saudi’s Sunnis have begun to fester.  Neither sect trusts the other.  If one sect has nuclear weapons, the other sect will also want them.

Given that both sects are motivated by their opposing faiths rather than mere secular politics, both sects must be scared to death that the other sect will acquire nuclear weapons.   Both sects are fanatical.  Both believe they are acting in service to Allah.  Both sects are ready to die for their faith.  Neither sect dares to trust the other to restrain itself from starting a nuclear war.  Both sects know that Muslim fanatics can’t ever be trusted.

It may well be that Iran can’t and will not agree to a nuclear non-proliferation agreement so long as the Saudi/Sunnis have, or could have, nuclear weapons.

Similarly, if the Saudis think there’s one chance in 1,000 that the proposed agreement with Iranian Shiites will actually allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, the Saudis may riot.

Although I expect Iran to reach an agreement with the US to slow nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, I’d be amazed if anyone (or than Obama, perhaps) really believes that the agreement will be kept.  Iran is negotiating to have trade sanctions lifted.  Obama is negotiating for “peace with honor”.  There’s little prospect that Iran’s presumed intent to acquire nuclear weapons will be blunted for more than a year or two.

“Now, President Obama is faced a perverse consequence: Saudi Arabia and many of the smaller Arab states are now vowing to match whatever nuclear enrichment capability Iran is permitted to retain.

President Obama started negotiating with Iran in A.D. 2012 to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.  Ironically, those same negotiations may ultimately cause nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

Why?  Because Muslims tend to be unstable, fanatical and paranoid.  No matter what anyone says or does, it’s the Muslims’ nature to acquire nuclear weapons.  Once they acquire nuclear weapons, then we’ll see if it’s the Muslims’ nature to use nuclear weapons.

“Prince Turki bin Faisal, the 70-year-old former Saudi intelligence chief, has been touring the world with the same message.

Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too,” he said at a recent conference in Seoul, South Korea.

If two groups of religious fanatics (people who aren’t afraid to kill or be killed in service to their sect) are each armed with nuclear weapons, how long do suppose we’ll have to wait before we see mushroom clouds rising in the Middle East and a dramatic reduction in the world’s supply of crude oil?

“If the agreement is sealed successfully next month . . . Mr. Obama will be able to claim to have bought another decade before Iran can credibly threaten to have a nuclear weapon.”

Yes, yes, yes.  A fine feather in his cap.  Peace with honor.

“But by leaving 5,000 centrifuges and a growing research and development program in place—the features of the proposed deal that Israel and the [Sunni] Arab states oppose virulently—Mr. Obama is essentially recognizing Iran’s right to continue enrichment of uranium, one of the two pathways to a nuclear weapon.  Leaders of the Sunni Arab states are arguing that if Iran goes down that road, Washington cannot credibly argue they should not follow down the same one, even if their technological abilities are years behind Iran’s.

With or without a deal, there will be pressure for nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.”

No matter what Obama does, a number of Middle East nations are going to acquire nuclear weapons.

“The question is one of capabilities. How would the Saudis do this [implement their own nuclear weapons research program] without help from the outside?

If the US won’t help the Saudis develop their own nuclear weapons research program, do you suppose that China and/or Russia would?  Of course.

If the US assists the Saudi Sunnis in developing a nuclear weapon research program, will other Shiite nations (like Iran) look for the same assistance from Russia or China?  Of course.

The nuclear genii is out of the Middle East bottle.

•  I guarantee that the nations that already have nuclear weapons are seriously considering using their nuclear weapons to stop any new nation that seeks to acquire nuclear weapons.

The world is marching into madness.  It’s hard to say if that march is being led by the Muslims, the US, some sect or corporation or the New World Order.  But, whoever’s leading, the march is clearly quickening.

“Mr. Obama met with Saudi princes in the Oval Office on Wednesday. . . But Mr. Obama will have a difficult time overcoming the deep suspicions that the Saudis [Sunnis], and other [Sunni] Arab leaders, harbor about the Iran [Shia] deal.

“Saudi Prince Turki argued that the United States was making a “pivot to Iran” that was ill advised, and that the United States failed to learn from North Korea’s violations of its nuclear deals. “We were America’s best friend in the Arab world for 50 years,” he said, using the past tense.”

Obama has lost the trust of several former allies in the Middle East.  I’m no fan of Obama’s, but I can’t I blame him.  The Middle East is a kind of lunatic asylum.  Whatever instability might otherwise exist in the Middle East, that instability is magnified and even celebrated by the Sunnis, Shiites, and Jews.  Holy war for a “holy land”.  One way or another, holy war seems inevitable.

In his attempt to gain the trust of Iran’s Shiites, Obama has lost the trust of Sunnis of the region (including Saudi Arabia) and also the Jews of Israel.

Whether that trust was primarily lost due to Obama’s incompetence, or Middle East’s inherent instability and paranoia is hard to say.  But, whatever the reason for the loss, that trust will not be regained before a new President takes office—if ever.

In the meantime, we can wonder how many years it may be before one Muslim sect nukes the other.

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