Saudi Prince: War with Iran in 10-15 Years w/out new Sanctions

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The Arabic press is reacting to remarks of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the Wal Street Journal warning of war with Iran unless more severe economic and military sanctions are applied to that country.

Bin Salman’s analysis, as usual, is both incredibly self-serving and completely incorrect.

He is licking his wounds after having been outmaneuvered by Iran in Syria (where Tehran brought in and allied with Russia to defeat Saudi-backed hard line Salafi attempts to take Damascus); Iraq, where Iranian forces were key to defeating ISIL while the Saudis offered almost no help; Qatar, where the illegal Saudi blockade gave Iran the opportunity to strengthen ties with Doha; and Lebanon, where Bin Salman’s brazen kidnapping of the sitting prime minister late last year failed to dislodge him or to weaken the political clout of Iran-Allied Hizbullah.

Moreover, there is a question as to why exactly Iran should be boycotted and who would do it. European business leaders are delirious about the possibility of opening a virgin country with the population of Germany and the GDP of Poland. They don’t care about Iran’s alliances with Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut. Russia and China are eager for business Iran and disdainful of the GOP Congress’s Iranophobia. Even Turkey wants a wants vastly to expand its trade with Iran.

An economic boycott by the US alone, joined by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt (the only partners Bin Salman has managed to find for his project of Saudi hegemony) would be completely ineffective, and would simply represent a business opportunity for e.g. France and Italy.

Moreover, the whole premise that isolating Iran and boycotting it will forestall an eventual war is wrong-headed. Iran is not an aggressive power and unlike Saudi Arabia has not invaded any of its neighbors. Barack Obama’s hopes of normalizing Iran and drawing it into a thick network of trade and diplomatic relationships are much more likely to forestall war than an international blockade (which itelf would be an act of war in international law).

Bin Salman joins a long list of petty dictators who have trooped off to Washington to enlist it in some harebrained local scheme.

Washington has not always has the wisdom to resist.


Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

AP: Mattis Welcomes Saudi Crown Prince to Pentagon

20 Responses

  1. If MbS remains the leader of Saudi Arabia, the country will not likely even exist in its present form in 10-15 years. May he live long and prosper ;)

  2. Of course you’re right. I like to think career civil servants in the foreign policy establishment can present policy makers with options based on what isn’t that tough a situation to discern. Powers like Israel and KSA are like political sycophants throughout time, who are attempting to suborn and manipulate a stronger power to act against its own best interests to support their illegitimacies. The trouble is that the US today is politically corrupt, and there is no real sign of such efforts failing, or even that their influence is weakening in these regards.

    When MbS says 10-15 years, that may just reflect his own planning horizon. In other words, since it may take 10-15 years to bring the US around to the major military move they and Israel would need the US to do for them, he is simply sowing that seed in the US subconscious now.

    Iran can be tolerated in the near time, and there isn’t much he (or Israel) can do anyway, other than a false flag provocation or more of these anemic, counterproductive proxy actions. Iran, unfortunately for him, has at this point economically adapted itself to sanctions and is essentially inoculated from more of them. With anything less than regime change, a la Iraq, they will simply be driven into tighter relationships with the rest of the world, as you note.

    Geopolitically, however, Iran must eventually be neutered for any hope of KSA regional dominance in the longer term. So, this statement becomes simply an honest reflection his long game, and suggests what we might expect.

    • Global economics are going to neuter the USA, KSA, and Israel and reward Iran.

      Over the next 10 years all the economic power will shift to Asia away from the USA. The USA is going to be trying to stay afloat economically and will have no resources to sustain any wars abroad. Trump is correct that the USA is losing power but his “cure” will NOT fix the problem, just make it worse.

      KSA’s ONLY asset is oil and the economics of energy are changing FAST.

      MbS has a simple choice:

      – Neuter the Islamic fundamentalists in KSA and rapidly yank KSA into the 21st century, educating and using ALL their human resources (including women) while not letting their ego get in the way. OR

      – Get their panties in a bunch and waste all their resources trying to knock Iran down, probably by war. While Iran is also Islamic, they have chosen to not waste resources like female brains and they have chosen to design and build their own “good enough” weapons while KSA continues to buy expensive USA war toys.

      Based on the much better thinking in Iran, I suspect that KSA’s ego war with Iran will lead to KSA’s decline.

  3. The [Gulf] lobby has been very powerful in America and in almost every country around the world for a very long time. MBS should not be underestimated.

    Tillerson and McMaster were more resistant to MBS but are now gone.

    • As I noted above, the rules are rapidly changing and KSA is NOT in tune with the new economic and power realities.

      KbS is a typical ego driven dictator and very few have the vision to deal with reality.

  4. As usual, the MSM rush to canonize the latest media favorite, MBS, and further demonize Iran. All the while , of course, maintaining a deafening silence about the deliberate murder and maiming just committed by Israel at the Gaza border and unquestioningly printing the IDF boast that they “ did what was necessary” and that all those committing these crimes were “heroes”.

  5. Thinking out of the box: what if China signed a mutual defense treaty with Iran? They could deploy a few troops there to “protect” the Persian Gulf, just like we do.

    That would be a real shot across our bow but what could we do? China would have made their first power move internationally. Surely such a move is coming somewhere. What is the downside for them? What could we do to counter such a move? It seems not much, short of war.

    • Actually, China has publicly said they will help Iran if the USA, Israel and/or KSA attacks.

  6. By the pace this “prince” has been eating he is not going to be around in five years let alone 10-15.

  7. He may claim to dislike religious extremism, but he certainly shows a lot of commonality with them by exhibiting a great deal of sectarian and ethnic anti-Iran/anti-Shia prejudices not unlike most other Wahhabi or Sunni Islamist fundamentalists. This is even true with the current Emirati leaders, who aren’t really personally religious at all, but are now practicing more religious identity politics with sectarian discrimination and cleansing than before.

    It’s unfortunate and misguided that he’s packaged as a ‘reformer’, when he’s just another pro-US corrupt violent authoritarian bigot playing a hypocritical dance of being pro-human rights, anti-extremist and anti-corruption, etc.

  8. Agree with everything you said Prof. Cole except “Iran is not an aggressive power and unlike Saudi Arabia has not invaded any of its neighbors.”

    Saudi Arabia is fighting proxy battles like Iran and perhaps it could be argued it is meddling more than Iran in other countries, but S. Arabia has not invaded other countries.

  9. Not all tyrants behave and speak like pre-schoolers. His words are as clear and plain-spoken as could be and Juan Cole has not given any evidence as to why those words should not be taken literally. Because:

    (1) It’s clear that the Saudi’s hate Iran, and we all know there are hawks here that want to see Iran bombed into submission.
    (2) The US loves to make huge weapons deals with SA.
    (3) The Saudis just made a huge weapons deal with Russia, and Iran has as well.
    (4) Neocon hawks would love to see the SA and Iran bash it out while using expensive weaponry purchased from the US and not getting any US citizens killed.
    (5) Bin Salman is an effective and bloodthirsty tyrant who has demonstrated that he should be taken seriously.

    It sounds to me like bin Salman has presented us his clear goal for eliminating Iran. But if he says 10-15 years, he’s probably planning for an assault to happen much sooner.

  10. Of course the amount of Saudi money being transferred to the US, UK and France for weaponry is obscene, but I still doubt the Saudis can make a dent in Iran.
    With that said, there is an axis of war developing with KSA, Israel and US (think Bolton) conspiring to attack Iran. This may destroy all sides concerned. It will be bad for the US too, but when was the last time that prospect bothered Kushner, Bolton or Trump? Israel certainly never thinks that far.

    • Iran has a vastly different weapons philosophy that the USA, KSA and Israel.

      Iran has carefully researched each of the countries that have threatened them over the last 35 years and has identified the best, low cost weapons that will cause the attackers the most pain, then designed and manufactured the weapons in bulk so they can overwhelm any attacker.

      The USA, KSA and Israel have instead wasted huge amounts of wealth producing extremely complex systems prone to simple failures. These have been produced in limited quantities, so when Iran defends itself, Iran can easily afford to use multiple types and quantities of weapons to take out a single USA/KSA/Israel system and still have lots of weapons in reserve.

      BY the time the USA/KSA/Israel lose, Iran will still have lots of reserves.

  11. When Alexander defeated Darius the 3rd about 2500 years ago, he created a watershed event. A few hundred years later, the new Persian rulers, the Parthians, came to power declaring that the defeat of Persia in the hands of Alexander was due to their softness. They posited that only brutal wars can scare aggressive states against invading Iran. They proved themselves by repeatedly defeating Roman and other invaders. The Sassanian dynasty followed the same philosophy when king Shapur captured and enslaved Valerian and 70,000 of his Legionaries- leading to the quick fall of Roman empire. If the Iranian nationalism wakes up in a way North Korean one awakened, many states will be sorry.

  12. Why would he think Iran would go to war with any one in 10 to 15 years? Like wait a minute. they had a nasty war with Iraq and I’ve got a feeling Iran isn’t interested in war with any one who isn’t going to shoot at them first. Its my impression Iran just wants to get on with improving their country. When the sanctions were lifted the first thing they did was “go shopping” in Europe and purchased medical equipment and jets.

    My first thought is S.A. would like to see a weakened Iran so they can be stronger and to please the U.S.A. I’ve got no feelings about Iran these days, its just another country. it just needs to be left alone to do its thing.

    Perhaps S.A. sees Iran as a producer of oil and don’t want them as a competitor or the U.S.A. would like Iran’s oil, who knows, but it might be in everyone’s interest to leave Iran alone. They will surely leave everyone else alone.

    S.A. needs to have a look at its self. The last time I check the news they were involved in killed thousands and perhaps will kill millions in Yemen. Now that is a prince who ought to be taken to the Court of the Hague. Leave Iran alone.

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