Oct 29, 2018
The following article was translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the French revolutionary workers’ group.
The heir to the throne of Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammed Ben Salman, called MBS, is in an awkward position. He launched a disastrous Saudi military intervention in Yemen, which has killed thousands and produced tens of thousands of victims. Now, European and American leaders are fingering him for the recent murder of a journalist.
What a sudden attack of conscience! These political leaders, representatives of the capitalists, at the service of the big arms and industrial corporations, apparently have no more scruples than their big-business masters. Everything they do is just to promote the economic and political interests of the big powers they represent, nothing else!
A commando group sent by MBS to the Saudi embassy in Istanbul assassinated the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote for the Washington Post, on October 2. The Turkish head of state, Erdogan, said as much to the Turkish Parliament on October 23. Erdogan was certainly not defending free speech when he shed light on this murder. He earlier said that “in Turkey, we can put journalists in prison,” even if “we don’t murder them and dismember their bodies, like the Saudis do.” This episode is part of the recent conflicts that set different Middle Eastern powers against each other, with U.S. imperialism looming behind it all.
The U.S. let Iran play the most important role in the war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. But now the U.S. wants to force a complete diplomatic turn-around to push Iran out of its position of power. To do this, the U.S. has reinforced its longstanding alliance with the Saudis. Very soon after his election, Trump denounced the nuclear accord with Iran, and announced new economic sanctions against the country.
Trump even blocked exports of basic necessities to Iran, causing the standard of living of the population to plummet brutally. But these sanctions also hit Iran’s regional allies, like Turkey, which is afraid it won’t be able to continue to get oil and gas from Iran. And the sanctions are also aimed at the European powers that trade with Iran, unless they officially end their ties. And these sanctions were only the beginning because on November 4, there will be a second round of sanctions against Iran, aimed at blocking Iran’s export of petroleum products.
After all the years of wars and bombardment, fights over reconstruction contracts are at the heart of the disputes among the different actors in the region. Trump recently forced the Iraqi government to make a 15-billion-dollar deal with General Electric for gas turbines, even though Iraq had already signed a contract with the German group Siemens. Trump had a powerful argument: if the Iraqi government agrees, the U.S. will let the pipeline from Iran that feeds Iraq stay open, despite the sanctions.
The U.S. has supported MBS, the Saudi prince, in everything: the violent moves he made in Saudi Arabia to consolidate his authority; his war in Yemen; his blockade of Saudi Arabia’s rival and neighbor, Qatar. Because Qatar, which is splitting a giant off-shore oil deposit in the waters between their territories, found it had interests in common with Iran. But this time, by so openly assassinating a journalist employed by a U.S. newspaper, the Saudi prince has made himself difficult to defend. His U.S. guardians have had to take a step back from him, at least partially. As Senator Lindsey Graham put it: “Saudi Arabia is a country. MBS (the prince) is a person. And I am willing to separate the two.”
This doesn’t change anything about U.S. goals or strategy, which have been the main causes of the bloody chaos of this region. Nor will it stop weapon sales to Saudi Arabia, a source of considerable profit for the big arms dealers of Europe and the U.S.