Russia is the Winner, Saudi Arabia and Israel the Losers

November 27, 2013

ITAR-TASS is the Russian state owned media giant, and El Murid is a pro-Kremlin analyst, and this editorial on the Iranian nuclear deal should be read as such. After several somewhat complex paragraphs about the breakdown of the technical aspects of the deal, Murid gets to his real point — America’s allies are weakened by this, Russia is strengthened, this is Obama’s plan, and those who oppose it are weakened as well. The editorial language may be more delicate, but the argument is similar to some of Obama’s harshest critics, especially when it comes to the deal’s implications in the attempts to end the Syrian crisis. – Ed.

El Murid – Political analyst and orientalist, an expert in the area of social and political developments in the Middle East:

Finally, an interim solution has been found in the game around Iran’s nuclear program that has been played for so many years. The agreement signed in Geneva between the six world powers and Iran is not final. This is a framework document defining the principal issues that the parties have agreed to settle in the future. Further work under the agreement has been defined both in terms of timeline and by specific issues.

The main thing that follows from the ”road map” is, on the one hand, the recognition of Iran’s right to produce uranium fuel for nuclear reactors, and on the other – the actual scrapping of independent programs involving heavy water reactors, that is the plutonium component of the nuclear program. Stoppage of work on the start-up and operation of the IR40 reactor at Arak means that future negotiations will be linked with the competition between the members of the ”six” for contracts related to the construction and supply of fuel under this component of the nuclear program. In fact, France, having disrupted the previous meeting in Geneva two weeks ago, has already started the fight.

This situation is quite beneficial for all – for Iran, and for the six world powers. The “six” open an extremely promising market with the possibility to build heavy-water reactors and supply fuel for them. Iran will be able to play the members of the six against each other, getting better terms and prices. At the same time the country reserves the right to develop its uranium energy program that guarantees a certain degree of independence from external suppliers and political pressure.

“There are no losers in the agreement between Iran and the six” – Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister

Oddly enough, but this situation is beneficial for Russia as well. Technically, it [Russia] had a monopoly in the Iranian market, but the sanctions essentially made it impossible to operate on it. Opening of the market and lifting of sanctions mean competition, but finally make normal operations possible.

If there are winners, there must be losers somewhere. There are at least three of them.

The first and the biggest loser is definitely Saudi Arabia. The United States cynically and rudely told its favorite wife that from now on her place will be in the back of the harem. The dynasty of Saud cannot feel humiliated and abandoned for a long time, and now a split is inevitable. The irreconcilable will do anything to prove to everyone and themselves that the power of the kingdom is sufficient to live on its own, without bending to reversals of fortune. The compromisers will try to adjust and play along, reserving the right to the sweet and comfortable life they are used to. This split is already evident, and its symptoms will become more pronounced over time. However, exactly when it reaches a critical point, is difficult to say. One thing is clear – this cannot go on for a long time.

“Israel will not allow Iran to develop a military nuclear capability” – Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister

The second loser, of course, is Israel. Unlike the kingdom it has some room to maneuver. The United States are not ready to give away their ally and most likely will not do so. Betting on Iran as a Middle East policeman implies a counterbalance capable of controlling the Ayatollahs. Israel, being a bitter enemy of the clerical regime in Tehran, fits this role perfectly. Unlike Saudi Arabia, Israel has a strong army, a well-developed high-tech industry and a motivation to survive at any cost. Therefore, it is Israel that is able to reign in Iran in case the Ayatollahs try to go beyond what is permitted.

In a sense, this arrangement is beneficial for Russia as well. It needs Israel for the same purpose. Iran under sanctions and Iran without sanctions are two completely different countries. Russia has certain disagreements with Iran, some of them quite difficult. For example on how to divide the Caspian Sea. For this reason alone strengthening of relations with Israel seems a logical and prudent decision in such a situation. In this case Russia’s strategy on Syria also becomes an important factor to contain Iran. Russia’s presence in Syria gives us an opportunity to prevent Tehran’s expansion towards the European market, that is vital for Russia.

“Iran will not threaten the friends of the United States in the region” – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry [this does not appear to be a direct quote, but similar warnings have been given by Kerry – Ed.]

The third loser is that part of the American establishment that opposes Obama. The heavy defeat suffered by their allies Israel and Saudi Arabia also undermines their position. At the same time those who oppose Obama have already lost Egypt, that is forced to make up for the reduced U.S. presence with agreements with Russia. Yesterday’s conflict between Egypt and Turkey that ended in mutual recall of ambassadors can split the anti-Obama opposition at home. At the same time, Turkey has increasingly looking in the direction of Russia, and again – at the expense of America. For Obama, it looks like quite normal elements of his new policy, but for his opponents it spells a disaster.

Obama’s opponents in the United States face difficult times. They have to take urgent and decisive steps to rectify the situation, but so far such steps are only obvious in an illegitimate domain. Now they commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the circumstances that have forced the American elite to take that step back then, in many ways, are similar to what we have today. Then, too, Kennedy drove his opponents into a corner, clearly aware of the danger that the American ”hawks’” global plans present for America. Presently, the situation for today’s ”hawks” looks like much more intense.