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What's the big deal between Russia and the Saudis?

By       Message Pepe Escobar     Permalink
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Reprinted from RT

From commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:King_salman.jpg: King salman
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DOHA -- Amidst the wilderness of mirrors surrounding the Syrian tragedy, a diamond-shaped fact persists: Despite so many degrees of separation, the Saudis are still talking to the Russians. Why?

A key reason is because a perennially paranoid House of Saud feels betrayed by their American protectors who, under the Obama administration, seem to have given up on isolating Iran.

The Saudis can't intellectually understand the see-saw of incoherent Beltway policies due to the power struggle between Zionist neocons and the old establishment. No wonder they might be tempted to move to the Russian side of the fence. But for that to happen there will be many a price to pay.

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So let's talk about oil. In energy terms, an oil deal with the House of Saud would mean a lot to Russia. A deal could produce incremental oil revenue for Moscow of around $180 billion a year. The rest of the GCC does not really count: Kuwait is a US protectorate; Bahrain is a Saudi resort area; Dubai is a glitzy heroin money-laundering operation. The UAE itself is a wealthy group of pearl divers. And Qatar, as "Bandar Bush" famously remarked, is "300 people and a TV station," plus a decent airline that sponsors Barcelona.

Riyadh -- paranoia included -- fully took note of the Obama administration's supposed "policy" of dumping Saudi Arabia over an alleged Iranian natural gas bonanza, which would supposedly replace Gazprom in supplying Europe. That won't happen, however, because Iran needs at least $180 billion in long-term investment to upgrade its energy infrastructure.

Moscow for its part fully took note how Washington blocked South Stream. It's also been trying to block Turk Stream -- but that may come to nothing after Erdogan's recent election landslide in Turkey. Additionally, Washington has been pressuring Finland, Sweden, Ukraine and Eastern Europe to weaponize further against Russia in NATO.

The King goes to Vlad

From the House of Saud's point of view, three factors are paramount. 1) A general sense of "red alert" as they have been deprived from an exclusive relationship with Washington, thus becoming incapable of shaping US foreign policy in the Middle East; 2) They have been mightily impressed by Moscow's swift counter-terrorism operation in Syria; 3) They fear like the plague the current Russia-Iran alliance if they have no means of influencing it.

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RT@RT_com

Russia faces battle with Saudi Arabia over European oil market share http://on.rt.com/6u0v

That explains why King Salman's advisers have pressed the point that the House of Saud has a much better chance of checking Iran on all matters -- from "Syraq" to Yemen -- if it forges a closer relationship with Moscow. In fact, King Salman may be visiting Putin before the end of the year.

Tehran's priority, on the other hand, is to sell as much natural gas as possible. That makes Iran a natural competitor with Gazprom (not for the moment, as most extra exports will be directed towards Asia, not Europe). In terms of natural gas, there's no Russia-Saudi competition. Oil is a different story; a Russia-Saudi partnership would make sense in the framework of an OPEC cutback -- if only they could find a deal over the Syria tragedy.

One of the untold stories of the recent Syria-driven diplomatic flurry is how Moscow has been silently working on mollifying both Saudi Arabia and Turkey behind the scenes. That was already the case when the foreign ministers of US, Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia met before Vienna.

Vienna was crucial not only because Iran was on the table for the first time but also because of the presence of Egypt -- incidentally, fresh from recent discovery of new oil reserves, and engaging in a reinforced relationship with Russia.

The absolute key point was this paragraph included in Vienna's final declaration: "This political process will be Syrian-led and Syrian-owned, and the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria."

It's not by accident that only Russian and Iranian media chose to give the paragraph the appropriate relevance. Because this meant the actual death of the regime change obsession, much to the distress of US neocons, Erdogan and the House of Saud.

That does not necessarily mean the Russia-Iran alliance agrees 100 percent on Syria. This week, IRGC commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari once again explained Iran does not see any alternative to Bashar al-Assad as leader of Syria. He even acknowledged Moscow might not entirely share this view -- which is exactly what Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has been saying.

But that's not the main point. The main point is the death of the regime change option, brought about by Moscow. And that leaves Putin free to further project his extremely elaborate strategy. He called Erdogan on Wednesday to congratulate him on his and the AKP's election landslide. This means that now Moscow clearly has someone to talk to in Ankara. Not only about Syria. But also about gas.

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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)
 

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