Some significant events have happened in the Middle East within the few weeks. The events have worldwide implications, but the media is too concerned with how President Trump feeds fish in Japan to pay attention. WWI started because of an assassination of some royal in a corner of the Balkans, what event is likely to set the Middle East on fire?
Let’s not kid ourselves, the Middle East is hot, arid, and has had tribal and religious conflict since the beginning of recorded history, but it is important because of oil and gas.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) accounts for 81.5 percent of crude oil reserves, and the Black Gold Triangle accounts for 65.5 percent of OPEC, or about 56 percent of the global supply. What happens in the Middle East influences the life of every American. No American is unaffected by petroleum or natural gas.
Iran and Saudi Arabia are the two regional powers fighting to be the hegemon of the Middle East. It is a fight 1400 years in the making between the Sunni and Shia.
President Obama believed the nuclear deal with Iran would be his most significant foreign policy achievement, but it looks like the agreement put Middle East powers on a path to war. The hundreds of millions in cash paid for ransom and tens of billions in unfrozen assets galvanized Iranian hardliners and sent them on a mission to create a Shia Crescent stretching from Yemen through the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Yes, Sunni Islam is the majority in the Islamic world, but not in the Shia Crescent.
The 1979 Iranian Revolution that swept the Ayatollah Khomeini into power sent shockwaves through the region. While the area was predominantly Islamic, it was still ruled by secular dictators. Many rulers in the region believed they were next and for a good reason.
The Iranian Constitution Article 11 states, “According to the Qur’an: “Verily, this brotherhood of yours is a single brotherhood. And I am your Lord and cherisher: therefore serve me” (21: 92), all Muslims form a single nation and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is required to base its overall politics on the merging and unity of the Muslim nations. It must continuously strive to achieve the political, economic, and cultural unity of the Muslim world.”
Saudi Arabia is ruled by the House of Saud, with Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud serving as the current king. Second in command is the King’s son, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, seemingly the architect of recent actions in Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom is deeply rooted in Sunni Wahhabism, an Islamic doctrine founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab described as fundamentalist or ultraconservative. Wahhabism got a boost in 1979 from the Kingdom following the siege of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. A group of zealots seized the Grand Mosque declaring the Mahdi had arrived and called for the overthrow of the House of Saud. To get permission to retake the Grand Mosque, the Saudis needed a religious ruling from the clerics to assault the holy site. To get the ruling, the Saudi Royal family agreed to fund the clerics, thereby spreading Wahhabism throughout the world. Wahhabi schools around the world are considered prime recruiting grounds for radical Islamic terrorists.
The Crown Prince has had several princes arrested for corruption, including one of the wealthiest men in the world, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. Most see this as an attempt to consolidate power, and it seems to be just that, but it could also be a willingness change the course of the nation.
The Crown Prince is also fighting the religious establishment. The Prince stripped the religious police of their arrest powers and promised women the right to drive. He did this as he was detaining dozens of hardline clerics while ordering others to speak about respect for other religions. Americans have been leery of the Kingdom in the past, for a good reason. It now appears there is a reliable partner to work with in Saudi Arabia.
President Trump has been supportive of the moves made by the King and Crown Prince. “The king and crown prince’s recent public statements regarding the need to build a moderate, peaceful and tolerant region are essential to ensuring a hopeful future for the Saudi people, to curtailing terrorist funding, and to defeating radical ideology — once and for all — so the world can be safe from its evil,” the White House said in the statement.
The Crown Prince is consolidating power for his side of the Saud family. He attempting to get closer to western allies by modernizing Islam and the economy of Saudi Arabia. It is a very precarious time for the Kingdom and any action against the family could be seen as the beginning of a war.
On November 4, Yemen Shiite rebels, backed by Iran, fired a ballistic missile into Saudi Arabia aimed at Riyadh’s King Khaled Airport. The missile was manufactured by Iran and bore Iranian markings according to Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian.
Also on November 4, the Prime Minister of Lebanon Saad Hariri resigned, citing Iranian influence across the region and that he feared for his life. He announced his resignation from Saudi Arabia. This was followed up by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates have urged their citizens to leave Lebanon.
On November 9, an explosion took out a section of oil pipeline supplying Bahrain from Saudi Arabia. Bahrain has stated Iran is responsible for the action.
The actions seem to be escalating, and what happens next is unknown. A war between the two nations is likely to shut down two of the worlds seven strategic chokepoints. War is likely to take 50 percent of the world’s oil off the market. Because of alliances, war is likely to spread to the rest of the region and draw in more powerful allies. We could be on the cusp of WWIII, and the American media is concentrating on fish.