Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Clash Within a Civilization. By Anthony Cordesman.

Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Clash Within a Civilization. By Anthony Cordesman. Real Clear World, February 3, 2014. Also at Center for Strategic and International Studies.


Western experts may argue with some justification that the upheavals in the Arab world since 2011 have been the product of decades of authoritarian repression, weak and ineffective governance, failed social policies, poor economic development and growing inequality of income distribution, corruption, and crony capitalism – points made equally clear by Arab experts in the series of Arab Development Reports issued by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
The fact remains, however, that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies have valid reasons to see these upheavals as direct threats on or near their borders, and to the two other remaining monarchies in Morocco and Jordan, and can argue that they were far better at meeting popular needs with their oil wealth than any of the Arab states with titular presidents and pseudo democracies. It is also interesting to note how many Russian and Chinese diplomats and scholars have the same impression of the results of the upheavals in the Arab world and the Western response – views that strike an immediate chord with Arab experts at conferences and meetings in the region.
It is hard to argue why most citizens of any Arab Gulf state or Arab monarchy would envy or want to emulate any citizen of Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, or Yemen. Whatever hopes outsiders may have in the eventual triumph of modernization, democracy, and development, it is far from clear why anyone in their right minds would want to live through any of the examples of such transitions to date. At present, the best any outside power can do is to try to find the least bad course of action. There are no good sides, merely ones that offer less risk and less potential for future damage.