By Paul Goble
Both those who agree with Andrey Illarionov that Vladimir Putin’s ultimate target in the Middle East is Saudi Arabia and those who think he is wrong have ignored an important fact on the ground: The Saudi kingdom has significant Shiite populations who just happen to be where the oil and oil pipelines are, according to Elizaveta Pokrovskaya.
And given Moscow’s identification of Saudi Arabia as “a sponsor of world terrorism” and its emerging alliance with Shiite Iran, she argues that there are three facts analysts should be taking into consideration (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=56532BF70FDE5):
The first of these is that there is an important Shiite minority in Saudi Arabia, one that constitutes ten to fifteen percent of the population of the kingdom as a whole but most of whom live in the Eastern Province, where they form 80 percent of the population.
The second fact Pokrovskaya points to is that “a large part of the oil fields of Saudi Arabia are located on the territory of the Eastern Province and thus in areas which are settled by compact groups of the Shiite minority.”
And the third fact is now Shiite Iran is an ally of Russia, a development that has implications for Shiite Iran, for the Shiites of the world who look to Iran, and for Russia which would like to see oil prices go up and has already cast its lot with the Shiite-Alawaite groups backing Bashar Asad in Syria.
Does it take much to imagine what could happen if clashes between the Shiite minority of Saudi Arabia and Riyadh now break out, at a time when Sunni-Shiite tensions have taken on geopolitical shape in the re-arranging of the political map of the Greater Middle East? Or further to imagine “what would happen if Russia” with its own agenda of defeating “the sponsor of global jihad” and Iran should support ‘the lawful demands of the Shiites of Saudi Arabia’ should work in tandem?
Pokrovskaya suggests that Russia’s identification of Saudi Arabia as a global sponsor of terrorism is undercut by the fact that Israel is now, “when Iran has received open support of the US,” working toward an alliance with two of America’s “’traditional allies’” in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Israel wouldn’t be doing that if it thought that the Saudis were sponsoring terrorism, the Moscow journalist suggests, and thus under the circumstances, such an alliance “doesn’t generate any questions.” Indeed, she says, there is only one unknown: when will Moscow and Tehran dispense with Asad, someone each has reasons to want to see gone?