Alwaght- The confusion in the oil market and the oil war between Saudi Arabia and Russia as the two major suppliers of this strategic commodity to the global markets which led to the crash of the prices are the main reasons behind the emergence of differences between Riyadh and Washington in the current conditions.
In fact, after the oil prices slump which posed a huge risk to the life of the American shale oil industry, now the disunity among the Americans (mainly Trump administration and the Congress) about whether to back bin Salman and Saudi Arabia has given its place to unity over the need to put pressures on the Arab kingdom and its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
As critical anti-bin Salman voices grow in the US and voices inside the Congress call for punitive measures against the crown prince for defying the Washington demands for compliance with the White House oil policy, last week American officials raised the possibility of the exit of the US military from Saudi Arabia. And now experts warn about tougher punitive measures that could include pullout of the Patriot air defenses systems from the oil-wealthy monarchy.
Although White House and Pentagon officials declined to comment on the case, on Sunday Al-Malomah news website, citing Iraqi security expert Amir Abdelmonem al-Saedi, said that the US moves to remove the Patriot batteries from Saudi Arabia for deployment to Iraq. But how much is this removal from Saudi Arabia and dispatch to Iraq compliant with the American tactical and strategic goals? How implementable is it?
A set of objectives could motivate the American military leaders to relocate the Patriot missile defenses.
The US military bases and political-spying sites have been struggling with rocket attacks of the Iraqi resistant forces since the Iraqi parliament on January 5 passed a resolution asking the foreign forces to leave the country. The attacks followed an ultimatum set by the Iraqi political groups and militant leaders. The anti-US forces were attacking the American sites and forces even before the bill was passed by the lawmakers following Trump-ordered assassination of IRGC Quds Force’s commander General Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi colleague and Deputy commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis earlier this year.
After the US military presence was outlawed by the bill, the Iraqi government and army are bound by no commitment to protect the Americans serving in Iraq. So, now the threats posed to the American forces grow in significance for the White House leaders.
It is noteworthy that Trump is in the election year and while his foreign policy performance is under fiery criticism, does not want another wave of pressure motivated by his exit from Iraq which marks another strategic defeat for the US in the region. Therefore, by deploying the Patriot batteries to Iraq, the White House shows off its resolution to keep its forces in the Arab country and at the same time guard against the so-called threats to its forces there.
Yet another drive for Patriots relocation is the missile power of Iran that is posing itself as a new challenge to the US hegemony in the whole region. Only a week after the assassination of the legend Iranian general, the Islamic Republic launched a massive missile attack on Ein Al-Assad military base hosting the US forces in Iraq’s Al-Anbar, sending the message that it can turn on their head the equations in the critical conditions if it chooses to.
The missile strike by Tehran pushed the American strategists to review their policy and cover the spots where the US can be vulnerable to similar strikes in a situation of crisis. Therefore, one reason Iraq is chosen as a site for deployment of the Patriot systems is to provide a shield to the American forces and facilities against the Iranian missiles.
Additionally, a review of the American political and military strategy in the region reveals that Israeli security makes up one of the key foundations of the US strategic goals in West Asia.
Iran says it will not initiate a war against the Israeli regime but if Tel Aviv or Washington wage a war against it, Tehran will strike the depth of the occupied Palestinian territories.
Meanwhile, Iraq, besides Yemen, is the birthplace of new threats to the Israeli interests. A threat of this kind necessitates security cooperation between Washington and Tel Aviv. Deployment of the air defenses to Iraq, thus, can be an American provision of a security layer to the Israeli regime, especially that the Israeli leaders are intervening in the whole region and so antagonize the regional nations while the region is already living critical circumstances.
And the exit of the Patriots can serve as a pressure tool against the Saudis in the hands of the Americans. Saudi Arabia showed big weakness when the Yemeni forces struck its Aramco oil giant with missiles and drones in September last year. The attack marred the kingdom’s oil industry as it forced a halt of half of the oil output. Removal of the defense system helps the Americans to dissuade bin Salman from taking oil steps independent from Washington.
Obstacles and threats
Beside these motivations for the US to remove the Patriots from Saudi Arabia, some elements may persuade the Americans to give their idea a second thought.
First, the Americans know that relocation to Iraq of the missile batteries will never present a final check to the threats to the American troops in Iraq. The costly Patriot missiles will do nothing to check the cheap, large-number rockets to be fired in a potential clash. Moreover, because the US interceptors' deployment does not have the green light from the Iraqi government, it will stir public aversion to Washington as the public finds it a disrespect to their national sovereignty and independence.
Also, despite the Saudi spending of billions of dollars to purchase the Patriot batteries, they showed weakness in intercepting the whole Yemeni ballistic missiles fired into the Saudi strategic facilities and thus rendering the Saudi leaders unsatisfied. This weakness means that Yemen continues to have loopholes through which it can inflict damages on the kingdom using its ballistic missiles and drones.
On the other side, Russia delivered its S-400 air defenses to Turkey and S-300 to Iran as Saudi regional rivals, giving the Saudis a reason and appetite to seek procurement of the air defenses from Moscow. The Patriots exit can double the Saudi justification to ask for the cutting-edge Russian weapon to protect its vital facilities.