Reassessing MbS’s geostrategic vision in light of his rapprochement with Iran
by Andrew Korybko on 17 Mar 2023 2 Comments

Mohammed Bin Salman did a lot early on that riled many folks from both the alternative and mainstream media, but as can be seen from his country’s latest rapprochement with Iran, he was always driven by the desire to put his country’s interests first in the way that he felt was the most effective.


Saudi Crown Prince and first-ever Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) has been a contentious figure for many since his rise to power in early 2015. His rule immediately saw the commencement of the ongoing Yemeni War, and a year later, he cut off ties with Iran after blaming the Islamic Republic for a round of domestic unrest at that time. Between then and now, MBS cultivated close behind-the-scenes ties with Israel, which contributed to perceptions that he was obsessed with containing Iran.


At the same time, however, ties with the US noticeably deteriorated since the start of the Biden Administration. The Democrats detested MBS for his alleged involvement in the fall 2018 assassination of Washington Post columnist and Saudi regime change agitator Jamal Khashoggi. They therefore sought to exploit concerns about the humanitarian consequences of the Yemeni War to punish him for that. In hindsight, this only accelerated his embrace of what can now be described as the Sino-Russo Entente.


Comprehensively strengthening Saudi Arabia’s relations with those two multipolar Great Powers became a priority for MBS. He rightly realized that Chinese investment would be indispensable to his far-reaching economic reform agenda known as “Vision 2030”, while close coordination with Russia would be required to manage the global oil market through what eventually became OPEC+. Taken together, his Kingdom’s complementary ties with China and Russia bolstered its rising global role.


Critics of the Crown Prince in the Alt-Media Community (AMC) were convinced that he was a unipolar sellout due to his anti-Iranian containment policies and friendliness towards Israel, while those from the Mainstream Media (MSM) considered him a power-hungry dictator for cavorting with China and Russia. As could be expected, the truth lies between these two extremes. On the one hand, he closely aligned with Israel and ruthlessly consolidated his power, but on the other, his geostrategic vision is multipolar.


It was to be expected that this young leader could do some things better in retrospect across the course of his well-intended efforts to improve his country’s position on the world stage. If he was really a unipolar sellout, then he’d never have gotten close to China or Russia, while criticism of his power-consolidating tactics regarding the unofficial imprisonment of many royals in late 2017 and the Khashoggi incident a year later overlooks that they were intended to pre-empt pro-US regime changes.


These realizations enable observers to recalibrate their assessment of his hardline policies against Iran. Considering those two now-former rivals’ ultimate Chinese-mediated rapprochement, it can now be said that he didn’t make those moves to please the US, but because he sincerely believed that they were the most effective way to give his country an edge in its security dilemma with the Islamic Republic. There’s no denying that they converged with US interests, but they definitely weren’t driven by them.


The Israeli dimension of his policies over the years can also be attributed to those security dilemma-related motivations. Those who wrote MBS off as a “Zionist puppet” for his outreaches to that country were wrong since he clearly went against its interests by patching up ties with Iran. No leader under the influence of the US and/or Israel would have agreed to what the Crown Prince did last week. For all the twists, turns, and perceived setbacks over the years, he always put Saudi interests first no matter what.


President Putin reached this conclusion late last year, which he shared with the public during the prolonged Q&A session that followed his keynote speech at the Valdai Club’s annual meeting at the end of October. According to the Russian leader, “You need to respect the Crown Prince and Saudi Arabia, and they will do the same…The fact is, that the Crown Prince and the entire Saudi government are guided by their own national interests… He surely won’t let you [get a free ride on his back].”


The preceding assessment explains why MBS authorized his representatives to clinch last week’s deal with Iran in China, which stands the credible chance of ultimately dealing a deathblow to the dollar upon those three and Russia’s seemingly inevitable moves in support of the “petroyuan”. His country’s objective national interests are best served by advancing the aforementioned scenario, progress towards which isn’t fuelled by any “anti-American” sentiment but pure Saudi patriotism.


Just like India, Saudi Arabia is doing its best to balance between the US-led West’s Golden Billion and the Sino-Russo Entente in the New Cold War over the direction of the global systemic transition. To that end, those two retain a foot in each de facto bloc, but there’s no doubt that their enduring interests are most effectively ensured in the emerging Multipolar World Order that the Sino-Russo Entente is building than in a restoration of the unipolar one that the Golden Billion wants to return International Relations to.


The occasional difficulties in each of their ties with the US aren’t due to any fault of their own, but are entirely the result of that declining unipolar hegemon refusing to recognize their objective interests and related sovereign right to pursue them. For instance, the US is enraged that they won’t ditch Russia like it demands, instead flexing their sovereign right to double down on that vector of their foreign policies precisely because it serves their interests and thus facing its rhetorical wrath in response.


Even so, the US is reluctant to meaningfully punish either of those increasingly influential players on the world stage out of fear that doing so would push them closer into Russia’s arms, which would accelerate the global systemic transition’s continual movement towards multipolarity. Saudi Arabia and India can therefore be seen as somewhat similarly placed at this point in International Relations in the sense that they have complementary balancing acts that are regularly recalibrated in response to US pressure.


Both of these countries have their share of critics in the AMC and MSM, which condemn them for their perceived preference for unipolarity or allegedly anti-democratic power consolidation schemes respectively, but neither of which accurately reflects their geostrategic visions. Saudi Arabia and India have sometimes struggled to advance their interests in these complex times, but they nevertheless keep making progress, though their higher profile compared to others explains why they have so many critics.


MBS did a lot early on that riled many folks from both the multipolar and unipolar media communities, but as can be seen from his country’s latest rapprochement with Iran, he was always driven by the desire to put his country’s interests first in the way that he felt was the most effective. As it stands, the game-changing move that he agreed to last week is poised to majorly reshape the strategic dynamics of the global systemic transition, which arguably makes him a multipolar hero to many right now.



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