Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, came to Moscow Tuesday for a working trip in order to reset bilateral Russia-Saudi Arabia relations that were frozen due to differences on the Syrian conflict.
This is the second visit of Saudi leadership to Russia in the past two months. In June, second deputy prime minister and minister of defense, Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, visited Moscow. The main conclusion of the talks was an agreement for a visit of King Salman.
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Al-Jubeir will hold talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in the process of which “there will be an exchange of opinions on Russia’s initiative to create a broad international coalition to counter ISIS militants,” Russia Foreign Ministry statement read.
Another key topic of the talks will be the trade and economic cooperation between the countries. Saudi Arabia earlier announced its willingness to allocate $10 billion to invest into Russian projects in such fields as the agricultural sector, healthcare, retail industry, transport and real estate.
It must also be pointed out that Lavrov has been seeing al-Jubeir in Doha as part of trilateral talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over the past few days. However, the talks that was dedicated to finding solutions on settling a conflict in Syria only made it clear how much positions of the countries differ and did not bring them closer to finding a common ground.
Moscow’s new proposal, which wasn’t supported neither by the U.S. nor by Saudi Arabia, offered to create a broad international coalition to counter ISIS in the region. The coalition would have included the army of the president of Syria Bashar al-Assad. Washington and its allies insist on toppling the Syrian president and continue arming the opposition.
However, it seems that despite the differences between Moscow and Washington, Saudi Arabia’s leadership believes that the joint fight against ISIS must include Russia. Besides, Riyadh believes that positive relations with Washington should not equal to bad relations with Moscow anymore.
U.S. failure in the Middle East
U.S. policy in the Middle East has been trying to kill two birds with one stone over the past five years since the beginning of the Arab Spring. The U.S. is training ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels and is trying to include Turkey in the war against ISIS, according to the analyst of Czech’s newspaper Literarni noviny, Tereza Spencerová.
Washington fell flat on its face: after a year of attempts and millions of dollars spent, the Pentagon managed to release the New Syrian Forces comprising of a great number of rebels, which later fell into the hands of Syrian Al-Qaeda group, the al-Nusra Front, according to Spencerová.
As for Turkey, Washington and Ankara’s priorities differ greatly. The main problem for Ankara is the Kurds, which are the key Washington allies in the region, the analyst notes.
As a result, we see the appearance of a new balance of power in the Middle East, which was indicated in the talks between ministers of the U.S., Russia and Saudi Arabia in Qatar.
“Russian analysts have been publishing a series of new materials about the new Riyadh, while the chief of Saudi diplomacy will visit Moscow in a couple of days,” Spencerová noted a few days ago. “Just a few months ago it would seem something unbelievable, but today it seems that there is no stronger friendship” than between Russia and Saudi Arabia, the analyst said.
Russia outplays U.S. in the Middle East
Iranian news agency ‘Fars’ claims that the Russian side managed to persuade the Saudi leadership that countering ISIS and all terrorist groups is crucial for all players of the region. Therefore, Moscow persuaded Riyadh to create a powerful triangle along with Egypt against terrorist.
‘Fars’ analysts add that the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar had reported that Russia agreed with chiefs of Syrian special forces and Saudi Arabia to hold talks without the U.S. The parties would discuss further joint actions in the region.
According to Spencerová, Saudi Arabia, which has pretty much recognized the Iranian nuclear program deal, will require some time to prepare for a strategic change in Syria and carry out a ‘clean-up’ in the political establishment in order to remove all radical Wahhabis and ISIS sponsors from the elite.
What it means is that the days of the U.S.-led Syrian opposition are numbered – it will all result with a capitulation, according to the Czech analyst. As a result, Damask wins the conflict, Saudis acknowledge the failure of their former policy, while Russia strengthens its positions in the Middle East to the disadvantage of the U.S.
Saudi Arabia wants Russian arms, not US’
Besides, Saudi Arabia is planning to reduce its dependency of U.S. weapons and turn to Russia as an alternative supplier instead, according to a reported published by Russian state-owned Interfax news agency on Monday.
However, the report notes that Saudi Arabia will require at least a decade to reduce its defense relationship with the U.S.
“We forecast that military and technical cooperation between our countries in the foreseeable future will develop dynamically,” a Russian source told Interfax news agency. “However, conclusion of major arms contracts in the nearest future is unlikely because Saudi Arabia oriented for many years towards purchasing firstly U.S. arms.”
According to Russian military data, the share of U.S. supplied arms in the Saudi military is over 80 percent.