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JUNE 2023

US Intelligence Report Leaves Saudi Arabia With No Good Geopolitical Choices

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US Intelligence Report Leaves Saudi Arabia With No Good Geopolitical Choices


Submitted by James M. Dorsey

The Biden administration’s publication of a US intelligence report that holds Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi creates a fundamental challenge to the kingdom’s geopolitical ambitions.

The challenge lies in whether and how Saudi Arabia will seek to further diversify its alliances with other world powers in response to the report and US human rights pressure.

Saudi and United Arab Emirates options are limited by that fact that they cannot fully replace the United States as a mainstay of their defence as well as their quest for regional hegemony, even if the report revives perceptions of the US as unreliable and at odds with their policies.

As Saudi King Salman and Prince Mohammed contemplate their options, including strengthening relations with external players such as China and Russia, they may find that reliance on these forces could prove riskier than the pitfalls of the kingdom’s ties with the United States.

Core to Saudi as well as UAE considerations is likely to be the shaping of the ultimate balance of power between the kingdom and Iran in a swath of land stretching from the Atlantic coast of Africa to Central Asia’s border with China.

US officials privately suggest that regional jockeying in an environment in which world power is being rebalanced to create a new world order was the key driver of Saudi and UAE as well as Israeli opposition from day one to the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran that the United States together with Europe, China, and Russia negotiated. That remains the driver of criticism of US President Joe Biden’s efforts to revive the agreement.

“If forced to choose, Riyadh preferred an isolated Iran with a nuclear bomb to an internationally accepted Iran unarmed with the weapons of doom,” said Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Washington-based Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and founder of the National Iranian American Council. Mr. Parsi was summing up Saudi and Emirati attitudes based on interviews with officials involved in the negotiations at a time that Mr. Biden was vice-president.

As a result, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel appear to remain determined to either foil a return of the United States to the accord, from which Mr. Biden’s predecessor, Donald J. Trump, withdrew, or ensure that it imposes conditions on Iran that would severely undermine its claim to regional hegemony.

In the ultimate analysis, the Gulf states and Israel share US objectives that include not only restricting Iran’s nuclear capabilities but also limiting its ballistic missiles program and ending support for non-state actors like Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iraqi militias, and Yemen’s Houthis. The Middle Eastern states differ with the Biden administration on how to achieve those objectives and the sequencing of their pursuit.

Even so, the Gulf states are likely to realize as Saudi Arabia contemplates its next steps what Israel already knows: China and Russia’s commitment to the defence of Saudi Arabia or Israel are unlikely to match that of the United States given that they view an Iran unfettered by sanctions and international isolation as strategic in ways that only Turkey rather than other Middle Eastern states can match.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE will also have to recognize that they can attempt to influence US policies with the help of Israel’s powerful Washington lobby and influential US lobbying and public relations companies in ways that they are not able to do in autocratic China or authoritarian Russia.

No doubt, China and Russia will seek to exploit opportunities created by the United States’ recalibration of its relations with Saudi Arabia with arms sales as well as increased trade and investment.

But that will not alter the two countries’ long-term view of Iran as a country, albeit problematic, with attributes that the Gulf states cannot match even if it is momentarily in economic and political disrepair.

Those attributes include Iran’s geography as a gateway at the crossroads of Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe; ethnic, cultural, and religious ties with Central Asia and the Middle East as a result of history and empire; a deep-seated identity rooted in empire; some of the world’s foremost oil and gas reserves; a large, highly educated population of 83 million that constitutes a huge domestic market; a fundamentally diversified economy; and a battle-hardened military.

Iran also shares Chinese and Russian ambitions to contain US influence even if its aspirations at times clash with those of China and Russia.

“China’s BRI will on paper finance additional transit options for the transfer of goods from ports in southern to northern Iran and beyond to Turkey, Russia, or Europe. China has a number of transit options available to it, but Iranian territory is difficult to avoid for any south-north or east-west links,” said Iran scholar Alex Vatanka referring to Beijing’s infrastructure, transportation and energy-driven Belt and Road Initiative.

Compared to an unfettered Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE primarily offer geography related to some of the most strategic waterways through which much of the world’s oil and gas flows as well their positioning opposite the Horn of Africa and their energy reserves.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia’s position as a religious leader in the Muslim world built on its custodianship of Islam’s two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, potentially could be challenged as the kingdom competes for leadership with other Middle Eastern and Asian Muslim-majority states.

On the principle of better the enemy that you know than the devil that you don’t, Saudi leaders may find that they are, in the best of scenarios, in response to changing US policies able to rattle cages by reaching out to China and Russia in ways that they have not until now, but that at the end of the day they are deprived of good choices.

That conclusion may be reinforced by the realization that the United States has signalled by not sanctioning Prince Mohammed that it does not wish to cut its umbilical cord with the kingdom. That message was also contained in the Biden administration’s earlier decision to halt the sale of weapons that Saudi Arabia could you for offensive operations in Yemen but not arms that it needs to defend its territory from external attack.

At the bottom line, Saudi Arabia’s best option to counter an Iran that poses a threat to the kingdom’s ambitions irrespective of whatever regime is in power would be to work with its allies to develop the kind of economic and social policies as well as governance that would enable it to capitalize on its assets to effectively compete. Containment of Iran is a short-term tactic that eventually will run its course.

Warned former British diplomat and Royal Dutch Shell executive Ian McCredie: “When the Ottoman Empire was dismantled in 1922, it created a vacuum which a series of powers have attempted to fill ever since. None has succeeded, and the result has been a century of wars, coups, and instability. Iran ruled all these lands before the Arab and Ottoman conquests. It could do so again.”

Dr. James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute.


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cechas vodobenikov

slob arabia—the one truly atheist nation in ME


Frankly speaking, the Sunni Wahhabi Arabs are mere tribes of uncivilised savages and have no history of nationalism . The only two countries that amount to anything are Turkey and Iran.

Narine Joa

Quite an ignorant article to say the least and over stating US importance out of proportion. The US has completely retreated for long time ago and it’s power has waned and weakened. Saudi Arabia has extremely powerful allies in the region which the article has not taken into account at all in the article which shows you that it is a limited researched article or simply put propaganda. If you haven’t taken Pakistan and Egypt into account then this is pretty much half-asssed attempt of an article. The Saudis have nuclear capable allies in the region

Emad Irani

You cannot always refer to allies like that. The situation of allies should be considered. If there is an alliance between Egypt, Saudi and Pakistan, it is only limited to business, not ideology (compared to Iran allies in the region). Egypt plays a small role in the Middle East, Pakistan is in great danger of India etc.

History proved that US friends are more in danger being occupied than US enemies.

Narine Joa

They have defense treaties not business. Saudi has more business with other nations. The Saudis have alliance with The Gulf, Sudan, Egypt, Morocco and Pakistan plus few other countries in the nearby region


All those countries you named are busted ass bankrupt countries on IMF/ GCC life support, wondering where the next meal will come from. You joking or are you serious?

Narine Joa

India has the worlds largest poverty rate which is a fact and the worlds worst infrastructure in the world. Indians should never speak economy or food in that matter. All these states are doing better then India even heavily sanctioned Iran is better off then India let alone the mentioned countries


what India in this? What about Mongolia?…..lol….yous a lower caste hendu-pak jive talker no?

Narine Joa

Lol people who have no food speaking of food. Hilarious! Egypt is building 2 trillion USD worth 20 new cities. While you are shitting on the streets in India


lol……egypt and 2 trillion…….bhuwahahahaaaaa…….you a black man are you?……you goofy lower caste punjabi dalit……..lol. Why don’t you become sikh again? a lower caste sikh, that your ancestors were no? Spare us all the disgrace of having to talk to you?


you done here doc……

Tommy Jensen

There is no toilets. It was deliberately. To have a toilet was forbidden by the Brits to keep Germany down and the Russians out. Today the Indians claim its their ancient national culture to shit everywhere.

The Objective

There is no military alliance whatsoever between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. In fact, they are currently at odds. Turkey is the strongest ally of Pakistan, not even China shares such a close military relationship with Pakistan. Saudi Arabia’s enmity against Turkey has isolated the kingdom. Countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Qatar, Libya, Algeria, and many others have zero respect for the play boys in Riyadh. Erdogan is the most popular leader in the Muslim world. MBZ doesn’t even come close to competing with him. Who’d respect such hypocrites? This is the reason why the Sunni Muslim world have largely abandoned Saudi Arabia to its war with the Shiites in Yemen and Iraq. Saudi Arabia’s only true allies are the U.A.E, and Egypt. America is the lifeline of the Saudi kingdom. Should they withdraw their protection, the House of Saud will collapse. I think the Saudis made a great mistake making Turkey an enemy instead of a friend. they are worried by the Muslim Brotherhood I know, but instead of becoming enemies, why not seek ways to coexist? I’m opposed to violent revolutions, but I want our Muslim leaders to have some dignity whether they are a monarchy, dictatorship, or a democracy. A good leader is a good leader regardless of the system under which he rules. but the Saudis continue to depend on the West (Islam’s fiercest enemies) and make no attempt to decouple themselves from this reliance. Suppose the GCC, Egypt, Turkey, and Pakistan form an alliance such that an attack on one is an attack on all. Who dares attack them? Not only will this result in immediate economic and security benefits, but also it’d totally destroy Iran’s plans to take Mecca and Medina. Well, I guess it’s too late for them to realize that now.


Doc, for the love of god……you’re getting too predictable……I just busted both your nicks here……Come on now……lol


These trolls have me in stitches with their unadulterated hogwash. So cute.


Frank, remember a few days ago I warned Garga and othes about this ‘Doc’ fella……lol…..He’s hendi Parsi and loves Iran, but hates Iran’s muzlim identity and wants all of us to revert to Zoroastrianism……lol. This is his dream. He just likes to wind up Iranians on every site he goes to. He’s on Press TV, he was on Asia Times, he’s on PDF forum, National interest…….you name it. Only a fool here can’t tell he’s the same dude behind that Narine Joa and Objective. I bet he’s got a few other jihadi ID’s going here….lol

Tommy Jensen

Its opposite. Saudi is the lifeline to US as milk cow. The moment there is no cow to milk, US is done! US collapse and the rest of the Western Empire will fall as domino bricks. Hereafter Saudi buy up the cheap pieces in the bankrupt West and offer an economic cooperation with China and Russia join in as the new Policeman. Deal done, and Iran and Turkey develop themselves as dots on the OBOR line. Peace!


Turkey might be an “Ally” but is geopolitically unable to assist pakistan in a war with India. Pakis will have to rely on China and Iran. A Pak-Iran-Afghan-China-Russia pact is the future of that region




Lol Pakistan is part of India and not even in the region. Egypt is a over populated bankrupt aid dependent shithole like Pakistan. Do tell :)

johnny rotten

Theater, nothing but theater, the false kingdoms of the gulf were set up by British intelligence in the good old days of the Empire, and as historians know the owners and financiers of the crown were the barons of the red shield, after WWII they took over the American services, those of the international drug dealing and imperialist aggressions to be clear, when a Saudi King began to claim autonomy they simply had him assassinated by a relative who took over from him, imagine if it could cause scandal a man made to pieces with the chainsaw for the criminals hiding in the swamp of Washington DC, at most they would be delighted.


it will be business as usual and it is nortrop grumman and lockheed and such like legal entities that will decide the intercourse between the disunited states of A and the saudi kingdom in the future and as per usual the mic will trump biden into his shoes no two things about it. not even mbs’s cousins can or will do anything about it.

The Objective

It was the ottomans who dismantled the Shiite caliphate (the Fatimids). And they were led by Turkey. Iran can only rule the Middle East in its dreams, not reality. It faces two nuclear-armed adversaries (Israel and America). Will the Mullahs cut a deal with Israel to give up Jerusalem in return for sanctions relief and normalization? Well, even if this happens, the Israelis can never trust the Shiite regime in Iran. Because the Mullahs already showed their hands and now they can’t hide their true intentions.

Saudi-American relationship is older and bigger than Biden. He cannot do anything to fundamentally change this. I think there is a different problem between the two, which they are yet to solve. Human rights abuse in Egypt is worse than in Saudi Arabia or Turkey, so why the focus on these two.

Biden is just being mouthy, and nothing would happen. It’d be business as usual. Sanctions on Iran would continue for quite some time, maybe even years. Biden said Iran must negotiate its regional proxies – something I’m certain the Mullahs will reject. Strikes will continue on Iran’s proxies from Syria to Iraq. Hezbollah seems to be temporarily off the hook and is breathing some fresh air now. But I think it’s soon come in the crosshairs.


but people consider the sawdi and turkish guppu septics no? Wash the sidewalk with disinfectant no? Like during the British Raj?


“Hezbollah seems to be temporarily off the hook” – It is Israel that is off the hook. “and is breathing some fresh air now. But I think it’s soon come in the crosshairs.” – a zionist wetdream. The balance of power has completely changed, It is no longer 1982. Nasrallah is the new king of Jerusalem. its not IF, but WHEN. Soleimani will go down in history in the upcoming defeat of israel as the architect of the real holocast.

Hasbara Hunter

Bwahahahaha…The US Home of the Lies & Land of the Broken Treaties…Wahhabistan is Done…Just like Dead “man” Walkin’ Machamad ben Shlomo…Satanyahu & His Axis of Evil won’t change shit about that….


Wahhabi and Zionist are both British imperialist creations .

Hasbara Hunter

The Khazars completely Infiltrated and took Control over Great Britain & Europe during extensive Wars the past Centuries…they Married with Royal Families…All Royal Families in Europe belong to the same Inbred Bloodline



All European monarchies are inbred Rothschild based. Imagine fascist Spain now a oppressive monarchy. Balfour declaration and the creation of Zionism to occupy Palestine was all part of the plan to loot Arab oil and keep them uneducated, backward and tribal. They picked the worst Wahhabi tribes to do their bidding.

chris chuba

These think tank guys all talk the same way ‘aspirations’, ‘ambitions’, ‘contain’, ‘vacuum’. I have a crazy idea for Saudi Arabia … OR you can take Iran at their word when they say that they want regional security for all countries without foreign interference (minus the U.S., Israel, Russia, the EU, U.K. or China)

1. The Iranians genuinely hate colonialism, they have been victimized by it, they have absolutely no reason to trust anyone outside the region.

2. They don’t like the KSA but they don’t want to colonize it either. They know that nation building doesn’t work. Why does the U.S. believe that everyone is as foolish as they are, do they think that Iran believes they can install fake govts and then occupy all of these countries without bleeding to death?

3. Iran believes doesn’t believe in occupation because they believe they have the superior culture and that without outside interference that the Arab states will naturally gravitate to them.

Why do I think this? I read what the Iranians say, I don’t work in think tanks where experts spend all their time reading each others papers. The Saudis could give this a try.


Shia by nature are revolutionary. Their whole faith is anti monarchy and against oppression.

Tommy Jensen

As I see it, US and UK should appoint US/UK Governors to manage each of these countries, and these Governors should all refer back to an officer in the US State Department.

Because these butt prayers are not able to do anything but quarrels over dates. They need leadership from an American winner nation who can do and get the job done.

Only that way we can finally get peace. This is my advice to Salman, Biden and Boney.


All the Saudi’s have to do to keep US approval is buy a lot of their military equipment. Money controls alliances in the real world.

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