Friday February 23, 2018
Home Uncategorized Saudi’s...

Saudi’s frenzied calculations amid Middle East ferment

0
//
66
Republish
Reprint

The scenario in the Middle East is changing fast and at the centre of it is neither the United States or the coalition of countries it leads nor Russia but Saudi Arabia, the Wahabi country which had so long acted as the source and ultimate prop of many Islamist activities in the Arab world. A Continuous crash of oil prices and the rise of the Islamic States (IS) have forced Riyadh to move away from the US sphere of influence and start charting out its own course.

Notwithstanding the recent execution of Sheikh Nimr-al-Nimr, the opposition Shiite cleric, it can be said with a fair amount of certainty that Riyadh is now trying to come out of its self-created cocoon.

Two recent developments point out that Saudi Arabia is prepared to give Russia space in Middle Eastern affairs. First, preparations are on for Saudi King Salman’s visit to Russia later this year. Secondly, the Saudi deputy crown prince and defence minister, Mohammed Bin Salman, visited Russia last June. Following closely on this, Turki-al-Faisal, the former intelligence chief, stated that Russian actions in Syria were more effective than those of the US and that Russia’s views merit attention and respect.

But it would be wrong to presume that Saudi Arabia is aligning with Russia on the Syrian question. Riyadh is worried about Iranian expansion in the Middle East and the US taking a soft line on the country after the nuclear agreement with Tehran. Saudi Arabia will now try to dominate the Middle East scenario on its own and in keeping with this line, Turkish President Recep Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia on December 30, 2015. Riyadh has also built up a strong coalition comprising the oil-rich Arab countries.

But, will Saudi Arabia be really able to dominate the Middle Eastern scenario? Objective conditions preclude such a possibility. There are unmistakable signs that willy-nilly it is tilting towards Russia although that may not be the wish of the Saudi Royal household. Two principal reasons for it are the military fatigue in Yemen and a resource crunch due to Syria. There will be a $100 billion deficit in Saudi Arabia’s budget for 2016. Last year, the budget deficit was 21.6 percent of the GDP and the country barely managed to survive by earlier petrodollar savings.

What will, however, affect the Middle East scenario the most is the decision by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency to withdraw $70 billion from foreign investment fund assets last summer. This will certainly cut down on siphoning off money to terror-related organizations through official channels. Moreover, the financial health of Saudi Arabia’s friends in the region is also not good. Reliable estimates put the budget deficits of Middle Eastern oil exporting countries in the next five years around $1 trillion.

It is difficult to predict how long Saudi Arabia can keep up the pressure in Yemen or Syria with such a shaky financial condition. It may not go bankrupt in the near future but the Saudi royal family must look for avenues to push up prices of oil, which came down to less than $50 a barrel last September, a sharp nose-dive from $103 in September 2014.

Here lies the raison d’ etre for Saudi overtures to Russia for cooperation. Riyadh is now looking for an “alliance for oil” partnership with Russia which will also give it a foothold in the Eurasian Economic Union. With this end in view, Prince Salman had talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Sochi Olympics in 2014. This was followed by the Russian energy minister’s talks with his counterparts in Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Three consecutive IS attacks on Saudi mosques have reportedly convinced King Salman about the need for fashioning a new security strategy that puts a premium on choosing an independent course of action, away from US tutelage. Even on Yemen, Saudi Arabia is now open to negotiations. Although Riyadh still demands the removal of Bashr-al-Assad as a precondition for ushering in of peace in Syria, yet Brigadier General Ali Mamlouk, head of the Syrian National Security Bureau, was hosted in Riyadh by no less than the deputy crown prince last July.

Russian military intervention in the Middle East has induced a new type of assessment among all the stakeholders. The US-led coalition’s attack on the IS has undergone a qualitative change. The US attacks are now hitting the IS really hard. Meanwhile, to establish its credibility with international powers, King Salman has fired Prince Bandar, a former intelligence chief, who had his fingers in many CIA-orchestrated operations. Now, a secret Saudi Arabian document has surfaced which shows that the King Salman-led administration has instructed its Middle Eastern embassies not to fund Syrian rebels anymore.

Does this really portend a fundamental shift in terror-related Middle Eastern politics? (IANS, Amitava Mukherjee), (image courtesy: dawatmedia.com)

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 NewsGram

Next Story

Cybercrimes cost businesses $600 billion globally: McAfee report

Cybercrime losses are greater in richer countries; however, the countries with the greatest losses are mid-tier nations that are digitised but not yet fully capable of cybersecurity, the report noted.

0
//
10
Russia, North Korea and Iran are the most active in hacking financial institutions, while China is the most active in cyber espionage.
Russia, North Korea and Iran are the most active in hacking financial institutions, while China is the most active in cyber espionage. Wikimedia Commons

Cybercrimes have cost businesses close to $600 billion globally — or 0.8% the global GDP — which is up from $445 billion reported three years back, a report said on Thursday.

The report by the global cybersecurity firm McAfee, prepared along with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said that over the last three years, cybercriminals have quickly adopted new technologies to ease the process of engaging in cybercrimes.

“Ransomware-as-a-Service Cloud providers efficiently scale attacks to target millions of systems, and attacks are automated to require minimal human involvement,” Steve Grobman, Chief Technology Officer for McAfee, said in a statement.

Also Read: Indian companies more prone to cyber attacks

“Add to these factors cryptocurrencies that ease rapid monetisation, while minimising the risk of arrest, and you must conclude that the $600 billion cybercrime figure reflects the extent to which our technological accomplishments have transformed the criminal economy as dramatically as they have every other portion of our economy,” he added.
The report, titled “Economic Impact of Cybercrime — No Slowing Down”, said that banks remain the favourite target for cybercriminals.

McAfee, Inc. is an American global computer security software company.
McAfee, Inc. is an American global computer security software company. Wikimedia Commons

Russia, North Korea and Iran are the most active in hacking financial institutions, while China is the most active in cyber espionage.

“Our research bore out the fact that Russia is the leader in cybercrime, reflecting the skill of its hacker community and its disdain for Western law enforcement,” said James Lewis, Senior Vice President at CSIS.

“North Korea is second in line, as the nation uses cryptocurrency theft to help fund its regime, and we’re now seeing an expanding number of cybercrime centres, including not only North Korea but also Brazil, India and Vietnam,” Lewis added.

Cybercrime losses are greater in richer countries; however, the countries with the greatest losses are mid-tier nations that are digitised but not yet fully capable of cybersecurity, the report noted. (IANS)