Wise men often say: “what comes around goes around”. Last month Saudi authorities detained 33 individuals suspected of terrorism. It turns out that among the detainees there were foreign citizens, including those coming from the United States and Kazakhstan, along with two Syrians, one Indonesian and a Filipino. In addition, among those detained security forces found 14 Saudis, three Yemenis, one citizen of the United Arab Emirates and a Palestinian.
Earlier that month at least three people were killed in a terrorist attack in a mosque in the city of Mahasen, in the Al-Ahsa Governorate in the east of the country, which is mostly populated by Shiites and which is also producing the better part of Saudi oil.
Basically, Saudi secret services have uncovered one of the biggest terrorist cells in the history of the kingdom, but it turns out that weeks before the arrests took place, King Salman Al Saud was warned by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who noted that if Saudi Arabia didn’t take decisive action against the plague that goes under the name ISIL, that has already spread across the Levant (Syria, Iraq and Lebanon), the Saudi kingdom ran the risk of facing terrorist attacks on its own soil.
All ISIL is interested in now is oil and new territories after the defeat it suffered in Syria, while the United States wants to teach Riyadh a lesson, since it went as far as showing its dissatisfaction with Washington’s rapprochement with Tehran. Therefore, the White House will keep on pretending that is waging a war on the Islamic State, while encouraging it with the passive stance it has taken to carry on military aggression against Damascus. This will ensure that Russian will not withdraw its troops from Syria, while allowing it to take actions against the federal government of the Shia majority in Baghdad.
Saudi Arabia would love to improve its relations with Russia, while understanding that Americans can turn their back on the Saudi kingdom at any given moment. The US has been drafting vicious plans against the kingdom, while leaking their details to the media, the plans to weaken or even provoke a collapse of the kingdom, taking direct control of the richest oil production areas. Therefore, Saudi Arabia is trying to play the Russian card to the best of its ability. First, Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir contacted Moscow on behalf of King Salman, stating that the kingdom wants to improve its relations with Russia, while stating publicly that Russia is a great power, and a home to 20 million Muslims. “Russia can play a positive role,” he said, “and we would like to cooperate with Russia, we want to improve our relations with it are not at the expense of our relations with any other country, but for the sake of improving relations with the Russian Federation.”
In response to this, apparently, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin made it clear to Saudi authorities that Moscow has a certain limit of patience, and it’s been running dry as the Saudi government carries on providing funding and arms, along with the CIA, Qatar and Turkey to Islamist militants still operating in Syria and Iraq. Apparently, previous Russian attempts to assess the extent of the readiness of the Kingdom to confront the CIA, led to Putin’s decision to give a “carte blanche” to Russian intelligence services to cooperate with the biggest Saudi Arabian secret service – the General Intelligence Directorate for the transfer of information on the whereabouts of ISIL terrorists and their American “masters”, various sources say.
As a result of this operation, due to the data provided by Moscow, Saudi security agencies detained 33 terrorist and are on the hunt for 9 more; But, what’s even more important, 9 CIA agents that were controlling those terrorists were arrested and placed in jail. Much later, US officials told Reuters that the Obama administration can not immediately confirm that American citizens were among 33 terrorists of the Islamic State detained in Saudi Arabia, because they were still checking their databases. It is standard procedure of the CIA to never disclose the identity of captured agents because Washington would try to privately negotiate their release.
Thus, yet another step has been made, a new step towards further separation of Saudi Arabia from the sitting US administration who was the first to double-cross its allies in the region, by ruining its relations with Saudi Arabia and Israel while simultaneously normalizing relations with Iran.
It is no coincidence that around the time of the arrests the United States decided to push a press release through the BBC about the existence of some secret report regarding UN statements that the coalition led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen has been bombing civilian targets on purpose. Additionally, the report states that Saudi Arabia has been deliberately trying to starve off the Houthis, which, in accordance to this so-called secret report is a “crime against humanity.” There could be no doubt that the Shia community of the region will be disgusted by such information, creating even more hostility toward the Wahhabi regime of the KSA.
All this has forced the kingdom to promise to change the targets of their future air strikes and express “great regret” about civilian casualties, saying that US and British military experts will from now on be advising them on the ways to reduce civilian casualties.
But Saudi officials seem to be more concerned with the recent meeting that Russian authorities held with a highly influential adviser to the Iranian supreme spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on international affairs, Ali Akbar Salehi (former Foreign Minister of Islamic Republic of Iran), on Russian and Iranian oil quotas. Those quotas along with other measures could undermine the social and economic position of Saudi Arabia, putting it on the brink of economic and political collapse. Especially in a situation when there’s a rumor that King Salman is about to step down, while bringing to power his son, the sitting Minister of Defense, Mohammad Al Saud. Tribal leaders of the kingdom, who are in control of the situation on the ground, are largely discontented with the money they’ve been losing due to dropping oil prices.
For the Al Saud dynasty, the Russian-Iranian coordination in the oil markets, as well as in Syria, Yemen and Iraq is a bit more than a serious threat. Although it is possible that in this situation Saudi Arabian authorities will work with Washington, prepared to accept any conditions while continuing to drop oil prices even further. The latter notion seems to be put in play already, since February 1, as the rubble starts to fall again along with prices on black gold.
Viktor Titov, Ph.D in History and political commentator on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.