The American Kafir

2011/03/11

George Friedman on The Persian Gulf

Filed under: Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Libya, National Security, Protests, Saudi Arabia, Shi'ite, Sunni — Tags: , , — - @ 5:49 pm

Source Link: Stratfor

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STRATFOR CEO George Friedman says the world’s focus should be on the Persian Gulf, not Libya. The latest signs of unrest in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain point to a potentially serious crisis.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Colin: While Europe and NATO appear tremulous and uncertain, the chances of global intervention in Libya seem unlikely. But why is the media focused on Gadhafi when real trouble is brewing in the Persian Gulf?

Welcome to Agenda with George Friedman. George, NATO has met, the EU has met, Obama has spoken, but it seems that in Libya at least the chances of intervention are close to zero. Until at least there is a humanitarian crisis and that looks like being Europe’s problem.

George: Well, certainly Europe has a deeper interest in Libya than the United States does and I think the United States really does not want to lead the intervention into Libya and then find themselves criticized by the Europeans. I mean one thing you have to understand, when you intervene in a violent situation, your soldiers will make mistakes and innocent people will be killed. And an intervention that stops the violence is simply a fantasy. So if you go in on the ground, even if you go in in the air, you’re going to wind up in a situation where people will be killed, they will be killed by your troops and some of the people that will be killed will not be the enemy — will be people who are innocent bystanders and so on. And I think the American position is pretty much let the Europeans carry the burden on this, and the Europeans of course might not have the means really, nor the appetite for it, so everybody will stand by.

Colin: And, of course, the Europeans have got the refugee problem. The media is preoccupied with Libya and Gadhafi, but this is not the only trouble spot. In many ways, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia might be more significant.

George: Well, I mean, what’s really happened here is that Libya has the foreign correspondence and CNN covering it. And so this has become the spot, but far more significant is the Persian Gulf where Bahrain has been in a standstill crisis, if you will — a country with a majority Shiite population facing a Sunni government. And now we hear reports that gunfire has broken out in eastern Saudi Arabia with Saudi Arabian forces firing on Shiite demonstrators there too. So now we’re talking about problems all up and down the west bank of the Persian Gulf. It is turning into something that appears to be Shiite versus Sunni — very different from the issues that are being raised in North Africa. And clearly this involves the rivalry between the two main players in the region which is the Iranians, who will undoubtedly support the Shiites, and the Saudis, who are terrified of rising Shiite power backed by the Iranians.

Colin: Now, the Persian Gulf is an area America really does have to worry about.

George: The Iranians have rising influence in Iraq and what is going on in the Persian Gulf, if not directly tied to what’s happening in Iraq, certainly supports that. It’s interesting that countries like Oman, Qatar, Kuwait — all of which have American facilities — have had all of these instabilities, if you will, arise. Now Saudi Arabia as well. We are looking at a serious crisis and, compared to the stakes of the Persian Gulf — from the oil market to the strategic significance — Libya is really a side game. And one of the things that really I think the United States is concerned about is that, while publicly they are going to have to address the question of Moammar Gadhafi killing his own citizens, as if somehow anyone ever thought that Moammar Gadhafi was anything but a thug for the past many years and decades. We have a real problem which could change the balance of power in the Persian Gulf and in some ways globally. And the gunfire that we’ve seen in Saudi Arabia I think is extremely significant — we don’t know how it will play out — but right now it is certainly far more troublesome that anything happening in Libya.

Colin: What kind of contingency planning will now be going on in the Pentagon?

George: Well I mean the problem is what kind of forces are available to plan with. The United States obviously has its Air Force, it also has the Navy, but its ability to influence events on the western literal of the Persian Gulf is limited. Certainly the United States is not in a position to intervene on the ground and any intervention on the ground will probably be counterproductive. So I suspect most of the planning that’s going on is to make certain that the Straits of Hormuz remain opened and hope that nothing happens in those countries that are oil exporters to disrupt the oil markets because the effect that will have the world economy and the recovery from 2008.

Colin: But, should that happen, the United States has its troops tied down elsewhere, it’s got its Navy and Air Force of course, but the Europeans probably will not do anything, so it will be a real mess.

George: It is an enormous mess but I am certain that the Europeans will pass a strong resolution and hold a press conference. I mean it is really interesting to watch the Europeans deal with the Libyan crisis not because it’s a crucial crisis but because I mean here is a case where the Europeans, who always talk about soft power, are facing a situation where soft power really isn’t going to work, and now have to face the question of their collective responsibility for a country like Libya that is clearly within the area of responsibility of European powers, and where the United States will play a supporting role, if any.

So the countries like France, Germany and Italy bear the primary responsibility in this area. They are the major, particularly Italy is the major investor there and have maintained relations so it will be interesting to see how the Europeans come out in their self-conception after this crisis because here is a case where clearly the European responsibility is primary, clearly the Europeans cannot agree a common course. I think this is another blow from the NATO side to the blow that has been struck in 2008 by the financial crisis on the EU side. European institutions are under tremendous strain. But all of that is subsidiary ultimately to the question of whether oil gets out of the Straits of Hormuz, which certainly is not in danger yet at this point but is always dangerous when crises occur when major oil supplies are involved.

Colin: George, I’ll watch out for those Brussels press conferences. George Friedman there ending this week’s Agenda. Join us again next time.

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