Apparently, Riyadh’s Middle East policy is undergoing certain changes. According to some U.S. media outlets, the government of Saudi Arabia has allegedly offered Russia to cut the oil production – something to lead inevitably to higher prices on the international markets. In exchange, Riyadh proposed that Russia stopped buttressing Syrian President Bashar Assad or at least to assume a neutral posture.
Certainly, plummeting oil prices hit hard the Saudi Arabia as well. However, make no mistake, if compared to other nations, this country can less painfully weather the current crisis owing to enormous hydrocarbon resources and accumulated wealth. Besides, the Saudi Arabia boasts over $ 700 billion worth of low-risk assets held internationally. Therefore, this country can easily survive the low oil prices for several years. The Riyadh’s representatives had in the past, made different lucrative economic proposition to Russia, seeking certain concessions on some of the regional issues. However, the current offer, if actually made, comes at a time of falling oil prices that makes it more tangible.
At first, it seemed that the Ukrainian problem had overshadowed the Syrian crisis. Yet, the ongoing events in this country of the Middle East have not only failed to cast aside the “issue of Syria” but also made it more complicated and contentious. The attacks by the radical Islamists in the border province of Syria have become more sophisticated. It is no secret that the “Islamic State” (IS) has managed to unify a significant part of the fighters combatting against B. Assad and throw them at a regime in Baghdad.
In the aftermath of military clashes, the IS now controls substantial parts of the Eastern Syria and the Western provinces of Iraq. We all know that in response, the U.S. has forged an international coalition, made up of the Western nations and the Gulf monarchies. The most notably, Iran stands at the forefront of the fight against the IS and extends considerable assistance to the political regime in Iraq. Nevertheless, that was an insufficient premise for the recognition of legitimacy of the official Damascus. When it comes to Assad, he has no intention of resigning. In one of his recent interviews he stated that the real threat in Syria stems from the IS and the groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda, and that they made up the core of the opposition fighters.
The international experts are convinced that even if Russia abandoned Assad, he would still have his main patron – Iran at his side. It was Tehran’s backing that helped Assad to endure, while the heads of other Middle Eastern nations were ousted during the so-called Arab Spring.
In the late January, Moscow succeeded in convening the conference where the most moderate figures in the opposition to Assad were put at the same table with the representatives of the Syrian government. That conference recognized Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and rejected foreign interference into the conflict. The most prominent and the most intransigent opponents of Assad, however, represented by the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and the Syrian National Council, eschewed the meeting.
Evidently, the sanctions could not but affect the Russia’s economic-financial state. Aware of that, the West actively uses this to secure concession on the Ukraine issue. With over $ 700 billion in the foreign banks, it is much more convenient for Riyadh to manipulate the prices for “black gold”.
Another obvious point is that as far as Russia is concerned, the crisis in Syria had indeed lost its relevance versus the one in Ukraine, unfolding on its immediate borders. However, it would be unreal to hope that Russia would agree to Riyadh’s offers and give up supporting Assad. Regardless of how appealing those propositions may sound, if they were in fact made, Russia is unlikely to abandon Assad after M. Gaddafi’s physical elimination, disintegration of Libya as state, and the aftermath of the recent events in the Middle East.