A new Middle East is upon us and its primary beneficiary couldn’t be happier. In a speech Monday in the Iranian city of Kermanshah, Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Politburo Chief Gen. Yadollah Javani crowed, “Iran’s pivotal role in the New Middle East is undeniable.
Today the Islamic Revolution of the Iranian nation enjoys such a power, honor and respect in the world that all nations and governments wish to have such a ruling system.”
Iran’s leaders have eagerly thrown their newfound weight around. For instance, Iran is challenging Saudi Arabia’s ability to guarantee the stability of global oil markets.
For generations, the stability of global oil supplies has been guaranteed by Saudi Arabia’s reserve capacity that could be relied on to make up for any shocks to those supplies due to political unrest or other factors. When Libya’s teetering dictator Muammar Gaddafi decided to shut down Libya’s oil exports last month, the oil markets reacted with a sharp increase in prices. The very next day the Saudis announced they would make up the shortfall from Libya’s withdrawal from the export market.
In the old Middle East, the Saudi statement would never have been questioned. Oil suppliers and purchasers alike accepted the arrangement whereby Saudi Arabian reserves – defended by the US military – served as the guarantor of the oil economy. But in the New Middle East, Iran feels comfortable questioning the Saudi role.
On Thursday, Iran’s Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi urged Saudi Arabia to refrain from increasing production. Mirkazemi argued that since the OPEC oil cartel has not discussed increasing supplies, Saudi Arabia had no right to increase its oil output.
True, Iran’s veiled threat did not stop Saudi Arabia from increasing its oil production by 500,000 barrels per day. But the fact that Iran feels comfortable telling the Saudis what they can and cannot do with their oil demonstrates the mullocracy’s new sense of empowerment.
And it makes sense. With each passing day, the Iranian regime is actively destabilizing Saudi Arabia’s neighbors and increasing its influence over Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite minority in the kingdom’s Eastern Province where most of its oil is located.
Perhaps moved by the political unrest in Bahrain and Yemen, Saudi regime opponents including Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite minority have stepped up their acts of political opposition. The Saudi royal family has sought to buy off its opponents by showering its subjects with billions of dollars in new subsidies and payoffs. But still the tide of dissent rises.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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