Oil’s strategic significance

2 April 2012 05:58 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The focus of her meeting with the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, the Custodian of the Two Holy Shrines, has been strategic security. Not only security in terms of regional threats and violence stemming from political instability but that of oil. As major economies around the world continue to struggle with the residual — and at times resurgent effects of the economic recession, preventing a further rise in oil prices is a top priority. The wave of political change that had swept the Middle East and North Africa region and even the Gulf has witnessed unprecedented political changes in the past year. These upheavals have naturally affected the output and pricing of oil. Compounding this has been the other recent US sanctions on the Iranian energy sector, leading to a sharp rise in oil prices since the start of this year. Fearing that further sanctions may imperil the oil output and consequently the prices, if Saudi Arabia — the world’s top oil exporter— moves to balance the deficit created by curbs on Iranian oil export, Clinton’s meeting with the top Saudi leadership was to seek assurance of preventing such a scenario.
Though regional security and missile defence in the Gulf were also under discussion it might be safe to presume that the gist of the meeting focused on maintaining stability in the world oil market. How this meeting may bear on changing US strategy towards dealing with Syria remains to be seen. Clinton’s meetings with other regional ministers prior to the ‘Friends of Syria’ meeting in Istanbul is likely to reveal any changes in perception and also in devising a change in strategy. Saudi Arabia along with Qatar has openly called for arming the Syrian opposition forces and also for regional military intervention, after repeated diplomatic failures to stop President Bashar Al Assad from using force against civilians. The patience of the international community seems to have boiled over as Assad has recently been issued a last warning by UN envoy Kofi Annan to implement the six-point peace plan immediately by being the first to halt his forces. It is unlikely that the Syrian leader does that now and that only means one thing — a change of course that even Syrian allies like Russia and China may have to support, given how Assad has refused to heed all counsel. This is something Clinton, on her way from Riyadh will have to review with other regional states in Istanbul.
Khaleej Times
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