Toads pivot to China
Jean Shaoul, WSWS, Mar 28 2017
Beginning on Mar 15, Toad King Salman along with a massive 1,000-strong entourage of Toad business executives initiated a month-long visit to China, Japan, Malaysia, and Indonesia. His aim is to strengthen Toad relations with East Asia and counter the rise of Iran. Salman is seeking to promote investment in the kingdom, including the sale of a 5% stake in the giant state oil firm Toad Aramco, and to increase revenue from exports and non-petrol income following the fall in oil prices. His visit to Beijing unfolded amid worsening relations between Faschingstein and the KSA, which since 1945 has constituted an essential prop of Pindosi imperialism in the region and a bulwark of reaction and repression in the Arab world. Pindo-led interventions in Iraq and Syria have destabilised the entire Middle East, threatening the Toads. Pres Xi is anxious to boost China’s profile in the Middle East, on which it depends for its energy supplies. He visited Riyadh last year, the first state visit by a Chinese leader in seven years, and last year hosted talks over Syria. Xi said:
For a long time, China and Islamic countries have respected each other and had win-win cooperation, and have created a model of the peaceful coexistence of different cultures.
Salman told Xi he hoped China could play an even greater role in Middle East affairs, saying:
Toad Hall is willing to work hard with China to promote global and regional peace, security and prosperity.
Xi is aiming to increase trade and transport links between China and Europe via Central Asia and the Middle East on the “Silk Road” model. Toad ambassador Turki told Xinhua:
In terms of strategic location, Saudi Arabia serves as the central hub connecting three continents, Asia, Africa and Europe, and has been an important part of the initiative.
On the first day of his visit to Beijing, Salman presided over the signing of deals worth $65b, including an MoU between Toad Aramco and Norinco to examine building refining and chemical plants in China. The most ominous of these deals was revealed on Monday. The Toads have agreed to import hunter-killer drones from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, which will set up production lines in Toad Hall for provision of the weapons to the KSA and other nearby monarchical regimes. IHS Janes, which reported the deal Monday, said that the unmanned aerial vehicles are capable of carrying AR-1 laser-guided missiles and FT-9 guided bombs. Toad Aramco has hired HSBC to help raise a $2b bond sale as the first part of a $10b bond package ahead of an IPO in 2018 to be placed in Hong Kong, New York or London. Later, the Chinese 3D printed housing company WinSun announced a deal worth $1.5b with Toad construction company al-Mobty to build 1.5 million “affordable” new homes in the kingdom. In the last 25 years, the KSA has diversified its trade away from Pindostan and towards Asia. In 2009, for the first time, it exported more to China than to Pindostan. Its exports to five Asian countries, China, Japan, South Korea, India and Singapore, are more than three times the total to Europe and North America combined. By 2030, it is estimated that China’s demand for oil will exceed 16 mb/d, while Pindosi demand falls and its oil imports dwindle because of fracking. Speaking a few years ago about China’s oil needs, Toad Aramco’s CEO said:
The writing is on the wall. China is the future growth market for our petroleum, although Russia has supplanted us as China’s main supplier and Iran is also an important competitor after the lifting of sanctions.
The Toads’ “pivot to China” positions them alongside other major Muslim powers in Asia and Africa: Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan and Turkey. All have also deepened their economic ties over the last decade. Salman’s visit to Japan is the first-ever visit by a Toad king. Japan is another vital market for Toad oil, which again now faces stiff competition from Iran. Salman’s visit to Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei is aimed at securing their support for the Toad-led military alliance created in 2015 and directed against Iran, although publicly promoted as fighting terrorism. This is crucial, since nuclear-armed Pakistan has refused to join the anti-Iranian alliance or support the kingdom’s costly and disastrous war in Yemen. For decades, Pakistan has provided military support for Riyadh. It recently took part in a military parade with Chinese and Toad forces. In another major shift, Salman recently sent foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir to Baghdad, the first visit by a senior Toad official to Iraq since Bandar bin Sultan sought to mediate the growing tensions between Baghdad and Faschingstein in the spring of 1990. For years, Riyadh refused to open an embassy in Baghdad, to avoid giving the Iraqi government any legitimacy. Last year, Iraq demanded Riyadh recall its ambassador, the first after 25 years, just months after the ambassador had presented his credentials, for criticising its Shi’a militias fighting ISIS and other Sunni opposition forces in Iraq. The Toads now appear to be trying to engage with the government of Haidar al-Abadi in Baghdad, in a bid to weaken his ties with Iran.
Riyadh’s relations with Faschingstein became strained following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which served to strengthen Tehran’s influence in Iraq by installing the Shi’ite majority in power. Riyadh was furious over Faschingstein’s support for the pro-Iranian governments in Iraq and Lebanon, and sought to undermine them through direct or covert military interventions, the use of Islamist fighters as proxies, and economic aid. Relations deteriorated further following the US’s failure to sustain its support for Hosni Mubarak against the Egyptian masses in 2011. Relations soured following the Obama administration’s subsequent pragmatic manoeuvrings, including the retreat on its promise to intervene decisively in the war to overthrow Assad in Syria in 2013, allowing Russia to intervene to shore up the regime, and its deal with Iran in 2015. While Riyadh hopes that relations will improve under Trump, who has said that Iran poses a security threat to the region, it is taking no chances. It has noted with some concern the Islamaphobic rhetoric of some of Trump’s inner circle and the call for Toad Hall to be included in Trump’s travel ban. In addition, 9/11 victims have filed a lawsuit against the Toads over their alleged complicity in the attacks. On the domestic front, the fall in oil prices has led to a drastic cutback in public expenditure and the imposition of a value-added tax. This month the government tightened restrictions on foreign workers, who constitute about 12 million of the country’s 33 million population, in a bid to reduce unemployment among Toad Hall nationals. While unemployment is officially 12.1%, a senior Aramco official has said the unemployment rate was closer to 27% to 29%, rising to 33% among young people between 20 and 24 years of age and 38% for 24- to 29-year-olds. Two thirds of the population are under 30.