After Khashoggi, likely limited diplomatic impact for Saudi Arabia

While the “Davos of the desert” is receiving many cancellations at this very hour, Saudi Arabia is at the center of international controversy following the alleged assassination of Saudi journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi in the office of the Saudi consul in Istanbul, Turkey.

The rise in power of Crown Prince Mohammed Ben Salman (MBS) has revived the hope of social modernization and economic transformation of the Saudi Kingdom but this episode may have spoiled it, at least for a while.

Indeed, and considering the diplomatic and financial importance of Saudi Arabia in the foreign and trade policies of its Western counterparts, primarily the United States, one can assess that the international impact of the Khashoggi case will probably be limited in the long run and will have effects inside the country instead.

For two reasons, first of all, the support openly expressed by US President Donald Trump to the Saudi government since the beginning of the crisis, then the message probably received “loud and clear” by Saudi expatriate citizens who might have been tempted to express some disagreement with the new political order in Riyadh.

Finally, given the strategic importance given to Iran’s isolation in US foreign policy, it is unlikely that Washington will profoundly alter its relations with Riyadh regardless of the outcome of the mid-term elections.

Elites must listen to the people, says former French FM Védrine

Former French Foreign Affairs Minister Hubert Védrine, famous for having called and described the late 1990s United States a “hyperpower”, has given a relevant interview to French daily newspaper Les Echos.

A world-class reference in international affairs with a French standpoint, Védrine underlines the need for the elites to listen to the people especially the demand for both more ecology and less immigration.

About China as the next superpower, Védrine considers that much remains to do for China to develop a soft power as big as that of the United States, besides he adds, China may even not seek to become such a superpower on a cultural level.

In the context of a global geopolitical shift from the West to Asia, Hubert Védrine thinks Europe has to become a strategic power if it wants to weigh in 21st century’s international affairs or if will have to depend on the United States, now a more “erratic power” he said.

In the Horn of Africa, the UAE asserts its strategic ambitions

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al Falih, also Chairman of Saudi Aramco, estimates that about USD 1 trillion worth of investments have been canceled or postponed since oil prices dropped in mid-2014 when the barrel was still trading higher than USD 100.

While downward pressure on oil prices could persist according to Saudi sources, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced its commitment to build an oil pipeline linking the port of Assab (Eritrea) to the capital Addis Ababa (Ethiopia).

This information was made public in that same city during a meeting on August 10, 2018 between Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Emirati Minister for International Cooperation Reem Al Hashimy. This meeting followed Ahmed’s state visit in July 2018, during which he met again with Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince and Minister of Defense of Abu Dhabi.

Like the extension of their diplomatic mission in Astana (Kazakhstan), the UAE thus confirms their willingness to play an increased diplomatic role, not only economic, while maximizing their opportunities for international cooperation in Africa in a context of increased competition with Iran and Qatar.

Indeed, Abu Dhabi uses a military base in Assab to conduct operations in Yemen, across the Red Sea. Also, this pipeline linking Eritrea and Ethiopia is part of the dynamic of an agreement signed by the two African nations on July 7, 2018 that “ended the state of war” that lasted since the border conflict (1998-2000).

In this context, it is for Abu Dhabi to help stabilize the Horn of Africa sustainably so as not to favor the settlement of other competitors and to catch profitable opportunities through, for example, the joint exploitation of oil resources located in south-west Ethiopia, a landlocked country of 102.4 million inhabitants with growth potential deemed significant by the Emirati and Saudi business communities.