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The Salman Principle

Weeks ago I wrote an article entitled "Each era has its state, its men and its foreign policy". Today, and in the aftermath of the "Storm of Decisiveness", time will prove to be more generous given us more than just that. It is the "Salman Principle". To tell the truth, the word "principle" does not explain the notion in full. The origin of this word is the English word "Doctrine", which means "a policy based on moral principles and commitments". The most prominent "principle" that acquired fame in the modern age has been "the Eisenhower Doctrine". He was the only US President who served the Arabs with justice when he "ordered" the Israelis, the British and the French to withdraw from Egypt following the tripartite aggression in 1956. However, his doctrine was famous even before then. It was built upon a U.S. Commitment to side by any country that is endangered or threatened by another country and to provide it with financial and military aid.

So, what the "Salman Principle"? The concept may be elucidated by the statement issued by the five Gulf states that jointly founded the coalition of "the storm of decisiveness". It is a response to the Yemeni President who outlined, in a letter addressing the leaders of the Gulf, the deteriorating situation in his country and the assaults of the Houthi militias with foreign support on state institutions and individuals and the attempts by the Houthis to impose their opinion on the Yemeni people through the use of force and intimidation. So, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) responded with a promise to "deter the aggression" and to restore security by means of a political process. So many have been the Arab states and peoples that are today subjected to aggression, either by hegemonic dictatorial or authoritarian and sectarian regimes or by extra or intra legitimacy groups and gangs that impose their agenda on others with the use of intimidation and violence. But can any regional power, no matter who strong it happens to be within its own sphere, implement such a principle in isolation from the super powers and specifically away from the United States of America? This is exactly what King Salman bin Abd Al-Aziz who established a new rule in international relations. This is what veteran American Senator John Mccain alerted to when he stated last Thursday, just hours after the launch of the "Storm of Decisiveness" that "the Arab states no longer trust the United States and therefore planned this coalition on their own." He added that a coalition of this kind has not occurred for decades.

So, this is an action that sets the foundation for a new reality created by King Salman. How did this happen and can it continue? I believe that the first step was taken when the Saudi Monarch decided that his country could not bear any more the provocative Iranian expansionist policy in the region nor the US silence toward it. It no longer matters for Saudi Arabia whether this silence is a temporary weakness by a president whose term will be over in two years time or a conspiracy or a major deal over which President Barak Obama is bargaining or negotiating with the Iranians in relation to their nuclear project. It would seem that the Saudi Monarch has decided that Saudi interest "comes first" and that if Saudi Arabia is forced to act alone so be it. Certainly, it would have preferred the old tried prescription of entering into a coalition with its old ally. But it just could not link the fate of the homeland to such an alliance even if it had first to proceed with forming a coalition of its brothers and friends in the Arab and Islamic worlds. Someone must have informed the US President (and it is reported that this was the deputy crown prince and interior minister Muhammad bin Nayif) that Saudi Arabia was going to launch a military operation in Yemen "with you or without you" and told him about the names of the countries that were already allied with the Kingdom.

Perhaps the Americans wavered and asked for time to consider. They probably thought the Saudis were merely testing their resolve and pressuring them. However, when they so "the decisiveness" they agreed to cooperate although without actual participation. Obama promised to provide intelligence and logistical support.

What do we benefit in the days to come?

The first benefit is that the strong states within the region, such as Saudi Arabia, can lead and can change history, at least its own history. The second benefit is that when the United States sees the "decisiveness" it will respond and follow the regional leader so long as he is an independent leader enjoying popular support, legitimacy, firmness and insistence on proceeding with he wants especially when the action is morally agreed upon.

There is also a third benefit. The allies who try to escape at times of relaxation and wavering, or who may by moody and hesitant, who may go it alone in their policy making, thus undermining what has been accomplished and cast confusion on what is being planned, may, upon seeing decisiveness exhibited by the leader, make up their mind, defeat their moodiness and proceed along, willingly or otherwise, the plan devised by the leader. In this way they do themselves before others a great service.

Today, as the Operation "Storm of Decisiveness" enters its third day, someone must be out there observing. As has already been said, what is going on is the setting of a new rule in the science of "crisis resolution". In case this succeeds, other regional powers may be encouraged to try it elsewhere.

The Syrians did this as soon as the operations began. It seemed to them that a clear parallel existed between their own case and the Yemeni case. They wished to see some of the winds of the "storm of decisive" blow against their own president and his regime, both of which have already lost their legitimacy according to the designation of more than one state. The same applies to the Turks, the upcoming partner of the Saudis in the process of "crisis resolution" away from the United States of America. Last Thursday I met in Ankara with Ibrahim Kolin, the advisor to the president, who told me that "there is some resemblance as well as some difference between Syria and Yemen. But the problems are the same, the circumstances are the same and the foes are the same. So, the Saudi operation may be repeated here too and we must think about this."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdocan has expressed many times his desire to impose a no fly zone and then a safe haven in northern Syria. He even proposed his idea to King Salman during their recent summit meeting and was met with full support from him. Yet, what is predominant is that accomplishing this desire will not be without the consent of the United States of America. Now, should the Operation "Storm of decisiveness" succeed, this rule may just turn up side down and the US stipulation may just be negated. Then, Erdogan may say: if the Saudis have done why can't I do like they did?

Let's see, wait and watch. Just as Erdogan supported Saudi Arabia in its operation in Yemen, Saudi Arabia will certainly support him if he decided to adopt the "Salman Principle".

Translated from AlHayat newspaper, 28 March, 2015

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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