Faisal Al Yafai writes: When one of the most powerful militaries in the Middle East holds the largest military exercise in its history, the region and allies would be wise to look beyond the explosions and manoeuvres at the political intent.
Last week’s “Abdullah Sword” military exercises in the north-east of Saudi Arabia brought together 130,000 troops, as well as military jets, helicopters and ships. With the notable exception of Qatar, all the GCC countries were there to observe the exercises, as well as the head of Pakistan’s army.
On the surface, the exercises were timed to coincide with the ninth anniversary of the accession of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. But military movements of this order send messages. But to whom?
The obvious answer is Iran, Saudi’s great regional rival, or one of the three states that the Saudis are most concerned about – Syria, Iraq or Yemen. And it will not have escaped Tehran’s notice that the CSS-2 ballistic missiles that Riyadh paraded for the first time last week can easily reach any part of Iran.
Certainly, a message of strength was being telegraphed to the region. But there was also another one, over the heads of the region, to the United States: if you leave, the region can defend itself. [Continue reading…]