Tit For Tat: Iran Funds Cuba, US Funds Saudi Arabia

Posted 11:04 PM by JP in Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,
Questions about the viability of Cuba's economy have also led to questions about the reliability of their economic statistics:
Officially—that is, according to the Cuban government statistics on which international bean counters rely—the Cuban economy has done relatively well. GDP rose in both 2008 and 2009, compared with U.S. contraction over the same period. The only European Union economy to fare better than Cuba last year was Poland, if you believe the government's numbers.

However, as the Slate article points out, these numbers might not to be too far off, partially due to all the Iranian investment Cuba has received  in recent years:
Cuba and Iran have pursued bilateral relations for some time, beginning in 2005 with a transportation investment program to aid Cuba’s failing transportation sector.  As part of this investment program, Iran sold 750 railway cars to Cuba in January 2008 under a $295 million loan to Cuba to finance imports from Iran.  In February 2008, Cuba and Iran inked their first agreement facilitating scientific and technological cooperation which focused on the biotechnology fields of medical and pharmaceutical development.  In June 2008, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding reiterating their bilateral economic cooperation. 
Due in large part to the state-led economic cooperation agreements, trade between Cuba and Iran increased from $22.9 million in 2007 to $46.4 in 2008.  In September 2009, Cuba put into effect a bilateral trade agreement signed by Cuba and Iran in 2007.  The accord planned to increase trade between the two countries by decreasing tariffs on Iranian goods imported into Cuba by between 10 and 30 percent on 88 different products including textiles, industrial machinery and furniture.

On the other hand, this Cuban-Iranian economic cooperation pales in comparison to the $60 billion of weaponry the Obama administration wants to sell to Saudi Arabia.
The proposed Saudi sale, however, is weighted heavily toward strike aircraft (F-15s configured for ground attack) and anti-tank attack helicopters." What are these for? Not to defend against Iraq, as they might have been "during the Saddam Hussein years." Nor would it make sense for the Saudis to be "contemplating the invasion of Iran, even as a counter to an Iranian attack. Numbers and terrain are decisively arrayed against that as well." He thinks, instead, they're "arming as a regional rival to Iran--not for the defense of its own territory but as the leader of an Arab coalition, formed to gain ascendancy over Iran as the power broker in the Levant.

On the surface, the "you back-up my enemy in my backyard, I'll back-up your enemy in your backyard" logic makes sense. But then there's the Saud family succession politics to factor in...
Abdullah could be replaced by his designated successor and half-brother Crown Prince Sultan, who is also in his 80s and ill, and then by Prince Nayef, the most rigid and anti-Western of the heirs to Ibn Sa’ud, founder of the modern Saudi state. 
Nayef, who is in his late 70s, is the protector of the Wahhabi clerics and was the first Saudi leader to declare that 9/11 was a Zionist conspiracy.  In such hands, American-provided arms could, by the law of unintended consequences, end up turned in a more dangerous direction. 
The long-term regional consequences of a well-armed Saudi Arabia in region depend entirely of the mood of the rulers (and if the House of Saud doesn't get overthrown), so a regime unfriendly to Israel and the United States would complicate both country's interests, and make regional politics messy.

After all, a bolstered Saudi Arabian military will continue to fuel tensions with other Muslim states vying for regional power. And there are plenty of existing divides in the Muslim world.

Clearly, the US-Saudi deal will have huge consequences in the region if it actually goes through. But the future impact of economic relations between Iran and Cuba? That depends on who takes over after the Castro brothers and what they believe.

So really, you could say that the future world geopolitical alignment depends on when a bunch of powerful 80-something-year-old men die, and who the replacements are.

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