Politics / Foreign Policy
India, the largest power accessible to the Middle East, with a Muslim population outnumbering that of all nations in the Arab world, may play a role in undermining the economic strength of Iran. Republican leaders in the Senate should deliberately foster stronger ties between Israel, moderate Arab countries, and India. Partial Indian backing of new oil and irrigation trans-Arabian pipelines from Egypt to central Oman will signal the Iran government that even if it wins current negotiations, Iran will face severe economic contraction. Fortunately, moderate Arab countries who are either neutral or de facto allies with Israel have good standing with India, as does Israel.
The creation of new trans-Arabian pipelines that bypass territories influenced by ISIS or Iran will benefit all countries through which they travel. Egypt and Israel will have an unobstructed means of trading fuels and other goods to and from Europe and Asia. Jordan will have greater access to fuel and irrigation passing through these trans-Arabian pipelines. Saudi Arabia will have greater ease of transport with regard to global trade of its oil. In addition, desert communities in Saudi Arabia will become more hospitable to growth among its young population. Oman will benefit as well, becoming the choice port for the transport of oil from the GCC to Europe and Asia. With new water and oil trans-Arabian pipelines, countries like Qatar, may stop supporting organizations like Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood if they can benefit from contribution of trade that avoids conflict areas like the Strait of Hormuz.
If oil produced by Saudi Arabia and other members in the GCC remains low in price, it is possible that Iran will be unable to compete, and will diminish economically. For the Iranian economy to profit, oil must sell at over $120 per barrel. Currently, oil costs less than $70 per barrel. The assurance of low Saudi oil prices will be high if speculators learn that trans-Arabian oil and irrigation pipelines are being discussed. Geopolitically, it pays for the price of Saudi oil to stay low, as it entices European markets away from Russian oil. Russia is one of the prime backers of Iran and Syria.
India already has solid relationships with peaceful countries in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is one of India’s largest trading partners. It is estimated that trade between both countries is $40 billion annually. Oil and petrochemicals consist of most of Saudi Arabia’s exports to India. Israel is also one of India’s strategic trading partners, exporting defense, technologies, irrigation and agricultural products. Jordan and India have recently celebrated renewed diplomatic ties. Egypt and India have recently agreed to double trade between both countries. Oman and India are strategic trading partners, as Indians are the largest expatriate group in Oman. In addition, in 2013, joint trade between Oman and India exceeded $5.5 billion. They have also considered building a natural gas pipeline linking both countries.
Israel and moderate Arab nations are entering a new age of stability and strategic diplomacy. For example, Jordan and Israel have been fortifying their alliance through the trade of Israeli natural gas to Jordan. They will also be starting the Red-Dead project, designed to build up the Jordan River, and the Red Sea. In addition, the Red-Dead project will bring greater supply of fresh water to Jordan. This project is peacefully being pursued in waters bordering Saudi Arabia, in the Gulf of Aqaba. Currently Israel also trades natural gas with Egypt and is one of their most important intelligence sharing partners with regard to counter terrorism.
Although a boycott exists regarding trade between Israel and the GCC, it is suspected that annual trade between both is approximately $500 million dollars per year. In addition, certain elements with regard to the Arab boycott of Israeli products are becoming less enforced. Israel even has a “virtual embassy” online with other countries in the Middle East. However, Iran is also a major strategic trading partner with India. Eventually India will have to make a choice whether to side with Israel and the Arab world, or Iran, who also happens to be one of their largest trading partners. Perhaps opportunities that new trans-Arabian pipelines present will entice India to invest more in Israel and its moderate Arab neighbors. It is incumbent that Republican leaders in the Senate make this a reality.