Saudi Arabia, Egypt and China?

Saudi Arabia will probably start trying to get China on side. The Saudis are exasperated with the US and can’t be certain what Washington’s guarantees still really mean anything with the US projected to become a net oil and gas exporter soon. The US not interfering with the fall of Mubarak was seen as a terrible let down. The choice for the Brotherhood, the only real popular competitor to the Al-Saud dominated Sunni doctrines, was seen as a bit of a betrayal. The cold shoulder towards the Egyptian military now and the abyss between the narratives of who in Egypt are the bad guys reinforces the alienation. Even Israel looks like a more realist ally than Obama’s White House.

But with Washington sitting on its hands while 100,000 people die in Syria, the other Arabs can safely assume that the west lacks means and will to engage. The Saudis have red lines, the Israelis have red lines, the Turks, Syrians, Iranians and Egyptians do too. Whomever doesn’t observe them is faltering, and so the whole security arrangement once powered by western alliances is falling apart as Obama proclaims but fails his red lines and the rest falls apart into increasingly antagonistic alliances.

Someone in Syria decided to put Washington to the test today and targeted hundreds of civilians with chemical weapons. Washington claims it won’t interfere because the rebels won’t align behind Washington. That was never the issue when the chemical weapons red line was first mentioned exactly a year ago: a red line is a red line unconditionally. It isn’t contingent upon having any party in the conflict on your side. So what is Obama going to do now, up the rhetoric level to red: severe risks of verbal attacks?