• Saudi-Iran strife may hurt OFWs

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    IT’s good news that most experts don’t think Iran and Saudi Arabia will go to war in a big way against each other. They will just carry out proxy wars–hurt each other by hitting at third countries that are close to the other or facilities in a third country that are important to the other.

    This means the damage to the government’s policy to export Philippine labor would not be too great. And even more important the suffering of our OFWs in the Middle East, especially the 1.5 to 2 million who are in Saudi Arabia and the other Arab countries, will not be too widespread.

    Nevertheless, the laggard Aquino Administration must for once be on its toes and alert to the possibility of having to implement prompt and effective evacuation programs at a moment’s notice.

    What oil importing countries are worried about is the spike in oil prices as a result of the Iran-Saudi conflict. That would really slow down the already low-speed global economic recovery resulting from Europe being not as fully recovered as the United States.

    But Japanese experts do not see such an oil price spike happening because of the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

    It’s something for us Filipinos to be thankful to God for that the US, and both China and Japan, which are our most important trading and investment partners are not seriously affected by the Iran-Saudi strife.

    China approach
    China is of course worried about the tensions between the two countries. To help ease the tension, the People’s Republic has sent Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming to both Riyadh and Tehran “for an exchange of views on the regional situation,” per Hua Chunying, PRC foreign ministry spokesman, who also said Beijing was also talking to other countries in the hope of easing up the Middle East situation.

    China has strong ties with both Iran and Saudi Arabia. This is quite an achievement considering the two countries’ hostility toward each other for the past 35 years. Both Riyadh and Tehran are founding members of the recently organized China initiative–the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Both Iran and the Saudi Kingdom have moved to expand and deepen relations with China but for opposite reasons. Iran wants to be allied with a great power that is challenging the mighty US superpower. The KSA wants to use China to reduce dependence on its ally and protector, America.

    Like most countries, China sees both Iran and Saudi Arabia as politically and economically very important and influential countries in the Middle East. So, like the Philippines, China wishes to see its friendly and cooperative relations with both Riyadh and Tehran and would not like to be seen as favoring either country.

    Japan’s approach
    More important as an investor, aid-source and importer of Philippine products than China, Japan is only minimally affected by the KSA-Iran conflict.

    Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, after having a telephone conference with his US counterpart Secretary of State John Kerry, told reporters of the two countries’ concern about the effect on the stability of the Middle East and world situation.

    Japan has deep ties with both Iran and Saudi Arabia. Japan buys more than 30 percent of its oil from the Saudis and 10 percent from Iran before the UN imposed sanctions on Iran because of its suspected nuclear arms building program.

    Iran is known to have no animosity toward Japan.

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