My family does business in The Middle East.
We have an economic interest in that part of the world. No ideological interests, just economic ones.
I work hard at trying to understand what’s taking place with Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Israel, and Palestine.
Here are ten points I think my family needs to know in order to make good business decisions. As usual I give the benefit of the doubt to the positive side of things. But that’s what you have to do in business, especially entrepreneurial ventures, where risk taking eventually pays off if you stick with it.
1. All the countries I mentioned (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Israel and Palestine) are no more than 2 hours from one another by plane. It’s like going from Salt Lake City to San Diego at the furthest point, and Salt Lake City to Las Vegas at the shortest point. It’s ideal for business. (Iran to Israel would take a little longer.)
2. Syria: There is a civil war taking place in Syria. Shia Muslims control the government. They are a minority in the country; nevertheless they have controlled the government for over forty years. The rebels are Sunni Muslims. They represent the majority of the population. So it’s Shia Islam versus Sunni Islam in this civil war. (That’s a simplification, but sometimes you have to simplify things if you are going to have any chance at understanding a situation.)
Shia and Sunni are different brands of Islam. It’s like the difference between Catholics and Protestants.
3. Saudi Arabia: This country is a Sunni Islamic nation. They want the Sunni Muslim rebels to overthrow the Shia led Syrian government. Again it’s Shia versus Sunni.
4. Iran: Iran wants the Shia led government of Syria to stay in power. Iran is Shia Muslim nation. Again it is Shia versus Sunni.
5. Saudi Arabia (Sunni) wants America to come in and knock off the Syrian government (Shia). America is an ally of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia ships vast amounts of oil to America. America does not want to go into Syria, because America is quickly becoming less dependent on Saudi Arabia for oil. America has been working with Russia to stop the fighting in Syria, and keep the present governing body in place. This makes Saudi Arabia (Sunni) mad. It makes Iran (Shia) happy.
Russia’s interest in all this is geographic. Russia’s southern border is bounded by Islamic nations. They want peace on their southern border.
6. Saudi Arabia thinks America is going soft on them. As a result Saudi Arabia is looking for new relationships. Israel is a possibility. Israel is right next door to Syria. Saudi Arabia and Israel are enemies, but both have a greater enemy in Syria. It’s like the old saying: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
7. Israel is looking for a peaceful settlement with Palestine. Palestinians are Sunni Muslims like Saudi Arabia. However, Iran (Shia) supports terrorists, like Hezbollah, who are trying to overthrow Israel.
8. America is starting to renew its relationship with Iran, who supports the Syrian government and the terrorists who want to destroy Israel. So, Iran is happy that America is calming Syria down with the help of Russia. For that and other reasons, Iran may stop supporting terrorists, and halt its development of nuclear WEAPONS.
9. Saudi Arabia and Israel believe Iran won’t do these things. However, America’s military leadership believes that Iran’s military acts rationally, so believes America’s efforts to work with Iran has a chance of working.
10. America is taking a risk in the Middle East. If things work out, the following may occur. Syria will peacefully turn its government over to a more representative form of government. Russia will help in this effort.
Saudi Arabia will draw closer to Israel. Iran will limit its nuclear development, and withdraw its support of terrorist groups like Hezbollah. Iran will become a strong economic power in the region. America will continue to withdraw its military from The Middle East.
I like this possible scenario. Too much blood has been spilled in The Middle East. It’s time to rethink a new direction. It looks like this may be taking place.
If it all works out, our family’s business interest will stay in The Middle East, and expand into countries we have not been able to get into, like Iran. We would be foolish not to support these efforts at peace and stabilization.
Again, for us, it’s not about ideology, it’s about becoming friends with the people of The Middle East, and continuing to compete for their business in a free and open market place.
In one capacity or another I’ve been in and out of The Middle East for close to twenty years. My son has been in and out of there for about ten years. Our investment in business started about six to seven years ago. We are not a Johnny-come-lately when it comes to The Middle East. We know that when you invest your hard earned cash in a new business, and you make a good product, and you work to improve year after year, eventually your time will come. People will trust you. Business deals will be made with a hand shake, and you will work very hard at making sure you over deliver on your promises. When you do these things, it pays off, usually in ways that you can’t anticipate in the present.