Individually, each step is a small step barely picked up by the news. But in recent weeks, the world has been vibrating with multipolarity.
Iran is a regional power that pursues a foreign policy that defies US hegemony and refuses to get in line with the unipolar world. Punishing that defiance is key to the US strategy to maintaining hegemony in the region. Key to that strategy is a coalition of states who oppose Iran. And the key to that coalition is Saudi Arabia.
They took a further step back from that coalition when they demurred to the US invitation to join the anti-Iran Abraham Accords. In June, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Saudi Arabia for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that would include a focus on normalizing Saudi-Israeli relations and the accompanying opposition to Iran. At a press conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Blinken stressed the US intent to forge Saudi-Israel normalization against Iran. But, when questioned by a reporter, the Saudi Foreign Minister contradicted Blinken, saying instead that "without finding a pathway to peace for the Palestinian people, without addressing that challenge, any normalization will have limited benefits."
Saudi Arabia has recently made a number of other moves that bring them closer to Iran, China and a multipolar world. On June 3, the surprising announcement was made that Saudi Arabia and Iran along with United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, India, and Pakistan would form a joint naval alliance. The alliance reflects a realization that "the security of the region can be established through synergy and cooperation of the regional states."
A week later, at an Arab-China business summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia signed a $10 billion investment deal with China. Saudi-Chinese trade has grown by a third and is now nearly double Saudi-US trade.
On March 29, the Saudi cabinet approved the decision to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a dialogue partner. The SCO is a massive Russian and Chinese led international organization whose goal is to balance US hegemony and foster a more inclusive multipolar world. Saudi Arabia will, once again, join Iran who, in another major multipolar move, at the SCO summit on July 4 became a full member of the SCO.
Though the SCO is the second largest international organization in the world after only the United Nations, the 2023 summit barely made the news. After being wood by the White House, where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made no moves to join the US in opposing Russia in the war in Ukraine or to increases cooperation with the US in countering China, Modi joined China and Russia at the SCO where, along with the other nations attending virtually, they pledged to seek closer ties and oppose US Cold War style blocs.
In an important and powerful trend in opposing the US led unipolar world, Xi and Putin both continued the push by the SCO and the other major multipolar organization, BRICS, to switch to settling foreign trade in local currencies, circumventing the US dollar and its unipolar power to sanction competitors.
And while Saudi Arabia was staying out of anti-Iran coalitions and Israel relationship normalizing agreements until the Palestinian issue was addressed, China was addressing it. US brokered peace talks stalled long ago. As Haaretz noted, the US has recently been absent. A senior Palestinian official told Haaretz that China has been supportive but has not played an active role in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, letting the US take the lead. But the US has not been taking the lead, and Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, having recently failed to secure a meeting with US officials on the sidelines of last year’s UN General Assembly meeting, turned to China.
Two months after Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang announced that China was ready to follow up the Saudi-Iran negotiations with Israel-Palestine negotiations, XI told Abbas that China is willing to facilitate peace talks between Palestine and Israel.
XI and Abbas also announced that China and the Palestinian Authority has signed a strategic partnership and several bilateral cooperation documents. China and Israel also have a partnership, the China-Israel innovative comprehensive partnership, and China is now Israel’s second largest trade partner.
And across the globe, small steps toward multipolarity were also being made in Latin America. For the first time in years, a summit of South American presidents was held, hosted by Brazil, who, along with Russia, China, India and South Africa, is a member of BRICS. Brazilian President Lula da Silva defied US hegemony in the region by inviting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. The US is attempting to sanction and isolate Venezuela for its defiance of US hegemony in Latin America.
Lula called the visit "the beginning of Maduro’s return" and criticized the Biden administration’s narrative of democracy versus autocracy by saying that the US had "constructed [the] narrative of authoritarianism" it used to describe Venezuela.
The summit of South American presidents had the declared multipolar goal of moving on the agenda of regional integration. The Brasilia Consensus, which was signed by all twelve countries, called for an integration roadmap within 120 days.
From Saudi Arabia’s defiance of US hegemony in the Middle East and its cooperation with Iran and China to Iran’s joining the SCO, to India’s intransigence on moving closer to the US on Russia and China and then joining them in the SCO’s call for closer ties and rejection of US blocs, to China’s growing role as a diplomatic and economic power in the Middle East, to the emancipating flight from the US dollar and Latin American integration in defiance of US hegemony in its backyard, the world, these past few weeks, has vibrated with multipolarity.
Ted Snider is a regular columnist on US foreign policy and history at Antiwar.com and The Libertarian Institute. He is also a frequent contributor to Responsible Statecraft and The American Conservative as well as other outlets.