The US-Saudi imperial interrelationship

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While the society of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is corrupted, there is another dimension to mention: the US-Saudi imperial interrelationship and where it currently stands. It seems that this relationship is good straits, but could easily bounce back as the masters of war of the murderous empire smile with glee. [1] The plan to “mold” opinion proposed in 1950 has not worked:

“…if the President and the Government and the Department of State…felt there was a menace to the interests of the United States, American public opinion could be molded, if not for the sake of Ibn Saud, for the sake of the interests of the United States and Saudi Arabia”

The KSA was founded in 1932, the year that Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) won the presidential election against “discredited” Republican Herbert Hoover. For years, the Saud family had been hiding in Kuwait, a protectorate of the British Empire, while the Ottomans controlled much of the Mideast. After the collapse of Ottoman Empire in 1923, the Saud family sprung into action. They began establishing the foundation of what would become the KSA. By 1932, when the state was declared to the world, few countries recognized it as there were no resources “of importance” and the country was composed mainly of nomads, delineated into varying ethnic groupings. Later that year, the fortunes changed for the Saud family, which was experiencing an “economic crisis,” when black gold was found. With the oil wealth, the Saud family became the Royals, and their brutal monarchy was cemented. With that, the teachings by Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab on the Arabian Peninsula, originally part of am “18th-century revival and reform movement,” often called Wahhabism in the West, received state sanction. This form of Islam, which insists on a “literal interpretation of the Koran” and declares that those who don’t practice it are “heathens and enemies,” would be promoted for years to come even as it was used by all sorts of Islamic reactionaries.

As years passed, the US, along with many other countries, swooped in and recognized the KSA as a state, and Western oil corporations, like Standard Oil, established their roots in the country. Later a camp was established for foreign oil workers, creating a sort of bubble of security, at least in theory. Years later, some argued that Saudi Arabia and the Islamic movement were part of an anti-imperial front. Canadian socialist Paul Saba, wrote in 1980 that colonialists tried to suppress Islam, which made it stronger and part of anti-colonial struggle, meaning that many Muslim groups often played a “progressive role in supporting national liberation.” He also said that because sentencing in the Islamic world is “far less than severe than the torture and murder which existed under the Shah,” that it is fine, a position which should be unacceptable to any reasonable person. Saba also said that the Islamic movement wanted development and progress apart from “imperialist control,” with the US as a key target for hatred and defiance due to, as he put it, “historical plunder and domination of the Middle East and its backing for Israeli Zionism and the Shah of Iran.” While he makes valid points about countries such as Iran, which is currently at a crossroads geopolitically, he does not recognize that many of these countries are religiously conservative and as a result, do not have true liberation, especially for women, homosexuals, and non-Muslims.

In the 1940s, the equation changed once again. While the US sent engineers to work on Saudi roads, financial loans to the KSA were nixed by the US government because of British support for the Kingdom. [2] Even as veteran diplomat Alexander Comstock Kirk agreed with this assessment, he rejected the idea of “a division of hemispheres of influence” in which the British would take a leading role instead of the United States. US diplomats even debated sending agricultural and technical assistance to the KSA based on what was done on reservations of the remaining indigenous nations in the United States. [3] At the same time, certain policymakers turned their attention to the Kingdom where a “massive oilfield has been discovered in 1938,” and strengthened a relationship with the country, trying to cultivate it as a friend.

All of this happened even as the Kingdom had established diplomatic relations with the Nazis and Italian fascists, both of whom tried to bring the Saudis to their side, sometimes by promising to send armaments. [4] Even so, the US was successful in bribing the Saudis to switch sides and declare war on the Nazis by 1945, even inviting them to a UN conference, a proposal which was roundly rejected by the Soviets.

As time passed, relations changed. Not only did FDR’s meeting with Ibn Saud (known in the Arab world as Abdulaziz), in Great Bitter Lake, Egypt, reinforce the US-Saudi relationship, but the US began sending the oil-rich country military aid. [5] The US began seeing protection of the KSA as vital to the security of the empire. This was a time that the US saw the Kingdom as “a bulwark to peace in the Near Eastern world” supported the extension of a 15 million dollar Export-Import Bank loan to the country to develop its railroads, highways and generally its transportation system. [6]

This relationship was helped because the Saudis were staunchly anti-communist. Millions of dollars of US investments in the country were considered as an “effective weapon against the advance of Communism.” In exchange for such investment, the Saudis allowed their airfield of Dharan to hold US warplanes and US commercial flights by the early 1950s. Afterword, the US sent military advisers to “protect” the Kingdom and reassert US military rights in the country. In later years, during the 1972 border conflict between North Yemen (backed by Jordan, KSA, the US, UK, Taiwan, and West Germany) and South Yemen, also called the Peoples Democratic Republic of Yemen (backed by the Soviet Union, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, and Libya), and after, the Saudis saw South Yemen as a threat. The country was even praised by the World Bank for satisfying basic needs of the population, raising education standards, and more. The government of South Yemen also engaged in campaigns to eradicate illiteracy, emancipate women, develop a safe drinking water system, and engage in agriculture collectivization. Eventually, the imperial and capitalistic forces got their way, uniting the North and South Yemen behind Ali Abdullah Saleh, a former leader of North Yemen, in 1990, who would be predictably US-friendly until his ousting in 2012. However, in 1994 there was a civil war between the pro-Western northerners and socialist southerners, which was launched by North Yemen, which again led to reunification and purging of the left from Yemeni society. Even since 2013, people resisted Yemeni occupation of the southern part of the country “through the division of labor and through popular committees” which is mainly expressed through peaceful protest as the last secretary general of the Yemeni Socialist Party, Ali Salim al-Beidh, noted in a 2013 interview.

While the Saudis became anxious for not receiving military assistance, they were likely glad that the US negotiated an agreement between them and ARAMCO (Arab-American Oil Company). [7] At the same time, the US had the appearance as a “neutral mediator” in disputes, mainly between the British and Saudis, handled in arbitration sessions. These disputes were over oil field claims near Farsi island, Qatar, the town of Buraimi, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, and other border areas. Those involved in the disputes, which had been festering since the late 1940s, included Aramco and British oil companies such as Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC). Ultimately, the Saudis found the British, who were exploring oil drilling in a disputed zone, to be impolite and were angry at them, which the British found disconcerting.

In subsequent years, as the formal British Empire weakened, which would become, at least for the Saudis, “hostile,” the US would pledge to protect them and their oil from those they perceived as the “aggressors”: the Soviets. Still, in 1952, the Join Chiefs of Staff believed that “from a military point of view, grant aid to Saudi Arabia and certain other Middle East countries is not justified,” even though they agreed that the Kingdom had unique position in the Mideast.The US pledge for support was noted in a summary of a March 1950 conversation, between the US, Britain, and the KSA:

“the United States has an extremely strong interest in the American investment in petroleum in Saudi Arabia. This is an interest which is vitally important to the security of the United States and to the world…it is necessary that the United States render assistance to nations who find themselves threatened by aggression or subversion from the north…The United States feels that the only important long-range security menace that faces the world is the obviously aggressive designs of the USSR…if at any time it [Saudi Arabia] is menaced by aggressive action or subversive activities from any neighboring power, the United States Government will take most definite action…The United States on its side is gratified that American investors, both oilmen and others, have chosen to come here to work with the Saudi Arabian Government”

However the relationship between the United States and the KSA developed a hiccup in the form of the state of Israel.

In 1947, after years of Zionist efforts to establish a state, Israel was established in the Holy Land of Palestine. The area was already torn by strife between Jews and Arabs, which the British imperialists saw as a dilemma to quickly extricate themselves from. While the state of Israel was founded on violence and religious ideals like the KSA, it was different in the fact that it was founded on the genocide of the Palestinians. The Saudis were strongly opposed to this new state and seemed to favor the Palestinians. Ibn Saud, from 1947 to his death in 1953, was strongly anti-Zionist and warned the US of consequences if they supported Israel. [8] Even as FDR has reassured Ibn Saud that the US would not change its policy on Palestine, “without consulting the Arabs,” this was disregarded. Ibn Saud stayed outspoken on Zionism, even canceling an Aramco concession, alarming the military and foreign policy establishment. Eventually, Saud found he could distinguish between US foreign policy elsewhere in the Mideast and ARAMCO, arguing that oil royalties could allow Arab states to resist “Jewish pretensions,” and staying formally hostile to Zionism. Whether it was to curry Jewish votes in the upcoming election (1948) or to establish more of a foothold in the Middle East, the US supported Israel, although not as strongly until the 1960s and 1970s.

Despite this, the US-Saudi relationship persisted. Presidents, whether from the capitalist Democratic and Republican parties, have tried to favor the KSA in whatever way they can, whether that is through arms deals or accepting ceremonial gifts. The US even sent a medical team, led by President Truman’s personal physician, to the Kingdom to make sure that Ibn Saud was healthy before his death! In 1957, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared the “Eisenhower Doctrine,” said that the US would, within constitutional means, oppose “overt armed aggression” in the Kingdom and the Middle East by Soviet and Soviet-aligned agents. Years later, John F. Kennedy, still lauded by conservatives and liberals alike, ordered that a squadron of fighters be sent to the country to protect it from Egyptian air assaults. Years later, the US was grateful for the Saudi effort to avoid a “serious shortfall in oil supplies,” stabilize the world oil market, and the Saudi decision to increase production due to the Iranian revolution in 1979.

In later years, the relationship between the KSA and the US strengthened. A senior fellow at the elite Council on Foreign Relations, Rachel Bronson, wrote in 2004 that the “close, cozy relationship” between the two countries began with Ronald Reagan, not George W. Bush, with the relationship cemented in efforts to counter claimed “Soviet aggression.” She continues, saying that the Saudis had their own reasons for fighting the Soviets including their fear that the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan would “threaten” their Kingdom. Bronson goes on to say that the Saudis also played a role in funding the contras in Nicaragua, Reagan’s “freedom fighters” for capitalism, along with funding opposition to Ethiopia’s Soviet-aligned government and horrid rebel leader Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA to fight the Marxist government in Angola. She then claims that current attention to Bush family “misses the longer history of the American and Saudi Arabian contemporary relationship.” However, by saying this, she is whitewashing the Bush family’s history with the Saud family.

In 1990, former CIA director and then-President George H.W. Bush brought troops into the Kingdom during the Persian Gulf quest for oil, declaring that the US would “assist the Saudi Arabian government in the defense of its homeland.” This was not a surprise as then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney personally flew to the oil kingdom to ask King Fahd to allow the US to “station thousands of troops there,” saying to the US Senate that the US was coming to their aid because of the agreement between Roosevelt and Ibn Saud all those years ago. [9] Not long after, he subsequently supported the war against Iraq. Years later, George W. Bush would declare the country was “expanding the role of its people in determining their future” even as they remained an authoritarian, brutal state.

Still, there have been disagreements and snipes over the years. Even disgraced war criminal Hillary Killary Clinton, in excerpts of speeches, released by Wikileaks and organized later by the National Security Archive, to bankers and well-off constituencies, criticized the Saudis. She said that they (and the Emiratis) feared “organized efforts for political Islam,” saw the Muslim Brotherhood as threatening, and were against missile defense in the Mideast. She also said that the Saudis did not have a stable government (perhaps indicated by the killing a Saudi royal by head chopping recently), that the Saudis have backed the Sunni fighters in Syria with large amounts of arms, and that the “Saudis have exported more extreme ideology than any other place on earth over the course of the last 30 years.” [10] This statement aligns with earlier Wikileaks cables saying that the country was “the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups,” with the government not even trying to stop the flow of money, and recent releases saying that the Kingdom and Qatar “fund ISIS.”

As for Clinton, while she may have angered top policymakers when she spoke her mind about Israeli and Saudi actions, she also stated the obvious. She said that that as a result of the so-called “Arab Spring,” Israel and the KSA are “more closely aligned in their foreign policy…[on] Iran…Egypt…Syria and…a lot of other things.” [11] This is was also clear when the late King Abdullah said that the US should “cut off the head of the snake” and bomb Iran before it was too late. [12] More recently, the Saudis even allowed Israeli newspapers to be viewed in the country.

Apart from the powerful (but currently weakened) Saudi lobby, there is the bourgeois media. When King Abdullah died in January of last year, this media could not let down on its praise, calling him “something of an advocate for women” (The Telegraph), “a reformer at home” (BBC), a “reformer and often came up against the more hard-line clerics” (CNN), “accepted limited change” (The Guardian), “pushed cautious changes” (Reuters), “earned a reputation as a cautious reformer…[and] became, in some ways, a force of moderation” (New York Times), “to his supporters, [he]…was a benign and…progressive monarch” (Wall Street Journal), “was seen by many as a gentle reformer” (The Independent), and “was considered a savvy and plainspoken modernizer, if not a reformer” (The New Yorker). [13] While BBC, the Wall Street Journal, and The Independent were more reserved in their praise, they were still part of the general trend.

Apart from crap infotainment sites like BuzzFeed claiming that King Abdullah’s “legacy” was important to care about, President Obama declared that the Saudi king was “always candid and had the courage of his convictions” and corporatist Secretary of State John Kerry, in a bubble of misunderstanding and confusion, said that the US “lost a friend…the world has lost a revered leadera man of wisdom and vision…a brave partner in fighting violent extremism.” To top this off is the State Department-connected and bourgeois Human Rights Watch declaring that King Abdullah’s reign has “brought about marginal advances for women but failed to secure the fundamental rights of Saudi citizens,” which basically offering of praise.

Some criticized such praise at the time. One of these people was Jacob Mchangama, the director of the Justia think tank, on the conservative website of Forbes. He wrote that the reactions to the death of the Saudi king “has been a rude awakening.” He criticized the responses of leaders including John Kerry, former UK prime minister David Cameron, and IMF chief Christine Lagarde, saying that “acknowledging the victims of King Abdullah rather than singing false praises would be a good start” in the right direction. His tepid criticism doesn’t go far enough: the bourgeois media and Western capitalist leaders are supporting the imperialist US-Saudi relationship by whitewashing the crimes of the authoritarian Kingdom. If anything, people should be celebrating the death of a tyrant like King Abdullah, not praising him as a reformer, and should be recognizing that Saudi society is still violent, like that of the United States, but also in a very different way, with routine executions of “subversives.”

The Iranian leaders clearly agree with Clinton on this point. In a recent speech to the UN General Assembly, the moderate reformist President, backed by the Western capitalists, Hassan Rouhani, argued that if the Saudis are serious about development and regional security they must stop their “divisive policies, spread of hate ideology and trampling upon the rights of neighbors.” He further criticized the US government for not following on the Iran deal, along with the Supreme Court decision earlier this year, to which only chief justice John Roberts and associate justice Sonia Sotamayor dissenting, to seize Iranian assets because they “committed terrorism.” He also said that Iran had a good relationship with the people of the United States, and that their “problem is with the American government, not companies, people and universities.”

Apart from the internal dynamics and land grabs, there are obvious realities which should be pointed out. For one, the Saudis are backing the religiously reactionary opposition in the Syrian Arab Republic, which was not “moderate” but are basically Al Qaeda type-organizations, like Al Nusra. They even offered Russia an oil deal secretly if they withdrew backing of the Syrian government, which they refused, and they provided chemical weapons to Syrian “rebels.” The goal of the Saudis interconnect directly with US imperial interests, which entail the displacing the secular, nationalist, socially democratic government headed by Bashar Al-Assad and replacing him (and the government) with one that benefits imperial power and allows Western investments to flow. The Kingdom is, as as result, an arm of US imperial foreign policy. The KSA even allied with the US-supported authoritarian state of Kazakhstan, and the US, which has a drone base in the Kingdom, has propped up the brutal autocratic state and its leaders. All of this isn’t a surprise since in 2011, the US Senate Intelligence Committee found a list of direct members of the Saudi royal family who were connected with 9/11, a discovery which connects to the fact the Kingdom arguably divided into fiefdoms, with specific princes having their own interests which may have had a “severe impact on 9/11.”

Recently, the relationship between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the United States has been decisively shaken. On September 28th, the US Congress roundly overrode President Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), a law which allows families of victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for involvement in the attacks, which makes sense since 15 of the 19 hijackers came from the country. [14] Scholar Binoy Kampmark argued that the law was a “very American formula, one born in the court room and litigation process,” that any avenue of legal action “against an ally was tantamount to a confession,” and noting that the Saudi foreign minister said that their assets could be seized due to the law. He also argued that this bill’s passage meant that “various imperial efforts of the US would be compromised,” with US imperial engagements and actions, along with those of US allies, suddenly facing “the prospect of legal targeting,” with the law serving as one the most overt challenges to “assumptions of sovereign immunity.”

Those for the law include president-elect (and fascist) Donald Trump, Killary, Nancy Pelosi, John Cornyn, and a majority of Congress. The main force behind the law, other than feelings of jingoism conjured up even by mention of the September 11 attacks, was a New Jersey group named 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, which is pro-military but critical of the Saudis. The group’s chair, Terry Strada, a former director of J.P. Morgan Chase’s Human Resources department, joined the group in 2002 and became chair in 2012. [15] One of their lawyers, James P. Kreindler, declared that “Saudi Arabia doesn’t want to see this continue in the media or court…we are going to prevail. We are going to win. Either the Saudis will come to the table or we’ll go to court and win there.”

The groups against the law are varied. They include the Saudi government, President Obama, who warned it would lead countries to sue the US in foreign courts for war crimes, CIA director John Brennan, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Gulf Cooperation Council, a bipartisan group of former executive officials saying that the law would harm US interests and undercut security of the empire. [16] The Saudi foreign ministry declared that the law would lead to “serious unintended repercussions” such as threats to sovereign immunity. Some have said that the law, coupled with other measures, is a setback for the Saudis, whose influence on Capital Hill is waning, and that “anti-Saudi activity” on the Hill is the strongest it has been in decades. [17] These “concerns” were as bad as an ABC News fluff piece about the law, with their hand-picked experts saying that the law cold lead to “potentially any nation” sued, could make the US “much more vulnerable,” is “very dangerous…a huge mistake,” undermining counter-terrorism, and hilariously that “some countries would be interested in saying our military aid to Israel is aiding and abetting things that they would allege are sometimes war crimes against the Palestinians” which “we” need immunity from.

A Yale-educated individual formerly in the military establishment, named Michael Rubin, went the furthest of all. He said that without oil, the KSA “would be a very different place” and that oil money led the country into “modernity.” After saying that JASTA would shake “Saudi financial stability,” he declared that the Kingdom would become “bankrupt” because of the law, saying that this is not “good for America” since “what happens in Riyadh doesn’t stay in Riyadh.” Then, almost like a giddy neo-con, he worried that political instability in the country would not be “good” because decades of “Islamist education and indoctrination” would lead unemployed Saudi youth to not embrace “liberalism and tolerance if suddenly put in desperate straits.” Basically, this means that the country would not be a bastion of imperialism and could become, hypothetically, anti-imperialist and antagonistic to the US, which he sees as “dangerous.” Reasoned people should welcome such a change in Saudi Arabia if it is pushed by those who want to challenge imperial control, apart from the Islamic reactionaries.

Congressional criticism and efforts to curtail the Saudis only goes so far. In late September, the US Senate passed a law, by a supermajority, to approve the sale of Abrams tanks and other armaments to the KSA, with bigwig Senators like John McCain, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, and Mitch McConnell in support. Those that objected were led by libertarian-Republican Senator Rand Paul and liberal-Democratic Senator Chris Murphy. While Paul opposed giving the KSA more arms because Congress hadn’t discussed the Saudi bombing of Yemen, which has killed over 3,800 civilians and resulted in much turmoil, Murphy had other reasons. He argued that there is “an American imprint on every civilian life lost in Yemen,” a statement proved by the fact that that the KSA is using US-supplied white phosphorous in Yemen. He also said that the KSA was not “immune from criticism” and that the US should not dictate what “form of Islam wins out around the world.” However, he said that the US should still have a strong relationship with the KSA, which he considered vital, that allows “for one party to object to the behavior of the other when it’s not in the party’s mutual national security interests” and that the relationship can survive US challenges. Despite these reservations, criticism of the Saudis in Congress, and generally, is a good sign of things to come. Bourgeois left-liberals have their answer to these problems in (and relating to) Saudi Arabia embodied by veteran peace activist Medea Benjamin. She argues in her new book that the current US-Saudi relationship is destructive and that the US State Department should use its existing policies to sanction the KSA. [18] While this may be satisfying to some, this article will go further be recognizing how the relationship is connected to the capitalist system, imperialism, and the murderous US empire.

On the other hand, the imperial interrelationship with Saudi Arabia could be in trouble. For one, during the continuing US-backed Saudi destructive war in Yemen, some top government officials, especially in the State Department were worried. They said in emails, from mid-last year to earlier this year, that they were concerned about legal blowback from US participation in the Saudi bombing. These officials believed that the US could be “implicated in war crimes” and that the Saudis would kill civilians due to their “lack of…experience with dropping munitions and firing missiles” coupled with weak intelligence, even as they attempted to maintain the US-Saudi relationship. Further emails showed that the Saudis disregarded a list prepared by senior officials to prevent destruction of “critical infrastructure” and reduce casualties, bombing a bridge to the Yemeni capital of Sanaa which was a major rout for humanitarian food aid. Even former military prosecutor and California liberal senator Ted Lieu declared, that due to the assistance in the horrid bombing, the Obama administration is “now in an untenable situation.” This situation is complicated by the fact that risks to US military personnel, the footsoldiers of empire, even those on Navy destroyers, is increasing due to Saudi airstrikes on Yemeni civilians. [19]

Still, there is no doubt that the murderous empire had purposely turned looked away from the abuses of women, non-Muslims, foreign workers, and many others in the Kingdom, as previously noted. Not only is the country a murderous state, but it is effectively a client state of the empire, since without US support it could not destabilize the region whether it is backing horrid “rebels” in Syria or decimating the small country of Yemen. This is not a surprise since diplomats, even in 1946, declared that the US should provide “such assistance as may be necessary and feasible to strengthen and maintain that country as a sovereign state free of internal and external disturbances which might threaten its stability.” But the empire is not the only one that is defending the Kingdom.

As it should be obvious, supporting a relationship, even a “bilateral partnership,” with a tyrannical government like the KSA is against the principles of democracy, freedom, and justice the US supposedly stands for. Some policymakers might speak of the “reforms” in the country such as “expanding rights of women in Saudi Arabia,” but they will never gut the relationship. The fact that the NSA partnered with brutal Saudi state police and that the country’s currency is directly tied to the US dollar, showing that the relationship is entrenched. Even Bernie Sanders, the professed progressive and “antiwar” candidate in the capitalist Democratic Party, believed that rich authoritarian Arab states, such as the Kingdom, should fight against ISIS. Such an approach is not anti-interventionist since it means that the US-backed imperial proxies would be fighting against it, which does not, in any way, shape, or form undermine US imperialism. It also provides the potential for Saudi aggression to expand beyond Syria to the whole Mideast, causing more reactionary responses.

Readers may be looking for a “call to action” after reading this piece. I’m not going to follow the pattern of so many liberal documentaries which say you should go to a website and sign a petition. However, it is my hope that this article helps people start to challenge not only the accepted narrative about Saudi Arabia in the West but informs criticisms of bourgeois liberals. Much of the criticism of the US-Saudi relationship, and the Kingdom itself, mainly focuses on violations of “human rights,” as flawed a concept as that is, and stays within the bounds of accepted discourse in our capitalist society. There needs to be an analysis of Saudi Arabia and US imperial power which recognizes the interconnected nature of imperialism, capitalism, and other systems of oppression. This includes even criticizing states, even those one may be inclined to support, which have relationships with Saudi Arabia. While this article does not have all the answers and is only a first stab at this subject, but hopefully it opens the door for more discussion.

Notes

[1] Under the Obama administration, there was biggest arms deal in US history, at the time, with up to $60 billion dollars of military equipment bought for the Saudis, which was largely ignored by the corporate media.

[2] Wallace Murray, “Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray),” May 29, 1941, 890F.51/21, Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Alexander Comstock Kirk, “The Minister in Egypt Kirk to the Secretary of State,” June 26, 1941, 890F.21/23: Telegram; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Cordell Hull, “The Secretary to the Minister in Egypt (Kirk),” August 22, 1941, 890F.51/29: Telegram; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Alexander Comstock Kirk, “The Minister in Egypt (Kirk) to the Secretary of State,” August 30, 1941, 890F.51/30: Telegram; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Cordell Hull, “The Secretary to the Minister in Egypt (Kirk),” September 10, 1941, 890F.51/30: Telegram; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Alexander Comstock Kirk, “Minister in Egypt (Kirk) to the Secretary of State,” September 23, 1941, 890F.51/39: Telegram; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Sumner Welles, “Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Welles) to the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray),” September 26, 1941, 890F.515/1⅓, Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016. Even the US was not on board with a Saudi request for 2 million in gold pieces in 1946.

[3] Harold I. Ickes, “The Secretary of Interior (Ickes) to the Secretary of State,” May 21, 1941, 102.64/100; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016; Gordon P. Merriam, “Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Gordon P. Merriam of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs,” September 19, 1941, 800F.00/67; Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The British Commonwealth; The Near East and Africa, Vol. III, Accessed October 14, 2016.

[4] Francis R. Nicosia, Nazi Germany and the Arab World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 43, 76, 88, 110-114, 124-125, 126-127, 130-132. Reportedly, late Saudi King Abdullah treasured the dagger Hitler gave the Saudis in 1939.

[5] Adam Taylor, “The first time a US president met a Saudi King,” Washington Post, January 27, 2015. Accessed October 14, 2016; Rudy Abramson, “1945 Meeting of FDR and Saudi King Was Pivotal for Relations,” Los Angeles Times, August 9, 1990. Accessed October 14, 2016; G. Jefferson Price III, “Saudis remember FDR’s broken promise,” Baltimore Sun, September 1, 2002. Accessed October 14, 2016.

[6] “Memorandum by the Deputy Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Villard) to the Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Clayton),” September 27, 1946, 890F.51/9–2746, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, The Near East and Africa, Volume VII. Accessed October 14, 2016; “Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Hare) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Thorp),” June 30, 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016; “Memorandum of Conversation, by the Acting Officer in Charge of Arabian Peninsula Affairs (Awalt),” July 28, 1950, 866A.10/7-2850, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016; “Editorial Note,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016.

[7] “Editorial Note,” 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016; “Editorial Note,” 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016; Fred H. Awalt, “Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Fred H. Awalt of the Office of African and Near Eastern Affairs,” October 5, 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V, Accessed October 14, 2016; “The Chief of Staff of the United States Army to the Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army, 786A.5/4–350: Telegram, April 3, 1950, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016; Raymond A. Hare, “The Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Hare) to the Secretary of Defense (Johnson),” March 8, 1950, 711.56386A/2–1350, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950, The Near East, South Asia, and Africa, Vol. V. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1441: Memorandum of Conversation, by Robert Sturgill of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs,” August 19, 1952, 786A.5 MSP/8–1952, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1432: Memorandum of Conversation, by Robert Sturgill of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs,” January 21, 1952, 711.5886A/1–2152, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1451: Memorandum by the President to the Director for Mutual Security (Stassen),” March 14, 1953, 786A.5 MSP/3–1453, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1453: The Under Secretary of State (Smith) to the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister (Faisal),” 786A.5 MSP/3–2653, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1510: Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge of Arabian Peninsula–Iraq Affairs (Fritzlan),” April 1, 1953, 780.022/4–153, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1448: The Officer in Charge of Arabian Peninsula–Iraq Affairs (Fritzlan) to the Ambassador in Saudi Arabia (Hare),” January 16, 1953, 786A.5 MSP/1-653, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; “No. 1454: Editorial Note,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016; Walter B. Smith, “No. 1450: The Under Secretary of State (Smith) to the Director for Mutual Security (Stassen),” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. The Near and Middle East (in two parts): Volume IX, Part 2. Accessed October 14, 2016.

[8] He was also reportedly anti-Semitic. As Tariq Ali writes in his review of Gilbert Archar’s book about Arabs and the Holocaust, he writes that Archar didn’t add that “the late Ibn Saud…was in the habit of presenting visiting Western leaders with copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a virulently anti-Semitic book. Other sources such as an article by Anthony Sampson in the Observer Review titled “Desert Diary” on March 9, 1975 partially confirms this.

[9] Additionally, it is worth noting that Osama Bin Laden used the fact of US troops in the country as a rallying cry to bring support to his cause. He argued that he hated the US also for US sanctions against Iraq and “American policies toward Israel and the occupied territories,” also noting he was infuriated by US troops stationed in the country as he told journalist Robert Frisk.

[10] Clinton also asserted that the Iranians were behind the planned murder of a Saudi ambassador, which was proven false. Investigative journalist Gareth Porter argued, convincingly, that the US government’s narrative on the assassination plot was an an elaborate set up to implicate Iran as part of a campaign against the country and possibly lead to war.

[11] Perhaps this is also why Erdogan thanked Saudi Arabia for its post-coup solidarity as he tries to make Turkey and the Saudis have a common cause.

[12] Wikileaks cables, from the 2010 release with documents gathered by Chelsea Manning, also suggested deals for jetliners given to heads of states and airline executives in multiple Mideast countries, that the Kingdom proposed energy ties with China if Beijing backed sanctions against Iran, and that the country is a major source of financing of Islamic reactionary groups.

[13] “King Abdullah Ibn Abdulaziz al-Saud – obituary,” The Telegraph, January 22, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; “Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz dies,” BBC, January 23, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Anas Hamdan, Catherine E. Shoichet, and Dana Ford, “Saudi Arabia’s ‘reformer’ King Abdullah dies,” CNN, January 23, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Ian Black, “Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah dies at 90,” The Guardian, January 23, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Angus McDowell, “Saudi King Abdullah dies, new ruler is Salman,” Reuters, January 22, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Douglas Martin and Ben Hubbard, “King Abdullah, Shrewd Force Who Reshaped Saudi Arabia, dies at 90,” New York Times, January 22, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Ellen Knickmeyer and Ahmed Al Omran, “Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Dies,” Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Helen Nianias, “King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz dead: What did he do for Saudi Arabia?,” The Independent, January 23, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016; Robin Wright, “Postscript: King Abdullah, 1924-2015,” The New Yorker, January 23, 2015. Accessed October 24, 2016.

[14] CBS News, “Obama vetoes bill allowing 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia”, Sept. 23, 2016. Accessed October 10, 2016; Associated Press, “Obama’s veto of 9/11 bill aimed at Saudi Arabia sets up standoff with Congress,” September 23, 2016. Reprinted in The Guardian. Also see articles in NBC News and Politico.

[15] For more information, also see Strada’s posts on Huffington Post and her appearance on C-Span. Also of note is the response of their lawyers. I would add all of the press releases of Strada’s group here, but there are so many that the links would take up too much space.

[16] See articles in Al Arabiya, Slate, Al Jazeera, ABC (Australian), BBC, DW, and ABC (American).

[17] Karoun Demirjian, Washington Post, “Saudi Arabia is facing unprecedented scrutiny from Congress,” Sept. 21. Accessed October 12, 2016; Steven T. Dennis and Roxana Toxon, Bloomberg, Sept. 21, 2016, “Saudi Arabia’s Clout in Washington Isn’t What It Used to Be.” Also see an article in Euro News.

[18] This is mild compared to the absurd, silly, downright dumb approach of Charles Davis, called Chuckles by many critical radicals on the twittersphere, instituting a no-fly-zone over Saudi Arabia to stop their war.

[19] Articles in Fortune, Bloomberg, and Foreign Policy claimed when the war began that oil prices were negatively effected. However, a CNBC piece quoted a high-level Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Francisco Blanch, who argued that “I don’t think that Yemen had a lot of importance for the oil market…I’m not very worried about physical supply disruptions coming out of Yemen…The main issue…is whether the airstrikes…end up being a proxy war…a proxy war in the Middle East is always a risky event for oil market; there’s no question about it.” Some even claimed that the war in Yemen was a “proxy battlefield” between Iran-backed Houthis and US allies (Yemen and Saudi Arabia). Recently, the Saudis intercepted a missile from the Houthis which they claimed was headed to Mecca, but they could be twisting the truth.

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4 thoughts on “The US-Saudi imperial interrelationship

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