[ Editor’s note: Mr. Odintsov has written a lot of good material for our NEO geopolitical archive, so I was looking forward to digging into his provocative title. I do not follow Saudi Arabia internal politics much, so I am a consumer for reporting from there.
Actually, in my lifetime I never viewed it as an important relationship in terms of its people. The non-elites lived in a semi-feudal tribal society, still lost in a modern world, where real work is still regarded as a slave’s occupation.
If not for its oil and location on the Gulf, it would be as much of a concern as one of the small African countries that no one can remember the name of.
But several of Vlad’s points caught me by surprise. The deal to modernize Saudi Arabia was a win-win. At the time, much of KSA was a garbage dump because no self respecting Saudi would have anything to do with garbage. It just piled up in the streets and mummified in the heat.
US waste management companies had a bonanza in building a nationwide waste management system from scratch, with all imported labor, as no Saudi would be caught dead handling garbage. Sure the US contractors made money, but the strategic goal at the time was to try to balance out the oil purchase trade with US imports. This was back in the days when trade balances were a closely-followed economic indicator for currency valuations.
Further down we have the mention of the US, after the Iran agreement, “will leave the region for the taking.” When is the last time the US has done that? Where would all the US bases be moved to? Iran? Oman? Yemen maybe? I don’t think so.
The US is never leaving the region, as Ashton Carter confirmed with his testimony to Congress that Iranian aggression would be strongly opposed in the region. So while the nuclear bogeyman scam is being filed away, the old Iran as a terrorist nation meme is being dusted off and put stage center.
Vladimir poses that because the Saudis are going to be abandoned by the US, it will have to look for new protectors, as in China and Russia, for guaranteed arms supplies.
But last time I heard, when the Saudis offered Putin $100 billion over ten years to ditch the Syrians and they would curtail their muslim jihadis out of Russia as a cherry on top, Putin said no thanks.
The Saudis have enough arms to take care of themselves for a long time. What they don’t have is fighters who can use them.
Their military is basically a praetorian guard to keep the mob down. Yemenis are taking Saudi bases almost at will. If they had the logistics help and the supplies, they could capture half of KSA.
And I am sure the French, British, Germans and Israelis would love to sell the Saudis tens of billions in arms if the US defense contractors should all go insane and refuse to do business with the ruling tribe.
What the Saudis fear most is being overthrown from within. Legions of princes have already bailed out just over the Yemen war. You can just imagine how fast they would abandon the country in a real war. What the Saudis are thought of, they have worked hard for that image. So they have no one to blame but themselves for it… Jim W. Dean ]
First published … July 27, 2015
It’s hardly a secret for anyone that the United States and Saudi Arabia are longtime partners, hence Washington has historically been the guardian of Saudi interests in the Middle East.
These special relations between the states were built back in the 1930s, when in exchange for security guarantees that were granted to the House of Saud, King Abdulaziz signed a decree that granted American companies an exclusive right to develop oil fields in the eastern parts of the country.
And over half a century the security for oil formula has been a solid basis for sound bilateral relations between the US and Saudi Arabia.
Following the announcement of a new oil policy that was brought around by the Roosevelt administration in 1944, that encouraged Western companies to seek an active production of oil outside the United States to ensure the economic security of the country, Mobil, Exxon and Texaco started investing heavily in Saudi economy.
However, Saudi Arabia was not getting an adequate share of profits from its own oil, as multinational corporations were getting the better part of the income from trade.
The uneven distribution of oil revenues pushed the Saudi leaders into turning to other oil-exporting countries for them to protect their interests, which resulted in the creation of a new cartel, namely OPEC. This allowed oil exporters to adjust the price and volume of production of their oil.
However, in 1973 the US had a chance to taste the medicine of this organization when a so-called “Arab boycott” cast a severe blow to the US economy. The boycott was a response to the ongoing support of Israel that Washington displayed when the former entered a war with Egypt.
However, Washington has not turned its back on its Arab partners; instead it did its best to mend the damaged relations in order to prevent such embargoes in the future.
These attempts resulted in the creation of a US-Saudi Joint Economic Commission (JECOR), which target was to achieve the modernization of the kingdom with the extensive amount of help from American companies.
This step did not simply allow Washington to obtain a reliable source of revenues from the modernization of the economy and defense capabilities of the KSA, but ensured a steady supply of oil that was sold to American companies at a reasonable price. The ultimate sacrifice that the House of Saud had to make to obtain all the benefits was Saudi Arabia’s independence.
When Obama took the office, bilateral relations between the two countries received a new boost: the turnover in comparison with 2000 has tripled, reaching the level of 60 billion dollars. Moreover, Saudi Arabia ranked eighth among the trade partners of the United States.
However, if Washington used to look at Saudi Arabia as a valuable oil supplier, now the situation is changing. The International Energy Agency has already stated that, by 2020, America will be able to completely abandon the import of fuel.
As the political map of the world is changing so are Washington’s objectives and goals in the Middle East. In just twelve years the Arab world has been completely destroyed by the United States. Today it is marked by chaos, anarchy and bloodshed. Nobody perceives the League of Arab States as a legitimate power anymore, despite the influence it once enjoyed.
The plan that was drafted for the White House by US think tanks implies no reliance on former allies like Saudi Arabia, instead Washington is going to seek the establishment of two centers of power – a Shiite Iran and a Sunni Turkey that will compete for dominance in the chaos-riddled region.
The US plan to redraw the Middle East and achieve a transformation of the Arabian Peninsula is hardly a secret for anyone since it was revealed back in 2006.
According to this plan drafted by Ralph Peters, the Saudi kingdom is to be divided into three parts: the “Islamic Vatican” in the face of Mecca and Medina, the desert where camels and kings can enjoy themselves, and the eastern oil region dominated by Shiites, that will be a part of a larger Shia state.
To some extent, the perception of Saudi Arabia’s future in Pentagon can be summarized by a lecture that Lt. Col. Matthew A. Dooley gave at the Military Academy in Norfolk. According to him there’s a global anti-terrorist campaign in the making, to which he referred to as the “total war”, which implies the creation of preconditions of famine in Saudi Arabia that then must be followed by the complete destruction of Mecca and Medina.
[ Note: Dooley was removed from the candidate’s list for battalion command, career death for an Army Col. for his bizarre curriculum. General Dempsey himself stepped in to clip his wings. Someone forgot to tell the Colonel that Saudi Arabia was a key ally at the time, and he was way in over his head. Colonels don’t make policy. ]
In international politics the breaking of alliances rarely occurs openly and deliberately if there was no abrupt change of power in one of the allied states. The relations between the US and Saudi Arabia have recently been marked by hidden contradictions and the ongoing deterioration.
The House of Saud was repelled by the fact that Americans refused to launch a military operation against Syria. Then, in spite of requests from the US, Saudi Arabia rejected the status of the non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, and later on Riyadh sharply opposed the nuclear agreement with Iran. The Iranian issue has become one of the “red line” beyond which lies the field of open confrontation between the former allies.
Saudi political elites are particularly unhappy with the fact that Washington bears no responsibility for its actions, while manipulating Saudi Arabia in a position of weakness. It all began with Afghanistan, where the United States created Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden on the money they borrowed from the KSA.
But then when bin Laden was not a valuable asset anymore they just pushed blame on Saudi Arabia and the world was compelled to believe that Saudis are the true sponsors of international terrorism.
Riyadh perceives Obama’s policy of normalizing relations with Tehran as the beginning of a new stage of transformation of the geopolitical structure of the Middle East. The Saudi monarchy can hardly be satisfied with the fact that in the foreseeable future Iran could militarily and economically reach the position of a regional superpower, the one which the House of Saud will not be able to ignore.
In response for the ongoing settlement of the Iran nuclear program crisis, Saudi Arabia resorted to blackmail by threatening other states that it may get nuclear weapons from Pakistan. Just like Israeli politicians, Saudis fear that once everything is set and done with Tehran, the US will leave the region for the taking, and Iran would need little time to exploit this fact.
In this context, it is quite remarkable that, when President Obama visited the Kingdom in January to attend the funeral of the late king King Salman, in clear violation of diplomatic protocol, officials interrupted the meeting with the American president and left him, his wife and his staff alone in order to commit a noon prayer.
American media sources did not report anything on the incident, and only the Qatari television network “Al Jazeera” released information about this insult. The next step in the alienation was the Saudi King’s refusal to accept Obama’s invitation to the international summit on security issues at Camp David. According to unofficial reports, in connection with this situation, Saudi diplomats have already been instructed to limit their contacts with their American counterparts to the necessary minimum.
In addition, the Kingdom has already begun to look for new partners, that can be a valuable asset for their oil industry and the main supplier of weapons for its armed forces. A special emphasis is being put on Russia and China.