US-Saudi Ties: One Dimensionality

Posted originally on Regional Rapport.

Tulsi Gabbard told Trump to stop being Saudi Arabia’s lackey, ostensibly due to his wishy-washiness over calling out Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman over the Khashoggi murder. Trump’s markedly different approach to the erratic monarch compared to his political rivals seems to be seen by some through the prism of Saudi influence over Washington due to the fact that it is rich. The Hollywood-esque ‘oil-rich Arab state that America can’t get enough of’ trope’s attractiveness seems not to diminish no matter how obvious it becomes with retrospect that it is naïve and has remained so throughout US-GCC history.

A state where much of the working folk don’t like spending more than an hour a day working, where higher education is heavily dependant on foreign faculty and where hard labour is considered the job of immigrants from the third world, Saudi Arabia doesn’t cut an impressive image when one thinks of states that can project influence and power of its own making. Since its establishment in 1932 as a pro-colonialist kingdom in the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia has spent most of history relying on oil revenues to keep its population content under totalitarian rule and Wahabi Sharia by offering considerable state welfare. Without anything beyond this oil wealth to show for in terms of its economic diversity and its princes addicted to obscene luxury, Saudi Arabia has historically not fit into an ‘evil genius influencing superpowers’ niche.

Saudi Arabia has remained a major pillar of American strength in Middle East, housing US military bases and following the US dictate when it comes to its foreign policy in the region. It has been extremely useful in propagating radical Takfiri Wahabism across the Muslim world to help raise armies of mercenary-terrorists to attack states asserting their own sovereign policies instead of kowtowing to the US.

The USA has not, however, needed the Saudis more than they have needed it; US military protection via its abundant infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab countries allows the survival of a brittle kingdom unloved by people in its region and hated by many. The USA also does not, contrary to popularly peddled disinformation, need the Saudis and GCC to only sell their oil in dollars to maintain the strength of the US currency (trade in the US$ dominates almost 90% $5 trillion worth of transactions in the FX market daily while the value of oil traded per year is $1.7 trillion in comparison). Western personnel also end up making a pretty penny doing a lot of the lazy Saudis’ military dirty work for them. The Pentagon’s contractors such as Lockheed Martin are also required by the Saudis to maintain the American military equipment and carry out other important roles which ensure they continue to have an excuse for the Pentagon to use more taxpayer money for military contracts resulting in immense profit for them. This money, of course, is also spent by defense contractors in lobbying Congress for keeping defence spending high.

The Saudis buy their importance to the USA not by bribing its leaders to do their bidding but by acting as major customers for the military-industrial complex. The latter does not rely on them to maintain the status quo of a bloated defence budget and continuous government funding which sometimes surpasses the budgets of various federal government agencies. As described by Whitney Webb from Mintpress, the very sudden ‘outrage’ in the US with Saudi human rights abuses vis-à-vis Khashoggi was more about MbS failing to make several purchases from the US under a huge $110 billion arms deal signed in 2017 and also the Saudi decision to purchase the S400 surface-to-air missile system from American rival Russia whilst backing out of a $15 billion purchase of Lockheed’s THAAD system.. Establishment media such as the Washington Post suddenly ‘remembered’ that a country called Yemen existed and that the Saudis were committing genocide and mass murder there, even going as far as to publish an article from Ansarullah official Mohammad Ali al Houthi to spite MbS. As Donald Trump famously put it:

“I love the king [of Saudi Arabia], King Salman, but I said: ‘King, we’re protecting you. You might not be there for two weeks without us. You have to pay for your military, you have to pay.”

Ms Tulsi would do well to reconsider how she defines what constitutes being someone’s lackey and what doesn’t. Why then, however, does Trump in particular clearly demonstrate a rapport of sorts with MbS, if Trump is not his lackey? The answer lies where the disinformation-mode suggestions of Saudi ‘influence’ over the US purposefully steer clear of: the actual foreign interest group that Trump and the US in general is a lackey for, Israel and Zionists.

The Israel factor vis-à-vis MbS’ importance to Trump

Trump’s billionaire Zionist son-in-law, Jared Kushner, already has a history of crafting US foreign policy whilst personally coordinating with MbS, producing debacles such as the alienating Qatar last year and making internal rifts in the US obvious with the Tillerson dismissal. Coming from a family which donates heavily to Israeli racial colonies on Palestinian land, Kushner acted as a personal link between Trump and MbS during these foreign policy spectacles. He also used his personal rapport with MbS to encourage the latter’s bizarrely-paced ‘modernization’ scheme of the kingdom and convinced his father-in-law to embrace MbS as part of Kushner’s ‘Middle East Peace Plan’ centered around Israel and its occupation of Palestine which seems to involve having the Saudis pay off several Arab states to recognize Israel while the ‘Peace Plan’ is being set up. How that plan will be sold by MbS to even the most naïve quarters of the ‘Arab world’ after the Jerusalem embassy move is something Kushner likely did not consider. There are also, after all, anti-Israel governments still in place in Iraq and Syria with firm allies behind them as well as Hezbollah’s political strength inside Lebanon at an all-time high.

Kushner’s, whose security clearance at the White House was retained earlier this year, acts as a de facto foreign agent for Israel. Netanyahu, of whom the Kushners are family friends, has led a rapid publicizing of Israel-Saudi ties dovetailing with the advent of the Trump administration and Kushner’s reckless foreign policy. Netanyahu makes it clear that he wishes Saudi Arabia well in its war on Yemen and has expectedly expressed his desire for Trump to stand by MbS in the wake of the Khashoggi murder reactions by Trump’s domestic rivals. Israel also openly supported Saudi Arabia when it kidnapped Saad Harriri, the Lebanese Prime Minister, last year to raise tensions with Hezbollah and cause internal strife in Lebanon. The benefactor of that, quite obviously, being Israel.

The foreign policy trainwreck under the Netanyahu-Kushner-MbS team

            The way MbS has blundered his way through leadership of his brittle kingdom with his close Zionist comrades is quite a spectacle. It can be epitomized by the way his last-minute cancellation of the Aramco privatization angered the Wall Street financial elites who had been eagerly awaiting his massive ‘modernization’ drive through rolling back the public sector in the kingdom which Trump and Kushner actively supported. The cancellation of what would have been the largest IPO in history concerning Aramco came even before the Khashoggi murder, triggering plenty of awkwardness for the shambolic Western press which had been marketing MbS as a ‘reformer’. The fact that the murder was spied on by Turkish intelligence has allowed Erdogan to continue his own drive to steal large portions of the global Sunni support base it is always assumed lay with Saudi Arabia while seeking to extract MbS for concessions of various sorts while he methodically exploits this leverage.

The many gaffes and debacles that Saudi Crown Prince has produced while part of the Netanyahu-Kushner not only re-emphasize that Saudi Arabia’s ability to formulate independent policies leads to failures and erratic moves such as the Qatar crisis, the Khashoggi murder, the over-ambitious economic modernization schemes and subsequent setbacks. With the attempt to ‘contain’ Iran being the central factor in the Israel-Saudi-US strategic alliance, the failures of MbS simply reflect those Israel has suffered in its attempts to redraw borders and install regimes in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran which are not a threat to its hegemony.

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