The Saudi Arabian government is just as nasty, if not nastier, than Iran’s, but it gets a free pass from the U.S. government. From Doug Bandow at antiwar.com:
No matter the many crimes committed by the House of Saud, defenders rush to take up their cause. The Wall Street Journal’sKaren Elliott House was the latest. Readers can imagine tears cascading across her keyboard as she wrote about the plight of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which “is begging the U.S. for Patriot interceptors to defend itself against drone and missile attacks from the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen.”
House complained that this is bad for America for three reasons. “First, it endangers the Saudi people, who look to the US for protection.” Actually, what endangers the Saudi people is their reckless crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and especially his continuing war of aggression against the KSA’s much poorer neighbor.
Nearly seven years ago Riyadh attacked Yemen to reinstate the latter’s pliable president, who had been ousted by a coalition of his predecessor and the armed Ansar Allah movement, known as the Houthis. The Saudi and Emirati air forces hit hundreds of civilian targets and killed thousands of civilians. The impact of the war – malnutrition and starvation, disease, poverty – killed hundreds of thousands more. Surprising the Saudis, Ansar Allah shot back. (Apparently, they believed winning wars without loss was just another royal prerogative.) The KSA should acknowledge that it has lost, halt its attacks, and seek a realistic negotiated settlement.
Next, House contended that administration policy “endangers an ally and benefits Iran.” In fact, Saudi Arabia has no treaty commitment. Its value to American security is much overstated. The Saudi military performed miserably in Yemen. With the Abrahamic Accords Riyadh should look to Israel rather than the US as its chief security partner. As for economics, the oil market has changed dramatically, Riyadh’s importance is much diminished, and the royals recently made clear that they will pump oil to suit their, not America’s, interest.
Saudi Arabia has been a bulwark of the American empire since World War II. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:
To say that Saudi Arabia has been the lynchpin to U.S. foreign policy objectives in the Middle East and central Asia is to engage in massive understatement. For more than fifty years the Saudis have helped prop up U.S. foreign policy by exporting their oil to the world and taking only dollars in return.
Their currency, the Riyal, has been pegged to the U.S. dollar since then Secretary of State under President Nixon, Henry Kissinger, brokered that deal that built the so-called petrodollar system.
Now, in the intervening decades the petrodollar has been a buzzword thrown around by many, including myself, to explain the architecture of the U.S.’s imperial ambitions. In many ways, it has served a crucial part of that, at times. But, it was most needed during the early years of the dollar reserve standard, helping to legitimize this new currency regime and provide a market for U.S. debt around the world to replace gold.
After that it was just one aspect of a much bigger game built on the ever-expanding Ponzi scheme of fake funny money. In reality, the eurodollar shadow banking system is just a lot bigger than the petrodollar.
That said, I don’t discount it completely, as I understand this is real money changing hands for real goods, rather than the vast quantities of dollars out there supporting an increasingly creaky financialized system. Real trade matters and what currency that trade occurs in, also matters.
The U.S. closely defended the petrodollar famously going to war with any country that dared to offer oil on international markets in any currency other than the dollar, c.f. Iraq under Saddam Hussein. But, times change and so do the structure of capital markets.
A number of Middle Eastern Arab countries are cozying up to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad because of Syria’s big brother—Russia. From Martin Jay at strategic-culture.org:
America may “be back” for most of the world, but for the Middle East the only thing it is “back” to, is Obama’s “soft power” touch in the region.
GCC countries have so much to learn from Assad on how to survive an uprising and how to stay in power. But what he can really teach them is how to handle Moscow
In early June, the world was rocked by news from the Middle East that Gulf Arab leaders are now moving even further to becoming a full-on ally of Syrian leader Bashir al-Assad. Now, all countries have their embassies re-opened in Damascus with Saudi Arabia being the last to jump on the bandwagon and the new position of these GCC states is to go beyond merely bringing him in from the cold but to embrace him. Soon, we will see Syria reinstated in the Arab League, an institution largely known around the world as an Arab elite talk shop which only makes the headlines when its members have a very good lunch and often nod off in the afternoon during the speeches.
On the face of it, the move is pragmatic, even erudite. Assad is the ultimate survivor who has fought and won a counterrevolution against the very people – the Muslim Brotherhood – which most (not all) GCC states hate vehemently.
Yet there is some irony now with those same Gulf Arab countries using their influence in Washington to try and convince Joe Biden’s administration that it is time to lift sanctions against Syria. Indeed, it is the Biden touch which has pushed Saudi Arabia, UAE and others towards this extreme measure of “if you can’t beat them, join them.” America may “be back” for most of the world, but for the Middle East the only thing it is “back” to, is Obama’s “soft power” touch in the region.
The Russia-China-Iran axis is now the strongest entity in the Middle East, and that will of course effect the supply and price of oil. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:
Davos really do think they are too clever by half. Despite prognostications to the contrary, negotiations with Iran over a new JCPOA are nearing completion which Biden/Obama will sign off on after putting up a bit more token resistance to lifting sanctions.
Why do I say this? Nordstream 2.
Biden backed down on Nordstream 2 and, at The Davos Crowd’s insistence, he will back down on the JCPOA.
Davos needs cheap energy into Europe. That’s ultimately what the JCPOA was all about. The basic framework for the deal is still there. While the U.S. will kick and scream a bit about sanctions relief, Iran will be back into the oil market and make it possible for Europe to once again invest in oil/gas projects in Iran.
U.S. policy towards Israel is shifting rapidly as the younger generations, Gen-X and Millennials, simply don’t have the same allegiance to Israel that the Baby Boomers and Silent generations did. It is part of a geopolitical ethos which is outdated.
So, with some deal over Iran’s nuclear capability in the near future, Europe will then get gas pipelines from Iran through Turkey as well as gain better access to the North South Transport Corridor which is now unofficially part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Russia, now that Nordstream 2 is nearly done, will not balk at this. In fact, they’ll welcome it. It forms the basis for a broader, sustainable peace arrangement in the Middle East. What’s lost is the Zionist program for Greater Israel and continued sowing dissent between exhausted participants.
There’s little to like in Biden’s foreign policy. From Doug Bandow at antiwar.com:
Joe Biden has been president for two months. Only 46 months to go, unless he is reelected. In fact, he teased the media at his press conference, suggesting that he likely would run for reelection, though he insisted that prospect was too far in the future for him to consider today.
The biggest change from his predecessor is the calm which has descended upon Washington, D.C. Days go by without thinking about Biden. After four years of Donald Trump, the atmosphere seems so … normal.
However, U.S. foreign policy hasn’t changed much.
A fixture in the nation’s capital for almost a half century, Biden views himself as a foreign policy maven. And he certainly knows the players. As variously Senator, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, presidential candidate, and vice president, he was involved in many of the most of the important foreign policy decisions made since he arrived in Washington in January 1973.
The result has not been pretty. Of course, he isn’t responsible for all that has happened. But he has committed more than his share of whoppers. Indeed, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote that Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” That may be slightly exaggerated, but not much.
The House of Saud is discovering a lesson scores of governments have run up against in the past: war, even against smaller and weaker opponents, can be a costly affair. From Finian Cunningham at strategic-culture.org:
The Saudi rulers are facing a humiliating defeat as the Yemenis take revenge and Uncle Sam washes his hands of blood.
After six years of blowing up Yemen and blockading its southern neighbor, the Saudi rulers are now saying they are committed to finding peace. The move is less about genuine peace than economic survival for the oil kingdom.
The Saudi monarchy say they want “all guns to fall completely silent”. Washington, which has been a crucial enabler of the Saudi war on Yemen, has backed the latest “peace offer”. Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week endorsed the initiative from the Saudi rulers, saying he had spoken with them “on our work together to end the conflict in Yemen, facilitate humanitarian access and aid for the Yemeni people”.
The Saudi foreign ministry stated: “The initiative aims to end the human suffering of the brotherly Yemeni people, and affirms the kingdom’s support for efforts to reach a comprehensive political resolution.”
Can you believe this sickening duplicity from the Saudis and the Americans?
Going bigger in Syria and backing up the power-mad idiot in Saudi Arabia just gets the US more stuck on the Middle Eastern tar baby. From Danny Sjursen at inthesetimes.com:
Bombing Syria and excusing the crimes of the Saudi crown prince won’t bring us any closer to a withdrawal from the Middle East.
Last week, the U.S. military bombed a site near al-Hurri, along the Iraqi border inside Syria, where Iranian-backed Iraqi militias were allegedly stationed. Although the U.S. launched its missiles across an international border (and without the approval of Congress), White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki framed the strike as a “defensive” response to a series of rocket attacks that have killed one and wounded several Americans over the past two weeks. The American bombing left “up to a handful dead,” according to one U.S. official who spoke with CNN, and Tehran condemned the assault as “illegal and a violation of Syria’s sovereignty” — a perception gap certain to complicate President Joe Biden’s pronounced plans to reverse Donald Trump’s antagonistic Iran policies and rejoin the nuclear deal.
The campaign will do little to further the United States’ objectives in the Middle East (in as much as they can even be articulated at this point), but it heralds something more dispiriting still: That nearly two decades into a regional war, Washington (perhaps willfully) does not understand the Syria-Iraq-Iran nexus, and that the Biden administration is following a failed blueprint in the Middle East — a reality that was thrown into even sharper relief when the U.S. elected not to punish Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) after the release of a declassified intelligence report that found he was directly responsible for the murder of the Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi.
Chutzpah is a Yiddish term but it certainly applies to the people running Saudi Arabia. From Doug Bandow at antiwar.com:
Why is everyone being so mean to Saudi Arabia? No doubt, the poor, beleaguered, misunderstood royals ask that question as they busy themselves squandering people’s wealth, imprisoning critics, attacking impoverished neighbors, and spreading Islamic fundamentalism. Life can be so unfair.
Indeed, it is a travesty that even the Saudis’ supposed friends are critical. Only someone with a heart of stone could not have compassion for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman given the travails that he has personally suffered while solidifying his dictatorship, purchasing yachts and palaces, and slicing and dicing his detractors. So much harm to do, so little time. He is tragically unappreciated by the Biden administration.
However, the beleaguered crown prince does have defenders. Eric Mandel of the Middle East Political Information Network asked: “Why does President Biden consider Saudi Arabia a ‘pariah’ nation but does not have the same level of animosity for the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose human rights history is at least as troubling as Saudi Arabia’s?”
Indeed, Mandel insisted that “Saudi Arabia has begun a process to reform its human rights behavior” and MbS “intends to implement his Vision 2030 initiative to move Saudi Arabia into the modern era.” How glorious. With North Korea’s Kim Il-sung dead, maybe MbS could claim the latter’s title of “Great Leader.”
The Biden administration has taken two small steps toward ending the horrific US-backed mass atrocities in Yemen, with temporary holds placed on both a murderous sanctions measure and on arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the UAE pending review. Both items being reviewed are unconscionable decisions made by the previous administration.
“The Biden administration has imposed a temporary freeze on U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as it reviews billions of dollars in weapons transactions approved by former President Donald Trump,” The Wall Street Journalreported today, adding that “U.S. officials said it isn’t unusual for a new administration to review arms sales approved by a predecessor, and that despite the pause, many of the transactions are likely to ultimately go forward.”
This follows an earlier announcement of a one-month pause on the Trump administration’s designation of Yemen’s Houthis (Ansar Allah) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, an unforgivably brutal measure which would cut off badly needed aid to an already starving populace and potentially kill millions. Like the arms sale hiatus, this measure could easily still move forward, and its temporary nature has provided insufficient assurance to companies that are backing away from trade with Yemen for fear of future US sanctions.
The Washington protest doesn’t hold a candle to killing a bunch of kids and other innocent Yemeni civilians. From Caitlin Johnstone at caitlinjohnstone.com:
While the Capitol riot is being hysterically compared to Pearl Harbor and Kristallnacht by the political/media class, the Trump administration has done something far, far worse that is receiving far, far less attention.
The US State Department has officially announced its intention to designate Yemen’s Houthis as a terrorist group, as many had previously warned. Humanitarian organizations have been condemning the move as it will make it more difficult to provide aid to a population that is already being brutalized by the worst mass atrocity in the entire world, a Saudi-led atrocity which could not occur without the help of the western power alliance.
The terror designation will hamper the efforts of international charities that deliver food to Houthi-controlled areas, where 70 percent of Yemen’s population lives and malnutrition is the most widespread.
Aid agencies fear their work in north Yemen will now be criminalized since the Houthis are the authority they have to deal with and make transactions with. US terror designations open up sanctions on any individuals or entities that do business with those Washington brands as terrorists.
Pompeo said exemptions would be made for humanitarian goods. But any additional roadblocks for aid agencies will cause more suffering in Yemen since the situation is so dire. “Even with exemptions, the operation will be compromised,” said Janti Soeripto, the president of Save the Children, according to AP News.
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