It’s time for some clarity regarding the relationship of the Bush administration to Saudi Arabia — in terms of the national interest of the US as well as the consequences for Israel.
A complete discussion of Saudi influence in the US is beyond the scope of a blog post, but it’s well known that it is enormous — both in the private and government spheres.
Jimmy Carter’s Saudi funding — both for the Carter Center and for, shall we say, more personal needs, is well known. It’s also common knowledge that Saudi money has built and supported mosques throughout the nation, mosques where political as well as religious doctrine is propagated.
The House of Saud has developed a technique of gaining influence over the US government that Daniel Pipes calls “preemptive bribing“:
A hint of the problem comes from none other than Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States. The Washington Post reports that he boasted of his success at cultivating powerful Americans: “If the reputation . . . builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office, you’d be surprised how much better friends you have who are just coming into office.”
The extent of this practice is remarkable:
[Former CIA case officer Robert] Baer notes that every Washington think tank has taken Saudi money, as have numerous lobbyists, PR firms, lawyers, and every presidential library of the last thirty years. Nor is this all.
Despite CIA censorship, [Baer’s book] Sleeping With The Devil reveals that there is hardly a living former CIA director, assistant secretary of state for the Near East, White House staffer, or member of Congress who hasn’t ended up on the Saudi payroll in one way of another. “At the corporate level, almost every Washington figure worth mentioning has served on the board of at least one company that did a deal with Saudi Arabia.” — Prof. Paul Eidelberg
Nor are the media free of Saudi influence. Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal owns large stakes in Time Warner and even Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
The Bush family and administration is especially close to the Saudis. Adviser James Baker’s law firm represents the Saudi government and he was senior counsel to the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm with large investments in Saudi Arabia. Former President George H. W. Bush was a Carlyle Group Adviser and is a large shareholder. Indeed, representatives of the Bin Laden family were in Washington for Carlyle’s annual meeting on 9/11 (and were allowed to leave the country shortly thereafter, as Michael Moore gleefully pointed out in “Fahrenheit 911”).
The Saudi kingdom’s support for radical Sunni Islamism should be worrisome to the US, which is one of its prime targets. And Saudi Arabia’s influence on US policy, such as the decision to invade Iraq (for which some blame Israel!), is a highly dangerous aspect of the relationship.
The President’s new Israel/Palestine policy, as enunciated in his speech yesterday, also shows traces of the Saudi hand, probably by way of James Baker. There’s no doubt that the President’s adoption of the highly unbalanced Arab (Saudi) Initiative represents that Saudi point of view, as does the build-up of a powerful Fatah army as a counterforce to the Iranian/Syrian supported Hamas.
As I wrote Monday, the development of a massive Fatah army in the West Bank is terribly dangerous for Israel, and will not result in the elimination of Hamas or its conversion into a moderate force, as the plan’s proponents seem to suggest.
If the US wants a two-state solution which includes a peaceful Palestinian state alongside Israel, a huge military buildup of forces opposed to the existence of Israel is not the way to achieve it.
But one can see the Saudi vision of ‘peace’ in this proposal: the Israeli state forced back to 1967 borders, forced to take in Palestinian ‘refugees’, and forced to accept a powerful enemy, armed and financed by the US and perhaps the Saudis, sitting in the West Bank a few miles from her population centers.