Saudi Arabia’s dual goals

Brack Obama bows to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, April 1, 2009

Barack Obama bows to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, April 1, 2009

What I’m going to write is highly speculative. I have no way of knowing if it is true, and it might sound far-fetched. But it does have some explanatory power. First, some background.

A question that always bothers me is this: just what is it that causes the US State Department and every administration since the 1970’s to put so much emphasis on getting the Jews out of territory conquered in 1967 — emphasis which is not justified by rational American interests, and indeed which might even work against those interests?

The Obama Administration has been particularly unbalanced in this regard, using the IRS against charities suspected of giving money to ‘settlers’, and risking embarrassment by running after an Israeli-PLO agreement like a dog in heat at the most inauspicious time possible.

I have suggested in the past that at least some of the pressure in this direction comes from Saudi Arabia. Ever since Roosevelt’s meeting with King Ibn Saud in 1945, the Saudi position that there should not be Jewish sovereignty in the Middle East has been clear. Indeed, Roosevelt even made a statement that the Saudis interpreted as a promise that the US would not support the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine.

Truman’s ‘failure’ to keep the promise was bad enough, from the Saudi point of view. But the actual expansion in 1967 of the ‘cancer in the heart of the Muslim world’ as the Iranian regime likes to put it, was too much. After the additional frustration of 1973, when the Arabs almost succeeded to regain the lost territory by force, the Saudis deployed the oil weapon against the West and made it clear in no uncertain terms that it would pay for its ‘perfidy’. The era of cheap oil was gone forever, and worse was threatened if Israel were not pushed back to its pre-1967 size — a size that would, they hoped, make Israel’s ultimate destruction by Arab armies possible:

The Arab success was the result, at least to some extent, of their improved military capabilities–an improvement due to their obtaining from the U.S.S.R. the large quantities of modern, sophisticated equipment necessary to fight a “first-class war.” The relationship between quality and quantity was highlighted by the early fighting in which Israeli qualitative superiority was offset, to some degree, by Egyptian and Syrian quantitative superiority. Therefore, while Israel retained its military advantage, the margin of that advantage had diminished, and, in the light of the sharp increases in Arab oil revenues, the possibility arose that the Arabs might achieve military parity or perhaps even superiority in the longer-term future by combining qualitative improvement with quantitative dominance.

In the October War, however, a U.S.-sponsored cease fire prevented the Israelis from gaining a clear cut military victory over Egypt by isolating the Second Army as well as destroying the already trapped Third Egyptian Army. This, plus U.S. insistence on opening supply lines to the latter army, and the decisions to resupply Israel and to extend it $2.2 billion in emergency aid represented a carefully designed effort to create a situation conducive to a revitalized U.S. peacemaking effort. Soon after, Kissinger made the first of his many trips to the Middle East. — Dr. Joseph S. Szyliowicz and Major Bard E. O’Neill, “The Oil Weapon and American Foreign Policy

In return for ending the oil boycott, Kissinger promised the Arabs “full implementation” of UNSC 242, which of course is understood by the Arabs as complete withdrawal from all territories captured in 1967, especially Jerusalem.

This is the second American ‘promise’ to the Saudis, and judging by official and unofficial US policy since then, we have been trying mightily to fulfill it. This is no accident: Saudi influence in the US, despite the diminishing importance of Saudi Arabia in today’s oil market, is immense (making the ‘Israel lobby’ look insignificant in comparison).

This influence comes from years of direct lobbying by the Kingdom, and via oil companies like Aramco, originally a subsidiary of Standard Oil, bought by the Saudis in the 1980s. But that isn’t all they bought: many American universities also found their way into the Arabian shopping cart, with donations of tens of millions of dollars to schools like Harvard and Georgetown. Politicians, too, including former Presidents have benefited from recycled petrodollars in the form of contributions to libraries, speaking engagements, etc. The Saudis are not shy about letting them know what awaits:

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”… [my emphasis]

Ex-Washington hands paid handsomely by the kingdom include such figures as Spiro T. Agnew, Jimmy Carter, Clark Clifford, John B. Connally and William E. Simon. A Washington Post account lists other former officials, including George H.W. Bush, who have found the Saudi connection “lucrative.” It also quotes a Saudi source saying that the Saudis have contributed to every presidential library in recent decades.

Many ex-U.S. ambassadors to Riyadh have received substantial sums of money since John C. West set the gold standard by funding his personal foundation with a $500,000 donation from a single Saudi prince, plus more from other Saudis, soon after he left the kingdom in 1981. — Daniel Pipes, “What Riyadh buys [in Washington]

Now for the speculative part.

The House of Saud is still interested, and will always be interested, in eliminating the Jewish state. But today it is perhaps even more concerned with a direct threat emanating from Iran and its proxies, Hizballah and Syria.

Iran represents a danger to the Saudi regime for a multiplicity of reasons, religious, political and economic. Its objective today is to take the leadership of the Gulf — indeed, the whole Middle East — away from the Saudis, who have been able to hold it thanks to American muscle. The Saudi king was even quoted as telling American officials that he wanted us to “cut off the head of the snake [Iran]” for him.

But what if the Saudis could kill both the Israeli and Iranian ‘snakes’ with a single blow? There are several ways that this could come about, all of which involve making use of the powerful Saudi influence on US policymakers:

Possibility 1: Israel could be allowed attack the Iranian nuclear program, doing significant damage. Then it might suffer greatly in the ensuing retaliation by Hizballah and Iran (perhaps also joined by Syria and Hamas). This scenario could explain what otherwise looks like US stupidity in going along with Iranian stalling while it gets closer to having the bomb.

Possibility 2: Iran could be allowed to develop a bomb, but Israel could be restrained from attacking. Then Iran might actually use its bomb against Israel. The US then would come to the aid of its ‘ally’, destroying the Iranian regime’s ability to fight and possibly even overthrowing the regime. This would explain US stupidity as above, as well as its reluctance to give a green light to Israel to attack until it is too late.

Possibility 3: The US could provoke a war between Israel and Syria, which would involve Hizballah. Both Israel and the Iranian proxies would suffer damage, although doubtless Israel would win. This would explain the puzzling behavior of US officials leaking details of Israeli attacks on weapons transfers to Hizballah.

There are other variations on the same theme.

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