Saudi Arabia on the American Chessboard

Part One: Independent player, compliant pawn, blackmailed clan, or criminal regime seeking survival?

For decades, American and Saudi officials have been calling each other allies. In countless occasions, though, Saudi officials shun the term “ally” and opt for “partner”. Why partner, not ally?  But the hyper-imperialist superpower has also been conferring the grand tile of ally to Israel, Japan, Persian Gulf sheikdoms, Egypt, Jordan, and, of course, to all members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Do these members see NATO as a defensive alliance, offensive organization, or partnership for peace? Does their view of NATO coincide with that of the United States? Does Saudi Arabia fit in an alliance or partnership pattern with the United States? What is driving Saudi Arabia’s wars and interventions outside and inside the Arab world: Wahhabism, American objectives, or clan interests? Do US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Syria qualify as Saudi wars? Is the direct Saudi war in Yemen a US war by proxy? How does the United States view Saudi Arabia: as an ally, partner, associate, or as something else? What is the basis of US-Saudi relation?

Saudi_Arabia_King_Salman_Greets_Secretary_Kerry_Before_Bilateral_Meeting_at_King_Khalid_Military_City_f096eSaudi Arabia King Salman Greets Secretary of State John Kerry

To see the inner works of the US-Saudi relation in a logical manner, we need to compare it to other types of relations. Generic comparisons might not work. The many peculiarities of the relation could lead to inconclusive results if not properly correlated. The NATO example, however, is a viable comparison model because the United States is involved in both Saudi and NATO relations and calls both entities allies. While the US-Saudi relation needs intensive work to decode, US-NATO relation is accessible for analysis because of widely available information. I should recall a known fact: in NATO setting, the United States is not like any other member. It is the founder, preponderant military force, and the supreme decision maker. By studying NATO’ wars, starting with the 3-month bombardment of Serbia in 1999 until the bombardment of Libya in 2011, the cogent conclusion one can gather is unmistakable. NATO is an American affair. Simply put, it is not possible to ignore that despite presumed collective decision-making and collegiality, the United States is in charge of NATO.

Take rank disparity inside NATO, for example. Although agreements stipulate that members’ contribution of money and military force is proportional to their capabilities, in effect, their rank value depends on how far they can go to meet US demands. This means their value in US esteem depends on their disposition to accept, reject, or postpone a decision. The resulting uncertainty is of no concern to the US because its highest rank is the propelling force of the organization. Incidentally, how the US circumvents opposition inside NATO?

From NATO wars, it appears that said opposition has neither stopped the United States from routinely bypassing its eminent position, nor from addressing the other members as allies. This means two things. 1) A political persuasion of the “allies” is underway, and 2) NATO members, especially those who joined after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, have to adapt to the US leading role and authority. (For the record, Italy has recently declared that it will not partake in the US-proposed bombardment of Libya to fight so-called ISIS. Italy, it can be argued, has understood that it cannot, this time, play along with US games.) I must point to one important issue. Although the West thinks of NATO as an alliance, the fact is, NATO is an organization conceived for only collective defense if a member comes under attack. That does not qualify it as an alliance in the good and in the bad. The transformation of NATO from a defensive concept to offensive doctrine, therefore, cannot be but the product of US pressure. With that, the US conferral of the ally title is a gesture to address sensitivities. Above all, it is a studied tactic to convey a sense of equality while effectively aiming for a planned outcome based on decisions made by Washington.

About NATO, a classification problem arises when testing the ranking of so-called US allies in Arab and European contexts. For instance, because the diction allies indicates that common interests are unifying two or more states, then would the United States consider Saudi Arabia equal on the scale of importance to Britain? The anticipated answer should be a principled no. That is because the ally concept in American context is a function of many factors and has a fluid meaning.

As an example, let us compare between Britain and Saudi Arabia on the question of rank value inside NATO. Britain is an advanced industrial country that manufactures its industry. Saudi Arabia is a developing country that buys turnkey industries. Britain is a nuclear power. Saudi Arabia wants to buy nuclear warheads. Britain may import foreign goods; but if it wants, it could manufacture them itself. Saudi Arabia buys almost everything: desalination plants, cars, jet fighters, plastic bags, toothbrushes, weapons, screwdrivers, and so on. Britain has a parliamentary system and conducts elections. Saudi Arabia has a despotic family rule and regressive Wahhabist edicts to prop it. Britain has a first world army. Saudi Arabia hires Pakistanis for its army and western military trainers for its National Guard. In addition, common heritage and cultural connections, therefore, makes Britain a special case in US calculations. In pure terms of alliance, Britain has been a US ally and a partner in savagery from WWI to this very day. Mention any US war, and Britain (or some of its Commonwealth vassals) is present.

Conclusion: Saudi Arabia and Britain have different value on the US-ally scale. Consequent to this finding, the United States cannot possibly call Saudi Arabia an ally in the same way it calls Britain.

Now consider the following. Ferdinand Marcos, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Manuel Noriega, Hussein bin Talal [King Hussein of Jordan], Hosni Mubarak, and others, were all US “allies”. But, what does a US ally mean and in what context? First, in the American practice of imperialism, a single context does not exist. What we do have here instead are multiple contexts tailored to fit circumstances. For instance, Richard Nixon called Iran of Pahlavi “one of the two pillars of the Persian Gulf Security” (the other, according the Nixon Doctrine, was no other than Saudi Arabia!) After the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, Iran went from a secure pillar and ally to become the declared enemy of the United States. To debunk the notion of ally in the US usage, we wonder: who was a US ally in Iran’s case: the Shah as a person or Iran as a nation? To answer: outside NATO context, the United Sates establishes “alliances” only with individuals and regimes. This implies the US concept of the ally paradigm is circumstantial, opportunistic, maneuvering, and lasts as long as the material conditions for its applicability exist.

In the US imperialist usage, therefore, contexts have variable meanings that change according to changes taking place on the world scene. Meaning, principles, whatever that means, have no place in the making of US foreign policy and domination because the only policy the US has developed is the policy of imperialism. In which case, its overriding concern is the pursuance of its established agendas regardless of cost—to itself and to others. Under this light, context/meaning is a main tool of US imperialism. It allows it to classify policies and operations according to project requirements and expected returns. Decoding the usage of context/meaning is the surest dialectical model to understand the American Saudi relation. It is also the shortest way to examine the origins of the US-Saudi wars in the Arab world.

To illustrate how the concept of US variable usage works in a wider context, consider the ever-present American catchphrase, “in consultation with our allies in the region“. US planners normally use it in Arab states’ context, especially since the Iran-Iraq war. However, the word “region” implicitly implies that Israel is included in the group of “allies”. Conversely, because of expected Arab “sensitivity”, American officials cannot say, “our Arab and Israeli allies”. Reason: it means that Arabs and Israelis are allies too—which is not the case. Further, in terms of allies and alliances, the meaningless diction “consultation with our allies” does not even apply to Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. Yes, they do have diplomatic relations, but they are not allies in the way the United States wants to imply.

Having demonstrated that the term “ally” in the American usage is a mechanism of influence meant to elicit responsive acceptance to an already taken decision, how does the United States employ it in an Arab context?  Consider this: whenever the United States speaks of “consultation with her regional allies”, the implication is transparent. It means that US planners are presenting a few ideas to subservient Arab regimes. Because of acute power imbalance between the parties involved in this type of consultations, there is no real consultation as the term implies. What we have instead are subtle subtexts with two messages. One calls for coordination with Israel, and the other for the Arabs to implement. Having said that, do America’s Arab “allies” have any political weight to counter Israeli and American decision-makers? Based on the history of the Arab regimes, the answer is no. If congruence matters, how do the Arabs consider their relation with the US alliance, partnership, or submission?

It is of interest to see under what light the United States sees its relation with Saudi Arabia. A conniving American imperialist scholar, John Spanier, generically but openly described this relation but only from a very particular view: how the West could siphon money out of Saudi pockets. Method: insinuate imaginary threats to its security. His proposal: sell them weapons to counter these threats. Talking about OPEC countries but addressing Saudi Arabia, he writes:

Without the industrial countries, they could not sell their oil, so that ruining the Western states was presumably not in their self-interest. . . . The West could also supply a country such as Saudi Arabia which believed it had a major security problem, with the most modern weapons and the men to train its forces. In addition, American political support for the Saudi government was desirable because the regime was conservative and concerned with stability. The government was staunchly anti-Communist and always worried about radical Arab regimes that leaned toward Moscow. [Italics added]1

Spanier said many things that we should examine. But first, why did he single out Saudi Arabia and not any other country? The answer is intuitive: the absolutist Saudi regime is bloated with money. It can spend billions of dollars in a single session without accountability or needed approval by any legislative body or state agency. Based on its history, it is an axiomatic truth that in Saudi Arabia, the House of Saud is The State.

On the subject of why the West should sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, Spanier created an alibi and left it there dangling. He claimed that Saudi Arabia “had a major security problem”. As it is always the case with US imperialists, claims without verification are as cheap as the desert sand. So, all that Spanier did was to catapult groundless claims, skip identifying the nature of these threats or their sources, and proceed thereafter to supply modern US weapons to Al Saud as a “solution” for their invented problems. My opinion: Spanier acted as a consummate alarm company salesperson. The salesperson creates fear to induce those who would be affected by it to purchase an alarm system package. By analogy, US (and European) imperialists create fear so they can conclude gigantic weapon deals in excess of hundreds of millions of dollars—but recently tens of billions of dollars have become the trend.

Notice how Spanier thinks of the issue of governance. Initially he called the Saudi system of government “regime”—which is the right thing to do. (Modern, progressive political culture identifies the term “regime” as a system of authoritarian government). In the next sentence, he turns around and calls that same system “government”. But a system in which a clan rules a country with sword and head decapitation while treating its citizens as hapless sheeple cannot be but be a violent authoritarian regime.

Spanier made sure that he lists the “virtues” of the Saudi regime: conservative, paranoid (with security issues), obsessed by Arab radicals, and staunchly anti-Communist. Of course, from the 1950s until the collapse of the Soviet Union these were great qualities sought by the United States.  As a result, he (and the United States) appreciates these traits in the Saudi “ally”.

Spanier did not elaborate on his concept of Arab radicals—a term widely used by US imperialists and Israel. Let us debate the usage of this peculiar phrase. Since Spanier considers it a negative or dangerous quality, then would the word “radical” have negative connotation across a wide spectrum of usages? For instance, imagine a health authority advises that individuals or societies “should pursue radical approaches to address a stubborn condition such as hypertension”. In this case, should we classify the word “radical” as dangerous? Now, imagine that a Palestinian group is exhorting other Palestinians to adopt “radical approaches to free themselves from the stubborn Zionist occupation of Palestine”. How should we classify the word “radical” this time: good, bad, or dangerous? I leave the question unanswered.  In the US and Israeli war of propaganda, “Arab radicals”, are all those who resist US imperialism and Israel in the Arab world.

As for the status of the US-Saudi relation, Spanier did point to one aspect: the method with which the United States has been manipulating the Saudis into buying US weapons. However, his rudimentary outline of this relation is reductionist by design. On one end of the equation, he creates a situation requiring a solution; on the other, he volunteers to provide it—US imperialist solution. On the issue of intentional reductionism versus purposeful cogency: what metrics could explain the close relation between an advanced superpower and a dependent developing country?

With that, I assert the following. By adding the Saudi regime’s determination to keep power to the US determination to change the configuration of the Arab world to suit its imperialist designs, we would have the metric needed to explain the US-Saudi relation. That is, to stay in power by American decision, the Saudi regime has to partake in the American plan to destroy the Arab nations for reasons that I shall discuss in the ensuing parts. I also assert that the American-Saudi relation presents the case for an indirect protectorate regime whereby the center is in charge of the periphery in a new way. And I assert that we are dealing with a yet-to-be-defined form of indirect hegemonic colonialism but without the necessity to impose classical territorial control.

I am not talking about neocolonialism or other forms of classical domination. In my series, The Hyper-Imperialist Paradigm2 I attempted to define US imperialism as a combination with Zionism. But years after an infamous killer invaded Iraq in 2003, the essence of US imperialism has changed even further from that definition and entered into deep psychopathic mode. This new type of imperialism occupies others in two ways: military presence and colonialism of the mind. To prove this point, suppose that the Saudi regime would ask the United States to withdraw all of its forces from the Persian Gulf. Would the United States oblige, pack its suitcases, and leave? That will not happen for two reasons. First, it is imaginable that the American-instilled fear—after 9/11—in the Saudi mind is so corrosive it would paralyze their tongue even before speaking. Second, it is certain that US hyper-imperialism would not relinquish its prizes in the Persian Gulf willingly—at least not before the oil wells dry out and not before the infrastructures for global domination, as they hope for, are in place.

Next: In Part Two, I shall expand my discussion on the US-Saudi relations.

• Article first published at American Herald Tribune

  1. John Spanier, American Foreign Policy Since World War II, 12th edition, Congressional Quarterly, 1991, p. 239. []
  2. B. J. Sabri, The Hyper-Imperialist ParadigmPart 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Dissident Voice, 2003 []
B.J. Sabri is an observer of the politics of modern colonialism, imperialism, Zionism, and of contemporary Arab issues. He can be reached at: Read other articles by B.J..