How the Occupied Mentality Syndrome Works

Part 3: Saudi Arabia on the American Chessboard

Previously I argued whether Saudi Arabia’s repeated involvements in U.S. interventions and wars stem from free national will or in response to a specific condition. For starters, in Saudi Arabia there is no national will. In Saudi Arabia, the national will is the will of the Al Saud clan. Still, when a major Arab state allies itself with a superpower that committed unspeakable crimes against humanity in almost every Arab country, then something is wrong. This fact alone should compel us to examine the U.S.-Saudi relation for one exceptional reason. As a result of the U.S.-Saudi wars, hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia have lost their lives. Millions became displaced in their own homelands. And millions more rendered refugees. Attributing the Saudi policies to the bonds of “partnership” with the U.S. is frivolous. There are no bonds between these two thugs except those of business, military deals, secret plots, and wars. Proving this point, bonds such as these have no space for the American and Saudi peoples to share significant cultural or societal exchanges. If partnership is not the reason for the Saudi contribution to the U.S. strategy of empire and imperialism, then another reason must exist.

This leads to three possibilities: (1) The Saudis are exercising their supreme national rights to do whatever they want; or (2), they are responding to inducement; or, (3), they are complying with applied pressure. While the first possibility cannot be taken seriously, the remaining two possibilities are plausible. This means the Saudi participation in the U.S. wars — by proxy and directly — must have origins in factors other than the fluid concepts of alliance and partnership.

By the way, yielding to pressure is not new in international relations. In the age of today’s imperialism.  The U.S. use of the UNSC to impose its policies is an example. If impositions fail, then the U.S. acts unilaterally. Examples: the imposition of the no-fly zone in Iraq 1991-2003 and the invasion in 2003. In the era of classical colonialism during the 19th century, Britain’s gun boat diplomacy to force the opening of China to foreign trade is another example. Again, when a nation succumbs to another nation, that succumbence is never ordinary.

I also argued that succumbence to power is the result of protracted material, mental, and emotional processes performing as one element. From this premise I went on to coin the term: Occupied Mentality Syndrome (OMS) to describe such an element. Unlike other forms of mentalities (national, group, personal, and so on), the mentality I am debating is atypical. Driven by subjective factors but influenced by politically construed constraints –real or imagined — this mentality has special traits. It competes with ideology, it conforms to pressure, it lays the blame on others, and it discards accountability.

Although such traits may not appear all at once, the presence of any one of them in a given situation is a reason to suspect that an OMS is lurking behind. Most interesting, those afflicted by this syndrome accept what comes next as a normal outcome of free deliberation. This is an anomaly. It is so because those who endorse it only calculate value versus detriment.

But calculations gutted from analysis, congruency of purpose, or the study of variables lead to contentious decisions. It is no mystery that decisions with far-reaching negative consequences impacting others could lead to tension or even open hostility. How does the Saudi regime get away from the impact of their decisions?

The usual act has been to reject any responsibility without discussion — as it happened with Iraq’s war against Iran. In doing so, the Saudi takes the clues directly from Niccolò Machiavelli. Explanation: after converting the deliberation process into a justificatory procedure, the Saudi regime moves to the next phase: conferring legitimacy to already made decisions. Here is how they do it: make the decisions appear as if they were the result of (1) the collective national will — through the regime’s talking heads, preachers, and media — and (2) purported adherence to the “Islamic Sharia”. The bogus legitimacy ruse that ensues is ludicrous. A tyrannical and obscurantist regime has now the authority to move forward with its decisions by calling on its citizens to observe a Quranic verse — taken out of context — calling on Muslims to obey their rulers.

To test the validity of the OMS concept, let me reprise my argument about how the Iranian Revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan shaped the mindset of the Saudi regime. Although the outcome of the 18-month long anti-Shah demonstrations was predictable, it, nevertheless, caught the U.S. and Saudi Arabia unprepared for his downfall. With the Shah gone, a psycho-political “drama” unfolded. The United States lost one of Nixon’s two pillars (the other is Saudi Arabia) in the Middle East; Israel lost its only ally in the Muslim world; Al Saud lost their inner confidence. The mere idea of a Khomeini-style revolution sweeping Saudi Arabia was enough to induce convulsive spasms in all those concerned with power, money, and oil.

Afghanistan was a different story. While the United States was mostly concerned with the Soviet power and on how to respond to the invasion, Saudi Arabia was literally terrified about the potential spread of “godless” Communism.  Thus was born the “special relation” between U.S. ruling circles and a reactionary, absolutist clan.

What do we understand from the U.S.-Saudi relation?

Marked differences between the U.S. and Saudi polities make it intuitive that such a relation is no more than an opportunistic convergence between two regimes. Said differently, what we have here is a forum for massive business encounters and ideological boastings that both regimes struggle to call “alliance”. Generally, in the pre-9/11 period that relation had two sets of motives.  While the American set is trite — empire-building, hegemony, oil, wars, and Israel — the Saudi’s is issue-focused. (1) The clan must have the absolute primacy over Saudi life and society. (2) The clan defines its quest for security and survival in a U.S. imperialistic context. That is, whatever the U.S. needs, the Saudi regime can supply in exchange for the clan’s needs.

It would be interesting to imagine the following scenario. The subject is Afghanistan. Was it ever possible for the Saudi regime to pursue a course independent from the objectives of the United States policy because they run against the legitimate interests of the Saudi people? To debate this point: was the spending of over $3.2 billion (indexed for that period) on the anti-Soviet Afghan war of any benefit to the Saudi society?

Let us make another supposition. Because Al Saud think of their clan as being the most powerful on earth, then a pressing question comes to mind. If they were that powerful, why did they not take alternative measures to counter U.S. pressure in the decades before 9/11? For instance, they could have purchased technology, weapons, and advanced commodities — and even “protection” — from any industrial country other than the United States.1 Or, with all the money they had, they could have started an autonomous national industrialization process like that of India, Iran, Turkey, China, South Korea, and others.

Ironically, even if the Saudi regime had the means to undertake that process, it would not have moved to implement it. Explanation: advanced statecraft mechanisms leading to independent decision-making in any sector of the national life are unavailable because of the despotic nature of the regime. Not only that, but achieving sovereignty means also sovereignty for the people. This would surely curtail the power of the clan due to increased popular participation in the setting of national priorities.

Let us consider another point: the Saudis have always bragged that their “alliance” with the U.S. is unbreakable. This has an implication: the preventive imprisonment of their critical judgment and free will. Explanation: while the Saudis are unwilling to break with the U.S., the U.S. can discard them at will and play them at any given time as it happened recently with the story of the 28 pages never published from the 9/11 report. Tentative conclusion: from the clan’s perspective, it appears that whatever the U.S. wants can be addressed and accepted. Still, my earlier supposition that Saudi Arabia had the means and will to be independent from the United States has merit, It means any U.S. pressure on the Saudis for burden sharing would be useless if the Saudis resist and go somewhere else for their needs.

If a counter-argument suggests that the Saudi spending in Afghanistan was worth it to deter a potential Russian aggression, then a reasoned rebuttal could be as follows: Fact 1: we know that the U.S.-Saudi relation revolves around deterring hypothetical “threats” against the kingdom. Fact 2: but we also know that neither the USSR, nor any other regional or international power has ever threatened to attack or invade Saudi Arabia. Amusingly, the only rumored threat of invasion came from Saudi Arabia’s “ally”, the United States (and from Britain) consequent to the Arab oil embargo in 1973. Conclusion: Al Saud had no impelling reasons to finance the U.S. imperialist enterprise in Afghanistan—even if they loathed the Soviets.

My argument: the Saudi regime has been concealing the primary motive feeding their “alliance” with the United States. Yet, it is not that difficult to guess what the clan thinks. Being a superpower with massive Zionist and Israeli influence, the United States offered the best guarantee for the survival of the regime on two fronts.

On the domestic front, the U.S. may help the regime survive if domestic unrest becomes unstoppable. The American-authorized French intervention to quell the Mecca uprising in 1979 is an example. As for The Zionist and Israeli component in American politics viewed from a Saudi angle, this is intuitive too. Like all Arab regimes, deluding themselves that the U.S. has a sovereign Arab policy, the Saudis thought of their U.S. relation as a buffer against America’s ally and protégée: Israel.

Furthermore, whereas Saudi motives are clan-based, those of the United States are system-based. This means they are global, rationalized, and originate from how the ruling circles view the role of the United States in the world. Still, motives need forces to have effect. Consequently, the motives of a political state are the same motives of the ideological and material forces that drive it. For instance, in post-WWII United States, such forces worked as one construct to drive the purpose of U.S. hegemony. The economics, politics, and ideology of militarized capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, and Zionism are a few examples of such forces.

I mentioned colonialism as a force in the making of the United States. Does this apply to the United States of today? Here is how I see it. With military bases in over 160 countries, with bases count ranging from 761 to 900 plus, with a military personnel in excess of 156,000, with a land mass of over 2,202,735 hectares (approx. 5,443,076 acres) occupied by the U.S. military, and with a $150 billion annual budget, the United States is not but a global colonialist power whose bases are nothing less than outposts for a colonialist enterprise in progress. See deployment map in the article: These are all the countries where the US has a military presence.2,3,4,5,6. [Note: I included several links to the issue of bases because some data differ from one source to another. Besides, the cited articles could offer an integrated view of the subject.]

Three motives define the course of the U.S. power. These are (1) the determination to expand the spheres of U.S. influence, (2) the relentless intent to dominate geostrategic regions, and (3) wars as economic enterprises. How does the United States implement its domination project? The U.S. has an impressive array of tools and gadgets. Limited sampling: planned hostility, military interventions against countries resisting U.S. demands, wars against independent-minded countries that U.S. rulers love to call “rogue states”, seizure of foreign assets in the U.S., economic sanctions against “disobedient” states, applying U.S. laws on foreign states, dubbing adversaries as terrorists, harassment of big rival powers . . .

If examined in the context of classical colonialism, the U.S. domination of Saudi Arabia has all the signs of a colonialist dependency model. In this model, the periphery depends on the center in a way designed to consecrate the primacy of the center. But Saudi Arabia has never been a U.S. colony. This is true but irrelevant. The changing nature of modern dependency uses revamped practices. In one such practice, Washington makes the decisions and Riyadh implements them as if it were its own. The examples of Libya, Syria, and Yemen are instructive.

Keeping this in mind, I contend that many facts of the U.S.-Saudi relation point into the direction of multiple forms of dependency. The U.S. as a “protector” of the clan, massive Saudi purchase of U.S. arms, financial deals, and U.S. military presence in the kingdom are just the most prominent forms. One crucial aspect of the relation deserves stringent analysis. The U.S.-Saudi “alliance” goes beyond dependency, beyond petrodollar deposits, beyond investments in the U.S. economy, beyond the purchase of weapons, and beyond buying of treasury bonds. I am referring to a subject often overlooked: Saudi Arabia as a destructive interventionist tool in the hands of U.S. imperialists and Zionists.

To recap, stating that the U.S.-Saudi coupling is an alliance makes no sense. The alliance notion has different requirements, defining clauses, and formal obligations. Not even the claim of partnership is valid. Partnership takes its name from concepts such as equal sharing of burden, profits, and losses. This is not the case between the United States and Saudi Arabia. What we have here is an opportunistic platform between two different regimes pursuing separate agendas.

Again, prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. aims included the opposition to Communism, containing Arab hostility to the U.S. and Israel, securing cheap oil, and providing basing rights for the U.S. military. On the Saudi side, preventing potential Iranian-style Islamic and progressive national revolutions in the region was the top concern. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, things changed. Generally, while the Saudis are obsessed with keeping the status quo in their regional milieu, the Americans are maneuvering their regional marionettes and intervening directly to alter the socio-structures and political assets of the entire region known as the Middle East.

Countless facts during the past 35 years attest that Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy coincided with or was in response to U.S. world agenda. As a result, we can draw a preliminary conclusion. From 9/11 forward, the disoriented Saudi regime has been devotedly executing what the United States wants it to do in exchange for not complicating its life. With that, Saudi Arabia has become the material accessory and financing tool of the United States and Israel to remake (destroy) the Arab homeland according to the U.S. and Israeli plans. Iraq, Syria, and Libya are examples.7,8

It is natural that an event such as 9/11 would have traumatized the clan and drove them to panic and despair. This is not only due to the nationality of some of the alleged attackers but also because Wahhabism, the creed of the Saudi state, has taken a post among the accused. For one, 9/11 worsened the socio-political instability of the clan and amplified their notorious arrogance. But 9/11 alone cannot explain the real reasons behind the intensified proclivity of the regime for violence toward the few remaining Arab states that still reject U.S. hegemony and Israeli settler colonialism.

However, in Saudi contest, the principal effect of 9/11 was “surgical”. It exposed the ugly face of Saudi barbarity by externalizing its warring enmity toward Iran and any Arab nation that opposes U.S. hegemony and the criminal practices of the Wahhabi state. That proclivity for violence and that foaming anti-Arab and anti-Iranian enmity were the means with which Al Saud thought they could placate post-9/11 United States and appease Israel in the process. Involving the Saudi ruling family in 9/11 was a master stroke of a strategy. With it, the United States has skillfully exploited the primal fear of the Saudi regime from losing power. And just like that, with one unsubstantiated accusation, the United States seized the grand moment — the prey was ready to be devoured.

It is beside the point to state that analyses meant to explain post-9/11 Saudi actions and policies must consider the determination of the Saudi regime to take whatever is needed to appease the United States.  After 9/11 the Saudis thought they could silence the hyper-imperialist bully by withdrawing their recognition of Afghanistan under the Taliban rule. It did not work out. Then they moved, as requested by the United States, to cut off funding to religious organizations and Wahhabi-inspired schools in many countries. It did not work out either. Afterwards, they offered King Abdulla’s initiative to recognize Israel. Still, it did not work out.

Here is what the crude mentality of Al Saud failed to comprehend. The appeasement the hyper-empire was thinking of was much wider, much deeper, and has no end — it is the unconditional Saudi willingness to play along with the U.S. plans and strategies.

I maintain, therefore, that explaining the Saudi post-9/11 wars and interventions against selected Arab states is ineffective without proper investigative tools. What we need are approaches that would enable us to see below, above, and around the appearances of events.

Another significant outcome of 9/11 was tangible: the transformation of Saudi Arabia from an American “ally” into a near hostage pliable for blackmail. For instance, the Saudi regime voiced concern and even some opposition to the planned U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Still, they were unable to stop the U.S. from using their territory, airports, ports, and military facilities for that purpose. But when the invasion took its course, they mightily supported it. This is duplicity, of course, but I do not have to debate that such behavior says more than it could hide. Simply, it indicates fear from opposing U.S. moves.

I hold, therefore, that the radical change in Saudi Arabia’s post-9/11 regional conduct (the war against Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iraq; the harassment of Lebanon; the anti-Iran bellicosity; the tryst with Israel) was not in response to pressing Saudi needs, or to sudden wakening of the regime’s dormant “democratic values”. By extracting meanings out of statements, and by reading deeply into the cumulative consequences of the Saudi actions and their purpose, the answer should dispense with theoretical uncertainties. That is, those radical changes were in response to U.S. pressure or other forms of hard persuasion including implicit blackmail.

In which way did Iraq’s war against Iran confirm the U.S. scheme for the Middle East? What role did Al Saud play in that war? How does all this relate to and corroborate the occupied mentality syndrome?

Read Part One here; Part Two here

First published at American Herald Tribune

Next:  Part 4

  1. I should mention that Saudi Arabia has purchased missiles from China, as well as advanced weapons from Germany, Italy, Britain, Japan and other countries. Still, none of these deals would have been completed without the United States approving them first. The U.S. approval is motivated. First, U.S. military industry licenses the making of its weapons abroad and has deals to manufacture other weapons in partnership with all many countries. Second, by submitting the weapons sale to its preventive approval, the United States establishes equal control on buyers and sellers. And this is how hegemony works. (Read: Why Did Saudi Arabia Buy Chinese Missiles? This is an imperialist view by the Foreign Policy Magazine. Pay attention to how Jeffrey Lewis explains the conditions that made the purchase possible. He writes, “Apparently with the approval of the George W. Bush administration.” [Italics mine]. Needless to say, the word “apparently” should have been omitted. . . . []
  2. Gilbert Achcar, Greater Middle East: the US plan, Le Monde Diplomatique []
  3. Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Plans for Redrawing the Middle East, Uruknet, 18 November 2006 []
  4. David Vine, The United States has Probably More Foreign Military Bases than Any Other People, Nation, or Empire in History, The Nation, 14 September, 2015 []
  5. David Vine, Where in the World Is the U.S. Military?Politico Magazine, July/August, 2015 []
  6. Julia Zorthian and Heather Jones, This Graphic Shows Where U.S. Troops Are Stationed Around the World, Time, 16 October 2015 []
  7. Tom Engelhardt, The US Has 761 Military Bases Across the Planet, and We Simply Never Talk About It, AlterNet, 7 September 2008 []
  8. Louis Jacobson, Ron Paul says U.S. has military personnel in 130 nations and 900 overseas bases, POLITIFACT, 14  September, 2011 []
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..