Saudi Arabia, the brutal authoritarian theocracy that the democracy-promoting Washington claims as one of its closest allies, has a bit of a history of pressuring the U.S. into Middle East wars. The 1991 First Gulf War to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait was fought largely in defense of Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom also encouraged the Bush administration to invade Iraq in 2003. And the Saudi king has repeatedly urged Washington to attack Iran to secure Saudi interests in the Sunni-Shia regional divide.
Saudi Arabia also has a rather incriminating and duplicitous history of harboring Islamic extremists of the al-Qaeda, jihadist type. They helped the U.S. fund the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis (and they were directed by a Saudi, named Osama bin Laden). There is even a classified record that members of Congress have claimed indicates the Saudi government’s role in the 9/11 attacks.
Since the start of Syria’s civil war, foreign jihadists have been flooding the country – many of them coming from Saudi Arabia. Al Monitor reports:
Estimates of the number of Saudis fighting in Syria range as high as 2,500. Some are hardened veterans of earlier jihads in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq. A few are compatriots of Osama bin Laden. Others traveled to Syria from the kingdom, despite individual travel bans imposed for dissident activities at home. Some traveled directly through major Saudi airports, leading many observers to conclude they were encouraged by the authorities to leave the kingdom and go fight Assad. For over two years, the Saudi government seemed to turn a blind eye to travel by its citizens — even political dissidents — to Syria.
Kuwait, which has close ties to the Saudi government, “is a major source of private funding for Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s official arm in Syria,” Al Monitor reports.
Interesting enough, but that is not the big piece of news from this Al Monitor report. The big news is this: “King Abdullah will make a major push for a more vigorous American effort to oust Assad when he hosts Obama [late next month]. The Saudis have been openly disappointed that Obama has not used force to get rid of Assad or provided more assistance to training and arming the Syrian opposition.” Now, the report says, the Saudis are trying to persuade Obama to impose regime change in Syria by promising to cut back on its support for jihadists.
To sum up, Saudi Arabia’s policy on Syria amounts to funding groups considered by Washington to be terrorists and to lobbying the President of the United States to destroy the Damascus government. The two initiatives are deeply intertwined given that a collapse of the regime in Syria would mean chaos and huge ungoverned spaces, which foreign funded jihadists could thrive in.
I’ve been hammering away on the issue of entangling alliance for months now, but where is the outrage on Saudi Arabia? The U.S. government continues to help prop up and arm the Saudi government and yet it supports terrorism and is trying to suck the U.S. into another dangerous and endless military quagmire in the Middle East. Where are the belligerent members of Congress, the Peter Kings and Charles Schumers, condemning Saudi Arabia? They condemn other countries for much less.