The US Should Not Accompany Saudi Arabia Over the Cliff

Like other totalitarian regimes that have no legitimacy and no base of support, the Saudis are wrapping themselves in religion. Saddam Hussein in the 1990s and currently Bashar al-Assad – the heads of the Baath party in Iraq and Syria – both played the religious card. However, Baathist doctrine in Iraq and Syria is basically irreligious. The Saudis are using religion as their excuse now, labeling the recent mass executions as preserving their religion when they are actually a message to frighten their citizens into submission.

Early in the Arab Spring of 2011, out of fear of losing its grip on the country’s citizens, the Saudi government allocated $35 billion in open giveaways and services to Saudi citizens. Although this monetary inducement succeeded in tamping down any thoughts of revolution at the time, the Saudis only deferred the day of reckoning. The impulse to fight against the sense of injustice is strong among those who live in that police state, with no democracy, and obscene inequality (many Saudi residents are working residents, with no rights at all).

The Saudis began this new year by executing 47 citizens on January 2, some by the barbaric method of beheading. These executions came after a total of 158 in 2015. Presumably the Saudi government sought to begin the year with a warning that it will not tolerate the crime of opposing the Saudi regime. These executions, some of them for people who merely spoke out against the state, is a slap in the face of all those democracies in the world.

Most of those executed were Sunni, and the executions were designed to frighten the overwhelmingly Sunni population of Saudi Arabia into silence. At the same time, the inclusion of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr sent a similar warning to the Shiite minority. It also served to divert the attention of the world from the cruel executions to the conflict between Shia and Sunni and to drag in Iran as the guilty party. Sheikh Nimr’s crime was to actively oppose the Saudi regime and call for better treatment of the 20% of Shiites in eastern Saudi Arabia.

Sadly, Iranians fell for the Saudi trap and set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Although President Hassan Rouhani and many of the political and military leaders in Iran – with the exception of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei – condemned the setting of fire of the Saudi Embassy, Saudi Arabia went ahead and closed their embassy in Tehran. Their strong allies Bahrain, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates closed their embassies as well to show support for the Saudi regime.

The Saudi effort to sustain the life of their regime is broad and profound. For decades, Saudi Arabia has spent billions of dollars for madrasas and mosques that spread their Wahhabi brand of Islam, and has funneled comparable sums to insurgents such as the al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and Jubhat al-Nusra directly and indirectly through covert operations. The Saudis support all those who oppose Assad in Syria. They seek to sway the outcome of Sudan’s civil war and install their puppet regime in Yemen.

The Saudis also claimed that the Houthis in Sudan are Iranian proxies, and even though much of the U.S. media accepts this claim at face value the evidence is slim. The Houthis are a different sect than Iranian Shiites. Iran has no troops in Yemen. Moreover, Iran is separated from Yemen by a large Gulf. Furthermore, Iran has not invaded Yemen as the Saudis did with support from the United States by positioning a carrier near Yemen.

The Saudis have contributed a great deal to fueling two civil wars — Syria and Yemen — without any consequences. And neither war has resulted from religious differences but rather because of Saudi efforts to fend off any challenges to their corrupt regime.

Saudi Arabia is on a dangerous path. Its fortunes are receding. The price of oil has dropped to 30 dollars per barrel. The country is spending $1 billion monthly on its reckless invasion of Yemen, while its citizens suffer from an economic downturn. The regime is attempting to bolster its authority by threat of death, rather than the promise of reform.

When President Obama took office in 2008, he correctly rejected the past policy of supporting non-democratic, corrupt, and abusive regimes simply because they are strategic partners of the United States. The Arab Spring of 2011 brought hope that democracy might just have a chance in the Middle East. But the task has proven to be exceedingly difficult, as events and policies in Egypt, Syria, Libya, and Yemen have led President Obama to continually retreat from his policy of distancing the United States from these totalitarian regimes.

Saudi Arabia’s recent mass executions represent a significant test to the United States. Our founding principles of freedom and democracy are being torn to shreds in the last throes of the Saudi regime. The United States should not blindly march in lock step with Saudi Arabia to the edge of the cliff of fire and destruction in the Middle East.

Adil E. Shamoo is an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, senior analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus, and the author of Equal Worth – When Humanity Will Have Peace, 2nd ed. He can be reached at Reprinted from Foreign Policy in Focus with permission.

11 thoughts on “The US Should Not Accompany Saudi Arabia Over the Cliff”

  1. The idea that Obama has been a passive by-stander in the Saudi’s numerous war-crimes is a farce. If anything he’s been a willing participant if not an outright instigator, using the Saudi’s secret armies to wage wars against Libya, Syria, Yemen and anyone else who stands in Uncle Sam’s path to world domination.

    Washington wag’s the dog not the other way around. We could end the Saudi’s in an instant just by cutting off there multi-billion dollar allowance. There a payed client state and they don’t sh*t without our approval.

    1. saudi does not get allowances from USA. its the other way around. saudi monarchy pays USA allowances in the form of billions of dollars in military orders so they get favorable treatment and support for their activities

      1. The allowances I was referring to are the billions of dollars in American tax dollars handed over to the Saudi’s as foreign aid every year.

        Without these pay checks and our military bases the royal family would have faced a firing squad years ago.

        1. Well, the problem with that is that US “foreign aid” to Saudi Arabia is in the low single-digit millions of dollars per year, not billions — and it consists almost entirely of in-kind, not cash, aid — free training at US military facilities for Saudi pilots and so forth, to sweeten the deal on the billions of dollars that flow in the OTHER direction in Saudi purchases of US arms.

          1. Bullsh*t! We have a score of other bases through out the region. If we leave it doesn’t mean jack to us. We can just open another base in Kuwait. The one base we keep in that country is in Riyadh. Not on the Persian Gulf or on the Iraqi border but Riyadh.

            You also have to consider US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) which serves as an intermediary for nearly all purchases of US arms and according to the Whitehouse’s own website has active and open cases with the Saudi’s valued at $97 billion.

            Big business and big government in this country have basically become indistinguishable.

            The point is that Saudi Arabia is completely dependent on US aid. They have no popular support at home and little abroad. Without us they would be f**ked. That doesn’t mean they don’t wield some influence at home with there lobbies but it pales in comparison to the influence we wield over there.

            It’s a sadomasochistic relationship but Uncle Sam is definitely not the submissive.

            Whatever, agree to disagree.

          2. i am really not sure of your argument. saudi arabia allows USA to do whatever and gives generous military and civilian orders in return for the support of their monarchy. USA uses saudi arabia to do whatever it needs to. but there is NO aid from USA to Saudi Arabia. There are no allowances in billions of dollar of aid. saudi arabia does not need money from USA, and they don’t get money from USA. in return for their billions of dollars of orders, they want iran to be kept in check, and their monarchy to be kept stable. that’s about it. but their time has come now to get screwed just like everyone else.

          3. When I say billions of dollars, I don’t mean we’re literally giving them dollars. I mean that the US puts billions of dollars into propping up the Saudi’s. Some of this is money but most of it is guns and military technology that technically comes from private corporations but only flows to the Saudi’s through government facilitation.

            We also maintain a very large base in Riyadh and use to maintain more until there presence began pissing off the locals so we ferried out most of those bases to the Saudi’s own little b*tch states like Kuwait and the like. All of these bases serve not only to project American power through out the region. There also there to offer the Saudi’s and there minions protection or at least the promise of it in case there people decide to revolt. If you doubt the Yank’s willingness to use there bases to facilitate such a crackdown just look up the Gwangju Massacre.

            The Saudi’s repay us by funding groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda to stir up trouble in places like Syria thus justifying our involvement there as World Policeman. Essentially it’s a protection racket.

            As for your last point, I agree completely. The Saudi’s are sociopathic shake down artists who definitely deserve a good screwing but so do there masters in Washington.

  2. When President Obama took office in 2008, he correctly rejected the past policy of supporting non-democratic, corrupt, and abusive regimes simply because they are strategic partners of the United States.

    the author is absolutely clueless. USA and Saudia were the biggest supporters of the coup in Egypt. USA rewarded the Egypt’s generals with more rewards, and Saudia rewarded them with huge amount of money.

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