TAKE THE LEAD
response to this has been fierce, and Congressional Democrats
have been particularly bellicose, with Senator Joseph
Lieberman, a putative presidential contender, going so far
as to declare that a "theological
iron curtain" was falling over the Arab world, including
Saudi Arabia. Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan), powerful chairman
of the Senate Armed Services Committee, took up this "cold
war" theme with some particularly hot rhetoric,
saying he had "an uneasy feeling" that the Saudis
were coddling Islamic terrorists and that American forces
were "not particularly wanted" there:
act as though somehow or another they're doing us a favor.
And I think the war against terrorism has got to be fought
by countries who really realize that it's in everybody's interest
to go after terrorism. I think we may be able to find a place
where we are much more welcome openly, a place which has not
seen significant resources flowing to support some really
extreme, fanatic views."
and Lieberman were joined by Rep. Ike Skelton, top Democrat
on the House Armed Services Committee, who averred that the
Saudis "need to cleanse the place of potential terrorist
fusillade comes as the climax of a furious post-9/11 anti-Saudi propaganda
campaign that has gone into overdrive in recent weeks.
From noting that most of the alleged hijackers were identified
as Saudi nationals to screaming headlines about a
dispute between a visiting Saudi princess and her maid,
the anti-Saudi jihad has become an intellectual paradigm for
the theoreticians of a new cold war. Neoconservative
ideologues such as Daniel
Pipes and Stephen Schwartz,
see Wahabism as the totalitarian flavor of the new millennium,
just as the varieties of socialism (Stalinism and Nazism)
were the scourge of the twentieth century. This view has been
popularized indeed, one might say novelized
by a new book, written and published inside of a few weeks,
Laden, The Forbidden Truth, by Jean-Charles Brisard
and Guillaume Dasquie, described
by the Los Angeles Times as
dense, conspiracy-minded portrait of Saudi-dominated banks,
companies and tycoons, all allegedly interconnected, that
they maintain have helped fund Bin Laden's holy war."
Saudi-devil theory, which posits that we ought to have bombed
Riyadh in addition to Kabul, is senseless if we compare it
with the facts. For Bin Laden is an avowed enemy of
the House of Saud, and is pledged to their overthrow. As Peter
L. Bergen points out in Holy
War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World Of Osama bin Laden:
Laden also believed the House of al-Saud, the family that
has ruled Arabia for generations, were 'apostates' from Islam.
Apostasy is a grave charge to level against the Saudi royal
family, who style themselves the protectors of the two holiest
places in Islam, Mecca and Medina, and practice the most traditional
form of Sunni Islam."
addition Bergen relays the charge of Khaled
al-Fawwaz, an Al Qaeda sympathizer who helped arrange
Bergen's interview with Bin Laden, that "several assassination
attempts have been mounted against [Bin Laden] by Saudi intelligence
services." Al Qaeda's holy war against the US military
presence on the Arabian peninsula makes a particular target
of those who invited the Americans in the House of
and Dasquie basically say that the Americans let 9/11 happen
because of a "softness" on the Saudis on account
of the influence of Big Oil in American politics. This is
what supposedly motivated the Bushies to enter into secret
negotiations with Bin Laden prior to September 11. The popularity
of the Brisard-Dasquie book in France is understandable, as
it blames the Americans for the disaster that befell them,
but the lesson really ought to stand for the Europeans as
well, says M. Dasquie:
U.S. is not the only one. The question is why developed countries
need to do commercial deals with Saudi Arabia and if those
commercial deals are why they must close their eyes about
the reality of the Saudi Arabian kingdom. Since the 18th
century, Saudi Arabia has been focused on conquering the world."
an overweening ambition would be difficult to hide, but isn't
it funny how nobody ever noticed it before? And another thing:
this "forbidden truth" theory being a lot of marlarkey, what,
then, is the real reason for the anti-Saudi propaganda campaign,
so ably and relentlessly conducted by a broad coalition of
neoconservatives (the Weekly Standard, Commentary,
the New York Post) and liberal Democrats (Lieberman,
Levin, the New
interest of congressional Democrats in the "Forbidden
Truth" thesis is understandable, especially if they can
make the charge of "secret negotiations" stick.
If the Bush administration was not only "soft" on
terrorism but even somehow protected their Saudi allies from
scrutiny by law enforcement agencies, then who benefits? The
Bush family, long tied to the Saudis, is fair game once the
"Forbidden Truth" conspiracy theory becomes the
conventional wisdom: George Herbert Walker Bush, reviled by
some for his pro-"Arabist" policies, is the particular
target of this left-wing hate campaign.
neocons, no friends of Bush pere, also have much to gain.
They blame the father for not "finishing the job"
and concluding the Gulf war prematurely, even as they exhort
and try to shame the son into a military confrontation not
only with Iraq, but with nearly the entire Islamic world.
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol didn't waste much
time after 9/11, quickly mobilizing
a phalanx of intellectuals and other policy wonks calling
for an all-out invasion of a whole list of Arab nations: not
only Iraq, but also Iran and Syria and I'm sure none
of the signers would object to the addition of Saudi Arabia.
so at least two groups of ideologues and I can think
of a few more on the right and the left have some interest
in propagating the "Forbidden Truth" scenario, but,
by themselves, these people are just a bunch of writers, policy
wonks, and political hacks, without the resources to do anything
but bloviate. The real power that is, the money power
behind the anti-Saudi campaign are the same financial
interests that have profited from the Saudi-US alliance lo
these many years: the Rockefeller family, the controlling
factor in the Arabian-American Oil Co., Aramco.
And therein lies a story….
return for US aid and support for the House of Saud, King
Ibn Saud granted Aramco a monopoly over the production
of Saudi oil at the end of World War II. Aramco is a consortium
of companies, with Exxon, Mobil, and Socal all Rockefeller-connected
granted 70 percent ownership, and Texaco granted the
rest. A premier example of crony capitalism, the Rockefeller-Saudi
alliance translated into multi-millions in subsidies through
the Export-Import Bank, so that the King could build his own
personal railroad from his capital to the summer palace. Franklin
Roosevelt took money out of the war budget to prepare the
way for Rockefeller's pipelines. In return, the Saudis granted
the US an airbase at Dharan, conveniently near the oil fields.
Smalltime capitalists hire private security guards to protect
their property, but the big boys or, at least, some
of them have the use of the American military.
Saudi-Aramco relationship has endured a lot. There was a phony
"nationalization" of Aramco in the 1970s, when Nasserite
and Baathist socialism were all the rage on the Arab "street":
the Saudi government took over Aramco, formally, but then
immediately turned around and granted the Aramco-Rockefeller
consortium the exclusive contract to "manage" the
operation. Under this new deal, the consortium would get the
lion's share of Saudi oil, with the rest going to Petromin,
the state-owned company. As Murray
N. Rothbard succinctly summed it up:
all boils down to a happy case of the 'partnership of industry
and government' happy, that is, for the Saud family and
for the Rockefeller oil interests."
ON A DIME
was the rock upon which the US-Saudi alliance was founded,
and anyone who questioned the necessity, wisdom, or cost of
this friendship let alone calling for a US withdrawal
was roundly denounced as a foolish "isolationist."
Now, the same people who hailed the Gulf war and the imperative
of defending the Saudi oil fields, have turned on a dime,
and are not only calling the historic friendship into question,
but openly wondering if the Saudis are enemies.
to explain this sudden about-face by the chattering classes,
the political mavens, and now a growing number of mostly Democratic
politicians? I say follow the money!
but "everything's changed!," they cry. How can you
be so cynical? Don't you know that skepticism is out
and earnestness is in? Be that as it may, I can only
report the facts as I see them, and what I can tell you is
that everything changed well before September 11, 2001, as
far as the Rockefeller oil interests in Saudi Arabia were
pivotal event occurred without much public notice, on September
23, 1998, during Crown Prince Abdullah's visit to the US,
where he met with the presidents of the major US oil companies,
"with whom he exchanged cordial talks and reviewed issues
pertaining to petroleum affairs," as the
Saudi embassy website delicately phrases it. But the reality
lurking beneath the veneer of diplomatic phrases was a lot
rougher: according to widespread reports in the Arab media,
the Prince basically told the Aramco consortium that their
monopolistic state-privileged status was about to be revoked.
very interesting piece by Adel
Darwish in the Middle
East Analyst purports to give us the inside scoop
on the Prince's message to this gathering:
a private, hour-long meeting on Saturday 23 September at the
house of Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan in McLean,
Virginia, with senior executives representing seven American
oil companies: The four American oil giants Mobil Corp, Exxon
Corp, Texaco Inc. and Chevron Corp. (which established the
Arabian American Oil Co now known as Saudi Aramco, in the
1930s) the other three were Atlantic Richfield Co., Conoco
Inc. and Phillips Petroleum Co.
to sources close to the meeting, [the] Prince [told] the executives
to submit directly to him a study of 'recommendations and
suggestions' about the role their companies could play in
the exploration and development of both existing and new oil
gas fields, said one participant in the meeting. The same
source said that the executives appeared 'shocked' by the
major policy reversal. Saudi Arabia began nationalizing its
oil industry in 1973 and has adamantly excluded foreign oil
companies from production operations ever since."
excluded but for the Aramco consortium, that is until
now. Abdullah, the heir apparent to the invalid King
Fahd, is a modernizer who has decided that it's time to
throw open the doors of free competition and let the free
market take over. The deal was off. The Rockefeller stranglehold
on Saudi oil production was about to end, announced the Prince,
and this surely sent waves of shock through his audience.
Indeed, the shockwaves are still being felt today, as the
US ponders not only withdrawing its troops from the Saudi
kingdom, but whether our longtime ally is really our deadly
TO ARAMCO: 'THE PARTY'S OVER'
Saudis, usually close-mouthed about business matters and subtle
policy shifts, were more than forthcoming in broadcasting
their declaration of independence. Prince
Abdullah went to the trouble of granting an unusual interview,
in which he said exactly what happened at that historic meeting:
1998 I had a chance to meet with a number of executives from
major oil companies. We had discussed the investment opportunities
in the Kingdom especially in light of its stability and the
availability of huge oil and gas reserves. I had indicated
to them, at that time, that we welcome, and we will be willing
to look into, any investment ideas that might be of benefit
to both sides."
SAUDIS AND THE 'SILK ROAD'
vision of a modernized Saudi Arabia is to be financed by a
new arrangement with Western oil companies, and an opening
up of the Saudi economy to competitive foreign investment.
He boasted of receiving proposals "from 18 of the top
oil companies in the world" worth a total exceeding one
hundred billion dollars and ranging from "production,
processing, transporting and distributing of gas to refining,
transporting and marketing of oil and building the required
infrastructure." The Prince went on to politely but firmly
declare his defiance:
this will take us a long way towards the creation of a solid
and integrated economy that realizes the full economic potentials
of the oil and gas industry and will open new and wide investment
opportunities for the Saudi private sector. And it is important
to keep in mind that money invested in projects in Saudi Arabia
means less money available for investment in competing projects
very interesting comment, that last: what are these "competing
projects"? This is none other than the Transcaucasian
"Silk Road" pipeline project, slated to extend
from the Caspian Sea oilfields to Turkey, and perhaps down
through Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean. This project has
long been on the drawing boards, and the Clinton administration
took it up with alacrity, even going
so far as to set up a special department to facilitate its
creation. If the foreign oil companies were going to try
to go around them, said the Prince in so many words, then
two could play that game:
Q: "Your Royal Highness what about Saudi Aramco? Will
it assume a new role following the formation of the council
and the invitation of the international oil companies?"
A: "We are proud of Aramco's achievements through
the years and our dealings with foreign companies will never
be at the expense of Aramco. I believe the presence of these
companies will strengthen Aramco and sharpen its competitive
edge. Aramco, has, I believe, the administrative and technical
expertise and know-how that enable it to compete effectively
with these companies."
MARKET ECONOMICS 101
the price of oil steadily falling, Abdullah is strapped for
cash. Darwish cites Yehya
Sadowski, associate professor of Middle East studies at
Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, who
says the Saudis exhausted their capital assets paying off
the US for the cost of the Gulf War. Faced with the looming
prospect of bankruptcy, and increasing competition in the
oil market from South America and Central Asian states of
the former Soviet Union, Abdullah's choice was made out of necessity:
the alternative is continued stagnation and the indefinite
postponement of modernization.
any case, the glee with which the heir presumptive to the
Saudi throne delivered a lecture on free market economics
to the leading capitalists of the West should be shared and
appreciated by free marketeers everywhere.
spite of the Prince's reassurances that the Rockefellers would
get their fair share and no more it is doubtful
that the assembled Aramco executives were all that appreciative
of the little lesson in Economics 101. Their great unhappiness
is what is really driving this anti-Saudi hysteria. Oh, you've
got to modernize, say the globalist policy wonks, you've
just got to open your borders to free trade and open
up your markets to free competition: let the market rule!
This is the advice routinely given, but, when it is finally
taken, the reaction is a concerted campaign of calumny and
years of close military cooperation between the two countries,
a female pilot pops up who objects to settled rules on proper
attire while serving in the Saudi kingdom and becomes
a feminist icon overnight. All of a sudden, we hear from
Andrew Sullivan about the persecution of homosexuals under
the strictures of Sharia law, a cause that somehow previously
escaped his attention. Virtually overnight it is discovered
by all sorts of instant "experts" that Wahabism,
the official state religion of our longstanding ally, is the
equivalent of Nazism if not outright devil-worship. That this
sudden awakening to the alleged "Saudi threat" occurred
in tandem with the Rockefeller's acrimonious (and costly)
break with the House of Saud is, of course, the purest coincidence.
NEW COLD WAR
number of public figures have weighed in on this potentially
explosive issue: Bill Clinton warned
against the withdrawal of US troops from the region (surely
an argument in favor), while Neil Bush urged the Saudis
to make a better case for themselves. But the momentum
is all the other way, and, while the
administration is denying that any withdrawal is being contemplated,
clearly the Bush people are speaking only for themselves.
For if and when Abdullah asks the US to set a departure date,
this is sure to set off a new round of renewed Saudi-bashing,
one that the new cold
warriors look forward to with gusto and which the
rest of us have good reason to fear.
dissolution of the Rockefeller oil monopoly, and the creation
of a truly independent Saudi Arabia, with freer markets and
without the burden of justifying the presence of foreign troops
on its soil, will strengthen the forces of modernization and
expand the margins of freedom in the Middle East. That is
why the withdrawal of US forces would be a giant step forward
in defeating the Bin Ladens of this world. It is a divorce
that will benefit both: however, all divorces contain some
bitterness, no matter how outwardly amicable, and it is going
to be all too easy for the War Party to segue straight into
an adversarial relationship with our former ally. And therein
lies a great danger.
Max Boot of the War Street Journal complaining
about the paucity of American casualties in Afghanistan,
clearly our bloodthirsty hawks were disappointed in the brevity
of the Afghan campaign, and yearn for more. The
same arguments made by the warhawks of National Review
for an invasion of Iraq could be applied with even more force
to an alleged "threat" from Riyadh. As our foreign
policy tends inexorably toward an all-out assault on the entire
Arab world, the Saudis will take the place of the Soviets
in the demonology of the new cold war at least that is
the hope in certain quarters.
Crown Prince Abdullah called off his sweetheart deal with
Aramco, he incurred the wrath of some very powerful people,
and it was only natural that they would seek revenge. Speaking through Jeff
Jacoby in an act of ventriloquism that no doubt had
the dummy-columnist's full cooperation the Aramco-Rockefeller
consortium delivered this "ultimatum" to their former
would make it clear to the Saudi princes that we expect their
full cooperation no matter where the war on terrorism takes
us. And if it takes us to a land war in Iraq, Saudi Arabia
will make its military bases available for staging the invasion.
the Saudis refuse? Will they protest that complying with our
demands will mean the toppling of their regime? Either way,
our course will be clear: We will seize and secure the oil
our purpose would not be plunder."
of course not!
would appoint a respected, pro-Western Muslim ally to run
the oil industry in trust for the Muslim world."
imagine Aramco has a few suggestions.
longer would the petro-wealth of Arabia be used to advance
Islamist fanaticism and terror or to maintain a decadent
royal family in corrupt opulence. It would be used, rather,
to promote education, health, and democracy throughout the
and to fill the coffers of the Rockefellers and their
corporate allies, who won't allow the prize of oil-rich Araby
to escape their grasp quite so readily.
Gulf's great riches, now a well spring of disorder and unrest,
could be transformed into a force for decency, stability,
Gulf's great riches, in other words, will stay right where
they are: securely deposited in Armaco's bank account. So
the revenge of the Rockefellers plays itself out on the world
stage: they'll retain their monopoly on the largest known
oil reserves one way or the other.
PAYS THE PRICE
far, President Bush has made it plain that he does not mean
to wage war on Islam, and for that he is being made to pay
a price. While his State Department is struggling to undo the damage done
by the anti-Saudi media and the Lieberman-Levine assault in
Congress, a grand coalition of left and right is pushing for
World War III in the Middle East a war that, given the
presence of Pakistan and India (not to mention Israel) in
the equation, could quickly go nuclear.
of $50 or more will get you a copy of Ronald Radosh's out-of-print
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