Poor old Barack. Off he goes to Riyadh to talk
to his so-called ally, Saudi Arabia. The Sunni Wahhabi kingdom long ago run out
of patience with the US president, who befriended Shiite Iran and who failed to
destroy the Alawite (read: Shiite) regime in Syria. So why is Obama even
bothering coming to the Gulf? Does he have any friends left among the kings,
emirs and princes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the Emirates and
be entering the Saudi lions’ den. The Saudis were never as brave as lions –
which is why they let the decidedly un-princely Osama bin Laden lead the Arab
legion in Afghanistan – but the little cubs now trying to run the country are
ambitious, ruthless deputy crown prince and defence minister, Mohamed bin
Salman, launched the kingdom’s crazed war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen
last year, and convinced (without evidence) that Iran was arming them. The
young Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubair – brilliant former Washington
ambassador, a man with a silken, dangerously eloquent tongue – has no
hesitation in denouncing Western weakness.
according to the New York Times, the Saudis have even threatened to sell
billions of dollars of their US assets if Congress passes a bill allowing the
Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for the crimes
against humanity of 9/11.
indeed, is the foundation of the US-Saudi mess right now. Of the 19 hijackers
involved in 9/11, 15 were Saudis, a fact diplomatically ignored in the years
immediately following the attacks. The Saudis bankrolled the Taliban for many
Americans believe – rightly – that Isis itself today receives much support from
within Saudi Arabia, though they haven’t gone quite so far as to say the
government is behind this. Saudi Arabia, in other words, is regarded in
Washington as a very dodgy nation to be an ally.
got to pretend to King Salman (the crown prince’s Dad) that the US still stands
four-square behind the kingdom’s security and sovereignty – he can hardly say
he’s going to support Saudi ‘democracy’ for obvious reasons – and it’s clear
that the country’s massive oil reserves, its million barrels a day output,
strategic location and control of Sunni Muslim finances, means that the West
has got to go on paying obeisance to all the regional head-choppers.
that when King Salman dies (and may he live for many years), David Cameron will
once more lower the Union flag in mourning as he did for his predecessor.
problem is that – after years of fantasy in which, against all the evidence,
the Americans persuaded themselves that the Saudis were a ‘force for
moderation’ in the Middle East – the Obama administration has decided that
Shiite Iran and the huge influence it exerts over the Shiite governments of
Iraq and Syria (and over the Shiite Hizballah in Lebanon) is a better bet than
the Sunni Salafists of Arabia. Hence the nuclear deal with Tehran’s new
leaders, the end of sanctions against Iran and the slowly-dawning realisation
among Sunnis that Washington is going to tolerate the continuation of Bashar
al-Assad’s rule in Damascus.
as it was under the Shah, become the policeman of the Gulf. The Saudis will
have to share power with them. The US wants no more “free riders” (as Obama
snottily described the Saudis) supporting Isis.
line, which will be peddled heavily this week, is that diplomacy rather than
war must resolve the Sunni-Shia conflict; that America is not going to embark
on any more military adventures in the Middle East (nor, one suspects, give
much more support to Crown Prince Mohamed’s adventure in Yemen).
It would be
good to know what the censored 28 pages of the official US 9/11 report said
about the Saudis. Maybe Obama will mention that in Riyadh? Any more talk of
withdrawing billions of US assets might just persuade the Americans to open the
book and let us take a peek into those secrets.