I have lamented many times the United States' continued cow towing to Saudi Arabia despite the documented facts that (1) the vast majority of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudi nationals, (ii) Saudi Arabia is a principal sponsor of spreading Wahhabism and Islamic extremism across the globe, and (iii) Saudi Arabia is one of the worse human rights abusers on the planet. The Saudis simply put are NOT America's friends or even receptive to western values - or, I would argue, human decency. Yet America prostitutes itself to this false ally and extremist nation. A piece in History News Network seeks to answer this question. The answer to a large extent boils down to one word: oil. All other considerations more or less are thrown on the trash heap. Sadly, the Saudis have played America like a fine violin, much to America's and western civilization's loss. Here are article highlights:
Every year or so the oil-rich Arab kingdom of Saudi Arabia makes American headlines for generally the same reasons. American leaders have made some kind of weapons deal with the Saudi royal family, have praised the monarchy for its commitment to fighting terrorism, or have met with Saudi oil executives to assure that crude and petroleum are flowing unhindered in Asia and Europe. Along with these news items are widespread condemnations of the U.S.-Saudi relationship and reminders that the ultra-fundamentalist Saudi regime is responsible for some of the most outrageous human rights violations on the planet.
American presidents speak frequently of the need to stand up for democracy and religious freedom in the face of radical Islamist tyranny, so why do they insist on backing a dictatorship that will not even allow for Christian churches to be built on Saudi soil? The answer to the question is both simple and complex. The simple answer is the most obvious, and is the primary reason Saudi Arabia is the wealthy powerhouse that it is – oil.
But the more complex answer lies in the relationship between the two countries throughout four distinct periods of conflict – the Second World War, the Cold War, the 1991 Gulf War, and the War on Terror. The Saudis managed to placate the U.S. in each of these four global crises, granting oil concessions and military cooperation while pursuing a regional foreign policy often at odds with American goals and implementing increasingly draconian policies at home. The U.S. has viewed the alliance as valuable enough to overlook Saudi Arabia’s anti-Israel foreign policy and its espousal of Islamic fundamentalist ideology.
When the U.S. entered the Second World War, it did not view Saudi Arabia as an indispensable partner. The kingdom, barely a decade old, had a better relationship with the British, who still had a sizable amount of influence in the Middle East at the time. But the U.S.-Saudi relationship changed significantly over the course of the war as the Americans came to view Saudi oil as, in the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of State Cordell Hull, “one or the world’s greatest prizes.” . . . . access to oil came to define the U.S.-Saudi relationship during World War 2, and would continue to do so.
During the Cold War, the U.S.-Saudi relationship strengthened, as both countries viewed the Soviet Union as a threat to Persian Gulf oil. . . . . By the end of Reagan’s presidency, the Middle East had descended into serious sectarian warfare and the U.S. was heavily involved in the region.
But the relationship between Washington and Riyadh survived. In fact, it enjoyed perhaps its most fruitful period in the early 1990s, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s army invaded Saudi neighbor and ally Kuwait and threatened to control a large percentage of the Gulf’s oil. The Saudi monarchy made a major concession, allowing the U.S. to station hundreds of thousands of troops on its soil in order to fight off the Iraqi advance. The effort was successful, but the presence of American troops on Saudi soil (considered holy land) enraged fundamentalist Muslims throughout the region (including Saudi jihadist Osama bin Laden) and forced the regime to confront what had been lurking in the darkest corners of the country for a couple of decades – Sunni radicalism.
When Osama bin Laden sent his al-Qaeda fanatics to attack the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, the U.S.-Saudi relationship faced its most serious challenge to date. The fact that a majority of the hijackers were Saudi posed a serious problem for the alliance, and raised the question of just how much of a role the royal family played in financing the atrocities. This question has still not been answered to the satisfaction of most Americans, and the Saudi regime does little to assuage suspicions that it fully supports radical Islamist ideology. Despite all of the setbacks and the questions, however, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia remain steadfast partners. Why? Because the Saudis once again have proven to the U.S. that they are willing to support it in its major foreign policy objective while guaranteeing a steady flow of oil to large swaths of Asia and Europe. Though the Saudis enforce a strict brand of sharia law at home, frequently behead or imprison those who break this law, and espouse an extreme Islamist ideology, they have remained a loyal ally in the American fight against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. And, though the U.S. relies less on Mideast oil than it once did, it recognizes that a stable and oil-producing Saudi Arabia is vital to the stability of the region.
All of these factors considered, it is crucial that American leaders ask a couple of big questions. First, is maintaining the U.S.-Saudi relationship in its current condition worth all of the other headaches that accompany it?
And second, if the relationship is worth preserving in its current state, is it worth getting further involved in Saudi Arabia’s proxy war against Iran? Iran is ruled by an equally rigid Islamic dictatorship that has financed terror abroad, but its citizens have generally expressed more of an openness to making amends with the Americans after years of hostility.
It is uncertain as to how well this strategy will pay off, but history has proven that one thing remains certain – the Saudis will continue to enjoy a significant amount of American support as long as they supply oil to American allies and assist the U.S. in at least one major foreign policy objective.