By James Petras
Saudi Arabia has built a powerful network of regional and local political, military and economic relationships incorporating a shared extremist-religious affiliation. As a result, despite its reputation as a backward despotic clerico-monarchy with an extreme dependency on oil sales, it has become a deadly political force in the Middle East and beyond.
To understand the dynamics and projections of Saudi power it is important to identify and analyze how it uses its use military, religious and economic weapons.
Saudi Arabia: Senility and Mercenary Protection
Saudi Arabia has bankrolled and supplied violent mercenary armies in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Philippines, Malaysia and several other Asian and African countries.
The Saudi’s intolerant Wahhabi branch of Sunni Islam and its commercial mercenaries act to overthrow and shatter Arab regimes and societies that have independent modern, nationalist and secular leadership or practice multi-ethnic or multi-religious tolerance. They also target republics with Shia-majority governments opposed to Saudi-Wahhabi domination in the Middle East.
Saudi’s goal has been to shred modern, multi-ethnic societies and impose brutal ‘follower’ regimes, which will shield the senile Arab monarchs from overthrow by internal and external popular, nationalist and democratic forces.
Saudi Arabia’s Purchase of Global and Regional “Allies”
The Saudis monarchy finances and props up unpopular, anti-democratic regimes in order to secure military allies and sources of mercenaries: Saudi oil wealth has paid for military officers and troops from Pakistan, Egypt, Yemen and Jordan to impose its hegemonic ambitions.
Saudi Arabia has longstanding economic and military ties with the US, UK, France and other NATO countries. US military bases and arms, as well as British and French arms sales, serve as payments for praetorian guards of the narrowly based despotism.
Saudi oil wealth has financed thousands of overseas religious schools and cultural centers to teach the most intolerant form of Wahhabi Islam. They award scholarships to talented young Muslims willing to spread Wahhabi propaganda and recruit mercenaries and political activists to advance the Saudi Monarch’s projections of global power.
Saudi Arabia has long established de facto linkages with Israel, despite their superficial religious differences, based on their intense racist tribalism and common opposition to independent Iran and secular, nationalist Arab states, like Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, and popular liberation movements in the Middle East.
In large part, the Saudi Monarchy survives on ‘borrowed power’ – trading oil wealth for military and financial advisers. The fundamental Saudi weakness and political pathology become clear when they choose to attack and blockade the militarily weakest and most vulnerable countries in the Middle East: Yemen and Qatar.
Despite billions of dollars spent in dropping thousands of tons of bombs on Yemen and arming thousands of mercenaries, the Saudi-proxies have at most conquered a third of that devastated country and less than a quarter of its starving population. The Saudi ‘princes’ have committed the most vicious war crimes in the course of their war on Yemen: destroying most of the vital infrastructure, killing thousands, spreading cholera by bombing the water treatment system and starving millions of civilians in its attempt to force submission. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia has suffered numerous cross border attacks and even a recent Yemeni rebel missile strike against its main airport.
Qatar aroused Saudi wrath for its independent regional oil diplomacy – including seeking friendly relations with its huge neighbor, Iran. The furious Saudis financed three regional dictatorships, Egypt, Jordan and the UAE, to join a boycott against tiny Qatar. These actions have boomeranged on the Saudis, leading to increased Qatari trade deals with Iran and Iraq, effectively by-passing the mighty Saudi king’s sanctions. It is increasing obvious that the decrepit Saudi monarchy cannot effectively flex its flabby muscles against its own backwater neighbors.
Saudi projections of power beyond its immediate neighborhood have equally failed to enhance the monarchy’s image as a global power. Saudi-funded ISIS mercenaries have been decisively defeated, destroyed by Iraq-Shia forces and by the Syrian government-Russian-Iranian-Hezbollah alliance in Syria. As a result the volunteer mercenaries have grabbed their salaries and fled back to their home countries to create mischief.
Saudi-backed mercenary terrorists in Afghanistan are being marginalized by the Taliban, who may still enjoy some residual Saudi largesse but pursue their own nationalist agenda.
The Saudis signs off on covert operations with Israel, a case of mutual manipulation based on their common enmity to Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and Yemen. This has resulted in a strange marriage of Saudi Wahhabis, Wall Street Zionists and fanatical Israeli militarists.
Donald Trump’s ‘Saudi’ Moment: Waltzing with Mohamed bin Salman
In early November 2017, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), arrested 30 ministers and generals, an ‘Arab Warren Buffet’ billionaire and 11 bloated princes, seizing nearly a trillion dollar in assets. This was the biggest purge in Saudi history. A few more disposable princes met early deaths in the process.
MBS cloaked his power grab as part of an ‘anti-corruption’ campaign to cleanse the state bureaucracy and replace them with appointments directly loyal to MBS. The Crown Prince has packaged his coup as a ‘historic transformation’ – purging the old guard to bring about the monarchy’s modernization. Most observers dismiss MBS’s ‘good government’ rhetoric as ‘BS’ and a thin cloak for his consolidation of a personal dictatorship.
The Crown Prince’s idea of ‘modernization’ has been accompanied by regional military provocations, threats, and domestic factional wars. MBS’s blueprint for the ‘transformation’ of Saudi Arabia may not attract the kind of foreign investment he needs. MBS’ move to blockade tiny Qatar, where a strategic US airbase and thousands of American troops are stationed, provoked Pentagon disapproval.
MBS ordered the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al Hariri, a puppet of the Saudi monarchy and a dual Lebanese-Saudi citizen, to fly to Riyadh and announce his resignation on Saudi TV. He read a script denouncing Iran and Hezbollah (member of the current Lebanese governing coalition) as plotting Hariri’s assassination. So that no one would fail to catch the connection with MBS, Hariri has gone into hiding in Saudi Arabia and refuses or is unable to fly home.
MBS’s plan to seize power was first cleared with the US following a mid-year meeting with President Trump. The impending purge was signed off with a two billion dollar oil deal between Washington and Riyadh.
The despotic, but ‘visionary’, Crown Prince offered Wall Street the Saudi ‘crown jewels’, promising to privatize ARAMCO the trillion dollar state oil company. He offered multi-billion deals to US and EU investors to build modern megacities for Saudi citizens to replace the lethargic corrupt oil-based Princes, bureaucrats and holy men.
Saudi regional war maneuvers and the ongoing domestic coup provoke fear of greater regional instability among investors. MBS’s anti-Iranian rhetoric and wild threats to attack Teheran may have excited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his new White House poodle, US President Donald Trump, but this has not impressed the Generals in Trump’s Cabinet or the Wall Street bankers.
MBS’s unstable regime, his war mongering and the sell off of oil does not add-up to the kind of political and economic foundations necessary for a modern, sophisticated diversified economy. Most observers conclude that the sale of ARAMCO is a one-off deal with few spin- offs in terms of skilled jobs, local enterprises and economic diversification.
At present, MBS has ‘won over’ the deposed and highly unpopular former ruler of Yemen, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. His powers of persuasion have worked their magic on the elusive or ‘self-exiled’ former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the geographically befuddled American President Trump. MBS hires the most senior ex-pat executives from the US and UK to run the oil sell off. He intends to market himself as a ‘modernizing despot’ – at least until the next princely intrigue boots him from power. Meanwhile he settles back as a ‘modern’ Middle East potentate, protected by tribal clans, despised by his people, privately ridiculed by his overseas flatterers and expertly ‘serviced’ by expats-on-the-make. No doubt he would be humored by any clown occupying the US White House.
For now, the Saudis can still attract mercenaries, beat up and starve millions of Yemenis, sell oil and continue to finance terrorist bombings in Beirut, Baghdad, Paris and . . . New York!
Saudi Arabia and Israel play the key roles in anchoring the ‘arc of reaction and terror’ in the Middle East. Both foment wars, finance terrorism and spread ethno-religious fragmentation leading to millions of refugees.
Saudi Arabia’s ‘Crown Prince MBS’ competes with Israel’s Netanyahu in concocting the most outrageous warmongering slander against Iran, preparing the world for global conflagration.
MBS is actively serving the Israelis by fomenting sectarian divisions in Lebanon to provide Israel with an excuse to attack Hezbollah and millions of Lebanese civilians. MBS claims that a single missile from Yemen that hit the Riyadh airport was a full declaration of war by Teheran . . . as if the Saudis’ starvation blockade and daily bombing of Yemeni cities would not warrant any counter-attack.
The war fever in Riyadh is a cover for MBS’s political impotence and a ‘clever ploy’ to distract from the infantile game of rotating princes and clan intrigues.
MBS, for all his modernizing clichés and carefully groomed public relations persona, circulated by the corrupt Western media, is still the aspiring head of a tribal army, dependent on a fragile alliance with unreliable allies: The Egyptian high command and troops despise the bloated Saudis; Bahrain’s ruler is propped up by Saudi mercenary forces; the Saudi masses are held in check by tribal warlords and their torturers; and the imported workforce and armies of foreign domestic servants are brutalized, raped and cheated. Hardly an inspiring leader of Saudi Arabia’s emergence from the Middle Ages.
The Crown Prince is sitting on a powder keg threatening to shatter the political alignments in the Middle East and the global financial and oil markets. Saudi Arabia is a fragile regime with a long and scrawny reach. The current rulers imagine their borrowed power and palace intrigues can flourish on such rotten foundations and with a despised oligarchy.
The first missile that MBS dares to direct at Teheran will mark the downfall of the House of Sand. The entire Middle East and global markets will plunge into a profound crisis. Oil prices will soar, stock markets will crash and Israel will go to war against Hezbollah. Donald Trump will send US forces to confront with the well-armed and highly patriotic Iranians on their soil. Iraq and Syria will confront the US regional puppets, the Kurds. China, Russia and India wait to sign on huge oil deals. The US fracking industry will celebrate as oil prices set new highs.
Saudi Princes will flee to Europe, leaving hundreds of thousands of servants in the lurch. Perhaps they will have to prepare their own coffee! Trump will issue a ‘Tweet to Action to All Americans’ – Marines to the oil wells! Makes America Great Again on the tired backs of our GIs! AIPAC will secure a unanimous vote in the American Congress declaring that Saudi Arabia’s oil fields are really part of the Greater Israel.
With historic high oil prices, Venezuela will recover, pay its debts, finance its social agenda, re-open its schools and clinics and re-elect a socialist president.
A consortium of western investors will take over, after the Saudis have folded their tents and fled to Central London, and flood the oil markets. But that is a long-term scenario…or is it?