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Obama’s Riyadh Visit Heralds End Of Special Relationship With House Of Saud

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Obama’s Riyadh Visit Heralds End Of Special Relationship With House Of Saud
 Abdel Bari Atwan
 
It may be weeks, months, or even years before we discover any details about the “historic” meeting between Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and US President Barack Obama. Both sides have been tight-lipped and no details have appeared even in Western newspapers… we did not expect anything to emanate from the Saudi Press Agency which is at least fifty years old. We wonder if the King smashed his fist on the table – as we have been told the late King Abdullah did during a meeting with Obama almost three years ago – angered this time by the lengthy interview Obama gave the US magazine ‘The Atlantic’ in which he was highly critical of the Saudis.
 
We can infer some points from the way the visit has been organized by Riyadh – for example, the fact that the King did not go to the airport to meet Obama personally (as has been the protocol on his three previous visits) and nor was his arrival broadcast live on Saudi TV as it used to be. The fact that the King dispatched only the governor of Riyadh region, Prince Faisal bin Bandar Al-Saud to do the job, projects a lack of interest, dare we say contempt, for the American President during what will certainly be his last visit to the desert Kingdom as his term at the White House draws to an end.
 
When we describe President Obama’s visit to Riyadh as ‘historic’, we mean that it may well represent the end of the ‘special relationship’ that has endured between the two countries for 71 years.
 
Obama has instigated a new phase in the West’s Middle East policy because the pillars which upheld the previous necessity for Riyadh as its number one regional ally are crumbling or have already collapsed; these are: the fight against the USSR and radical, secular Arab nationalism; the security of Israel, and, finally, the demand for oil.
 
Soviet Russia entered its final years when it invaded Afghanistan; Arab nationalism has been removed, largely by US military interventions – Saddam Hussein was removed by force as was Muammar Gadaffi. The Saudis eagerly championed these interventions but now the whole region is threatened with fragmentation is sectarianism and ethnic conflict follow their logical conclusions. The US and Russia are already pushing for a ‘Plan B’ (partition) if the Syrian conflict cannot be resolved politically.
 
Oil has been the last big card in the Saudi hand but even this is less important to US policy makers in the light of the current glut of oil and plummeting oil prices which have enabled Western countries to stockpile millions of barrels at knockdown prices; and in any case, the US shale industry is now comfortably producing 9 million barrels per day – half the national requirement. Ironically, it was in order to put US shale oil producers out of business (as well as hit rival oil producers Iran and Russia) that the Saudis drove down the price of oil via Opec. It seems that Riyadh has been hoisted by its own petard.
 
Another factor with regard to oil is the emergence of the Iran-Iraq bloc – together with their Russian ally they represent the strongest competition to Saudi Arabia, the three between them producing roughly 38% of the entire global oil output. The collapse of the Opec talks in Doha three days ago was brought about by the refusal of Iran to be dictated to by the Saudis and limit its oil production.

 

***
 
While the Saudis have always counted on their status as the main US ally in the region, Obama made no secret of his hostility to the Kingdom and his opposition to its dreadful human rights record and repression of its people. This has been on the record since he was a senator for the state of Chicago, and delivered a speech in 2002 demanding that President George W. Bush call for America’s allies in Riyadh and Cairo to end repression before the White House agreeing to the invasion of Iraq. It cannot have escaped his notice, either, that some Saudi and Gulf officials had spoken disparagingly of him because of his African heritage, allegedly some even called him a ‘slave’.
 
During his Presidential campaign Obama pledged that he would work to end America’s dependence on Saudi oil, and he has carried out his promise.
 
So what were the way-markers along the path to the Washington-Riyadh divorce?
 
The first was President Obama’s refusal to strike Damascus and oust President Bashar al-Assad’s regime even after it had overstepped the ‘red line’ of using chemical weapons that he himself drew on the ground. The Saudis were furious that he had not repeated the Libyan adventure in Syria.
 
The second was Washington’s rapprochement with Riyadh’s arch-rival Tehran which led to the nuclear agreement, sanctions being lifted and the former ‘rogue’ and ‘terrorist’ state of Iran returning to the fold of the international community.
 
Third, the lengthy interview with Atlantic magazine, referred to above; many of its Herculean 19,000 words were devoted to criticizing Saudi Arabia for disseminating Wahhabi extremist ideology, producing 15 of the 19 attackers in the 9/11 atrocities, and for being ‘free-riders’ when it comes to military interventionism – offering to hold Washington’s coat while it does the fighting.
 
Obama – via the Atlantic interview – conveyed to Riyadh that his preferred future for the region will see Riyadh and Tehran peaceably sharing the region in what he frames as ‘Cold Peace’.
 
This vision is a nightmare for the Saudis who hoped to become the predominate force in the region after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the economic collapse of Egypt and the exhaustion of Syria after five years of civil war and the loss of a quarter of its population. This was behind Riyadh’s sudden craze for forming Sunni and Islamic coalitions and its actual war in Yemen and its proxy war in Syria.
 
The Obama administration sent a strong message to the Saudi leadership prior to his arrival in Riyadh by leaking the news that Congress is likely to pass a new ‘9/11’ bill allowing the relatives of victims to sue Saudi Arabia for compensation; definitive proof is likely imminent that Saudis were among the financiers of the Al Qaeda from 1996 on. Riyadh responded angrily and threatened economic reprisals if the bill goes through.
***
Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia was, it seems, to sign the decree nisi and commence the burial of the special strategic relationship between the two countries.
 
And what of his successor? If Donald Trump becomes President, how will this overtly racist man who wants to prevent the Muslims from entering the United States work at a ‘special relationship’ with the House of Saud? He will probably want Riyadh to pay for protection.
 
If Hillary Clinton prevails, she will likely follow her mentor, Obama’s approach.
 
How will the Saudi leadership deal with this new and dangerous development? We do not have the answer, but believe that the Saudis might now move towards an alliance (or improved relations at least) with Israel. Loyalty to the Arab cause has long ceased to motivate the royals of Riyadh.

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Let's don't keep the hopes too high. USA, UK, and the rest of the West and East will keep making money by selling weapons, advice, advisers, intelligence, and military satellite images AND foot soldiers as in the case of Pakistan, Egypt, & Africans as long as Saudis could pay for it. As recent as past week, ISIS the Saudi wahabi army in Syria has received missiles to shoot Syrian and Russian planes. In other words, the tactical cooperation is not ended. Why would anybody kill this stupid cash cow (many apologies to all the cows out there)?  

As far as strategic cooperation, USA ditching this particular one, only to be picked up by Israel which was in plans for a long time. The end goal of the policy in ME is the preservation of Israel, this new move will make Saudis the mistress of Israelis as opposed to the Americans. Imagine another billion Sunni sheep who follow Saudi suddenly making zios kosher. So its a very smart strategic move by American policy makers.

Saudis as stupid and arrogant they are would make the life of Sunnis and Shias more miserable than we see now; in ME, South, and Central Asia in order to create more sectarian hatred for keep binding their Sunni flock under their banner even though Saudis have been the biggest killers of Sunnis the world over.

So basically nothing has changed, the mistress we call Saudi is just older and uglier who can not please her rich master anymore but is still of some use to the local cheapsters out there. For the rest of us who pass by her dwelling would suffer more because she is vengeful, jealous, hateful, dejected, and can do a whole lot more damage using the possessions she amassed during her younger years.

Welcome to a more divided Muslim world and a skyrocketing stock prices of weapon manufacturers all over.

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