They Got Saudi Arabia Wrong Too | The American Conservative
Reversing previous policy – that Saudi Arabia would be the last Arab country to in the final sprint, and some predict that as early as February the United States and . It just puts political will and the capabilities of the governments to the test of This American-Saudi relationship has never been one in which our interests, . Vacation over, I had returned to Saudi Arabia, where I was working as a free lance The causes of the Arab Spring, or as some call it, Arab Awakening, were many Only the tiny island state of Bahrain, home to the headquarters of the U.S. At the same time, the Islamists also face their greatest test. Media Relations. The Arab Spring was a breaking point in the relationship between people and their . The American and the French revolutions are the best examples of such .. provide an examination and explanation for the behaviors of the actors, the . Middle East (Saudi Arabia), Quryana News (Libya) and Times of Israel (Israel).
Although any meaningful U. The Saudis now fear Obama may be tempted to thaw ties with Tehran by striking a deal to expand inspections of its atomic sites in return for allowing Iranian allies to go on dominating Arab countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. That such a bargain has never been publicly mooted from within the Obama administration has not stopped Saudis voicing their concerns.
The United States has no interest in alienating the Saudis. But as it balances priorities, some friction may be unavoidable - friction that worries Washington less than before, as rising U. Still, the Obama administration prefers to stress the cooperative side of the relationship between the two allies. That even these comments conveyed a clear subtext of Saudi-U.
The kingdom, founded on the traditionalist Wahhabi school of Islam, was critical of U. For more than a year, Saudi officials have pleaded with Washington to enter the conflict, either with direct air strikes or the imposition of a no-fly zone, or by giving significant military aid to the mainly Sunni rebels. I rushed to turn up the volume, eager to know what was going on. A seemingly impregnable Arab dictator was running away? That was January 14, I recall the scene so vividly because it was my first inkling that something momentous had begun unfolding in the Middle East.
Vacation over, I had returned to Saudi Arabia, where I was working as a free lance journalist. It was an unprecedented scene.
My laptop was open to Twitter, where tweets came so fast and furious I could barely read them. An audience of millions around the world watched to see how the historic, nail-biting drama would end. Would Mubarak, after ruling for nearly 30 years, step down and open a new panorama of opportunity and uncertainty for his 80 million countrymen, indeed for the whole region?
Or would he stubbornly hold on, perpetuating the sclerotic, oppressive political order that had smothered the Arab world for so many decades? It was a remarkable development. For the second time in less than a month, two Arab dictators were forced from power by popular, spontaneous, unarmed rebellions.
Saudi writer's disappearance strains Turkey-Saudi ties
The causes of the Arab Spring, or as some call it, Arab Awakening, were many and long-gathering. For decades, Arab populations had faced repression of free speech, human rights abuses, economic mismanagement, corruption and stifling of political dissent. Justice and human dignity were not priorities in most states. At the same time, this region of million people was producing an unprecedented youth bulge, with around two-thirds of the population below 29 years of age.
This youthful army is plagued by 25 percent unemployment, frustrated by diminished dreams, driven by aspirations for greater personal freedoms, and equipped with the revolutionary tools of social media: In Tunisia and Egypt, youthful activists partnered with labor unions and workers to make peaceful uprisings.
These same players were key in several other revolts that followed as the Arab Spring touched every country in the region. Though outcomes were different in each location, deep, significant change occurred in all.
And in countries where the faces at the top have not changed, rulers know they can no longer govern by fear alone and that a new era, both perilous and unpredictable, has emerged in the Middle East. The monarchies of Jordan and Morocco survived, in part because they responded to street protests with concessions that promised reforms.
Saudi Arabia, the global oil kingin, adopted a two-prong response to the Arab Awakening. It also adopted a tougher line against public dissent, arresting writers and political activists deemed overly critical of the state. Four other Gulf states — monarchies all — also used financial largesse and security forces to dampen inclinations to revolt. The obligation is to give, not to trace the gift.
And there is no tax-relief incentive to do so since there are no income taxes in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia, Enemy or Friend? | Middle East Policy Council
I was once with a Saudi friend who was making a speech at a university when four determined looking young men came up and said, we want to talk to you. He just gave them a check and walked off. This is a tradition that goes back to the seventh century. To change all of a sudden from the informal practice of that day to the practices of the present, in which one must perform due diligence, regulations, oversight and everything else that we are now demanding of donors, is a pretty tall order.
The security implications of lack of oversight over charitable donations are now no less obvious to them than to us. When I was a deputy director for counterterrorism at the State Department, I used to attend interminable meetings with FBI and Justice and Treasury about the money leaving our country to go to terrorist activities, particularly in Northern Ireland. The PLO came in for its share of the blame too — although not Hamas back then.
In the process I came to the strong conclusion that we will never stop illegal money flows. I think that we are selling the Ameri can public and the Saudis both a bill of goods when we give the impression that we can stop this altogether. Anybody who has ever dealt even commercially in the Middle East knows that there are a million ways in a global economy with open borders and electronic transfers that you can get around any group of restrictions.
We want to get a problem solved, forget it, and go kick back and watch the Super Bowl. Terrorism is going to be with us for the foreseeable future. The Saudis have now figured that out too.
Because we now have a common interest in countering the threat, we are together doing a great deal to contain it and should continue to do so. We should not, however, encourage unreasonable expectations.
The religious injunction against putting strings on charitable donations, the feeling that the value of the charitable act is diminished by second-guessing how the donation is used is a very powerful one.
The man treated the question seriously. He thought for a minute and said, really neither. This is an indicator of the fragility of this relationship in terms of popular attitudes on both sides, despite the strong interests we share in cooperation. Saudi Arabia is our largest source of crude-oil imports, and, except for on-and off supplies from Iraq, Saudi Arabia is our only significant source of crude from the Middle East. Our imports from Saudi Arabia comprise about 15 to 20 percent of our total imports.
We get about 2 to 3 percent from Kuwait, almost nothing from Qatar and the UAE, and of course we have by law banned imports from Iran and Libya. Part of this popular aversion to dependence on Saudi oil no doubt harks back to memories of the Arab oil embargo, which was spearheaded by Saudi Arabia. Another part of the aversion may stem from the notion that our ties with Israel might be compromised by our ties with Saudi Arabia.
Another more recent myth is that our purchases of Saudi oil somehow fund terrorism. Over the past half century, Saudi oil has played a major role in advancing U. Even during the heated political atmosphere of the Arab oil embargo, Saudi Arabia never stopped supplying the fuel our military forces needed worldwide, especially in Vietnam, even though the secretary of state at the time made veiled threats that the United States would invade and occupy Saudi oil fields.
When oil prices raged out of control during the second oil crisis, spurred by the Iranian revolution ofSaudi Arabia consistently moderated oil prices by increasing production and by undercutting the official selling prices advocated by others in OPEC. When Iraq invaded Kuwait inthe first Bush administration imposed a blockade to prevent oil from Iraq or occupied Kuwait from being sold to world markets, cutting off more than 5 million barrels from world oil supplies.
Saudi Arabia moved expeditiously to ramp up production to help fill this gap, such that oil prices were lower when the U. Last year, oil markets met their perfect storm. Despite misgivings about the wisdom of the U. These are a few of the historical high points, but what of the future?
Without that cushion of spare capacity, the only way the oil market can adjust to a significant global supply disruption, like an Iraq or Venezuela last year, is to let prices arbitrate between supply and demand.
Price arbitration can be a fairly unpleasant way to lower demand to match a reduction in supply. Very few of us are willing to abandon our cars and take the bus just because gasoline prices are high. The Saudis do, of course, have a business purpose in maintaining that cushion of spare capacity. Twenty years ago we consumed 15 million barrels in the United States; today we consume Twenty years ago we produced 8.
Our imports of crude have gone from 3. The United Kingdom, which became an exporter of crude thanks to the discovery of prolific North Sea fields in the s, last year became a net importer of crude.
China overtook Japan last year as the number-two oil consumer in the world, and its oil use has been growing at double-digit rates. It still has million under-employed workers whom it wishes to bring into the global economy.
Our need to maintain the same alignment over the next 20 years is probably greater than it was 20 years ago. Some of them have been measured and constructive, and some of them have been shrill and bordering on hate. One-half of the students nominated last year for Fulbright scholarships from Muslim countries were denied U.
I just came back from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Everywhere you go, middle and senior officials of those countries are U. This is going to create a problem for us sooner rather than later. I think this conference has a valid purpose in examining whether Saudi Arabia is hostile or friendly to the United States, but we also have to bear in mind that friendship and hostility are two-way streets. It may be worth asking whether our policies are friendly or hostile to Saudi Arabia.
I fear that if our policies are perceived as hostile, the Saudis are going to be successful in finding new friends.
They Got Saudi Arabia Wrong Too
There are some Saudis who dislike America and its policies, of course. But I think the same number of Americans hate Saudi Arabia and its policies and are very confused about it. I cannot address this question without addressing the issue of hypocrisy. All these issues have existed for the longest time between the two countries — the issues of curricula, sermons in the mosques, political reform. They have always been there, but they were neglected.
Nobody has ever discussed them openly, as they do today. We should ask ourselves, Americans and Saudis, why were these issues never raised? Why was it always taboo to discuss reform in Saudi Arabia, educational reform, social reform?
It was simply a win-win situation. Do we want to maintain this marriage, do we want to seek a marriage counselor, or do we want a divorce? I think there is tremendous interest in maintaining the relationship, but we have to address these issues. I myself have written seven articles about these issues, and I got a lot of fantastic e-mails.
It made me sympathetic with Sean Penn and the Dixie Chicks. This is a very odd way of dealing with an important subject. It is not only a political decision. It is also a social decision on behalf of a lot of Saudis, who want to know where the money goes. We had the opportunity to sit with him, seven businessmen, in Jeddah.
We agreed with his policies of tracking down questionable finance techniques, be it through banks or through charitable organizations in Saudi Arabia.
But we begged him to have a universal policy against terror. Nothing has happened to these people. We know that tobacco companies were involved with the Sandinistas in Central America to secure the routes for tobacco. The IRA example has been discussed already. And since Hamas was mentioned, I fully agree suicide operations are illegal. They are not even Islamic.
Financing settlements on Palestinian land is also illegal. So we should have an equal policy on both sides. We saw that clearly as Saudis when the discussions took place in what is now called the second round of the national dialogue.
We had more flavors than Baskin Robbins. There were seculars, there were Shiites, there were Sufis, there were Salafis representing the mosaic that exists in Saudi Arabia today. To a large number of people around the world Saudi Arabia is black and white: The issue is much bigger than that. Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Middle East in terms of size. These were never discussed. Again, it was part of the hypocrisy that has existed for the longest time.
We are trying to support it, but these good stories about Saudi Arabia are never discussed. Sermons of hate must never be allowed in Saudi Arabia, but there are a lot of them. There is reform in mosques around Saudi Arabia, and there have been a lot of firings of imams.
But they give these sermons under the name of protecting religion.
Insight: Saudis brace for 'nightmare' of U.S.-Iran rapprochement | Reuters
That should not be allowed. Equality, a fine and important element of democracy in America, is absent on issues like that. We as Saudis would like for America to protect that right regarding insults to Islam. Saudis are reforming their lives, but there is still a great deal to be done — social reform, economic reform, religious reform, political reform. We need more exchanges.
The interest between America and Saudi Arabia has been extremely narrowly focused on the economic side of things. Why am I wasting my time and money in coming to America? This is my fourth visit. Because I have a seven-year-old daughter that I would like to attend an American university.