Category Archives: Saudi Arabia
by Bassam Tawil
February 13, 2015 at 5:00 am
Iran, with its proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen, has surrounded all the oil fields in the region and is currently busy encircling Jordan, Israel and Palestine.
Iran not only reaches now from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, but Iranian Shi’ites have been spreading out through Africa and South America.
By the time U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office, Iran will not only have nuclear breakout capability, but also the intercontinental ballistic missiles to deliver its nuclear warheads to Europe and North America.
If Iran can finally drive the U.S. out of the Gulf by threatening U.S. assets, it will be free to pursue still further expansion.
If the deal signed with Iran is full of loopholes, it is Obama who will be blamed. Does Obama really want his legacy to be, “The President who was even a bigger fool than Neville Chamberlain”? He will not be seen as “Nixon in China.” He will be seen as the Eid al-Adha lamb.
Recently, foreign ministers from the European Union (EU) have been holding meetings with representatives of the Arab and Muslim world, including Turkey and Qatar, with the intention of forming a “joint task force to fight Islamist terrorism.”
Turkey and Qatar, for example, directly encourage Islamist terrorism, thus there is no way they can be part of a task force to act against it.
In some Islamic thinking, such nonsense, because of its certain lack of ever seeing the light, is merely a prologue to the ultimate war between Gog and Magog (“yagug wamagu”), and heralds the End of Days.
The Arab-Muslim world engages in perpetual internal strife. Iran, for instance, with its proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen, has surrounded all the oil fields in the region, and is currently busy encircling Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians. Iran not only reaches now from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, but Iranian Shi’ites have been spreading out through Africa and South America. Another sign of the End of Days is the United States’ collaboration with Iran against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. It means the world will eventually pay for America’s looking the other way while the Iranians are building nuclear bombs in their cellars.
These cellars may currently be distant from the shores of the United States, but they are close to all the oil fields in the Middle East. By the time U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office, Iran will not only have nuclear breakout capability, but also intercontinental ballistic missiles to deliver its nuclear warheads. Its next target will be U.S. assets in the Gulf. If Iran can finally drive the U.S. “Great Satan” out of the Gulf by threatening U.S. assets, it will be free to pursue still further expansion.
These are or will be the victims of America’s determination to drag out the problem of an exploding Middle East. That way, U.S. President Barack Obama can hand the region over to the next president, while forever pretending that the vacuum created by pulling U.S. troops out of the Middle East — now being filled by Iran, the Islamic State and other terror groups — had nothing to do with him.
This situation leaves, ironically, the lone voice of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu crying in the wilderness. As much as many of us may not like him or the people he represents, he is one of the two world leaders in the West telling the truth, warning of what is to come (Geert Wilders of the Netherlands is the other). This burden of responsibility for his people (how many of us wish our leaders had even a bit of that?) has earned him only the venom of the Obama Administration, who see him as trying to spoil their strategy of leading by procrastination.
It is also becoming increasingly clear that the Obama Administration’s policy consists of running after Iran, in order to concede everything it wants, just to be able wave a piece of paper not worth the ink on it, claiming there is “a deal.” Iran, for its part, would probably prefer not to sign anything, and most likely will not. Meanwhile, both sides continue strenuously to claim the opposite.
Western leaders just seem not to be programmed to understand the capabilities of other leaders, and how they, too, negotiate, manipulate and hide behind lies. Obama’s Russian “Reset Button” did not work; his “Al Qaeda is on the run,” did not work; “We shall never let Russia take the Ukraine” did not work; and the unwinnable Israel-Palestinian “Peace Process” did not work.
Obama, in order to wave a piece of paper not worth the ink on it, seems eager to fall victim to bogus promises, worthless treaties and other leaders’ outright lies — only to look an even bigger fool than Britain’s former Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. After meeting with Germany’s with Adolf Hitler in 1938, Chamberlain returned to Britain boasting of “peace in our time.” But Chamberlain did not have the luxury of seeing a Chamberlain duped before him. If the deal signed with Iran is full of loopholes, it is Obama who will be blamed. Does Obama really want his legacy to be, “The president who was an even bigger fool than Neville Chamberlain”? He will not be seen as “Nixon in China.” He will be seen as the Eid al-Adha lamb.
Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia Declares Oil War on US Fracking, hits Railroads, Tank-Car Makers, Canada, Russia; Sinks Venezuela
by Wolf Richter • December 1, 2014
When OPEC announced on Thanksgiving Day that it would maintain oil production at 30 million barrels per day, chaos broke out in the oil market, and the price of oil around the globe spiraled into a terrific plunge. The unity of OPEC, if there ever was such a thing, was in tatters with Saudi oil minister smiling victoriously, and with a steaming Venezuelan oil minister thinking of the turmoil his country is facing [OPEC Refuses to Cut Production, Oil Plunges off the Chart].
The bloodletting in the oil markets on Thursday led to some wobbly stability on Friday, and for a while it seemed oil had found a bottom, but then the US stock market closed early while crude continued trading, and suddenly all heck re-broke loose, and the US benchmark WTI plunged again and broke the $66-a-barrel mark before coming to a rest at $66.06. After a near 10% dive in two days, WTI is now down 37% since June!
This chart shows the Thanksgiving plunge following OPEC’s decision, the deceptive stability Friday, and the afterhours plunge:
Now more information has emerged, confirming prior “rumors” and “conspiracy theories.”
During the closed-door meetings in Vienna, Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi told OPEC members that OPEC had to combat the US fracking boom. If OPEC cut output to raise the price of oil, it would lose market share, he argued. The way to win would be to allow overproduction to depress prices to the point where they would destroy the profitability of North American producers. And they’d have to cut production, rather than OPEC.
With Saudi Arabia’s overwhelming power within OPEC, his argument won against objections from desperate members, such as Venezuela, Iran, and Algeria, which wanted a production cut to push prices back up.
“Naimi spoke about market share rivalry with the United States, and those who wanted a cut understood that there was no option to achieve it because the Saudis want a market share battle,” a source told Reuters to make sure the message got out.
Asked if this was a response to rising US production, OPEC Secretary General Abdullah al-Badri essentially confirmed OPEC had entered the oil war against the American shale revolution: “We answered,” he said. “We keep the same production. There is an answer here.”
The bloodletting is spreading.
While the US fracking boom is the official target, Canada’s tar-sands producers are getting hit the hardest. The process is expensive. Their production is largely land-locked and often has to be transported to distant refiners in Canada and the US by costly oil trains. Yet these high-cost producers are getting the least for their oil: The heavy-oil benchmark Western Canada Select (WCS) traded for $48.40 per barrel on Friday, down over 40% from June, the cheapest oil in the world.
Their shares got knocked down in sync: For example, Suncor Energy dropped 9% on Friday, down 27% since June; and Canadian Natural Resources dropped nearly 10% for the day, down 28% since June.
The US shale oil revolution is bleeding as well. Shares across the board are getting hit, many of them outright eviscerated. If the word “plunge” occurs a lot, it’s because that’s what these stocks did on Friday.
- Goodrich Petroleum plunged 34% on Friday; down 80% from June.
- Sanchez Energy plunged 29.5% on Friday, down 71% from June.
- Clayton Williams Energy plunged 25.6% on Friday, down 61% from May.
- Callon Petroleum plunged 18.6% on Friday, down 60% from June.
- Laredo Petroleum plunged 33.5% on Friday, down 66.5% from June.
- Oasis Petroleum plunged 27.2% on Friday, down 68% from July.
- Stone Energy plunged 24.1% on Friday, down 68% from April.
- Triangle Petroleum plunged 25.6% on Friday, down 62% from June.
- EP Energy plunged 25.3% on Friday, down 54% from June.
The list goes on. Even large oil companies got clobbered:
- Exxon Mobil down 4.2% for the day and 13% from July.
- ConocoPhillips down 6.7% for the day and 24% from July.
- Marathon Oil down 11% for the day and 31% from early September.
- Occidental Petroleum down 7.4% for the day and 24% from June.
- Anadarko Petroleum down 10.5% for the day and 30% since late August.
Then there is the Oil Service sector.
The Market Vectors Oil Services ETF dropped 8.9% for the day and has plummeted 34% from June. The current standout is its 10th-most heavily weighted component, Norway-based SeaDrill which had announced that it would cut its dividend to zero to deal with its mountain of debt, given the current environment. Its shares swooned on Thursday and Friday a total of 28% and are now down 70% from a year ago. The whole sector followed. This is what debt can do when the going gets tough.
Those are among the official targets of OPEC’s scorched-earth oil war. They’ve been hit, and they’re taking on water.
There is collateral damage.
With increasing amounts of oil being carried by oil trains, the railroads, which had been trading near their exuberant 52-week highs in large part due to the lucrative oil-train business, suddenly took a dive on Friday:
- Union Pacific -4.9%
- CSX -3.8%
- Canadian Pacific -8.0%
- Norfolk Southern -4.7%
- Kansas City Southern -5.1%
- Canadian National Railway -4.6%
- Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, isn’t publicly traded. But if the oil-train business gets hit, so will Buffett’s “steal.”
But this pales compared to the carnage in tank-car builders. On Friday, they plunged:
- Greenbrier -15% for the day, -28% from its September high.
- American Railcar Industries -12.9% for the day, -28.3% since August.
- FreightCar America -7.5% for the day, -21% since September.
- Trinity Industries -11.3% for the day, -36% since September.
The oil price move is already cascading through American industry. Bondholders are next. The US fracking boom was built with debt, much of it junk rated. And this pile of debt is now at the confluence of the collapsing price of oil, high costs of production, and sharp decline rates of fracked wells that force drillers to continue drilling just to maintain their revenues. It’s a toxic mix.
And there are victims of friendly fire, so to speak.
Particularly OPEC member Venezuela, dogged by the world’s highest inflation and worst budget deficit, is running out of options. On November 18, President Nicolas Maduro ordered $4 billion in loan proceeds from China to be transferred from an off-budget fund to one counted in the international reserves. The sudden appearance of $4 billion in international reserves pumped up bondholder confidence: the next day in intraday trading, Venezuelan bonds jumped the most in six years.
But it didn’t last long. Within a week, its international reserves dropped by $1.3 billion to $22.2 billion, Bloomberg reported. Venezuela had burned through one third of the Chinese money in one week. Venezuela must have much higher oil prices. Unless a miracles happens, or unless China bails it out altogether – at a steep price – the country is headed for default.
Russia, third-largest oil producer in the world, after Saudi Arabia and the US, also got hit, as did Norway, and their currencies have been brutalized [Ruble Freefall: And the Ugliest Currencies Are?]
But this time it’s different.
This time, OPEC is trying to depress oil prices. In prior years, OPEC tried to push prices as high as possible, but without killing the global economy and demand for oil. The balancing act led to high oil prices that consumers struggled to pay but that allowed the US shale revolution to bloom. If oil had remained at $40 or $50 a barrel, fracking wouldn’t have taken off. OPEC was, ironically, one of the enablers of fracking (yield-desperate investors, driven to near insanity by the Fed’s zero-interest-rate policy, were the other one). And now fracking is threatening to make OPEC irrelevant.
Saudi Arabia, formerly the dominant oil producer in the world, the country whose mere words could shake up markets and manipulate US policies in the Middle East, and the master of an all-powerful OPEC, is reduced to struggling for simple market share, the hard way.
A lot of people believe that the plunge in the price of oil will be brief, and that it has gone pretty much as far as it can go, given production costs in the US and Canada. But the bloodletting in the US fracking revolution will go on until the money finally dries up. Read… How Low Can the Price of Oil Plunge?
11.11.2014 Author: Viktor Titov
Saudi Arabia has recently witnessed the aggression that should have happened sooner or later due to its short-sighted policy in Syria, Iraq and Iran. As an old saying goes: “If you dig a hole for others, you’re sure to fall in it yourself.”
A few days ago the Saudi town of Dalva, situated in the oil-rich Eastern Province, suffered an attack of a group of armed Sunni terrorists, which resulted in seven civilian deaths. Most of the attackers were citizens of the Kingdom. The promt response of the local security forces allowed the servicemen to detain 20 members of an underground terrorist group, consisting mainly of those who had previously fought under the black banner of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Law enforcement agencies of Saudi Arabia have managed to capture the head of the armed group, his name is kept secret. The only information that has become available to journalists is that this commander has recently returned from Syria where he was fighting against the pro-Assad forces.
Riyadh is now facing a harsh dilemma: on the one hand, the House of Saud is actively oppressing its Shia citizens, on the pretext of their disloyalty and their alleged attempts to undermine the national security of the kingdom due to the “evil Iranian influence.” On the other – Sunni terrorists, that Saudi Arabia is fighting today alongside with its closest ally – the US, have assaulted Shia civilians on the Saudi soil, and those were virtually enjoying the same rights as the rest of the population, including the right for protection. It is now official: Saudi citizens motivated by religious hatred are commiting manslaughter of their fellow citizens.
The only question is how Riyadh may react when the Sunni terrorists that it had trained and funded will unleash a wave of terror against the Shia population of KSA? A similar course of events has already taken place in the neighboring Bahrain back in 2011, but Saudi regular troops were fast to cross the border in an attempt to prevent the violence from spreading.
It is no coincidence that the events in the city of Dalva are completely ignored by the international media. Should this fact become widely known then the Saudi authorities will be forced to recognize the threat ISIL poses to Saudi Arabia along with acknowledging the underlying instability of Saudi society that can endanger the ruling Wahhabi regime.
Now that the Shia population of the Eastern Province is buzzing with discontent, the House of Saud has found itself in a tight corner. Should the authorities fail to prosecute the terrorists a violent unrest of the Shia population, similar the one that shook Saudi Arabia in 2011 -2012, in the wake of the above mentioned events in Bahrain, will be quick to follow. But if the terrorists are to be punished to the fullest extent of the Sharia law, then the Wahhabis and Salafis will accuse the royal family of “betrayal” of the Sunnis. This course of events will end no better, with a massive wave of violent terror attacks, carried out by ISIL militants all across Saudi Arabia. Now that ISIL thugs have faced harsh resistance in Syria and Iraq, they will be eager to move south to start a “sacred struggle against the corrupt pro-American reign of Al Saud family“. As for the Iraqi Shia population, they can only welcome this U-turn in their ongoing struggle against Islamists. Moreover, it is possible that the indignation of the Saudi Shia population of the Eastern Province will find some form of support in Tehran and Baghdad. This means that the fate of the kingdom’s territorial integrity will be put to the test. The nightmares of the Saudi ruling family seems to be coming true — Saudi Arabia can be split into several parts, which had been joined together to create the kingdom back in 1929. This trend can be accelerated by the fact that a couple of weeks ago the Shia Houthis rebels seized power in Yemen, on the south-western borders of the KSA.
When Riyadh joined the US “anti-terrorist” coalition back in October, along with a number of NATO and GCC countries, political predicted the imminent revenge of ISIL.
So the events of November 4 may only be the first steps. On top of all, Saudi authorities have yielded to the US demands of dumping oil prices in an attempt to undermine Russia’s economy. This led to the narrowing scope of social initiatives being implemented in the Kingdom, since money became scarce in the royal treasury.
By agreeing to support the US global ambitions, the House of Saud has clearly shot itself in the foot. Especially now, when Washington has displayed its willingness to sign an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in two weeks time. This step will force Saudi Arabia to kiss it oil monopoly goodbye along with the role of the main strategic partner of the US in the region. At this point Riyadh couldn’t care less about the US military adventures in Iraq and Syria, it going to try to save its skin
It is clear that the coming days will put the Al-Saud dynasty’s survival skills to the test. Should the KSA authorities fail to keep the situation in the Eastern Province under control — the Kingdom is doomed. With each passing day the Shiite arc becomes more apparent on the political horizon of the Middle East, just like the US miscalculations.
As soon as Washington is trying to project its influence in the region, the Arab regimes are beginning to crumble and fall apart. One can recall the revolutions in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, along with the civil wars in Syria and Iraq to illustrate this statement.
It is now safe to say that Obama has screwed everything up again by putting its strategic partner in danger. It seems that the defeat in the US midterm elections was a failure all right, yet he never stops to surprise his followers. And it is unlikely that the Republicans will be fascinated by the sight of Saudi Arabia going down in flames.
Viktor Titov, Ph.D in Historical Sciences and political commentator on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook
by Aaron Klein
JERUSALEM – Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS, were trained in 2012 by U.S. instructors working at a secret base in Jordan, according to informed Jordanian officials.
The officials said dozens of ISIS members were trained at the time as part of covert aid to the insurgents targeting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The officials said the training was not meant to be used for any future campaign in Iraq.
The Jordanian officials said all ISIS members who received U.S. training to fight in Syria were first vetted for any links to extremist groups like al-Qaida.
In February 2012, WND was first to report the U.S., Turkey and Jordan were running a training base for the Syrian rebels in the Jordanian town of Safawi in the country’s northern desert region.
That report has since been corroborated by numerous other media accounts.
Last March, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported Americans were training Syrian rebels in Jordan.
Quoting what it said were training participants and organizers, Der Spiegel reported it was not clear whether the Americans worked for private firms or were with the U.S. Army, but the magazine said some organizers wore uniforms. The training in Jordan reportedly focused on use of anti-tank weaponry.
The German magazine reported some 200 men received the training over the previous three months amid U.S. plans to train a total of 1,200 members of the Free Syrian Army in two camps in the south and the east of Jordan.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper also reported last March that U.S. trainers were aiding Syrian rebels in Jordan along with British and French instructors.
Reuters reported a spokesman for the U.S. Defense Department declined immediate comment on the German magazine’s report. The French foreign ministry and Britain’s foreign and defense ministries also would not comment to Reuters.
The Jordanian officials spoke to WND amid concern the sectarian violence in Iraq will spill over into their own country as well as into Syria.
ISIS previously posted a video on YouTube threatening to move on Jordan and “slaughter” King Abdullah, whom they view as an enemy of Islam.
WND reported last week that, according to Jordanian and Syrian regime sources, Saudi Arabia has been arming the ISIS and that the Saudis are a driving force in supporting the al-Qaida-linked group.
WND further reported that, according to a Shiite source in contact with a high official in the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the Obama administration has been aware for two months that the al-Qaida-inspired group that has taken over two Iraqi cities and now is threatening Baghdad also was training fighters in Turkey.
The source told WND that at least one of the training camps of the group Iraq of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria, the ISIS, is in the vicinity of Incirlik Air Base near Adana, Turkey, where American personnel and equipment are located.
He called Obama “an accomplice” in the attacks that are threatening the Maliki government the U.S. helped establish through the Iraq war.
The source said that after training in Turkey, thousands of ISIS fighters went to Iraq by way of Syria to join the effort to establish an Islamic caliphate subject to strict Islamic law, or Shariah.
( Another worthy piece analyzing Obama’s world-wide collapse. – JW )
President Obama finds himself in the unenviable position of battling US Congress on a variety of issues while simultaneously having to confront 35 US allies and foreign leaders outraged over his policies whether on Syria and Iran or on the NSA eavesdropping on their personal and private conversations.
There is a silent anti-Obama uprising taking place around the world thanks to his lack of leadership and to the inexperience of the advisers around him.
In the case of the often-reserved Saudi Arabia, the chastising was particularly harsh given the patience the Kingdom exercised in its attempts to resolve the Syrian tragedy using US help, to no avail. Thanks to the incompetency of the team Obama, Syria is now the favorite global destination for Sunni and Shia Islamist pilgrims sporting suicide vests and specialized sniper rifles to kill pregnant women and children.
Recent US polls show Mr. Obama hitting new lows in popularity as his domestic agenda unravels on Obamacare (Wonder if Gallup or Rasmussen are able to conduct a global poll on Obama’s popularity). Mass cancellations by insurance companies against the self-insured (Usually small business owners) is shaking things up for the White House and no amount of spin will pay the difference millions of Americans will have to assume as they begin their journey towards carrying the burden of the biggest welfare state system ever engineered by the far-left. Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee look better by the day for their marathon filibuster to defund Obamacare.
It took five years of severe drought, but no umbrella will protect Mr. Obama from the cats and dogs raining on him and the people around him today.
While Mr. Obama feigns ignorance on the NSA eavesdropping (As he did with all the other scandals), the storm brewing overseas is gathering momentum. For sure, the 35 foreign leaders are exchanging opinions and ideas, as I write this, on what it would take to send the right message to the US and it is a question of time before many band together to confront the White House as one voice. It is a political bonanza they are not about to miss even though many spy as much against the US and many have sat on the sidelines when it comes to Syria.
Is the White House aware of this global anti-Obama uprising? Apparently not.
Wednesday night, the Israeli Air Force allegedly bombed two sites in Latakya and Damascus to interrupt the delivery of Russian-made SA-8 mobile missile batteries to Hezbollah. To add insult to injury, a US official leaked the information to the press by claiming the Obama Administration did not want to appear having condoned the operations during sensitive talks with Iran.
I really must be experiencing a re-run of Get Smart.
Has that official leaking the information lost his/her mind? Does he/she not know that with such public explanation the Iranians will seek certain guarantees against other attacks before they proceed with negotiations? Maybe the White House is praying for the Iranians to demand these guarantees that would compel this President to freeze Israeli capabilities from protecting its citizenry under the guise of its peace-loving initiative with a mass murderer like Khamenei. I am telling you, Maxwell Smart really works at the White House today.
On the other hand, this US not-so-smart official who leaked the information just fell in his/her own trap. Possibly, Israel may have figured a way to sabotage the US-Iranian talks the country knows it could only lead to disastrous results by making it a habit to hit the Assad regime every few days or so. Of course, I am not saying this is probable because the Israeli leadership is too wise to let the Iranians create a wedge between them and the US.
Too much elitism in the crowd surrounding Mr. Obama is fogging their perception of what is coming down the pike. Instead of looking at themselves in the mirror, they are doubling down on an agenda already causing an uprising against the policies of Mr. Obama on a worldwide scale.
Maybe First Lady Michelle Obama’s invitation to Prince George’s first birthday celebration will have to be lost in Her Majesty’s mail for this crowd to realize how unpopular the Obama Administration has become.
Nothing like banality to shock their nervous system.
A bitter diplomatic row between US and Saudi Arabia has burst into the open in a development that could threaten one of the Middle East’s core alliances and Washington’s leadership in the region
BST 22 Oct 2013 By Peter Foster, in Washington, Ruth Sherlock in Beirut and Alex Spillius
The public rupture saw the head of Saudi intelligence declare that the kingdom was “scaling back” co-operation with the CIA over arming and training Syrian rebels and seeking alternate weapons suppliers to the United States.
The unprecedented rebuke by Prince Bandar Bin Sultan al-Saud came after Saudi Arabia stunned diplomats by rejecting a prized seat on the UN Security Council.
The decision to reject the seat, Prince Bandar reportedly told diplomats, was intended as “a message for the US” about Saudi frustration with the Obama administration’s long-running failure to arm rebels in Syria and the rising prospect of a nuclear deal that would favour Riyadh’s arch-foe, Iran.
John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, yesterday confirmed that he had been forced to defend US policy at lengthy meetings with Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, in Paris.
Mr Kerry said Mr Obama agreed to the meetings, held on the sidelines of a gathering to discuss the progress of the Middle East peace talks.
He described a “very frank conversation” that covered “every one of these things” – Egypt, Middle East Peace, Iran and Syria.
“I explained exactly where the US is coming from and will continue to consult with our Saudi friends as we always have in the past,” said Mr Kerry.
On Iran, Saudi Arabian alarm was such that he felt obliged to “reaffirm President Obama’s commitment that he will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon”.
Referring to Washington’s decision to back down from missile strikes against the Damascus regime, Mr Kerry admitted that “the Saudis were obviously disappointed the strikes didn’t take place, and have questions about some other things that may be happening in the region”.
But he added that “the United States and Saudi Arabia will continue to be the close and important friends and allies that we have been”.
Analysts and diplomats in Washington were divided over whether the row, first reported in the Wall Street Journal, presented a serious threat of divorce or was merely a ‘marital tiff’ in an 80-year relationship founded on the mutual interests of Saudi Arabian oil and the US ability to provide security guarantees.
Michael Doran, a Middle East expert with the Brookings Institution who served on the National Security Council during the George W Bush administration, said relations were at an all-time low.
‘I’ve worked in this field for a long time, and I’ve studied the history. I know of no analogous period. I’ve never seen so many disagreements on so many key fronts all at once. And I’ve never seen such a willingness on the part of the Saudis to publicly express their frustration,” he said.
“Iran is the number one issue — the only issue for Saudi policy makers.
When you add up the whole Middle Eastern map — Syria, Iraq, Iran — it looks to the Saudis as if the US is throwing Sunni allies under the bus by trying to cut a deal with Iran and its allies.”
Saudi frustration with Mr Obama’s failure to carry out air strikes last month appears to have boiled over amid fears that the US is backing a peace deal, with Russian and Iranian support, that would leave much of the infrastructure of the Assad regime in place.
“The reason the Saudis are furious is because of the deal between Russia and the US, and Iran and the US,” Dr Kamal Labwani, a member of the opposition Coalition who has recently left Syria, told The Telegraph.
“The deal for Geneva, they believe, is that they will change Bashar, but keep the base of the regime active: they feel it will be Iran-led change – that Iran will get the bigger share of the pie in Syria in terms of deciding who leads next”.
Senior European diplomats in Washington told The Telegraph yesterday they were still trying to assess whether the Saudi move represented a real shift in relations or was part of a factional struggle in which Prince Bandar was seeking to influence the top decision-maker king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud.
Noting that Saudi Arabia had already been “tricky” over Syria, the diplomat said their remained an assumption that the core US-Saudi Relationship would remain intact. “If they are going to beat their own path, that would be more worrying, but it’s really too early to tell,” the source said.
Frederic Wehrey, a senior Middle East expert, with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, also judged that ructions with Saudi Arabia were more likely a reflection of domestic political tensions.
“I take a long view of these things. These developments are unsettling, but they’re not catastrophic. The Saudis need us more than we need them,” he said. “This could be a power-play by [Prince] Bandar. When states are consumed with domestic facitonal struggles they tend to behave erratically.”
Those who are sanguine about a possible split and talk of Riyadh seeking alternate weapons suppliers point to a Pentagon announcement last week of plans to sell Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates $10.8 billion (£6.7bn] worth of missiles and advanced munitions, including “bunker-buster” bombs.
However, other analysts like Mr Doran argue that America’s ability to influence events in the Middle East has already been fundamentally undermined by the tensions between Riyadh and Washington.
He pointed to Saudi Arabia’s decision to give billions of dollars to the Egyptian military leadership last July, which fatally undercut American calls for restraint that had been backed by the threat of removing financial support to the regime.
“The gumming up of US-Saudi relations causes a cumulative but significant lack of influence by the United States in the Middle East,” concluded Mr Doran, “That influence can only be achieved by a coalition which we don’t have because we’re racing after enemies and dispensing with the interests of our allies.”
By Ryan McMaken Thursday, September 5th, 2013
As Rothbard pointed out, war and militarism are socialism writ large, and not surprisingly, war is very expensive to the taxpayers, and especially to those who are the targets of military intervention.
There is presently a debate in Congress and in the media about how expensive the war in Syria will be. In the American policy debate The expenses are only calculated in estimated monetary terms, and so we know that the debate will of course ignore all damage done to the Syrians themselves and to global markets, which are always damaged and stunted by wars.
Nevertheless, even the very tame and limited argument over the costs to the U.S. treasury will be based mostly on conjecture and dishonest assessments of the true cost.
We might get some glimpses of some of the honest estimates as the debate rages between the bureaucrats and the politicians, although even those are still nothing more than estimates. The bureaucrats (i.e. the Pentagon) will use the drive to war in Syria as an opportunity to demand that more taxpayer money flow into their coffers. We have seen this already with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s claim that the tiny cuts imposed by sequestration “are weakening the United States’ ability to respond effectively to a major crisis in the world.” It will be in the Defense Department’s interest to high-ball the costs of the war.
Nevertheless, even the Defense’ Department’s claims of costs for the Syria war will likely be well below the true cost by the time the public hears them, for the Department will be restrained by the Obama Administration’s competing interest to make the war appear as cheap as possible. Fearing resistance from some taxpayers, the Administration will naturally wish to have the war appear cheap, easy, and no big deal, as regards to cost.
Indeed, John Kerry was claiming yesterday that unnamed “Arab countries” have offered to pay for the war. This claim by the Obama Administration should be seen as being on more or less the same levels as the Bush Administration’s claim in 2003 that the Iraq war and the reconstruction of the country would be paid out of Iraqi oil revenues.
Those who remember the debate of Iraq War costs a decade ago will also recall the Bush Administration’s outrage over General Eric Shinseki’s (correct) estimate that hundreds of thousands of troops would be necessary to restore peace to Iraq in a reasonable amount of time. The Administration claimed only a fraction of that number, and thus, only a fraction of the funds, would be necessary.
So, politicians want a war to appear cheap, at least up front, while the bureaucrats want bigger budgets. Once the war starts, though, all bets are off, and any political or legal authorization given to the administration to wage war will be a de facto blank check for future unlimited outlays for occupation and conflict on an unlimited timeline. We’ve already seen this in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and while the two countries descended into chaos, the claim was made that since the U.S. regime had “broken” Iraq and Afghanistan, the taxpayers were now on the hook to finance the “fixing” of the broken countries.
The regime knows that all it needs to do is start a war, and the money will begin to flow indefinitely. Thanks to Robert Higgs’s Crisis and Leviathan, we know that war is generally a winning proposition for states, for it leads to greater revenues and more control of the domestic population, continually ratcheted up by new wars. Rothbard noted in his essay “War, Peace, and the State” that while wars can lead to the downfall of states, they upside is often enormous for them, as wars secure vast new powers for the regime both domestically and internationally. And since Syria poses no threat to the U.S. military or to U.S. territory, the prospects are all excellent for the politicians, bureaucrats, government contractors and intellectuals who all stand to get rich off the latest conflict.
The taxpayers will of course fare less well, whether in the form of a far greater tax burden or by their misfortune in holding a currency ever more de-valued by the need to deficit-finance endless war.
For the government class though, times are good, as long as enough of the population can be neutralized or even convinced to support the latest conflict. Thanks to what Hans-Hermann Hoppe calls “the myth of national defense,” wars are among the easiest big government programs to sell to the citizenry, for so few are willing to entertain possibilities outside the status quo of state monopolies for the provision of defense.
And in those cases where convincing the voters might prove more challenging, the state can always goad foreign nations into making an aggressive move than can lead to war, or the state may rely on a small army of intellectuals to provide the propaganda necessary to sweep all opposition aside.
The cost to Americans in the form of higher energy prices, lost trade opportunities, and other hidden costs will be immense, but even the cost in dollars to the taxpayers when calculated in terms of the true costs of empire, cannot be predicted.
- Saudis developed intelligence separately from Russia, which also warned the U.S. about the accused Boston bomber
- A letter to the Department of Homeland Security allegedly named Tsarnaev and three Pakistanis as potential jihadis worthy of U.S. investigation
- Red flags from Saudi Arabia to have included Tsarnaev’s name and information about a planned explosive attack on a major U.S. city
- Saudi foreign minister, national security chief both met with Obama in the oval office in early 2013The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sent a written warning about accused Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2012, long before pressure-cooker blasts killed three and injured hundreds, according to a senior Saudi government official with direct knowledge of the document.The Saudi warning, the official told MailOnline, was separate from the multiple red flags raised by Russian intelligence in 2011, and was based on human intelligence developed independently in Yemen.
Citing security concerns, the Saudi government also denied an entry visa to the elder Tsarnaev brother in December 2011, when he hoped to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the source said. Tsarnaev’s plans to visit Saudi Arabia have not been previously disclosed.
The Saudis’ warning to the U.S. government was also shared with the British government. ‘It was very specific’ and warned that ‘something was going to happen in a major U.S. city,’ the Saudi official said during an extensive interview.
It ‘did name Tamerlan specifically,’ he added. The ‘government-to-government’ letter, which he said was sent to the Department of Homeland Security at the highest level, did not name Boston or suggest a date for his planned attack.
If true, the account will produce added pressure on the Homeland Security department and the White House to explain their collective inaction after similar warnings were offered about Tsarnaev by the Russian government.
A DHS official denied, however, that the agency received any such warning from Saudi intelligence about Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
‘DHS has no knowledge of any communication from the Saudi government regarding information on the suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombing prior to the attack,’ MailOnline learned from one Homeland Security official who declined to be named in this report.
The White House took a similar view. ‘We and other relevant U.S. government agencies have no record of such a letter being received,’ said Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the president’s National Security Council.
The letter likely came to DHS via the Saudi Ministry of Interior, the agency tasked with protecting the Saudi kingdom’s homeland.
A Homeland Security official confirmed Tuesday evening on the condition of anonymity that the 2012 letter exists, saying he had heard of the Saudi communication before MailOnline inquired about it.
An aide to a Republican member of the House Homeland Security Committee speculated Tuesday about why the Obama administration contradicted the knowledgeable Saudi official.
‘It is possible the Department of Homeland Security received the information from the Saudi government but never passed it on to the White House,’ the GOP staffer said. ‘Communication between DHS and the White House’s national security apparatus isn’t always what it should be.’
‘I can easily see it happening where one hand didn’t know what the other was doing because of a turf war.’
‘Just like the different agencies in the Boston JTTF [Joint Terrorism Task Force] want credit for breaking the Tsarnaev case,’ the aide added, ‘they sometimes jealously guard the very intel they should be sharing the most freely. Sometimes it makes no sense at all.’
House Homeland Security Committee chairman Mike McCaul plans to announce on Wednesday an investigative hearing to probe what U.S. intelligence knew prior to the Boston attacks, two senior Republican sources told MailOnline.
Separately, President Obama announced Tuesday that the U.S. government will launch a wide-ranging inquiry into the sharing of information among the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security and other intelligence and law-enforcement agencies of the federal government.
‘We want to leave no stone unturned,’ the president said in a rare White House press conference.
The internal review will be led by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and several inspectors general.
‘This is not an investigation,’ Clapper’s spokesman Shawn Turner said in a prepared statement. ‘This is an independent review of information-sharing procedures. It is limited to the handling of information related to the suspects prior to the attack.’
It is not yet clear whether information from Saudi Arabia will be involved in Clapper’s inter-agency review.
Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz appeared on CNN Tuesday afternoon, upbraiding the Obama administration for presuming that the federal government’s handling of intelligence prior to the Boston bombings was appropriate and effective.
‘As soon as the bombing happened we had officials, locally and from the feds, saying, “Oh, this was an isolated case, there was just one person involved.” We didn’t know that,’ Chaffetz said.
The ‘starting point’ for a federal investigation, he said, must be, ‘This is unacceptable, we will not stand for it, we will get to the bottom of it, and we will not rest until we figure it out.’
‘Mr. President,’ he said, addressing Obama, ‘the starting point should be an intolerance that this thing happened.’
The high-ranking Saudi official whom MailOnlne interviewed at length provided a wealth of detail about the warning he says his government sent to the United States. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk publicly about foreign intelligence, or about Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic relationship with the United States.
He suggested that the Saudi Ministry of Interior sent the letter out of an abundance of caution in order to be helpful to the United States, even though its intelligence on Tsarnaev wasn’t yet fully developed.
‘With Saudi Arabia it’s always code red,’ he said. ‘There’s no code orange, or code yellow. Always red.’
The Saudi government, he added, alerted the U.S. in part because it believed American authorities should be inspecting packages that came to Tsarnaev in the mail in order to search for bomb-making components.
The written warning also allegedly named three Pakistanis who may be of interest to British authorities. The official declined to provide more details about the warning to the UK, but said the two governments received the same information.
The Ministry of Interior, he said, sent the letters in 2012, likely after Tsarnaev returned from Russia to the United States in July.
President Barack Obama’s published schedule indicates that he met in the Oval Office with Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, the Saudi Interior minister, on January 14, 2013.
The Saudis denied Tsarnaev entry to the kingdom when he sought to travel to Mecca in December 2011 for a pilgrimage known as an Umrah – one that is undertaken during months that don’t fall within the regular Hajj period of the year.
That rejected application came one month before he traveled to Russia, where U.S. intelligence sources believe he acquired training enabling him to construct and detonate the bombs that he and his younger brother placed hear the Boston Marathon’s finish line.
The younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is in federal custody at a prison medical facility.
The Saudi official speculated that Tsarnaev’s residence in the United States might have made it more difficult for him to gain entry into the kingdom.
‘U.S.-based Muslims who become radicalized and want to visit Mecca create an unusual problem,’ he said, compelling the Saudi government ‘to carefully examine applications.’
In the wake of the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal met with Secretary of State John Kerry on April 16, and then had an unscheduled meeting with President Obama on April 17.
‘This is the DNA of the Saudi government,’ said the Saudi official, referring to officials in the royal court in Riyadh. ‘This is how they work. They sent the letter, but that wasn’t enough. They then sent the top guy to meet personally with the president.’
He dismissed the idea that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was likely trained by al Qaeda while he was outside the United States last year.
The Saudis’ Yemen-based sources, he explained, said militants referred to Tamerlan dismissively as ‘the volunteer.’
‘He was a gung-ho, self motivated jihadi who wasn’t tasked by a larger group,’ he said.
‘There is no reason for anyone in Afghanistan to have in his thinking a scenario like this,’ the official added, referring to pressure-cooker bombs at the Boston Marathon. ‘He took the initiative. That’s why they call him “the volunteer.”‘
‘The Boston thing is beneath them,’ he said of al Qaeda. ‘They don’t think like this. This is like a firecracker to them. They want something big.’
Tamerlan may have boasted about his plans online, the Saudi official said, offering an explanation for how Yemen-based sources first learned of him. Islamist militants have well-developed social networks that can enable news to migrate quickly across vast distances.
The Saudi government sometimes tracks such radicals by launching fake jihadi websites to attract extremists. The Ministry of Interior then tracks them electronically, often across the world, and shares information with governments it considers friendly, including the United States.
‘The Saudi Arabian government is doing everything it can to wipe out these people and treat America as a true friend,’ the official said.
The Saudi intelligence services have a long history of providing credible information to America and Great Britain about looming threats.
‘This is the fourth time the Saudi Arabian government has given the U.S. specific intel’ about a possible terror plot, the official said, citing prior warnings about Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber who repeatedly tried to light a fuse in his shoe to bring down American Airlines flight 63 bound for Miami in December 2001.
He also cited the 300-gram ‘ink-cartridge bombs’ planted on two cargo planes headed for the United States from Yemen in October 2010. Those explosives were intercepted in Dubai, and at an East Midlands airport in Great Britain.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s namesake was a 15-century Central Asian warlord who referred to himself as ‘the sword of Islam.’ Sometimes spelled ‘Tamerlane’ in English, he was known for his cruelty.
When he conquered Baghdad, he reportedly made a pyramid of human skulls from unfortunate residents of that city.
Although still revered in Chechnya and throughout Central Asia, the original Tamerlane is sometimes vilified in modern-day Saudi textbooks.