(Originally written for the Asia Times)
All signs are showing that the otherwise secretive Saudi regime is angry. Very, very angry. Not only did the KSA refuse to take a seat at the UNSC, but now the Saudi spy chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, appears to be threatening the USA with a “major shift” in “relations with the United States in protest at its perceived inaction over the Syria war and its overtures to Iran”. The WSJ provides some further details:
In the run-up to the expected U.S. strikes, Saudi leaders asked for detailed U.S. plans for posting Navy ships to guard the Saudi oil center, the Eastern Province, during any strike on Syria, an official familiar with that discussion said. The Saudis were surprised when the Americans told them U.S. ships wouldn’t be able to fully protect the oil region, the official said.
Disappointed, the Saudis told the U.S. that they were open to alternatives to their long-standing defense partnership, emphasizing that they would look for good weapons at good prices, whatever the source, the official said.
In the second episode, one Western diplomat described Saudi Arabia as eager to be a military partner in what was to have been the U.S.-led military strikes on Syria. As part of that, the Saudis asked to be given the list of military targets for the proposed strikes. The Saudis indicated they never got the information, the diplomat said.
Bandar (aka Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud) spent most of his career in Washington DC where he was the Saudi ambassador from 1983 to 2005 where he was considered exceptionally close to the Bush family. Not only that, he could observe, as no one else could, how the US went to war against Iraq not once, but twice, in 1991-1992 and, again, in 2003-2005. So he, of all people, should now that a) the USA does not have the physical capability to “fully protect” the entire oil region of the KSA and b) that the US would only share a critical proposed strike list with close Anglo allies (the UK and, maybe, some other Anglo country). Not even the Israelis or the French would be given that kind of access.
So what in the world is Bandar upset about?!
Sure, there are other good reasons for him to be angry: the entire Saudi strategic plan to defeat the Shia in the Middle-East has fallen apart.
The Saudis wanted to trigger an insurrection in Syria, then execute a “false flag” chemical attack, then have the USA take out the Syrian regime and replace it with a Saudi puppet regime of Wahabi liver-eaters. That would isolate both Hezbollah and Iran. The Saudis would let the Israelis deal with Hezbollah while they would then push the USA into a confrontation with Iran.
As strategic plans go, this was a pretty good one too but it was based on a fundamental misunderstanding the of Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah determination to defeat it. We know that Russia sent a very powerful naval task force to the Syrian coast, we have pretty good information showing that Iran covertly sent both equipment and combatants to Syria and Hezbollah publicly admitted that it sent several thousands of its combatants into Syria. These combatants are really those who turned the tide of the war on the ground (especially around al-Qusayr). What we don’t know (but what must have happened for sure) is what Russia, Iran and Hezbollah told the USA through their back-channel communications. I personally have a very strong feeling that some very serious threats were made by one or several of these parties and that these threats were taken very seriously by the White House. Yes, of course, we then had Kerry’s “rhetorical point” about Syria giving up chemical weapons, but there are plenty of indicators that the US had already decided to “fold” 2-3 days before this actually occurred. Whatever may be the case, it is clear that the US took the only possible sane decision and decided that it did not want to start a major war in the Middle-East.
Did the Saudis really think that the USA would take on Syria, Hezbollah, Iran and Russia on their behalf?
Now let’s look at the Saudi reaction. First, they refused to take their seat at the UNSC. So what?! With the predictable exception of Kuwait and Bahrain, who is going to be heartbroken at not having the Saudis sit at the UNSC?! Kosovo?
And now comes this threat of a “major shift” in the US-Saudi alliance.
What in the world is Bandar talking about again?!
First, does Bandar really believe that the USA vitally needs the KSA? Does he not realize that the USA be self-sufficient in energy pretty soon? Or does he not realize that the days when ARAMCO was the key to the strength of the dollar are long gone and that now the strength of the dollar depends mostly on US military and financial power? And even if the KSA was vital to the strength of the dollar, does Bandar really think that he can threaten US vital strategic interests with impunity?
Second, if Bandar wants to shift away from the alliance with the USA, where does he think he could shift to?! Most definitely not China which has a very serious “Islamic problem” on its hands in its western provinces, not the EU which is faithfully committed to its colonial status in the US Empire, and nobody in Africa – even less so after the recent carnage in Kenya. Nobody in Latin America for sure, if only because of its long history of anti-US struggle and its large Arab population which know what kind of sick ideology Wahabism is. In Asia, maybe the desperate rulers of the DPRK or Burma would want to explore options, but that’s about it. So unless Bandar thinks he can punish the US by shifting its alliance to some “heavyweights” like Kuwait or Bahrain, one can only be left wondering of what Bandar has in mind.
Think about it: first he threatens Putin with terror attacks during the Sochi Olympics and now he threatens the USA with “dumping” it?! This would be comical if the House of Saud was not sitting on a huge amount of money which they have – and will – use to spread terror and Wahabi extremism all over the planet.
Which brings me to my last question: does Bandar really not understand how fragile his regime is?
Does he seriously believe that he can threaten both the US and Russia and get away with it?
Maybe the poor man believes that the Bush clan will do something about it, but if so, then that hope misplaced. Sure, the Bush family and the House of Saud are old accomplices in all sorts of ugly deals, but not only are the Bush people currently not in power, but they will always love their money more than they will love their friends. And the truth is, neither the Bush family nor even the USA need the Saudis all that much.
The reverse, however, is not true. The Wahabi house of Saudi is sitting on top of a treasure trove of Shia oil (the oil rich regions of the KSA are also the ones where a repressed Shia minority lives). Both Bahraini and the Saudi regimes have held on to power only thanks to a ruthless and systematic repression against its population, especially the Shia. For the Wahabis, to stay in power means killing Shia, lots of Shia. And to do that, one needs a “protector” at the UNSC. In the case of the KSA, this protector has always been the USA. But just imagine what could happen if the USA withdrew its protection of the KSA at the UNSC. Imagine what kind of signal that would send to the repressed Shia in these two countries? Without even going into a R2P situation, it is pretty obvious that the Saudi regime only serves “at the pleasure of the US President” and that it could be summarily dismissed.
But Bandar seems to be completely oblivious to that.
My personal feeling is that Bandar must have gone clinically insane. Either that or it is the entire House of Saud has gone mad, maybe as a consequence of its degenerate lifestyle. Who knows?
If Bandar is “retired: – administratively or physically – sooner rather than later, then its option one. If not, then its option two. But either way, the writing is on the wall for the House of Saud.