This is Part III of my essay on Obama’s War with Assad. In Part II I asserted that the Russian president Vladimir Putin, having learned what happened in Libya and having experienced his own battle with Chechen insurgents, in the last minute he became the savior of President Obama’s credibility. There was a lack of popular support for the war both in the US and Europe as exemplified with congressional statistics of 100:1 calls against the war. However, Washington warmongers, such as Senator McCain were mad at Putin after theNew York Times published his op-ed on September 12. Putin made the case for international law and for not allying with Al Qaeda. In doing so he chided the American exceptionalism in the sense that the US cannot be exempted from international laws that everyone else is supposed to follow. Challenging American exceptionalism resulted in rage from leading Senator McCain, who advocated US military interventions in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Kosovo, Libya, North Korea and Syria, to rebut Putin’s op-ed in a Russian daily Pravda a week later.
Putin has also saved the US military from an embarrassment of serving as Saudi mercenaries. Syria has been a battle ground for Saudi Arabia’s confrontation with Iran over regional dominance in the Persian Gulf. Saudis have been pouring money into Sunni Insurgents not only in Syria but in Iraq as well. The Saudis have decided that they may not prevail without the support from the US military. Due to US hesitation to launch the war in support of the Saudis interests, the Saudis were probably responsible for staging a casus belli scenario for the US asserting that Syrian President Assad was behind the August 21 chemical attack in proximity of Damascus. Subsequently President Obama opened a dialogue with Iran, which further infuriated the Saudis. They decided to publicly voice their dismay in an unprecedented manner suggesting that their own survival necessitated distancing themselves from the country that has protected the royal family since 1945. They seem to believe that weakness breeds contempt and therefore invites aggression.
Prince Turki al Faisal said in London: “The current charade of international control over Bashar’s chemical arsenal would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious, and designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down, but also help Assad butcher his people.” During the buildup of a US aborted strike on Syria, the Saudis asked the US to beef up their naval presence in the Gulf against the potential Iranian counter-strike. Apparently, the US replied that the ships were not available to protect the oil region. The Saudis also asked to be given a list of military targets for the proposed strikes in Syria but never got the information.
Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, former quarter-century Saudi ambassador to Washington leaving the post in 2005 and a crown contender after the death of the 90 year-old king Abdullah, has decided to downgrade ties with the CIA in training Syrian opposition and announced that he prefers to work with the French and Jordanians. In addition, he will no longer bow to US demands not to include surface-air missiles that could reach Al Qaeda affiliates fighting in Syria. He also announced that in future arms deals Saudi Arabia will no longer favor US defense contractors. In 2011 Saudis bought $33.4 billion worth of American weapons. Prince Bandar obviously has had little influence on President Obama after having had huge influence on the Reagan and both Bush-41 and Bush-43 administrations.
Saudi renunciation of the seat on the UN Security Council, the decision made by the king a day after their election, was considered to be an anti-US rather than an anti-UN move. Previously the Saudi foreign minister Saud al Faisal cancelled his address to the UN General Assembly after President Obama sought a meeting with the Iranian newly elected President Hassan Rouhani.
Regarding Iran, the Saudis were pressing the US to strike Iranian nuclear targets even more so than Israel. Hence, Saudis might conclude the need for their own nuclear weapons and they can be purchased from Pakistan. In addition, Iran supported by Russia and China, is viewed as a direct threat to Saudi oil exports.
US Bond with Saudi Arabia
In 1945, President Roosevelt met with Abdul-Aziz Ibn Saud, the country founder, aboard the USS Quincy returning from the Yalta conference with Stalin and Churchill. Roosevelt was concerned that WWII had depleted US oil reserves. The Persian Gulf oil wells were on average up to 30 times more productive than those in Latin America and 150 times more than those in the US. The 60-yr deal was made: cheap oil for the world’s premier military power protection against enemies like Egypt, Jordan, Iran and Shiites in general. Stability of the Arabian Peninsula had become the area of US’ vital interest. The energy cornerstone of the US postwar industrial machine was established. Saudi Arabia became “Petrolistan,” the world’s leading oil producer with the largest oil reserves. Part of the deal was non-interference in Saudi domestic policies. The Quincy Pact left both countries as the godfathers of Islamism. The US addiction to cheap oil and petrodollars caused the US to turn a blind eye to Saudi Arabia and its abysmal human rights record – and financial supports for Islamist terrorist groups including Al Qaeda.
In August of 1990, Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait over the disputed Rumailla oil field. The Bush-41 administration decided to go to war with Iraq in order to protect its Saudi and Gulf State allies. King Fahd agreed to invite US troops to Saudi Arabia after being convinced that there was nothing to stop Iraqi troops from marching to Riyadh. Thus the US honored its 60-year deal with Saudi Arabia.
9/11 represented the lowest point in the US/Saudi relationship. Prince Bandar said: “I felt as if the Twin Towers had fallen on my head.” 15 out of 19 hijackers were Saudis. Nonetheless the 9/11 Commission gave the Saudis a free pass: “We have no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization of Al Qaeda.” The Commission tiptoed and had no political will to address this hot potato.
US World’s Top Oil/Gas Producer
This summer the US passed Russia to become the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and related well-drilling advances in technology. Some officials in Russia and the OPEC countries suggested that the US was in an energy bubble mode that would soon burst. However, the technology is getting better enabling the shale producers to drill bigger and faster wells. The price of crude oil remained steady despite turmoils in the Middle East. The North American crude supplies have lessened price volatility that prevailed over the past decade. American refiners are exporting the “shale revolution.” The Gulf Coast refineries are converting crude oil into petrol, diesel and other products and shipping them to Europe, Africa and Latin America. Before 2011 the US was a net importer. The US natural gas producers want to export their product and are getting licenses to build LNG facilities. Recently the Energy Secretary announced the second approval for the construction of LNG terminals.
Hence, North America (the US plus Canada and Mexico) is on the way to energy independence. Imports from the Gulf are down to less some 10-12%. Hence, heavy dependence on Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States is no longer there. In 2005 US imports reached 60% of domestic consumption. OPEC no longer calls the shots as it has done for 40 years.
Emergence of North American energy independence means substantial lessening of dependence on OPEC and Saudi oil. The American policy makers must question the 68 year-old protection of the Saudi kingdom costing American taxpayers billions of dollars every year in the context of the $17 trillion national debt. Countries with continued need for Gulf oil should be phased in and then America should gradually phase out for the benefit of the US taxpayers. The Chinese have surpassed the US as a buyer of Persian Gulf crude in 2009 and are on track to overtake the US as the world’s #1 buyer of oil from OPEC countries. Presently China doesn’t have the military power to do the job but surely has financial resources to become one. The US is shoring up shipping lanes for allies such as Japan and South Korea but they are rich enough to phase in. Japan has opened a base in Djibouti and France has opened a base in the UAE.
Perfidious US foreign policies designed to ensure that a Muslim client, primarily Saudi Arabia, comes to the top in civil wars in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya and Syria should be terminated.Those policies amounted to the persecution and cleansing of Christians, in areas where Christians resided in the above named places, and doomed many to death or exile (now happening in Syria). Kentucky senator Rand Paul called it “Worldwide war on Christians.” President Clinton favored Muslim-led unified Bosnia at the expense of the Christian Serbs despite the fact that the European allies were not eager to have a Muslim state in the heart of the Balkans.
The US continues to be a predominantly Christian country despite President Obama assertions to the contrary. The US should use its remaining influence in the Middle East to protect those Christians who are still there. Christians are the main victims in Syria proportionally when it comes to religious cleansing by al-Qaeda affiliated groups and the Alawites and Shia also face enormous persecution. More than 450,000 Christians, out of 1.75 million, have been displaced or left the country. They are turning to Russia for protection. Tens of thousands want to apply for Russian citizenship. Over 50,000 signed the address, including doctors, engineers, lawyers and businessmen from the Kalamoun area near Damascus. Their appeal follows Putin’s strong attack last July on the infringement of the rights of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East and elsewhere. In Iraq the sectarian violence has reversed the US gains after huge US sacrifices in blood and treasure amounting to trillions of taxpayer dollars. Again proportionally, the Christians are the principal victims. Some two thirds have left
Vojin Joksimovich is the author of three books and 110 articles on international affairs.