One reads these stories about how Saudi Arabia is upset with the United States - most recently one by David Ignatius in the Washington Post and thinks "he can't be serious".
Saudis describe the kingdom’s growing role as a reaction, in part, to the diminished clout of the United States. They still regard the U.S.- Saudi relationship as valuable, but it’s no longer seen as a guarantor of their security. For that, the Saudis have decided they must rely more on themselves — and, down the road, on a wider set of friends that includes their military partner, Pakistan, and their largest oil customer, China.So the story apparently is that Saudi Arabia is angry with the United States for not supporting Mubarak and for abandoning its demand that Israel stop its settlement expansion. In its anger, Saudi Arabia is buying more weapons from the United States, giving more money to pro-US dictatorships in the region and taking more aggressive steps against anti-US regimes, most notably Syria.
So what would Saudi Arabia do if it was happy with the United States?
Another part of the story is that Saudi Arabia is going to be more confrontational against Iran. Why? The people of Iran disagree with the people of the United States about whether or not Israel is legitimate. But the people of Iran agree with the people of Saudi Arabia about that. Israel sees Iran as its enemy, but why would Saudi Arabia?
This supposed rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran (that began when the Shah was removed) was concocted entirely in Washington DC and Tel Aviv with instructions issued to the Saudi government through the US embassy. It is really a conceptual mistake to think of Saudi Arabia as an independent agent in the Middle East. The Saudi government is an arm of US Middle East policy. Saudi Arabia, like Egypt, Jordan, UAE, Kuwait and others, is effectively a US colony - accountable for policy only to the United States and certainly not to any domestic constituency.
Big weapons purchases have been a Saudi penchant for decades. More interesting, in some ways, is their quiet effort to provide support to friendly regimes to keep the region from blowing itself up in this period of instability. The Saudis have budgeted $4 billion this year to help Egypt, $1.4 billion for Jordan, and $500 million annually over the next decade for Bahrain and Oman. They will doubtless pump money, as well, to Syria, Yemen and Lebanon once the smoke clears in those volatile countries.None of the countries in the string of US colonies in the Middle East would pursue policies remotely resembling those we see if domestic voters could remove them for failing to adhere to the values of the people they rule. But Saudi Arabia, in coordination with the United States, is spending huge amounts of money to prevent that from happening.
“In outlays, we’ve budgeted $15 billion a year just to keep the peace,” says one Saudi source, adding up the economic assistance to Arab neighbors. But that’s hardly a stretch for a country that, by year-end, will have about $650 billion in foreign reserves.
Which brings us to Ignatius and articles like this - articles that claim that Saudi Arabia is asserting its independence from the United States without pointing to any action that the United States would not approve of. The point of this article is exactly to direct the readers attention away from relationships that, in 2011, does not differ in any tangible way from the relationship the predecessor governments of today's colonies had with Imperial Great Britain in 1911.
What Ignatius is doing is helping Americans behave as colonialists without thinking of themselves as colonialists. Americans are sometimes offended at the suggestion that the relationship between the US and most of the Arab world is colonial, but not offended by the fact that these governments are accountable to the US and not to their own people.
Saudi Arabia spends almost two and a half times more money on weapons than Israel and buys its weapons from a supplier that explicitly commits that Israel will militarily dominate Saudi Arabia and any combination of other countries that might join it. Saudi Arabia does not respond to Israel's nuclear program. Saudi Arabia uses its money to oppose every anti-Zionist organization in its region. Saudi Arabia does these things because the United States tells it to. If instead, the US instructed the Saudi government to hold contested national elections, the Saudi government would submit to that US demand just as easily.
Ignatius, this story and all of these stories that we are reading ultimately are aimed at distracting Americans away from the realities of the relationship between the US and the string of colonial dictatorships that the US maintains for Israel's sake. They are effective because Americans want to be distracted. It is a small piece of good news that the minority of people in the West who don't participate in this multi-sided delusion does seem to me to be growing.