A result of our relationship with the Saudi Regime. 9/11 NEVER FORGET      
Written by Dan Lieberman   
Monday, 21 July 2008
by Dan Lieberman

The Saudi Arabia kingdom can be the poster child for a characterization of the Middle East as an area that contains despotic governments and deprives its peoples of freedom and basic human rights. Let’s add that most of the 9/11 conspirators and other al-Qaeda members, including bin Laden, were of Saudi origin. Saudis have been accused of financing terrorist activities, and the Saudi government’s support of worldwide Islamic charities and schools, which have questionable links to terrorism, has been criticized. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia has had friendly relations with all U.S. administrations, is a major customer of U.S. military weapons, and receives its principal economic support from sales of petroleum to U.S. oil companies. The U.S. comfortable relationship with Saudi Arabia mocks U.S. plans for international peace through promotion of democracy and defeat of terrorism by attacking the sources of terrorism. Just the opposite: The flow of excessive capital to Saudi Arabia in exchange for oil supplies to the western world strengthens the authoritarian regime, enables it to finance the spread of its intolerant form of Islam and provides it with capital for massive investments. The dependence of western nations on Saudi oil has made Saudi Arabia a Middle East powerhouse that is now able to shape Middle East policy and lead U.S. foreign policy down another path of confusion, counterproductive actions and eventual regret. This path starts by being blind to the warning signs that demonstrate the nature, despotism and intolerance of the Saudi regime.

The Saudi Regime

The Saudi kingdom can be considered one of the youngest of the oldest kingdoms in the world. Its establishment and operation recalls the reign of the Spanish Catholic monarchy of the 15th century. Similar to the Ferdinand and Isabella pact with the Catholic church to gain recognition for their kingdom in return for sole approval of the Catholic church in Spanish lands, Arabian chieftain Mohammed ibn Saud, in 1744, allied himself with Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, leader of the Wahhab sect. The Wahhabis backed the Saud families in their methodical conquest of the entire Arabian peninsula, and, in turn, were allowed to control Saudi social society as the dominant and only fully recognized religion. Believing in the basics of Islam, they enforced a strict interpretation of the Koran.

King Ibn Saud, a descendant of Wahhabi leaders, seized Riyadh in 1901 and eventually conquered almost all the peninsula. By 1933, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia finally coalesced close to its present form. Ibn Saud established an absolute monarchy and ruled it by an all encompassing Sharia; the body of Islamic religious law which regulates public and private life

The Spanish royalty went from near bankruptcy to extended riches because of voyages that brought them yellow gold. The Saudi monarchy went from rags to riches with the discovery of black gold. Since the 1940’s, oil revenue has powered the Saudi kingdom to tremendous wealth and, similar to the Spanish experience, has brought it adversaries and continuous recurrences of inflation.

“lslam remains a double-edged sword for the Al Saud. It grants them legitimacy as protectors of the faith, yet it constrains their behavior to that which is compatible with religious law. When members of the family deviate from that straight path, they are open to criticism since the regime’s ’right to rule’ rests largely on the alliance with the al-Wahhab family. Today, the ‘alliance’ between the regime and official clergy is much contested by dissidents because the parties no longer serve as ‘checks’ on each other.”

Understanding Political Dissent in Saudi Arabia, Gwenn Okruhlik, Middle East Report Online, Oct. 24, 2001.

Ferdinand and Isabella had an Inquisition. The Saudi family, although more lenient now, have had their severe human rights abuses.

Intolerance and Despotism

A legal system based on sharia religious laws and a rule almost entirely delegated to the Saudi royal family doesn’t give confidence that human rights or political freedom exist in Saudi Arabia.

“It is alleged that capital punishment and other penalties are often given to suspected criminals without due process. The government of Saudi Arabia has also been criticized for its oppression of religious and political minorities, homosexuality, and women. Although human rights groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia have repeatedly expressed concern about the states of human rights in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom denies that any human rights abuses take place.

Saudi women face severe discrimination in many aspects of their lives, including education, employment, and the justice system and are clearly regarded as inferior to men. Although they make up 70% of those enrolled in universities, women make up just 5% of the workforce in Saudi Arabia, the lowest proportion in the world.

Freedom of speech and the press are restricted to forbid criticism of the government or endorsement of “un-Islamic” values. Trade unions and political organizations are banned. Public demonstrations are forbidden.

Political parties are banned, but some political dissidents were freed in the 1990s on the condition that they disband their political organizations. Only the Green Party of Saudi Arabia remains, although it is an illegal organization. The 1990s marked a slow period of political liberalization in the kingdom as the government created a written constitution, and the advisory Consultative Council, the latter being an appointed delegation of Saudi scholars and professionals that are allowed to advise the king.

Jewish, Christian or Hindu houses of prayer are not allowed. Unofficially the government acknowledges that many of the foreign workers are Christian and on Aramco civilian compounds, foreign Christians are generally allowed to worship in private homes or even hold services at local schools provided that it is not spoken of in public. This is a degree of unofficial tolerance that is not given to Judaism, Hinduism or atheism.”

Wikipedia, Human rights in Saudi Arabia.

Authoritarianism and human rights violations don’t stop western money flows to the Saudi family.

The Money Flow

Oil revenue in 2007 supplied the desert kingdom with 194 billion dollars. If oil prices remain at about $140/barrel, combined revenues for 2008 and 2009 will increase to 700 billion dollars. A nation of only 27 million that imports most of its goods is actually the fourth leading nation in trade balance, with a trade surplus of $88.9 billion.

Unlike the oil producing nations of the Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia does not have a sovereign capital fund. Instead of exporting, and thus re-circulating much of their capital, the Saudis have retained much of the surplus for internal investment or have established companies that mainly allow only Saudi investors. Nevertheless, Saudi oil revenue is flowing outwards. Some noteworthy examples:

As a major partner of The Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), Saudi Arabian capital will be flowing throughout the world, but not the western world. ICCI has started Foras Investments, whose purpose is to create international companies that will manufacture low-cost cars, aircraft and satellites for and in more deprived nations.

By a strange twist, New York’s famous Plaza hotel has become co-owned by Israel’s Elad Group and the Saudi-based Kingdom Holding Co.

Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, world’s fifth richest man on Forbes World’s Richest People list, bought 5.46% of voting shares in News Corp, which made him the fourth largest voting shareholder in News Corp., the parent of Fox News.

Attempts to have the Saudis recycle more western capital reached an embarrassing level when British Prime Minister Gordon, before attending an energy summit during late June, 2008, appealed to the Saudis “to buy up Britain’s nuclear industry and recycle their riches.” Gordon compounded his pandering by referencing the Persian Gulf and naming it the Gulf of Arabia. In a speech, Brown said “the North Sea, which has passed its peak in terms of oil and gas supplies, will be turned into the equivalent for wind power of what the Gulf of Arabia is for oil.”

The one way flow of capital, due to oil exports, disturbs western nations. Saudi Arabia’s possible export of terrorism is more disturbing.

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