Reprinted from Consortium News
President and Mrs. Obama disembark from Air Force One at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh on Jan. 27, 2015, for a state visit to Saudi Arabia.
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For generations, U.S. officials have averted their eyes from Saudi Arabia's grotesque monarchy -- which oppresses women, spreads jihadism and slaughters dissidents -- in a crude trade-off of Saudi oil for American weapons and U.S. security guarantees. It is a deal with the devil that may finally be coming due.
The increasingly undeniable reality is that the Saudis along with other oil sheikhs are the biggest backers of Al Qaeda and various terrorist groups -- helping these killers as long as they spread their mayhem in other countries and not bother the spoiled playboys of the Persian Gulf.
The big question that remains, however, is: Will Official Washington's dominant neocon/liberal-interventionist claque continue to protect the Saudis who have built a regional alliance of convenience with Israel over their shared hatred of Iran?
Inside Official Washington's bubble -- where the neocons and liberal hawks hold sway -- there is a determination to make the "designated villains," the Iranians, the Syrian government, Lebanon's Hezbollah and the Russians. This list of "villains" matches up quite well with Israeli and Saudi interests and thus endless demonization of these "villains" remains the order of the day.
But the Saudis -- and indeed the Israelis -- are showing what they're really made of. Israel has removed its humanistic mask as it ruthlessly suppresses Palestinians and mounts periodic "grass mowing" operations, using high-tech munitions to slaughter thousands of nearly defenseless people in Gaza and the West Bank while no longer even pretending to want a peaceful resolution of the long-simmering conflict. Israel's choice now seems to be apartheid or genocide.
Meanwhile, the Saudis -- though long-hailed in Official Washington as "moderates" -- are showing what a farcical description that has always been as the royals now supply U.S.-made TOW missiles and other sophisticated weapons to Sunni jihadists in Syria, fighting alongside Al Qaeda's Nusra Front.
Using advanced U.S.-supplied warplanes, the Saudis also have been pulverizing poverty-stricken Yemen after exaggerating the level of Iranian support to the Houthis, who have been fighting both a Saudi-backed regime and Al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate. Amid the Saudi-inflicted humanitarian crisis, Al Qaeda's forces have expanded their territory.
And, at the start of the New Year, the Saudi monarchy butchered 47 prisoners, including prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr for his offense of criticizing the royals, or as the Saudis like to say -- without a touch of irony -- supporting "terrorism." By chopping off Nimr's head -- as well as shooting and decapitating the others -- the Saudis demonstrated that there is very little qualitative difference between them and the head-choppers of the Islamic State.
The Usual Suspects
Yes, the usual suspects in Official Washington have sought to muddle the blood-soaked picture by condemning angry Iranian protesters for ransacking the Saudi embassy in Tehran before the government security forces intervened. And there will surely be an escalation of condemnations of anyone who suggests normalizing relations with Iran.
But the issue for the neocons and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks is whether they can continue to spin obviously false narratives about the nobility of these Middle East "allies," including Israel. Is there a limit to what they can put over on the American people? At some point, will they risk losing whatever shreds of credibility that they still have? Or perhaps the calculation will be that public credibility is irrelevant, power and control are everything.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then Saudi ambassador to the United States, meeting with President George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas, on Aug. 27, 2002.
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Some Republican candidates, most notably Sen. Marco Rubio, have gone all-in with the neocons, hoping to secure largesse from casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and other staunch supporters of Israel's right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On the other hand, real-estate magnate Donald Trump has distanced himself from neocon orthodoxy, even welcoming Russia's entry into the Syrian conflict to fight the Islamic State, heresy in Official Washington.
On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the most closely associated with the neocons and the liberal hawks -- and she has dug in on the issue of their beloved "regime change" strategy, which she insists must be applied to Syria.
She appears to have learned nothing from her misguided support for the Iraq War, nor from her participation in overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi's secular regime in Libya, both of which created vacuums that the Islamic State and other extremists filled. (British special forces are being deployed to Libya as part of an offensive to reclaim Libyan oil fields from the Islamic State.)