November 3, 2018

Saudi Arabia has been shaken to its core by the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Turkish intelligence has leaked that the Saudi journalist, who wrote op-ed pieces for the Washington Post newspaper, was strangled in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, then cut up into pieces for disposal or dissolved in acid. His remains have not yet been found.

Khashoggi’s brazen murder has caused a crisis in US-Saudi relations, an angry confrontation with Turkey, and serious questions about the Saudi war in wretched Yemen, which so far had caused 60,000 deaths and left this remote land facing starvation.

Trump and his allies initially supported the Saudi-Emirati war against Yemen, having fallen for the false claim that great Satan Iran was backing the Yemeni Houthi forces. Britain and Israel strongly supported the Saudi war.

In reality, Saudi Arabia’s headstrong Crown Prince Mohammed, got his nation embroiled in a no-win war against tough Yemeni tribes who refused to accept a Saudi-imposed figurehead ruler. The United Arab Emirates, a Saudi ally, also got involved to expand its little country-big ambitions around the Red Sea littoral.

But the Saudis lacked a real army to wage war in Yemen. They feared an army might mount a coup against the royal family as happened in Egypt, Iraq and Libya. In the past, the Saudis had rented crack Pakistani troops to protect their palaces and oil. But Pakistan refused Saudi requests to send troops to subdue Yemen.

As Libya’s late leader, Col. Muammar Khadaffi told me, ‘the Saudis are a small bunch of rich people living behind high walls in terror of their poorer neighbors.’ The Saudis hated Khadaffi because he kept calling them ‘traitors to the Arab cause, prostitutes, whore-mongers and crooks.’

Instead, the Saudis relied on their US and British-supplied air force to prosecute the war in Yemen by indiscriminate terror bombing and trying to starve the Yemenis into submission. Villages and schools were flattened, wedding parties rocketed, school buses attacked. US and British technicians and military experts kept the Saudi warplanes flying and provided bombs and targeting data from satellites. Western mercenaries fly and service the Saudi and Emirati air force.

No one in the West cared about this massacre until the unfortunate Khashoggi was murdered in Istanbul. This crime allowed disgust with Saudi Arabia over its Yemen war, beheadings and crucifixions to finally take precedence over arms sales and tawdry geopolitics.

The United States and Britain finally questioned their billions of arms sales to the Saudis who use these mammoth purchases to buy subservience from the western democracies. France and Germany recoiled from major arms sales. Self-righteous Canada prevaricated, trying to get the Saudi cash while ducking opprobrium for arming a cruel, murderous regime.

Washington’s most ardent Israel supporters – Security chief Bolton, and Secretary Pompeo – rushed to support the Saudis. They repeated the ludicrous claim that Khashoggi was a Muslim Brotherhood member and thus worthy of execution. In truth, the Muslim Brotherhood is a venerable, moderate organization composed of Arab professionals that calls for democracy.

But the most interesting development may have been the flight from London to Riyadh by exiled Saudi Prince Ahmad bin Abdulaziz. This 70-something younger brother of King Salman was reportedly given security guarantees by the US and Britain that he would not be arrested by Crown Prince Mohammed when he returned to Riyadh from a golden exile in London.

You could almost hear them yelling ‘bad puppets, bad puppets’ at the Saudi royals. Only two weeks earlier an unusually frank President Trump had even observed that the Saudi 7,000-member royal family would not last ‘more than a week’ without US support.

He was quite right. Since the 1930’s, the Saudi dynasty has been defended and supported by first Britain, then the United States. Few questioned the support of the world’s leading democracy for a cruel medieval monarchy. There was too much oil money involved. The British government even quashed criminal charges when huge kickbacks to Saudi royals on aircraft orders were revealed. Washington covered up the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks and financing of anti-US groups.

Back to Prince Ahmad. Has he been chosen by Washington and London to replace the rash, violent Crown Prince Mohammed? How worried is the US that the Khashoggi murder could set off a rebellion in Saudi Arabia? Or civil war in the royal family? The aged current king, Salman, is reported to have cognitive problems.

The clumsy, ham-handed meddling of President Trump in Saudi dynastic affairs propelled the bull in a china shop Crown Prince into power. The machinations of Trump’s son-in- law, Jared Kushner, and his Israeli allies have ignited the current crisis. Trump & Co have very much to learn about the Mideast. So far, their attempt to play colonial viceroys has been a fiasco.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2018

This post is in: Saudi Arabia

9 Responses to “THE U.S. BACKS THE MIDEAST’S MOST REACTIONARY NATION”

  1. OH Please God!! let there be an Arab spring that takes down this scumbag Saudi royal family once and for all. Royalty and dictators should simply be shot on sight. A big question is why are British & American business people so damnd frightened of democracy? What is it about people having self -rule that sends them apoplectic? Iran’s democratically elected president Mosaddegh was overthrown by the USA & Britain and replaced with a brutal dictator – the Shaq of Iran – a pliant US stooge. And when, in 1979, the Iranians had enough and overthrew him and invaded the American embassy for their USA crimes. Iran became a worldwide terror regime in American eyes. All because American and British business people are generally too stupid to deal with a free nation.

  2. Mike Smith says:

    The US seems to support the most despotic countries in their promotion of ” freedom ” Saudis and Israel topping the list, but also Bahrain which has just imposed life sentences for three leaders of a political opposition party, Egypt who is executing hundreds… Russia had stated the Ukraine was in the hands of gangsters and fascists… denied by the West of course… yet reading of attacks on the Romani people, some by people connected to one of their political parties and the most recent acid attack and murder of anti-corruption activist Kateryna Handzyuk… is Russia that far off? How many other examples of US backed corrupt regimes are there? Looking at where all the immigrants are fleeing from is a start…

  3. A real part of the American problem is illustrated in the HuffPost Byline, “Trump Presidency Faces High Stakes In Midterm Elections.”
    .
    This should more correctly read, “The US Republic Faces High Stakes In Midterm Elections.”
    .
    Dik

  4. With the exception of Germany, the response to this ghastly murder by the ‘Western Free World’ has been deplorable. The rest of the west can follow the US down the sewer pipe… Canada included.

    Dik

  5. Mike Smith says:

    ” THE MIDEAST’S MOST REACTIONARY NATION ” wouldn’t that be Israel? Some of the similarities are quite striking like ” a small bunch of rich people living behind high walls in terror of their poorer neighbors ” Israel also seems to be able to attack their neighbors with impunity… anyone who chooses to challenge them gets labeled as anti Semitic … I disagree with the characterization of the Saudis being bad puppets… from my view it appears more that the US is the puppet and the Saudis and Israelis control the strings.

  6. Interesting column, as always. The murder of Khashoggi under obvious orders from the Saudi regime has put Trump on the spot and exposed yet another ugly truth about him and his administration. Trump really has no concern about backing brutal, oppressive regimes, even if they indulge in criminal activity, just as long as they are friendly to US interests. However, the Khashoggi episode has made that obvious and has therefore become a source of some embarrassment to the US president. So, what will Trump do now? He might choose to do nothing and wait out this crisis in the hope that it will soon be mostly forgotten. Or, as Eric suggests, he might not want to back Crown Prince Mohammed much longer and has lined up a successor to King Salman (and the Crown Prince). If, however, there is a rebellion in Saudi Arabia against its royal family, that would be a real nightmare for the US and Trump would be unable to deal with that kind of crisis.

    • I think the Donald is too insensitive to be ‘on the spot’. For political reasons, as long as the Donald is at the helm, little if anything will be done. The Senate’s response was full of ‘h*llfire and brimstone’ initially, but, quickly died out.
      .
      Dik

  7. The ONLY reason the American corporate owned media cares about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, is you are not allowed to kill a member of a family of billionaires. You can murder all the poor and ordinary reporters you want but the rich are untouchable.

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