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America’s Middle East Delusions


The explosive ascendance of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) underscores the thoroughgoing failure of America’s political class to devise an effective and sustainable strategy for the United States after 9/11. The failure cuts across Democratic and Republican administrations, with the most self-damaging aspects of each administration’s policies roundly endorsed by the opposing party in Congress.

Both sides deny responsibility for unfolding catastrophe in Iraq: Republicans criticize Obama’s marginal modulations of Bush’s approach to the Middle East while Democrats blame Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. (Republicans also criticize Maliki, but not so much that it might exculpate Obama.) Foreign policy elites also ignore a more urgent and ongoing flaw in America’s post-9/11 Middle East policy that is directly linked to Iraq’s current crisis—Washington’s recurrent partnership with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states to arm, fund, and train Sunni militias.

America’s turn to jihadi proxies did not start with Bush’s strategic malpractice in Iraq. It was born on July 3, 1979, when President Carter signed the first directive to arm jihadists in Afghanistan, before Soviet forces invaded the country. For U.S. policymakers, collaborating with Riyadh to launch transnational jihad in Afghanistan seemed a clever way to undermine the Soviet Union—by goading it into a draining occupation of Afghanistan, which Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, hoped to make Moscow’s Vietnam.
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We Really Do Not Need Saudi Arabia Any Longer


The family owned and run corporation called Saudi Arabia has been useful to the United States since the 1950s, but the kingdom's relationship to the US has always been transactional in nature rather than an alliance that committed Saudi Arabia to do anything for the US that it did not wish to do. To this day there are no documents of alliance, only arrangements for meetings, sales, training, etc. 

The relationship has always been an odd thing. Saudi Arabia has no civil law other than some elements of the Swiss commercial code. There is no civil constitution. "The Qur'an is our constitution." Sharia law of the most severe sort is the official law code. Amputations for theft are routine. No religions other than Islam are allowed. There are no civil rights other than those found in Qur'an and Hadith. Such appurtenances of civilized life as tourist visas do not exist. It was always an awkward "partnership" for the United States except for the money made by US exporters re-cycling petro dollars to the US. Saudi armed forces are largely a static display of military equipment useful only for internal security.

On the other hand, Saudi petroleum was for a long time necessary to the Western World, Japan, and parts unknown. Saudi fear of godless communism made the country a useful tool in resisting Soviet penetration of the Middle East. Saudi Arabia also contributed a lot of money to US covert actions that the US Congress would have refused to fund.
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Saudi Anger Has Many Faces

During the past fortnight, Saudi Arabia raised the bar by several notches in its rhetoric to Bandarexpress fury over US regional policies in the Middle East, especially over Syria and Iran. The rhetoric reached a high pitch last week with two key figures in the Saudi regime alternatively lampooning and threatening the Obama administration. 

Is this strategic defiance of the US by the Saudi regime sustainable or will turn out to be mere bravado or even a defensive strategy to cover up dark fears? There is every reason to anticipate that it is the expression of an anger with many faces. There is a hint of an American warning appearing on the horizon to the House of Saud that discretion is the better part of valor and the latter is in no position to threaten the White House. The Saudi regime couldn’t have missed this subtle message but how it assimilates it will bear watch.
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Israel Aims to Sabotage the Geneva Agreement with Iran

Netanyahu Abdullah

Israel is stepping up its efforts to sabotage the agreements reached in Geneva on the issue of Iran's nuclear program. On December 1 the head of the Israeli military intelligence agency AMAN, Amos Yadlin, and former CIA director Michael Hayden simultaneously and in unison, although in different parts of the world, stated that Iran has already crossed the nuclear threshold and is ready to “build several nuclear bombs in a matter of weeks.” In their opinion, requirements for the further denuclearization of Iran should be made significantly stricter.

American congressmen and senators close to AIPAC, which lobbies for the interests of Israel in the U.S., have prepared a package of sanctions against Iran which they propose to put into effect immediately if the agreements between the IRI and the P5+1 are not being fulfilled. Furthermore, several pro-Israel congressmen are prepared to introduce bills to both houses of the U.S. Congress in the near future urging the tightening of existing sanctions against Iran.

A real uprising against the closing of the “Iranian dossier” is brewing in Congress. Both Republicans and Democrats are criticizing Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. For the first time, the administration has come up against the joint efforts of the two most powerful foreign policy lobbies in the U.S. - the pro-Israel lobby and the pro-Arab lobby. The latter is no less active in the U.S. than the former, and is headed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE. The Gulf lobby differs from the better-known Israel lobby in that it spends dozens of times more money on its PR campaigns than Israel…
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A Welcome US/Saudi ‘Reset’

Last week it was reported that Saudi Arabia decided to make a “major shift” away from its 80 years of close cooperation with the United States. The Saudi leadership is angry that the Obama administration did not attack Syria last month, and that it has not delivered heavy weapons to the Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow the Assad government. Saudi Arabia is heavily invested in the overthrow of the Assad government in Syria, sending money and weapons to the rebels.

However, it was the recent diplomatic opening between the United States and Iran that most infuriated the Saudis. Saudi Arabia is strongly opposed to the Iranian government and has vigorously lobbied the US Congress to maintain sanctions and other pressure on Iran. Like Israel, the Saudis are fearful of any US diplomacy with Iran.
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