is Washington shifting towards a fundamental realignment towards Saudi Arabia?
As the New York Times noted: “For years it was oil that provided the glue for a relationship between two nations that share few common values… Today, with American oil production surging and the Saudi leadership fractured, the mutual dependency that goes back to the early 1930s, with the first American investment in the kingdom’s oil fields, no longer binds the nations as it once did.”
The idea of Washington no longer patronizing the Saudi rulers is tantalizing, but it is rather naive. For such a notion fails to understand the deep, essential dependence of American global power on the Saudi regime.
On the issue of oil, it is not merely the supply of the black stuff. More importantly it is the petrodollar system by which global oil trade is conducted. When US President Franklin D Roosevelt held his landmark summit with Saudi’s founding monarch, Ibn Saud, in early 1945 the two leaders set in motion the petrodollar arrangement by which the soon-to-be world’s top oil producer would sell in perpetuity the commodity denominated only in the US dollar.
For the next seven decades, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Sunni Arab oil kingdoms have helped maintain the petrodollar system. Without this system, the US currency would cease to be the world’s reserve currency. Without that status, the US would collapse in bankruptcy.
Although Saudi Arabia’s position as oil supplier to the US may have waned in recent years, it and the other Gulf oil sheikhdoms are nonetheless crucial to propping up the petrodollar system. If Saudi Arabia were, for argument’s sake, to start trading in Chinese yuan or the euro that would doom the dollar. In short, the US is beholden to the Saudi regime for its financial and economic survival.
Another vital factor is weapons sales. Last year alone, the US sold some $20 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia – or about 12.5 percent of its global weapons exports.
Perhaps topping the list is “deterring democracy” to use the phrase coined by American writer Noam Chomsky. Despite pretensions of upholding democratic values and human rights, in the real world US foreign policy operates to suppress democracy in order to make the world “safe” for American capital and exploitation of natural resources.
Washington has not merely turned a blind eye to Saudi despotism over the past seven decades, it has relied on it for the suppression of democratic movements in the oil-rich Middle East. In that way, the House of Saud is the other side of the American coin to the Zionist regime in Israel. Both are fundamental to American hegemony.
The US ruling class might be vexed with the despotic House of Saud for stoking regional tensions and in particular for throwing sand in the wheels of its political schemes for regime change in Syria. But the relationship with Saudi Arabia’s absolutist, head-chopping regime means that Washington can’t afford to ever give it the chop.
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.
TAP – Saudi Arabia is losing a war in Syria, and a war in Yemen. Oil is on its back under $40, and Saudi finances are in crisis. The problem for the USA will be what if Saudi Arabia collapses inwards from the loss of the wars that it has been prosecuting. Iran is becoming the new regional superpower, with the Iraq/Syria ‘game’ turning against Saudi/Turkey and the US, thanks to Russian and Iranian involvement.