Past is prologue? Saudi Arabia’s clumsy oil diplomacy | Brookings Institution

Much like the recent developments, the oil crisis in the mid-1980s had its roots in Saudi strategic interests toward the region as well as toward oil markets. As OPEC’s swing producer, Riyadh had absorbed massive production cuts in the early 1980s in order to maintain prices in a period of falling demand and expanding non-OPEC supply. Saudi exports sank to 2.15mbpd in 1985, approximately half of its formal OPEC quota and a mere 25 percent of its 1980 exports, even as its OPEC partners routinely disregarded their quotas. After a futile effort to persuade non-OPEC producers to cut back, the Saudis began ramping up production, and over a nine-month period beginning in August 1985, OPEC production ballooned by 4mpbd, with the kingdom responsible for approximately half that increase.

Then, as now, the Saudis struggled to deal with the ripple effects of a production surge that they helped initiate.

The decision coincided with the spillover of the Iran-Iraq war into the Gulf, via Iraqi attacks on Iran’s oil infrastructure and Iranian counter-attacks on Gulf oil exports and other shipments transiting the strategic waterway. 

The combination was catastrophic for Iran, whose oil revenues plummeted from $21.2 billion in 1983 to $13.7 billion in 1984 and $6.3 billion in 1986. Meanwhile, Iran’s economy began to grind to a halt—the GDP crashed, and key sectors such as manufacturing and construction were disproportionately hit. Iranian officials saw Saudi production increases as a deliberate effort, with Washington’s active collusion, to cripple Iran’s economy and its military capability. Then-President Ali Khamenei, who is now Iran’s supreme leader, warned Riyadh that “the price war is no less important to us than the military war at the front.” Tehran tried to push back within OPEC but made little headway. 

As is the case today, the Saudi strategy in the mid-1980s was neither irrational nor purely punitive toward Tehran. In fact, Riyadh’s 1985 production increases reflected an attempt to address two profound concerns: the kingdom’s massive fiscal requirements for domestic development and its international initiatives. In addition, the Saudis feared a long-term erosion in market share, weakened geostrategic preeminence, and mounting Iranian regional ambitions. They even sent quiet overtures to Tehran about the possibility of a ceasefire and sought to break the Iranian alliance with Syria.

In the 1980s, the oil strategy proved a partial success, and an incredibly costly one, for Riyadh. While the kingdom managed to claw back market share, the crisis did not generate sustained OPEC unity, nor did it produce near-term progress on subduing Tehran. The price crash hurt Riyadh’s diplomatic sway regionally and internationally, generated terrible blowback for the Saudi leadership, and caused its oil income to plummet to a mere $18 billion in 1986—a $100 billion drop from five years earlier. As one Saudi government oil economist remarked: “Everyone suffered, Saudi Arabia most of all. It was a very bad time.” 

Eventually, the 1985-86 oil war subsided, as both Tehran and Riyadh came to appreciate that their interests were better served by mutual compromise. The Saudis sought an exit strategy to stem the price erosion as well as the ongoing damage to their relations with smaller producers, including the United States. Facing an inflection point in its war with Iraq, Tehran also yielded, even conceding a temporary boost for Baghdad’s production. Hubris on both sides was eventually run aground by economic realities. Mohammed bin Salman may soon learn a similar lesson.

via Past is prologue? Saudi Arabia’s clumsy oil diplomacy | Brookings Institution

Posted in Politics/Foreign correspondents | Leave a comment

The Arab Lobby – by Lee Smith

Lee Smith on Mitchell Bard’s The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East

Today the unspoken issue is Saudi support for terror. Were U.S. officials to complain about how the kingdom funds jihad against the United States and its allies, “there’s a fear,” says Bard, “that the Saudis may punish us by withdrawing some of their billions of dollars in investments, cut U.S. companies out of deals to explore for gas or oil, or take other measures to damage our interests.”

Nor are the Saudis shy about promising to unleash jihad against those who cross their path, as when they threatened the British government when it was investigating the unsavory details of a Saudi arms purchase from a British weapons maker.

Given the nature of the Saudi regime, it is little wonder that the oil lobby prefers to work in the shadows. As one publicist explained in laying out his PR strategy for Riyadh: “Saudi Arabia has a need to influence the few that influence the many, rather than the need to influence the many to whom the few must respond.”

via The Arab Lobby – by Lee Smith

Posted in Politics/Foreign correspondents | Leave a comment

The 1%, Profiting from American Deaths

crash_trade_center

How the US covered up Saudi role in 9/11 | New York Post:

…the kingdom’s involvement was deliberately covered up at the highest levels of our government. And the coverup goes beyond locking up 28 pages of the Saudi report in a vault in the US Capitol basement. Investigations were throttled. Co-conspirators were let off the hook.

Case agents I’ve interviewed at the Joint Terrorism Task Forces in Washington and San Diego, the forward operating base for some of the Saudi hijackers, as well as detectives at the Fairfax County (Va.) Police Department who also investigated several 9/11 leads, say virtually every road led back to the Saudi Embassy in Washington, as well as the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles.

Yet time and time again, they were called off from pursuing leads. A common excuse was “diplomatic immunity.”

Those sources say the pages missing from the 9/11 congressional inquiry report — which comprise the entire final chapter dealing with “foreign support for the September 11 hijackers” — details “incontrovertible evidence” gathered from both CIA and FBI case files of official Saudi assistance for at least two of the Saudi hijackers who settled in San Diego.

Some information has leaked from the redacted section, including a flurry of pre-9/11 phone calls between one of the hijackers’ Saudi handlers in San Diego and the Saudi Embassy, and the transfer of some $130,000 from then-Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar’s family checking account to yet another of the hijackers’ Saudi handlers in San Diego.

An investigator who worked with the JTTF in Washington complained that instead of investigating Bandar, the US government protected him — literally. He said the State Department assigned a security detail to help guard Bandar not only at the embassy, but also at his McLean, Va., mansion.

The source added that the task force wanted to jail a number of embassy employees, “but the embassy complained to the US attorney” and their diplomatic visas were revoked as a compromise.

Former FBI agent John Guandolo, who worked 9/11 and related al Qaeda cases out of the bureau’s Washington field office, says Bandar should have been a key suspect in the 9/11 probe.

“The Saudi ambassador funded two of the 9/11 hijackers through a third party,” Guandolo said. “He should be treated as a terrorist suspect, as should other members of the Saudi elite class who the US government knows are currently funding the global jihad.”

But Bandar held sway over the FBI.

Ralph Peters tells us why this happened.

Why did we let this happen? Greed. Naivete. Political correctness. Inertia. For decades, the Saudis sent ambassadors who were “just like us,” drinking expensive scotch, partying hard, playing tennis with our own political royalty, and making sure that American corporations and key individuals made money. A lot of money.

But they weren’t just like us. First of all, few of us could afford the kind of scotch they drank. More important, they had a deep anti-American, anti-liberty, play-us-for-suckers agenda.

And we let the Saudis exert control over America’s Muslim communities through their surrogates. No restrictions beyond an occasional timid request to remove a textbook or pamphlet that went too far.

Think what we’re doing: The Saudis would never let us fund a church or synagogue in Saudi Arabia. There are none. And there won’t be any.

Wouldn’t it make sense for Congress to pass a law prohibiting foreign governments, religious establishments, charities and individuals from funding religious institutions here if their countries do not reciprocate and practice religious freedom? Isn’t that common sense? And simply fair?

Saudi money even buys our silence on terrorism.

Decades ago, the Saudi royal family realized it had a problem. Even its brutal practices weren’t strict enough for its home-grown zealots. So the king and his thousands of princes gave the budding terrorists money — and aimed them outside the kingdom.

Osama bin Laden was just one extremist of thousands. The 9/11 hijackers were overwhelmingly Saudi. The roots of the jihadi movements tearing apart the Middle East today all lie deep in Wahhabism.

Which brings us to 28 pages redacted from the 9/11 Commission’s report. Those pages allegedly document Saudi complicity. Our own government kept those revelations from the American people. Because, even after 9/11, the Saudis were “our friends.”

(We won’t even admit that the Saudi goal in the energy sector today is to break American fracking operations, let alone face the damage their zealotry has caused.)

There’s now a renewed push to have those 28 pages released. Washington voices “soberly” warn that it shouldn’t be done until after the president’s upcoming encounter with the Saudi king, if at all.

Do it now. Stop bowing. Face reality.

If we’re unlucky, we may end up fighting Iran, which remains in the grip of its own corrupt theocracy — although Iranian women can vote and drive cars, and young people are allowed to be young people at about the 1950s level. But if fortune smiles and, eventually, the Iranian hardliners go, we could rebuild a relationship with the Iranians, who are the heirs of a genuine, Persian civilization. Consider how successful and all-American Iranian-Americans have become.

War with Iran will remain a tragic possibility. But the Saudi war on our citizens, on mainstream Islam, and on civilization is a here-and-now reality.

The Post is not a reliable media source, something that was made terribly clear by their support for Trump’s Presidential bid. Like Trump, they’re likely to turn around tomorrow and forget everything they said today.

But even a stopped clock is occasionally right. Saudi support of Salafist terrorism has been a consistent fact for decades. Government and the Media have been covering this up for years. At some point, Americans are going to ask – why are we paying the salaries of people who are happy to watch us die?

Posted in Politics/Foreign correspondents | Leave a comment

The US Government Considers following the Rule of Law

What if we had given the Axis powers ‘diplomatic immunity’ after Pearl Harbor? We have become so pathetic…

“It’s stunning to think that our government would back the Saudis over its own citizens,” said Mindy Kleinberg, whose husband died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 and who is part of a group of victims’ family members pushing for the legislation.

President Obama will arrive in Riyadh on Wednesday for meetings with King Salman and other Saudi officials. It is unclear whether the dispute over the Sept. 11 legislation will be on the agenda for the talks.

A spokesman for the Saudi Embassy did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Saudi officials have long denied that the kingdom had any role in the Sept. 11 plot, and the 9/11 Commission found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.” But critics have noted that the commission’s narrow wording left open the possibility that less senior officials or parts of the Saudi government could have played a role. Suspicions have lingered, partly because of the conclusions of a 2002 congressional inquiry into the attacks that cited some evidence that Saudi officials living in the United States at the time had a hand in the plot.

Those conclusions, contained in 28 pages of the report, still have not been released publicly.

The dispute comes as bipartisan criticism is growing in Congress about Washington’s alliance with Saudi Arabia, for decades a crucial American ally in the Middle East and half of a partnership that once received little scrutiny from lawmakers. Last week, two senators introduced a resolution that would put restrictions on American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which have expanded during the Obama administration.

Families of the Sept. 11 victims have used the courts to try to hold members of the Saudi royal family, Saudi banks and charities liable because of what the plaintiffs charged was Saudi financial support for terrorism. These efforts have largely been stymied, in part because of a 1976 law that gives foreign nations some immunity from lawsuits in American courts.

The Senate bill is intended to make clear that the immunity given to foreign nations under the law should not apply in cases where nations are found culpable for terrorist attacks that kill Americans on United States soil. If the bill were to pass both houses of Congress and be signed by the president, it could clear a path for the role of the Saudi government to be examined in the Sept. 11 lawsuits.

via Saudi Arabia Warns of Economic Fallout if Congress Passes 9/11 Bill – The New York Times

Posted in Politics/Foreign correspondents | Leave a comment

Counter-Terrorism: Belgium Admits It Was Screwed By The Saudis

One of the casualties of the recent ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) attacks in France and Belgium was the reputation of Saudi Arabia as an ally in the fight against ISIL. The media were all over the state of Islam in Belgium and many little-publicized facts were made very public. Chief among them was the role of Saudi Arabia played in building (at Saudi expense) mosques and religious schools in Belgium and then staffing them. These facilities were controlled by very-conservative (and anti-Western) clerics and religious teachers who were often trained in Saudi Arabia. This should not be surprising as since the 1980s Saudi Arabia has spent over $100 billion doing this promotion of the very conservative Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam that has predominated in Saudi Arabia since the 18th century.

via Counter-Terrorism: Belgium Admits It Was Screwed By The Saudis

Posted in europe, Politics/Foreign correspondents | Leave a comment

Pity Parties

The two political parties have never liked each other, but in the past, politicians had goals, plans to be carried out. They wanted to accomplish something. Now, all Politics are Identity Politics. To play the Identity Politics game, you must be the victim. You can’t be the victim if you actually succeed in doing things.

Politicians and their minions don’t want to be successful, they want to be pitied, they want to cast blame, they want everyone to say, “Poor thing, it’s not your fault, it’s the ‘others’, the opposition, the bad people. You need laws to protect your oh-so-special interests. Let me send you some money to help.”

There’s nothing new about political victimhood and identity politics. It’s tribalism. As Robert Tracinski said in his critique of Trump supporters, Yes, the Alt-Right Are Just A Bunch of Racists:

The central theme of the Western intellectual tradition is about rising above tribalism to arrive at universal values. That’s a common theme that connects both secular and Christian traditions in the West. It was the whole distinctive idea behind the Ancient Greek revolution in thought. Philosophers like Socrates launched the Western tradition by asking probing questions that were meant to sort out which ideas and practices are based merely on historical accident and social convention, versus those that are based on universal laws of human nature.

Tribalism, by contrast, is the default state of every culture and can be found among every people in every corner of the world. There is nothing distinctively Western about it, and it runs against the whole grain of the Western intellectual tradition.

Western Intellectual tradition and Americans are traditionally pragmatic. Tribalism and perpetual victimhood are as far from pragmatic as it gets.

This article American Anger acknowledges that the problem with this election is not American anger about the economy. According to polls, Americans are relatively happy with their lives. The problem is the hatred being generated by our political tribes.

To get a sense of whether these economic factors were affecting the general mood of the nation in a way not captured by consumer sentiment, I examined one of the longest-standing measures of general happiness. Since 1972, the General Social Survey has asked people to “take things all together” and rate their level of happiness. The 40-year trend shows only modest changes — and may actually suggest a small increase in happiness in recent years.

Describing Americans’ mood as distinctively angry in 2015 elides this evidence. Americans were optimistic about the nation’s economy and generally happy — in fact, no less optimistic or happy than they had been historically.

But there was a sense in the fall and winter of 2015 of one change. Using analytic tools provided by Crimson Hexagon, I calculated the average monthly increase in the share of news articles about the 2016 election with the word “angry.” Between November 2015 and March 2016, the share of stories about angry voters increased by 200 percent.

Some evidence suggests that the ire came from politics. When asked by pollsters about trusting the government, the direction of the country, American progress or the president, Americans were gloomier than their economic assessments might have predicted.

It starts with an objective point of view, pointing out some useful and not-generally publicized facts, then quickly devolves into an identity politics-inspired whine (It’s not our fault, it’s those racist Republicans.) This tribalist whine was inspired by a poll indicating that Republicans tend not to favor making “every effort to improve the position of minorities, even if it means preferential treatment.”

Most Americans oppose the idea of making some more equal than others. This is supposed to be the basis of our laws. But this philosophy is in direct opposition to the tribalists.

‘American Anger’ was published by the New York Times, a paper that, by its own admission, leans liberal. The article concludes:

Democrats and Republicans like each other a lot less now than they did 60 years ago, in part because they have sorted into parties based on attitudes on race, religion and ethnicity. These attitudes and emotions have been activated in the lead-up to the 2016 election. Add to this the fact that the country is becoming less white and that nonwhites are disproportionately more likely to be Democrats, and an explanation for the anger emerges.

Bad philosophy generates bad math. Not wanting to give unequal, preferential treatment does not equal racism. Nonwhites do not equal Democrats. One poll that only claims to explain things ‘in part’ does not equal a whole conclusion.

Expect the Republicans to whine back. Expect that nothing will change until Americans start asking “Why are we paying for this?”

Posted in domestic politics, Politics/Foreign correspondents | Leave a comment

’60 MINUTES’: Lawmakers Say Redacted Pages Of 9/11 Report Show Saudi Official Met Hijackers In LA « CBS Los Angeles

By the time the truth comes out, most of the principals involved will have died of old age.

According to the report, witnesses say both al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar met at the King Fahad mosque in Culver City with Fahad al-Thumairy, “a diplomat at the Saudi consulate known to hold extremist views.” He was denied reentry to the U.S. in 2003 for suspected terrorist ties.

Thumairy was a “a ghost employee with a no-show job at a Saudi aviation contractor outside Los Angeles while drawing a paycheck from the Saudi government”, according to the report.

“60 Minutes” also cited phone records that lawmakers say may link Thumairy to Omar al-Bayoumi, a mysterious Saudi who became the hijackers’ biggest benefactor.

Former U.S. Senator Bob Graham said he believes Bayoumi was a Saudi agent, telling CBS News’ Steve Kroft that Bayoumi had “been listed even before 9/11 in FBI files as being a Saudi agent.”

According to “60 Minutes”, Bayoumi visited Thumairy at a Saudi consulate office where he worked on the morning of Feb. 1, 2000. The two then had lunch “at a Middle Eastern restaurant on Venice Boulevard”, a meeting which Bayoumi later claimed was a “coincidence”, Roemer said.

Another 9/11 Commission member, former U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey, has read the redacted 28 pages and told Kroft he and “a solid majority of former 9/11 commissioners” believes they should be declassified.

“We all have dealt for our careers in highly classified and compartmentalized in every aspect of security,” Kerrey said. “We know when something shouldn’t be declassified…those 28 pages in no way fall into that category.”

In response to the 60 Minutes report, the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia issued a statement which read in part: “The CBS 60 Minutes program was a compilation of myths and erroneous charges that have been thoroughly addressed not just by the Saudi government but also by the 9-11 Commission and the U.S. courts.”

via ’60 MINUTES’: Lawmakers Say Redacted Pages Of 9/11 Report Show Saudi Official Met Hijackers In LA « CBS Los Angeles

Posted in Politics/Foreign correspondents | Leave a comment