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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Taking Saudi out of Arabia; Time to take another Look

On June 10th 2002 Laurent Murawiec presented a 24 slide power point presentation that warned the pentagon that Saudi Arabia needed to be reigned in or the House of Saud should be overturned. Mr. Murawiec's analysis is as true today as it was then...unfortunately the defense department didn't think so, Murawiec was fired from his job at the Rand Corporation

Taking Saudi Out of Arabia
Laurent Murawiec
Defense Policy Board
July 10, 2002

Taking Saudi out of Arabia: Contents
  • The Arab Crisis
  • "Saudi" Arabia
  • Strategies

The Arab Crisis The systemic crisis of the Arab World

  • The Arab world has been in a systemic crisis for the last 200 years
  • It missed out on the industrial revolution, it is missing out on the digital revolution
  • Lack of inner resources to cope with modern world
Shattered Arab self-esteem
  • Shattered self-esteem
  • Could God be wrong?
  • Turn the rage against those who contradict God: the West, object of hatred
  • A whole generation of violently anti-Western, anti-American, anti- modern shock-troops

What has the Arab world produced?

  • Since independence, wars have been the principal output of the Arab world
  • Demographic and economic problems made intractable by failure to establish stable polities aiming at prosperity
  • All Arab states are either failing states or threatened to fail
The Crisis of the Arab world reaches a climax
  • The tension between the Arab world and the modern world has reached a climax
  • The Arab world's home-made problems overwhelm its ability to cope
  • The crisis is consequently being exported to the rest of the world

How does change occur in the Arab world?
  • There is no agora, no public space for debating ideas, interests, and policies
  • The tribal group in power blocks all avenues of change, represses all advocates of change
  • Plot, riot, murder, coup are the only available means to bring about political change

The continuation of politics by other means?

  • In the Arab world, violence is not a continuation of politics by other means -- violence is politics, politics is violence
  • This culture of violence is the prime enabler of terrorism
  • Terror as an accepted, legitimate means of carrying out politics, has been incubated for 30 years ...

The crisis cannot be contained to the Arab world alone

  • The crisis has irreversibly spilled out of the region 9/11 was a symptom of the "overflow"
  • The paroxysm is liable to last for several decades
  • U.S. response will decisively influence the duration and outcome

"Saudi" Arabia The old partnership

  • Once upon a time, there was a partnership between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia
  • Partnerships, like alliances, are embodied in practices, ideas, policies, institutions, people -- which persist after the alliance has died

"Saudi" Arabia

  • An instable group: Since 1745, 58% of all rulers of the House of Saud have met a violent demise
  • Wahhabism loathes modernity, capitalism, human rights, religious freedom, democracy, republics, an open society -- and practices the very opposite
  • As long as enmity had no or little consequences outside the kingdom, the bargain between the House of Saud and the U.S. held

Means, motive, opportunity
  • 1973: Saudi Arabia unleashes the Oil Shock, absorbs immense flows of resources -- means
  • 1978: Khomeiny challenges the Saudis' Islamic credentials, provoking a radicalization and world-wide spread of Wahhabism in response -- motive
  • 1979-1989: the anti-Soviet Jihad gives life and strength to the Wahhabi putsch within Sunni Islam -- opportunity. The Taliban are the result

The impact on Saudi policy
  • Wahhabism moves from Islam's lunatic fringe to center-stage -- its mission now extends world-wide
  • Saudis launch a putsch within Sunni Islam
  • Shift from pragmatic oil policy to promotion of radical Islam
  • Establish Saudi as "the indispensable State" -- treasurers of radical, fundamentalist, terrorist groups

Saudis see themselves

  • God placed the oil in the kingdom as a sign of divine approval
  • Spread Wahhabism everywhere, but keep the power of the al-Saud undiminished
  • Survive by creating a Wahhabi-friendly environment -- fundamentalist regimes -- throughout the Moslem world and beyond

The House of Saud today
  • Saudi Arabia is central to the self-destruction of the Arab world and the chief vector of the Arab crisis and its outwardly-directed aggression
  • The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader
  • Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies
  • A daily outpouring of virulent hatred against the U.S. from Saudi media, "educational" institutions, clerics, officials -- Saudis tell us one thing in private, do the contrary in reality

What is to be done?
  • During and after World War I, Britain's India Office backed the House of Saud; the Foreign Office backed the Hashemites. The India Office won
  • But the entire post-1917 Middle East settlement designed by the British to replace the Ottoman Empire is fraying
  • The role assigned to the House of Saud in that arrangement has become obsolete -- and nefarious

"Saudi Arabia" is not a God-given entity
  • The House of Saud was given dominion over Arabia in 1922 by the British
  • It wrested the Guardianship of the Holy Places -- Mecca and Medina -- from the Hashemite dynasty
  • There is an "Arabia," but it needs not be "Saudi"

An ultimatum to the House of Saud
  • Stop any funding and support for any fundamentalist madrasa, mosque, ulama, predicator anywhere in the world
  • Stop all anti-U.S., anti-Israeli, anti-Western predication, writings, etc., within Arabia
  • Dismantle, ban all the kingdom's "Islamic charities," confiscate their assets
  • Prosecute or isolate those involved in the terror chain, including in the Saudi intelligence services

Or else ...
  • What the House of Saud holds dear can be targeted:
—Oil: the old fields are defended by U.S. forces, and located in a mostly Shiite area
—Money: the Kingdom is in dire financial straits, its valuable assets invested in dollars, largely in the U.S.
—The Holy Places: let it be known that alternatives are being canvassed

Other Arabs?

  • The Saudis are hated throughout the Arab world: lazy, overbearing, dishonest, corrupt
  • If truly moderate regimes arise, the Wahhabi-Saudi nexus is pushed back into its extremist corner
  • The Hashemites have greater legitimacy as Guardians of Mecca and Medina

Grand strategy for the Middle East

  • Iraq is the tactical pivot
  • Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot
  • Egypt the prize

Ever wonder where we would be today if Laurent Murawiec's plan was implemented? I would suggest that we would be much better off. Yet even today, when it is more apparent than ever before that Mr. Murawiec was right---the US is selling high tech weaponry to Saudi Arabia. And what are we getting in return...Lower Oil prices? Cooperation in Iraq? ---NADA

Kernel of Evil
Selling weapons to the Saudis is logical. But is it wise?

It's hard to fault the logic of the sale, announced last week, of $20 billion in U.S. arms to Saudi Arabia, with trinkets going to the smaller Gulf states. The wisdom of the deal is another matter.

The Wahhabi kingdom is not, as of yet, an outlaw state: It can buy large quantities of sophisticated weapons on the international arms market from whomever it chooses. If the U.S. does not sell the Saudis upgraded versions of Boeing's F-15 Eagle, the Europeans can sell additional numbers of EADS's Eurofighter Typhoon (the Saudis already have 72 of these wonderjets on order). If the U.S. doesn't sell the Saudis laser-guided "JDAM" bombs, again courtesy of Boeing, they can buy the PR-632, an equivalent munition produced by Ukraine.

There may even be some non-mercenary advantages in tying the Saudi military to ours. When Washington cut its longstanding military-to-military ties with Islamabad in October 1990, after the U.S. "decertified" Pakistan as a non-nuclear state, the Pakistani military didn't simply mend its ways. Instead, what was once the most pro-Western institution in the country--thanks to generations of Pakistani officers trained at Sandhurst and the U.S. Army War College--came increasingly under the sway of Islamists. No need to repeat that experience with Riyadh. Then, too, as long as the Saudis operate U.S. military equipment, they remain dependent on us for training, maintenance and upgrades. The Iranian regime learned that lesson the hard way when they inherited the Shah's F-4s, F-14s and C-130s, but lost access to the planes' spare parts.

Yet the wisdom of arming the Saudis hinges in no small part on Riyadh remaining for the next few decades what it has been for the past six: a nominal ally of the U.S. It hinges, too, on the likelihood that the deal will advance American interests, and not just those of the Boeing Corporation, much as the two are sometimes confused. In both cases there is considerable room for doubt.

Consider the following dates: 1924, 1926, 1933, 1935. These are the birth years, respectively, of King Abdullah, current ruler of Saudi Arabia; Prince Sultan, his designated successor; and Princes Nayef and Salman, the two men next in line. The younger generation of contenders has problems of its own: Prince Bandar, 58, the urbane former ambassador to the U.S., is reportedly the son of a slave girl, which makes him ineligible; Prince Saud al-Faisal, 67, the current foreign minister, is said to be in poor health. And while the Saudis last year amended their Basic Law to regularize the rules of succession, a lot can go wrong when a throne is in play among a dozen or more billionaire princes, each with his own power base.

Even assuming the Saudis can manage an orderly succession, there are larger questions about where the kingdom is headed. In 2003, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that al Qaeda had "tried to recruit Saudi Arabian Air Force pilots to carry out a suicide attack in Israel . . . using either F-15 jets or civilian aircraft." Israel also has serious concerns about the extent of al Qaeda's penetration of Saudi Arabia's National Guard.

A year ago, the Treasury Department named the director and two branches of the Saudi-based International Islamic Relief Organization "for facilitating fundraising for al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups." The chairman of the IIRO is Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti and a member of the cabinet; Prince Sultan has also been a major donor. "Pouring weapons on this scale into a kingdom with an aging leadership, and which is still the fountainhead of Sunni extremism, does not seem prudent," argues Dore Gold, author of "Hatred's Kingdom."

But whatever direction Saudi Arabia takes in the future, there's also the question of what the U.S. gets from the arms sale. In an interview Sunday with Fox News' Chris Wallace, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice noted that "the Saudi government announced that it's going to put an embassy in Baghdad, something that we have hoped they would do for quite some time." The State Department has also tried to entice Saudi Arabia to attend a regional peace conference with Israel later this year.

In fact, the Saudis have not announced their intention to put an embassy in Baghdad, merely their willingness to discuss it with an Iraqi government they have demonized at every turn. They remain similarly equivocal about the conference. It's an old Saudi ploy. In November 1981, Abdullah, then the kingdom's deputy prime minister, mooted a "plan" that promised recognition of Israel at a time when he was seeking to buy AWACs radar planes from the Reagan administration. The sale was approved; the plan disappeared.

Now Ms. Rice isn't even getting phony Saudi peace offers in exchange for American weapons. Nor is she getting much relief on the terrorism front. The Bush administration rightfully complains about the role Syria plays as a transit point for jihadists. Yet according to a recent report in the Los Angeles Times, 45% of all suicide bombers in Iraq are Saudis; collectively, they account for some 2,000 deaths in the past six months. Would it be too much for the U.S. to ask the Saudis to screen young men leaving the country with one-way tickets to Damascus? So far, the Saudi government has refused. King Abdullah has also declared the U.S. presence in Iraq "illegal."

Equally misguided is the administration's argument that arming the Saudis is necessary to counterbalance the growing power of Iran. If containment is what the U.S. wants, Saudi F-15s will not be of much use against an Iranian bomb. But those fighters might ultimately find their use against Iraq's Shiite-led democratic government, whose air force consists mainly of junkyard Warsaw Pact equipment. Why we have neglected Iraq's justified military needs while lavishing top-of-the-line equipment on the Saudis is a mystery future historians will have to ponder.

Back in 2002, a Rand Corporation analyst named Laurent Murawiec gave a briefing to the Pentagon's advisory Defense Policy Board, in which he described Saudi Arabia as the "kernel of evil... active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader." Every word of that is true. Yet the administration walked a mile to distance itself from his remarks and Mr. Murawiec lost his job. Too bad. Had his advice been heeded then, we might not be trapped today by the weird logic of arming our false friends.

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