The Saudi-Israeli Superpower

Exclusive: Egypt’s counterrevolution and Syria’s civil war could herald the arrival of a new superpower coalition, an unlikely alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia, one with great political clout and the other with vast financial wealth, together flexing their muscles across the Middle East, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The twin crises in Syria and Egypt have marked the emergence of a new superpower coalition in the Middle East, the odd-couple alliance of Israel and Saudi Arabia, with Jordon serving as an intermediary and the Persian Gulf oil sheikdoms playing a supporting role.

The potential impact of this new coalition can barely be overstated, with Israel bringing to the table its remarkable propaganda skills and its unparalleled influence over U.S. foreign policy and Saudi Arabia tapping into its vast reservoir of petrodollars and exploiting its global financial networks. Together the two countries are now shaping international responses to the conflicts in Syria and Egypt, but that may only be the start.

President George W. Bush meeting with then-Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan at the Bush Ranch in Crawford, Texas. Bandar is now head of Saudi intelligence.(U.S. government photo)

Though Israel and Saudi Arabia have had historic differences – one a Jewish religious state and the other embracing the ultraconservative Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam – the two countries have found, more recently, that their interests intersect.

Both see Iran, with its Shiite rulers, as their principal regional rival. Both are leery of the populist Islamic movements unleashed by the Arab Spring. Both sided with the Egyptian military in its coup against the elected Muslim Brotherhood government, and both are pleased to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad facing a possible military assault from the United States.

While the two countries could be accused of riding the whirlwind of chaos across the Middle East – inviting a possibility that the sectarian divisions and the political violence will redound negatively to their long-term interests – there can be little doubt that they are enjoying at least short-term gains.

In recent months, Israel has seen its strategic position enhanced by the overthrow of Egypt’s populist Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi, a political change that has further isolated the Hamas-led Palestinians in Gaza. Meanwhile, in Lebanon, the Shiite movement of Hezbollah has come under increasing military and political pressure after sending militants into Syria to support the embattled Assad regime.

Assad is an Alawite, a branch of Shiite Islam, and has been a longtime benefactor of Hezbollah, the political-military movement that drove Israeli forces out of southern Lebanon and has remained a thorn in Israel’s side. The growing sectarian nature of the Syrian civil war, with Sunnis leading the fight against Assad, also served to drive a wedge between Hamas, a Sunni movement, and two of its key benefactors, the Syrian government and its Iranian allies.

In other words, Israel is benefiting from the Sunni-Shiite divisions ripping apart the Islamic world as well as from the Egyptian coup which further weakened Hamas by re-imposing the Gaza blockade. Now, Israel has a freer hand to dictate a political solution to the already-weak Palestinian Authority on the West Bank when peace talks resume.

A Method to Neocon Madness

Giving Israel this upper hand has long been the goal of American neoconservatives, although they surely could not have predicted the precise course of recent history. The idea of “regime change” in Iraq in 2003 was part of a neocon strategy of making a “clean break” with frustrating negotiations in which Israel was urged to trade land for peace with the Palestinians.

The plan to dump negotiations in favor of confrontations was outlined in a 1996 policy paper, entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” and prepared by prominent neocons, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, for Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign for prime minister.

In the document, the neocons wrote: “Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq – an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]

The neocons failed to persuade President Bill Clinton to invade Iraq in the late 1990s, but their hopes brightened when George W. Bush became president in 2001 and when the American people were whipped into a state of hysteria by the 9/11 attacks.

Still, it appears that the neocons believed their own propaganda about the Iraqis welcoming American troops as liberators and accepting a U.S. puppet as their new leader. That, in turn, supposedly was to lead Iraq to establish friendly ties with Israel and give the U.S. military bases for promoting “regime change” in Syria and Iran.

In 2002, as President Bush was winding up to deliver his haymaker against Saddam Hussein, neocons passed around a favorite joke about where to go next after conquering Iraq. Should it be Syria or Iran, Damascus or Tehran? The punch line was: “Real men go to Tehran!”

However, the Iraq War didn’t work out exactly as planned. Bush did succeed in ousting Hussein from power and enjoyed watching him marched to the gallows, dropped through a trapdoor and hanged by the neck until dead. But the U.S. occupation touched off a sectarian bloodbath with Hussein’s Sunni minority repressed by the newly empowered Shiite majority. Sunni extremists flocked to Iraq from around the Middle East to kill both Iraqi Shiites and Americans.

The end result of the Iraq War was to transform Iraq from a Sunni-ruled authoritarian state into a Shiite-ruled authoritarian state, albeit still a place where sectarian bombings are nearly a daily occurrence. Yet, one of the principal beneficiaries of the Iraq War was Iran with its Shiite theocratic government unexpectedly finding itself with a new Shiite ally replacing a longtime Sunni enemy, Saddam Hussein, all thanks to the United States.

Widening Violence

But the Iraq War had another consequence. It exacerbated sectarian tensions across the region. Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf oil states that had supported Hussein in his war with Iran in the 1980s, were shocked to see Iran now have a “Shiite crescent” of influence extending through Iraq and Syria to the Shiite enclaves in Lebanon.

The Saudi monarchy was shaken, too, by the popular uprisings known as the Arab Spring. Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, a longtime Saudi ally, was ousted and replaced by a democratically elected government led by the populist Muslim Brotherhood.

Though the Muslim Brotherhood was Sunni, too, the movement represented a mix of Islam and democratization, which posed a threat to the Saudi princes who live pampered lives of unimaginable wealth and privilege. On a personal level, these playboys confine their wives to humiliating conditions out of the Middle Ages while the men sample the pleasures of lavish European resorts or fly in Scandinavian prostitutes for parties.

Yet, while the Arab Spring sent shivers down the spines of the oil sheiks of the Persian Gulf – and even brought a Saudi military intervention to put down a Shiite-led democratic uprising in Bahrain – the political upheavals also presented an opportunity to Saudi geopolitical strategists, the likes of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former ambassador to the United States and now head of Saudi intelligence.

By supporting rebels and militants in Syria, for instance, the Saudis and the other oil sheiks saw a chance to reverse Iran’s geopolitical gains. And, by funneling billions of dollars to the Egyptian generals, the Persian Gulf monarchists countered any pressure for restraint from the United States.

Increasingly, too, the interests of Saudi Arabia and Israel began crisscrossing, sparking a relationship that the Jordanian monarchy helped broker and encourage. Jordan has strong security ties to Israel and is dependent on the largesse of the Persian Gulf royals, making it a perfect matchmaker for this unlikely hook-up.

According to intelligence sources, Jordan has been the principal site for bilateral contacts between Israelis and Saudis, a behind-the-scenes alliance that finally went public with their joint support for the Egyptian coup. While Saudi Arabia arranged the finances for Egypt’s new military regime, Israel deployed its potent lobby in Washington to dissuade President Barack Obama from labeling the coup a coup, which would have forced a shutoff of U.S. military aid.

New Superpower

Now, this new powerhouse combo is teaming up on Syria, where the Saudis and other Persian Gulf states have been financing the rebels seeking to destabilize and possibly overthrow the Assad government, while the Israelis have been deploying their political and propaganda assets to increase international pressure on Assad.

Both the Saudis and the Israelis stand to benefit from having Assad’s regime bled over time into either a weakened state or its demise. For Saudi Arabia, regime change in Syria would mark a strategic victory against its chief rival Iran.

Israel also would like to see Iran undercut and isolated, but there is the additional benefit of hurting Hezbollah and further alienating the Palestinians from important sources of support, i.e. Iran and Syria. That gets Israel closer to the neocon vision of leaving desperate Palestinians with little choice but to accept whatever “peace” terms that Israel chooses to dictate.

There is, of course, a potential downside for Israel and the West. Since Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are arming some of the most radical Islamists fighting in Syria, including groups affiliated with al-Qaeda, one outcome of the Syrian civil war could be a new haven for Islamic terrorism in the heart of the Middle East. In the 1980s, Saudi Arabia was the principal funder for Osama bin Laden and his jihadists who traveled to Afghanistan to fight the  Soviets before turning their hatred and suicidal tactics against the United States.

The emerging Saudi-Israeli alliance also may have serious ramifications for global geopolitics. The combination of Saudi Arabia’s extraordinary financial and economic clout and Israel’s equally extraordinary capacity to pull political and propaganda strings, especially inside the United States, could mean that a new superpower has stepped onto the international stage.

Its arrival may be heralded by whether Saudi Arabia and Israel can jointly yank the United States into the Syrian civil war.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

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14 comments on “The Saudi-Israeli Superpower

  1. Rehmat on said:

    Saudi Arabia and Israel have many things in common. Both were created by the British Raj and their rulers have Jewish roots. Both have kept Islamic Revival at a bay from reaching the western shores. Both have been accused of great human rights’ abuses by the Amnesty International.

    However, to become a regional superpower, Israel needs Turkey or Iran – NOT the Saudi Arabia which has always sought British or American military help to survive.

    Jewish author Arthur Herman in an article at FoxNews on January 31, 2013 claimed that the Arab Spring has made Israel more stronger than before.

    “The Arab Spring has spawned a chaos and instability in every country it’s touched, that’s going to grind on for years to come. A new report warns that Egypt is on the verge of collapse; Israel’s old adversary Syria, already is. Both are also very likely headed toward economic ruin–as has already happened to Israel’s other foe, Hamas in Gaza, and could hit Iran next,” he wrote.
    On September 30, 2012, Opinion Maker Org posted an article, entitled ‘The Saudi Royals are Traitor to Islam’. The article claimed that Riyadh would do anything to destroy Iran under Islamic rule.

    “In many ways, the Saudis are just as despicable as the Zionist Israelis in their wanton disregard for the human and humane rights of others in that entire region. With the oil wealth, the Middle East could be booming but certain parties want that wealth and their people get to eat cake, what little of it there is handed down from their not so benevolent Royal leaders,” said the author.

    http://rehmat1.com/2013/08/28/is-us-losing-saudi-arabia-to-russia/

  2. Kraken on said:

    More very cogent insights from Mr. Parry. The fear that this could escalate into a regional conflagration is not misplaced.

  3. I would surely hate to see CN go silent.

  4. “…one outcome of the Syrian civil war could be a new haven for Islamic terrorism in the heart of the Middle East.” Then Israel would have its militarist self-justification renewed and will happily ramp up its attacks against Syrian territory for the foreseeable future and hone its boundary defense, extend its containment walls, and indefinitely extend its Permanent War Footing, which has been and will be used to further isolate and disempower Palestinians and to further rigidify control of its own citizens, both Jewish and Arab citizens. Oh, and I’m sure Israeli leaders will find ample reasons to invade Lebanon yet again and again, and Gaza, and, well, Sinai for sure, and then what? Send strategic and tactical Israeli military assets and personnel to Iraqi Kurdistan at the Kurds’ request? Why not, eh? It’s a free-for-all! For Israel’s warmongers, it’s win-win-win-win-win. For the United States militarist oligarchy the same is true, with the zillion dollar Treasury pipeline continuing to lavishly fund the MIC on its own permanent war footing. And the people by and large suffer greatly and indefinitely so certain interests can continue to increase their own wealth.

    • Fwdinsight on said:

      Israel has been more sinned against than she has sinned. When Arafat was given all that he said he wanted he refused to sign the document. He chose war. Hundreds of rockets slam into Israel every month. Yet when Israel defends herself people like you shout from the house tops.”Foul”.
      How many times has Israel been attacked? She has been attacked by the Muslims right from the begging. I would like to see you in boxing ring with your opened hitting you all the time. Would you sit passively or try and do something about. I know what I would unless you are a grovelling coward.

      Where was you horror at another four missiles slamming into Israel last week. What about the disgusting fact that Is real faces 100.000 missiles on its norther Border. Both Iran and the head of Israeli defense has confirmed that.
      And you feel they don’t have rights to defend themselves. I disagree and many Westerners feel the same.

      • F. G. Sanford on said:

        Where was your horror last week when Israel bulldozed another Palestinian home, and the family had to move into a nearby cave? Your victimhood reminds me of that famous definition of “chutzpah”: the child who murders his parents, then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan. Those home-made bottle rockets have never killed anyone, but Israel killed 1,300 on Gaza and 17,000 in Lebanon. Since you write in English with Russian grammar and syntax, I have to assume you are one of those Israeli students paid to engage in social media disinformation. Nobody is fooled by your false indignation or hypocritical victimhood.

      • Well then, why don’t they just get on with “defending” themselves or is their idea of defence involve merely trying to get the US military to do it for them? They keep telling the US that another “holocaust” is just around the corner and yet they haven’t marched their troops anywhere that I can see. I never see any military or humanitarian contributions specified on their part whenever they are screaming that the “international community” has “to do something”; what exactly do they offer to do? They say that x,y, or z did this or that based on their intelligence and captured laptops, but never take that evidence to the UN Security Council (as Putin suggests any one do). The US receives all the rhetoric and pushing from them, but they don’t defend the US and certainly don’t fight or pay for the US’s wars.

  5. Erica Stuart on said:

    Perry clarification has been part of the Zionists Neo Con plan for centuries. We provided a convenient step. Saudi Arabia is only the second step. Because for those who listen closey they will hear the sound. Israel goal is to rule without partners. You could hear that sound during the Bush years how they worked to convince Bush to go it alone. Interestinlgy Bush would not let go of our traditonal friendship with England, but they certainly tried. For now, from behind, eventually at the top, Israel wants to be the world leader in accorance with their interpretation of their destiny as God’s promise to them only.
    Russia and China are preparing to meet that powerful block. I think Obama could see the writing as we did, and long ago stated our destiny is in the Pacific.
    He is right but he will have to move fast and drop Israel with the Saudi because Netanyahu has also been doing his advance work in Africa and India.
    It is an old fashoned sanitary belt, as the French call it. But unfortunately our Neo Con brainwashed and bought leaders have already invaded key places of power in Congress and elsewhere. So, they are blind to rude facts. Syria stated they will hold Israel responsible for OUR action, done for Israel benefit of course. Perhaps there is hope more people will see.

  6. F. G. Sanford on said:

    There’s something about this whole situation that eerily makes me recall The Transfer Agreement. Strange bedfellows, indeed.

  7. gregorylkruse on said:

    Since the elections in Israel it has become clear that the Saudi’s, the Qatari’s, and other rich oil nations will eventually allow Israel to annex the whole of Palestine. Of course the name will be effaced.

  8. Norma Price on said:

    Thank you all for your insights. I believe today’s events are also about making sure that the rich keep their power and position, resulting in the elimination of the middle class and the reintroduction of slavery to replace the working class and the poor. I also feel that the Neo Con Zionists and the Saudi Kings want a return to the dark ages.
    We need another Battle of Hastings. It is time for more of us to light a candle and speak truth to power. Martin Luther King II pointed out that some misguided souls believe that accumulation of wealth and goods is akin to acquiring great power. It is time for a change. We as a nation need to develop more content in our character.
    I hope that America does not have designs on Syria other than human rights and freedom.

  9. Thingumbob on said:

    Now the fall back for the neo-con and “progressive interventionists” unholy alliance AKA Kissingerian geopoliticians will be this: “we have the absolute proof but due to irreparable harm to CIA and NSA sources and methods we can only release redacted intelligence briefs. Trust us.” (…!?)

    Now, the heart of the matter is this: due to the spiraling collapse of the Anglo Dutch Wall Street hold on financial leverage in order to maintain power the Mideast cockpit is set ablaze in a Sunni Shiite conflagration with CIA gunrunning into former al-Qaeda anti Soviet allies (thereafter 9/11 enemies) out of Abdelhakim Belhadj’s Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. The very same LIFG that was hired to protect the Benghazi embassy then double crossed ambassador Stevens and the CIA outpost there the night of the attack. So, all this maudlin palaver that we don’t wish to arm radicals is self serving lies.

    Further, the Saudi Royals’ role in all this is being deliberately covered up. The 9/11 Commission still has not released classified section s of its report on the Saudi financing of the 9/11 hijackers. The British scandal of multi billion dollars payoffs in the BAE/al-Yamamah deal has been declared a state secret as well. It is well known that the Saudi Salafi sect hard liners are financing terrorism all over the Arab world. The Israeli neo-con war hawks think that they can play divide and conquer, but in the end they are mere expendables in the Anglo Dutch “great game.”

    The only way out is to bankrupt out the financial overlords calling the shots and replace their ability to loot and set countries around the globe ablaze. We need a return to Glass-Steagall and repudiation of trillions of fictitious gambling debts known as derivatives. The free trade race to the bottom must be ended and replaced with a credit system that promotes the revival of cooperative investment in infrastructural projects and physically productive that benefit humanity. Without this the world will inevitably careen toward a thermonuclear WWIII.

  10. RMolineaux on said:

    Will Israel sell atomic weapons to Saudi Arabia as it did for its former ally, apartheid South Aftica? Will the Saudis demand it?

    • Nope. The Israelis never share anything, and the Saudis don’t need the bomb.
      They have the Merkins backing their play whatever they do (e.g. the Bahrain invasion by invitation) and feel themselves untouchable, and the Merkins will do whatever they are told by Israel.