Exclusive: Saudi Arabia confident in its leverage over energy and finance and emboldened by a de facto regional alliance with Israel is throwing its weight around with threats against Russia. But this muscle-flexing is drawing a tough reaction from President Putin, reports Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
All across Official Washington from politicians to pundits there has been much swaggering about the geopolitical value of threatening to bomb people as a way to extract concessions and enforce compliance. Think Syria on chemical weapons and Iran regarding its nuclear program. So, if that’s the case, maybe it’s time to put “on the table” a bombing threat against Saudi Arabia.
It now appears that the primary obstacle to peace talks that could resolve the bloody Syrian civil war is the obstruction from al-Qaeda-connected jihadists who are beholden for their military and financial support to Saudi Arabia and other oil sheikdoms operating under Saudi Arabia’s political/diplomatic wing.
Despite what you may have read in some New York Times opinion columns, the Syrian government has agreed to send peace envoys to Geneva. But the rebels have refused, insisting on a long list of preconditions, such as the U.S. delivery of sophisticated weapons and a reversal of the rebels’ fortunes on the battlefield. The real problem seems to be how divided the Syrian opposition is, with schisms from pro-democracy moderates to violent jihadists including some who film themselves eating the internal organs of dead Syrian soldiers and executing defenseless captives.
Since the only way to stop the bloodletting that has reportedly claimed more than 100,000 lives is to arrange a ceasefire and a political settlement, the calculation of the rebels must change or at least the calculation of their chief sponsors must change. In that light, perhaps a warning is in order to Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan that cruise missiles could be aimed at his offices in Riyadh if Saudi intelligence doesn’t stop arming the most extreme factions fighting in Syria.
Besides supporting the brutal jihadists in Syria, there’s another inconvenient truth: the history of Saudi Arabia’s support for Islamic terrorism across the region and around the world, a point that Prince Bandar reportedly raised during a tense meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on July 31, in connection with the rebellious Russian province of Chechnya.
According to a diplomatic account of that bilateral confrontation, Bandar sought Russian support for ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while offering various economic inducements to Russia along with a pledge to protect next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi from terrorist attack.
Putin apparently was offended by Bandar’s blend of bribery and threats, especially his allusion to Saudi longstanding support for Chechen terrorism, a sore point for Russians who have suffered numerous attacks by Chechen terrorists against Russian civilian targets. I’m told Putin also viewed the reference to Sochi as something akin to a Mafia don shaking down a shopkeeper for protection money by saying, “nice little business you got here, I’d hate to see anything happen to it.”
Bandar and Osama
Over the years, Bandar has treated the issue of “terrorism” as a situational ethic, using the term to disparage political movements disfavored by the Saudi royals while treating violent groups backed by Saudi Arabia as freedom fighters. That rhetorical technique has been well-honed since the days when Saudi Arabia and the Reagan administration teamed up to pour billions of dollars into the Afghan mujahedeen and their Arab jihadist allies fighting Soviet troops in the 1980s.
The anti-Soviet effort in Afghanistan brought to prominence Saudi national Osama bin Laden and the terrorists who later consolidated themselves under the global brand, al-Qaeda. In the 1980s, these roving jihadists were hailed as brave defenders of Islam, but in the 1990s they began targeting the United States with terrorist attacks, leading up to 9/11 in 2001.
At the time of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, Bandar was the Saudi ambassador to the United States and was so close to the Bush family that he was nicknamed “Bandar Bush.” Bandar was also very close to the bin Laden family. After the attacks, Bandar even acknowledged having met Osama bin Laden in the context of bin Laden thanking Bandar for his help financing the Afghan jihad project.
“I was not impressed, to be honest with you,” Bandar told CNN’s Larry King about bin Laden. “I thought he was simple and very quiet guy.”
However, immediately after 9/11, Bandar undermined the FBI’s opportunity to learn more about the connections between Osama bin Laden’s relatives and the perpetrators of 9/11 when Bandar arranged for members of the bin Laden family to flee the United States on some of the first planes allowed back into the air after only cursory interviews with FBI investigators. The only segment of the 9/11 Commission’s report to be blacked out was the part dealing with alleged Saudi financing for al-Qaeda.
Now, as chief of Saudi intelligence, Bandar appears to be back in the game of coercive geopolitics, arranging weapons for some of the most brutal Syrian rebels and Arab mercenaries operating inside Syria, while offering carrots-and-sticks to foreign leaders who get in the way of Saudi interests.
As a repressive monarchy that preaches the ultra-conservative Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam, Saudi Arabia is bitterly opposed to the democratic reforms of the Arab Spring and the growing influence of Shiite Islam, which now stretches from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the Hezbollah enclaves of Lebanon.
In recent months, Saudi Arabia has backed a military coup in Egypt that ousted the elected Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi. The Saudis also have stepped up assistance to Sunni-dominated rebels in Syria seeking to overthrow the Assad dynasty that is based in the Alawite religion, a branch of Shiite Islam.
The Saudi-Israeli Alliance
The commonality of interests between Saudi Arabia and Israel has also given rise to a de facto alliance between the Saudi monarchy and the Jewish government of Israel. Though historically enemies, Israel and Saudi Arabia are now on the same page in backing Egypt’s military regime, in viewing Iran as their principal adversary, and in wanting a rebel victory in Syria.
Bolstered by the lobbying and media power of Israel, the Saudis with their own clout in areas of energy and finance see themselves as an emerging regional powerhouse, one that can confront the traditional superpowers head-on, constraining President Barack Obama’s diplomatic maneuvering room on Iran and Syria and challenging President Putin face-to-face.
According to a leaked diplomatic account of the July 31 meeting in Moscow, Bandar told Putin, “The terrorist threat is growing in light of the phenomena spawned by the Arab Spring. We have lost some regimes. And what we got in return were terrorist experiences, as evidenced by the experience of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the extremist groups in Libya. …
“As an example, I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us, and they will not move in the Syrian territory’s direction without coordinating with us. These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role or influence in Syria’s political future.”
According to this account, Putin responded, “We know that you have supported the Chechen terrorist groups for a decade. And that support, which you have frankly talked about just now, is completely incompatible with the common objectives of fighting global terrorism that you mentioned. We are interested in developing friendly relations according to clear and strong principles.”
Bandar reportedly replied, “We do not favor extremist religious regimes, and we wish to establish moderate regimes in the region. It is worthwhile to pay attention to and to follow up on Egypt’s experience. We will continue to support the [Egyptian] army, and we will support Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi because he is keen on having good relations with us and with you. And we suggest to you to be in contact with him, to support him and to give all the conditions for the success of this experiment.
“We are ready to hold arms deals with you in exchange for supporting these regimes, especially Egypt.”
Besides the possibility of lucrative arms deals that would benefit the Russian economy, Bandar reportedly raised the potential for Saudi cooperation with Russia on oil and other investment matters, saying, “Let us examine how to put together a unified Russian-Saudi strategy on the subject of oil. The aim is to agree on the price of oil and production quantities that keep the price stable in global oil markets. …
“We understand Russia’s great interest in the oil and gas present in the Mediterranean Sea from Israel to Cyprus through Lebanon and Syria. And we understand the importance of the Russian gas pipeline to Europe. We are not interested in competing with that. We can cooperate in this area as well as in the areas of establishing refineries and petrochemical industries. The kingdom can provide large multi-billion-dollar investments in various fields in the Russian market. What’s important is to conclude political understandings on a number of issues, particularly Syria and Iran.”
An Angry Putin
I’m told by a source close to the Russian government that this mix of overt inducements and implied threats infuriated Putin who barely kept his anger in check through the end of the meeting with Bandar. Putin’s redoubled support for the Syrian government is seen as one unintended consequence from Bandar’s blend of bribes and warnings.
The source said Russia has responded with its own thinly veiled threats against the Saudis. The Saudis may have substantial “soft power” with their oil and money but Russia has its own formidable “hard power,” including a formidable military, the source said.
The source said Putin hopes he can enlist President Obama in a coordinated response to this Saudi muscle-flexing. However, the Saudis may feel confident, in part, because of their de facto alliance with Israel and their knowledge that the powerful Israel Lobby in Washington can hem in Obama.
Still, perhaps the only way to force the Syrian rebels to the bargaining table is for two other old adversaries, the United States and Russia, to form their own united front and to make clear to Prince Bandar that Saudi Arabia must stop obstructing a political settlement in Syria.
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.
There is little to stop the US and its NATO lackeys from removing the Saud family from power and taking over the whole sandbox. The kingdom of Saud is built upon that plentiful material- the sand of a tacit agreement.
Some ancestor having parked his camel over an immense pool of oil, the Saudi monarchy still has a lot to sell. But they have to sell it to someone. They have to sell it to the largest buyer. That is the U.S. This should give the US a large economic advantage in dealing with the monarchy. But it has been policy of the U.S. to kiss their asses instead. And for gratitude, we are subjected to terrorist attacks. The time has come for the US to alter its perceptions. They need us. We do not need them. There is enough oil for now in the rest of the world. Our founding fathers rejected monarchies. We should do the same.
With the UNITED SNAKES (US/Israel/NATO) ‘rebel’s’ themselves admitting that the chemical weapons brought into Syria (with Saudi money) in the hands of Prince Bandar bin Sultan and smuggled into Syria by Turkey and Qatar, one wonders why this thug is being protected by the Great Satan and NATO other than bcause the ‘rebel’s’ have been taking an ass (((whopping))) from the Assad forces lately and there was a need for the UNITED SNAKES (US/NATO) to intercede immediately to save their arses.
Should cruise missiles target Saudis?
When reporting on the past & present “AQ Policy Tool,” including Bosnia-gate, Benghazi-gate, and every other incident where it is used, no matter on US soil or not, like the Wikileaks State Dept cables show about US foreign policy in general, a D or R occupying the White House doesn’t change the demand for “conquest of oil/gas reserves and pipeline routes” around the world:
“The Texas Court Case: BP-Amoco (Bridas) versus Unocal: â€¦in Oct ’98, a TX court dismissed the (formerly Argentinian-owned) Bridas’ US$15 billion lawsuit against Unocal “for preventing them developing gas fields in Turkmenistan” â€¦ In all likelihood, there was a mutual understanding between Unocal and BP-Amoco, which are consortium partners in the Caspian Sea basin. Moreover, while Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former National Security Advisor (in a Democratic administration), was acting as a consultant for Amoco, Henry Kissinger, a former Secretary of State (in a Republican administration), was advising Unocal Corporation.” [Michel Chossudovsky, “America’s ‘War on Terrorism’,” 2005, p. 86]
“Brzezinski: ‘According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahideen began during the 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, [on] 24 December 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979, that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the President to which I explained to him that in my opinion, this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.'” [Ibid, p. 23]
Dawns on me that S.A. supporting Chechen terror attacks on Russia equals S.A. supporting attacks on United States. One’s as good as another. If the attacks work as planned to help shape Russian and U.S. policies (to either help form the policies or to dissuade the policies), then why NOT support them? It would be dumb not to. Especially without the least bit of negative consequences for S.A.
You are amazing Robert! U along many of your readers (followers) are living in a world of your own machinations, that by itself is a sickness.
The Saudis have taken dozens like you to courts of law in NY. London and elsewhere to prove that lies cannot & will not be tolerated to generate money & fame and they highly succeeded in exposing many masters in the deception business ring.
I became lately suspicious that many of those that regularly log their opinions / reply to your essays clearly appear to be client to those criminal regimes that harbor AlQaida in Tehran and Damascus openly but your blindness make you see them elsewhere. The other day Mr. BANDOLERO thought that he could teach me about the Syrian Utopia & how the truth could only be found but thru the Iranian/Syrian/Russian media thus unveiling his true color.
I defy you openly Robert to prove any of your allegation with undeniable supporting documents. Save your reputation !!!
WOw, quite an unhinged comment ben N. Which side of the nut tree did you fall down from?
I think it sounds pretty much like what Herman and Chomsky once described as Flak: Wikipedia: Propaganda model – Flak.
When I read the tune of the message and words like “The Saudis have taken dozens like you to courts of law in NY. London and elsewhere…” it reminds me a lot of what Rabbi Chaim Lefkowitz once famaously said: He speaks like a zionist. However, the quality of argument made me recall an article I just read elsewhere: Media Post: Israel Hires College Students for Social Media PR.
Uh, ben N hasn’t dropped off the branch yet.
Phony Bandar Bushes statement regarding the Sotchi Olympic Wintergames made him extremely vulnerable in case of any future incident there. The Russians will not hesitate to retaliate and hold him responsible for any given incident. This guy must be crazy!
Since you are willing to write about Saudi (especially Bandar’s) involvement in recent and future Middle East chaos, perhaps you will review and write about Saudi (and our government”s) involvement in 911. Read the “Big Bamboozle” by Philip Marshall, 2012.
Thanks for the hint to that interesting book whose author may have paid his violation of the omerta with his life.
To enhance my wild guess from my post above: It looks like Saudi folks are bound by 911 to the Israel folks which I discussed above.
One can only hope this story achieves the widest possible dissemination. It has for too long been an open secret that Saudis, not Iraqis or Afghanis were the ‘prime movers’ in the September 11 tragedy. This has been deliberately suppressed, subdued or outright ignored by the mainstream media, and should earn the likes of Fox, CNN and MSNBC public rebuke. Willful ignorance on the part of the American public has helped, with flag waving false patriotism and right-wing religious lunacy fueling a desire for revenge at any price, regardless of who we bomb to achieve it.
The impotent mainstream media continues to ignore a story that should resonate like a nine on the Richter Scale: The Broward Bulldog newspaper reporting on the “Sarasota Saudi” connection between the Saudi Royal Family and the Saudi hijackers, particularly Mohammed Atta. None other than former Senator Bob Graham, hardly a ‘conspiracy theorist’, has campaigned to promote further investigation and disclosure on this bombshell. All mention of this incident was apparently avoided by the commission report, despite full knowledge of many details by various agencies.
That our foreign policy has been conducted for years in a manner inconsistent with our own national interests, and that various “leaks” serve to bolster, rather than cast suspicion on peculiar alliances should be a matter of grave suspicion for thinking Americans. The “limited hangout” meme has become worn and wearisome. A few analysts who are willing to think outside the proverbial box have raised the question: “What do they have on us?” Blackmail seems plausible. Recent debates about WMD have raised the question, “What about NNPT inspection of our principal ally?”
Building a bomb requires a foundry in order to produce castings and casings. Metallurgy is not a “cottage industry” like diamond cutting or precision electronics. It’s not something you can do in the basement under a nuclear reactor. A country that has to buy its bulldozers from America and its cars from Germany could not make one. My guess? Mordechai Vanunu was a limited hangout. A team of international inspectors might find “Made in U.S.A.” stamped in some very embarrassing places.
F. G. Sanford
“A few analysts who are willing to think outside the proverbial box have raised the question: â€œWhat do they have on us?â€ Blackmail seems plausible.”
Here’s a wild guess out of the box:
Israel collaborated with LBJ and some top US security staff in killing JFK. Israel hated JFK because JFK was about to stop the Israeli nuke program and make the Israel lobby require to register as foreign agent. US security folks were angry with JFK cause of the bay of the pigs. To cover up the crime, lot’s of Israel’s people were put into US security services and top offices. Over time, Israel thereby got compromising material over practically everyone in the US, just like J Edgar Hoover had kompromat on almost everyone in his time. Being compromised is now required to run for high office. When there is no compromising material against someone, folks running for top office end up like RFK. People violating the omerta end up like Bill Colby. The US never penetrated Israel’s security services like Israel penetrated those of the US for the above meant reasons, so Israel got lot’s of compromat on US folks, but there is nothing comparable on the other side.
Thanks for calling attention to points usually omitted on the topic of 1960s assassinations. I’m currently reading Grant Smith’s Spy Trade which proves the points you are making here in spades.
This is simply outstanding analysis. And, you point on missiles makes the point. The Saudis are a collection of narcissistic sociopaths who threaten and bribe to preserve their rotting structure. Their future awaits in the northeastern resource rich areas. The Saudis treat the Shias like second class citizens. The protests and politics of the Shias is ignored but exists, nevertheless. RIP Saudi Arabia.
Saudi will be victims of their demographic bomb and unemployed youth.
But no mention here of petrodollar deal. US is beholden to Saudis for that.