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Friday, March 11, 2011

Now is the time to pressure 'our friends the Saudis'

Mitchell Bard points out that in the past 70 years, only one American President has pressured 'our friends the Saudis.' John Kennedy forced them to (officially, at least) abolish slavery in the 1960's.

But Bard says now is the time to pressure them again.
Now why doesn’t Obama call for democracy in Saudi Arabia? One reason is fear. While the administration is happy to ignore warnings about the possibility of a radical Islamist regime taking power in Egypt, the administration is petrified of that happening in Saudi Arabia. But could a different regime be worse than the Sauds who undermine American interests and values in the region and threaten our security as the leading sponsors of international terror.

Oil, of course, is the entire reason for our interest in Saudi Arabia. What would a different regime do with the oil if not sell it to us? Drink it? Our fear of losing access to oil, however, has allowed the Saudis to blackmail us for 70 years. They act like pushers, manipulating the supply of oil to discourage us from pursuing alternative energy sources. Thus, when prices peaked at $149 per barrel, the Saudis said the ideal price of oil was $70-$80. The average price last year - $79 per barrel. The Saudi oil minister recently made a similar remark and pledged to increase supply to make up for price spikes created by turmoil in Libya and elsewhere in the region. The message to Obama is that the Saudi monarchy will help his reelection bid by minimizing the oil shock to the U.S. economy. Why rock the boat by pushing for democracy?

Meanwhile, inside Saudi Arabia, the king is staving off any democratic insurrections the way his family has kept power since the establishment of the kingdom - by buying loyalty. The Sauds have stayed in power by marrying their rivals and paying them off. This is why there are thousands of princes who all drink from the royal trough and benefit from oil profits as well as the commissions they receive on deals made with foreign countries. To further ensure that Saudis don’t get too inspired by events elsewhere, the king has announced minimal political reforms while pledging $35 billion in new government benefits. He has also banned demonstrations.

The Saudis are certainly scared. They saw Obama abandon a long-time ally overnight. They already believe he is weak and have doubts whether he will keep their heads on their shoulders because of his failure to take military action against Iran. They also see the restive Shiite population in their neighbor Bahrain making trouble for the Sunni government there which may embolden their own Shiites, who will be egged on by Iran.

Rather than reassure the Sauds, now is an ideal time to, for the first time since Kennedy, insist on changes in the regime. Democratization is only one important step. The U.S. should demand an end to support for terrorist groups and the financing of radical Islamic schools and mosques. Obama should insist on ending the apartheid policy toward women and other human rights abuses. Finally, he should pressure them to take measures to demonstrate their willingness to make peace with Israel.

It has always been the case the Saudis needed us more than we needed them and this is a unique opportunity to use the political, economic and military leverage we have to insist that they show a commitment to our values and interests for the benefit of their people and our security.
Bard is right, of course. Unfortunately, the first thing he has to do is to get President Obama to stand erect in the presence of King Abdullah.

What could go wrong?

Read the whole thing.

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At 3:15 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

OT Discussion topic:
If Obama is sitting back, defacto supporting Khadaffi the terrorist and civilian slaughterer, and France is entering the vacuum on the side of the Libyan rebels, what does this mean? What kind of a disaster is this going to be for the people of N. Africa is France goes back in there after the decades it took to get them out (I know about this because we lived in Morocco when the French were being run out of there). Obama despises the Brits for Kenya colonial times, but he thinks the French in Africa are OK? He's got it backwards as the French were substantially rougher and more self interested than the Brits were in Africa. And of course then we can discuss the poor Africans who were overtaken by the Che marxists right after they got rid of the Euros.

Should we start a book circle to read and discuss history from farther back than last week?

At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't get the logic. Let's say there's a difference to the US between a helpful-harmful monarchy like Saudi Arabia and an all out enemy like Iran. So the argument is: a) Obama is to be condemned for abandoning allies like Egypt and appeasing Shia upcoming hegamones like Iran, in the process giving the Saudi princes the willies; therefore b) Obama should stick it to the
Saudis because the resulting "democracy" will just turn out all nice and Norman Rockwell like the democracy we have here in the United States run, well, by a sorta Marxist friend by default of Islamic hegemony.

This is convincing?


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