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It’s always helpful to look at a country’s actions over the past 200 years to help understand what its intentions may be here and now, and in the future.
The burgeoning but relatively isolated country of Iran hasn’t militarily attacked another country for over 200 years, and it was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq that militarily attacked Iran in September 1980 — a conflict that finally ended in August 1988 with 1 million casualties and an economic cost of $680 million to $1 trillion dollars — with no clear winner and no benefit to either country.
After all that blood and treasure, no benefit to either country(!) although via the UN-sponsored peace accord and as a penalty to Iraq for starting the war, Iran gained access to the Shatt al-Arab waterway which runs into the Persian Gulf.
Since 2000, Iran has purportedly financed organizations (some listed as terrorist organizations, and others not) throughout the Middle East and most recently in Syria, Iraq, and perhaps Lebanon, in an attempt to exert some control on the various forces operating around their region. (Every country uses various methods to control what happens in its own region, so no news there)
But nothing captures the world’s attention like the Iran nuclear deal.
U.S. President Donald Trump says the deal is a bad one for the West and shouldn’t have been signed and wants to walk away from the deal, reserving the right to act unilaterally if he feels the country is a danger to the U.S.A. or its Middle East allies.
Last week, France’s President Emmanuel Macron flew to Washington to meet with the U.S. President to convince him to stay in the deal or to embrace a ‘third way’ which means renegotiating some of the agreement to better suit U.S. concerns.
Iran barely signed the previous agreement… so it will be interesting to see how the U.S. can get everything it wants from a renegotiated deal while still obtaining Iran’s signature to a new agreement. A deal isn’t a deal unless both sides sign on the dotted line.
Why Would the U.S. Care About Iran? (and Syria, for that matter)
From a strategic perspective, there isn’t a country in the world that could be less important to the security of the United States than Iran, and the same goes for Syria.
Neither country has the kind of military that could threaten America, nor could they project their power anywhere near the North American continent.
Unless the United States is actively working for Israel — a country which has an irrational fear of Iran (again, Iran hasn’t invaded any other country for over 200 years) and is willing to spend billions or even another trillion dollars to wage another Iraq War-style conflict against Iran, there’s no reason for the U.S. to have any dealings with Iran whatsoever.
Iran is a regional power at best, and will remain so for approximately the next 30-years as it hasn’t the capacity to be anything else.
If the United States is actively working for Saudi Arabia — a country that views Iran as an unwelcome competitor in the race to dominate the region, the same advice applies. Why should the U.S. spend multi-billions and sacrifice thousands of young soldiers to satisfy the Saudi ambition to be the local hegemon?
It’s not like Iran is withholding oil deliveries. On the contrary, Iranian oil is easily obtainable with a phone call — the country is highly motivated to sell every drop of oil due to high spending on social programmes by the Iranian government that are funded by oil revenue.
And Iran’s crude oil is rated either #2 (sweet) or #3 (semi-sweet) which means it’s in high demand around the world. Global oil producers have already pumped all of their #2 sweet crude out of the ground years ago; only Iran and Venezuela have significant reserves of sweet crude in the 21st-century.
As for oil refineries, they need Iran’s (or Venezuela’s) #2 sweet crude oil to blend with the oil supplied by their producers which is almost always #4 (sour) or #4.75 (very sour) like the Canadian oil sands product.
Most refineries won’t accept sour crude oil unless there is plenty of #2 or #3 sweet crude blended into the sour crude. It’s just too toxic to refine ‘sour’ as it requires a much more stringent maintenance protocol, meaning the refinery needs to shut down and go into ‘maintenance mode’ more often. That downtime represents a significant loss of revenue for oil refineries.
Therefore, as long as Iran continues to ship huge quantities of sweet crude, the United States should be facilitating that oil business instead of trying to curtail it.
The EU View of Iran is a Mature View
Say what you want about the Europeans, but they don’t allow themselves to be used by countries like Israel that have an irrational fear of Iran and want to use the United States and the EU to keep the Iranians ‘down’ and in their ‘proper’ place and thereby become the regional superpower, or countries like Saudi Arabia that want to use the United States and the EU to keep the Iranians ‘down’ and in their ‘proper’ place and thereby become the regional superpower.
To oversimplify the EU view; As long as Iran’s sweet crude continues to flow (it is) and as long as Iran isn’t actively invading any other country (it isn’t) then there’s no reason to use some imagined breach of the Iranian nuclear deal to launch another trillion dollar war in the Middle East. And, as always, the EU continues to refuse to allow itself to be used by regional powers such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.
In the final analysis, the EU’s position on the Iranian nuclear deal is the most enlightened of all and it is the view the United States should support.
by John Brian Shannon | April 27, 2016
In a recent interview, President Barack Obama called some U.S. allies “free riders” in regards to perceived American largesse, but supposedly “cleared the air” while meeting with King Salman of Saudi Arabia at the April 20th Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Now that one side has ‘cleared the air’ let’s allow the other side to share their grievances publicly — except they won’t because there is danger in that for them — and also because ‘it’s just not done’ diplomatically-speaking.
FACT: From 1932 through 1973 (in almost every year) the U.S.A. purchased Saudi oil at a price lower than the cost of production.
Yes, you read that correctly. For most of 41 years, Saudi Arabia massively subsidized the American economy by selling it’s oil for lower than the cost of production. (“Otherwise, the West will lose the Cold War.”) Does everybody understand how that card was played?
I’d call that a very big debt.
(Yes, such treatment ultimately led to the Arab Oil Embargo, although events surrounding Israel were cast as the publicly-stated reason for the Embargo. ‘Those in the know’ at that time are very well aware of this and it’s an open secret among historians and the people who were present in the halls of power in that era)
FACT: During the Cold War, Saudi Arabia mounted more Cold War operations against the former Soviet Union than all other countries combined. (Let that one sink in for a moment!) Saudi Arabia’s Cold War operations against the Soviets were second only to the United States — and countless operations were joint U.S./Saudi operations.
I’d call that a very large debt.
FACT: During the massive Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980’s, the CIA, Pakistan’s ISI, and the Saudis combined forces to evict America’s #1 enemy the former Soviet Union from Afghanistan. (See the movie, ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ which isn’t far off the truth — except it misses the point that Saudi Arabia paid for the whole effort)
The CIA provided a dazzling array of options (technical support, 3rd-rate new or refurbished weapons, realtime satellite intelligence to designated ‘advisors’ on the ground, and cover) while the ISI provided transport, shelter, fighters, and other logistical capabilities.
(In retrospect, in exchange for *being allowed* to get a reasonable price for their oil, it almost looks like Saudi Arabia was expected to shoulder the entire cost of the Soviet/Afghanistan war. Which probably removed most of whatever profits they had hoped to achieve from the new, post-Embargo oil price that the Saudis were *allowed* to charge)
Another big debt to Saudi Arabia.
FACT: “Saudi Arabia has *executed* more terrorists than the U.S. has ever *captured*.” (That was true until 2004, but it was a common refrain until then)
Yes, in Saudi Arabia, when they catch terrorists, they generally execute them with little fanfare. Good riddance!
Saudi Arabia has passed onto the United States intelligence agencies more information about terrorist individuals than any other country.
Of course, U.S. intelligence agencies and some law enforcement units are only too happy to take the credit for apprehending such terrorists, rendering them abroad, incarcerating them without trial, and then casting vague aspersions at Saudi Arabian culture for (possibly) creating them.
Which works quite well, I must say. It has kept the Saudis busy trying to dig themselves out of a contrived hole — a hole contrived by some Western intelligence agencies in order to keep the Saudis quiet about all the free riders Saudi Arabia has given the West since 1932.
I’d call that a moderate debt to the Saudis.
It’s interesting that there was little ‘Islamic terrorism’ prior to the Soviet/Afghan War. And what there had been, was tiny bits of terrorism scattered around Asia and the Middle East. (Usually it was a case of personal attacks — one warlord against another)
But there is a reason for the rise of Islamic Terrorism and we in the West, helped create it.
Instead of castigating people for being ‘free riders’ — trying to keep them ‘down’ and ‘on the defensive’ — we should be meeting every country ‘where it is’ and helping them to destroy terrorist networks and individual terrorists wherever they may be on the planet.
That’s the difference between managing a problem on the one hand and scoping out a much broader, more inclusive, and cooperative vision on the other hand — one that has an infinitely better chance of success.
Finally, terrorism didn’t suddenly just happen. We in the West helped to create it during the Soviet/Afghan War with CIA training, the ISI’s training, and Saudi money.
When our allies the brave Mujahadeen sometimes called the West’s freedom fighters returned home to places like Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and other Middle Eastern nations, their particular indoctrination did not simply vanish…
A New Hope
We need a better vision — one that is at least one order of magnitude better — for dealing with what is probably going to become a widespread problem in this world, with many Western-educated young people joining such groups.
Yes, thousands of Western non-Muslims are joining ISIS and other groups — and in the future it’s likely that other groups will arise with even more tantalizing ideologies (at least to easily-swayed and ‘out-of-place’ young people) who feel they haven’t a real chance at fulfilling their potential in our world.
Every one of our young people who leaves to join such a group represents a massive failure on the part of our society.
And we will only have ourselves to blame for what comes after — whatever that may be.
Therefore, let us put our efforts into providing real opportunities for our young people, and with some urgency, create employment opportunities in the Middle East where the youth unemployment rate ranges from 29% (Saudi Arabia) to 24.8% in Egypt and worse, in rural areas.
Young people from any country with a promising future ahead of them, do not run away from their communities to join groups like ISIS. Providing the opportunity for a real future for young people is where we must put our best effort — and we can’t afford to waste a moment in support of that important goal.
by John Brian Shannon | January 28, 2015
The world in which the young Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was raised was about as far removed from today’s world of 30-second sound bites and instant gratification as one can imagine.
The former King of Saudi Arabia, who passed away on January 23, 2015 at the age of 90 years, was a witness to profound changes during his life.
The year of Abdullah’s birth (1925) was a time before passenger airliners and before the widespread use of instant communication technology such as telephones and television.
In 1925 the Empire State Building wasn’t yet an architect’s dream, and the outrageous act of driving from New York to LA was considered a crazy stunt for people with too much time on their hands, trying to get their picture in the local newspaper.
The world was recovering from World War I which wasn’t called by that moniker back then. It was referred to as The Great War and spoken of in sombre tones, so fresh it was in people’s minds.
The stock market crash of 1929 hadn’t yet occurred, nor the Great Depression, the New Deal, World War II, scheduled passenger aircraft, the Cold War, the creation of NASA (let alone landing on the Moon), nor did the modern-day Kingdom of Saudi Arabia exist — a country which was founded and adopted its constitution on September 23, 1932 when Abdullah was a boy of 7 years of age.
At the time of Abdullah’s birth, the state of Israel hadn’t yet been created and wouldn’t be for 23 years. The only people in the Levant were Bedouin tribes who had freely roamed Palestine for hundreds of years.
The Arab-Israeli Six-Day War occurred when Abdullah was 42 years old and the Commander of the Saudi National Guard.
Perhaps seeing the futility of war explains Abdullah’s genuine attempt to forge a fair and legitimate peace accord with Israel. As Crown Prince, Abdullah proposed a reasonable peace accord (to Arial Sharon, then Prime Minister of Israel) known as the Arab Peace Initiative.
In March 2002 Abdullah (in his capacity as the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia) presented the Arab League with his comprehensive proposal to end the Arab–Israeli conflict.
Crown Prince Abdullah’s Arab Peace Initiative was unanimously endorsed by the Arab League
A brief synopsis of the Arab Peace Initiative follows:
(a) Complete withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the 4 June 1967 line and the territories still occupied in southern Lebanon;
(b) Attain a just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees to be agreed upon in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution No 194.
(c) Accept the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since 4 June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.
In return the Arab states will do the following:
(a) Consider the Arab–Israeli conflict over, sign a peace agreement with Israel, and achieve peace for all states in the region;
(b) Establish normal relations with Israel within the framework of this comprehensive peace
Making his case to the Arab League in March of 2002, (then Crown Prince) Abdullah concluded his speech by saying;
In spite of all that has happened and what still may happen, the primary issue in the heart and mind of every person in our Arab Islamic nation is the restoration of legitimate rights in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon….
We believe in taking up arms in self-defence and to deter aggression. But we also believe in peace when it is based on justice and equity, and when it brings an end to conflict.
Only within the context of true peace can normal relations flourish between the people of the region and allow the region to pursue development rather than war.
In light of the above, and with your backing and that of the Almighty, I propose that the Arab summit put forward a clear and unanimous initiative addressed to the United Nations security council based on two basic issues:
…normal relations and security for Israel in exchange for full withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories,
…recognition of an independent Palestinian state with al-Quds al-Sharif as its capital, and the return of refugees. — excerpt from a 2002 speech to the Arab League, by Abdullah who was at the time, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia (Retrieved from Wikipedia)
King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue
Another one of Abdullah’s major initiatives was the creation of the KAICIID Dialogue Centre (King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue) in Vienna, Austria.
Every religion is represented at the Centre and the Vatican has Founding Observer status with calls by many for the Vatican to assume full membership in KAICIID.
The opening ceremony was attended by Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo and hundreds of religious leaders.
Prince Saud said he hoped the center would “bring peace and understanding between the various religions. Religion has been the basis for many conflicts.”
The center, launched by Saudi Arabia as an international organization with multifaith oversight, aims to help religions contribute to solving problems such as conflicts, prejudice and health crises rather than be misused to worsen them.
“The prime purpose is to empower the active work of those in the field, whether in the field of dialogue, of social activism or of conflict resolution,” said Jerusalem-based Rabbi David Rosen, representing Judaism on the nine-seat board of directors. — Arab News
King Abdullah spent billions on new universities
Another of Abdullah’s major successes relate to his strong belief in higher and accessible education for Saudi citizens.
For students who travel abroad to study, each receives a stipend from the Saudi government of $1600/mo. to insure that Saudi students would never find themselves in a position (via a lack of personal finances) to place a burden on any foreign university or nation.
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
Abdullah created the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) which is a showpiece university with links and academic exchanges to the world’s leading universities and itself is a stunning architectural accomplishment.
This was accomplished in spite of certain sects that display a very anti-technology bias, who live in the Kingdom in large numbers.
Click here to visit the KAUST photogallery.
King Abdullah creates the Muslim world’s first all-female university
And in an Islamic-world first, Abdullah created the only all-female university in the world; Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman University (PNU).
All on-site administration staff are women and all programmes are tailored to meet the needs of female students.
Not only is a stunning, multi-billion dollar site, it is completely self-contained with it’s own above-ground transit system, police/security, babysitting, Hospital, and other services for women — and it is powered completely by renewable energy.
Click here to view a stunning interactive overview of the campus.
King Abdullah’s Social Reforms
Abdullah’s domestic policy could best be described as ‘brave, but steady reform’ within the extremely conservative nation.
We must always remember that the same people who chant ‘Death to America’ also chanted ‘Death to Abdullah’ when he moved to allow municipal elections (to be held later this year) and to allow women to drive cars (still a work in progress).
The rulers of Saudi Arabia want women to be able to drive cars, but nobody wants to die in an anti-women-driver terrorist attack. And who could blame them; Would you want to die in a terrorist attack, even for that noble cause?
Even Saudi women aren’t willing to die to gain that right. And certainly not Western women, who rail against this sexist construct at least ten-times-louder-and-more-often than their Saudi counterparts.
Here is a secret fact known only to those who’ve visited the Kingdom: Many women (especially teens with their father’s permission and borrowed ID) dress as men and drive around town (but obviously, not to the lingerie store) to run their errands.
The majority of people try not to notice the thin disguise and understand these women are merely trying to protect themselves from attack by a deranged, extremist male person.
The problem of course, is that they are uninsured drivers. And when accidents happen (and they do) it can become a comical event, with the father breathlessly showing up to explain to police how it was that he crashed the car — but had to leave the crash scene for a time.
(The old: “Officer, my father had to jog home to take his heart medications because of the scare of the car crash. I’m on my cellphone giving him directions on how to find his way here.”)
Some police go along with the charade and wait for the father (or brother) to show up and name the father (or brother) as the driver involved in the crash — but other times the police arrest everyone and charge them with lying to police. And entire families have had their insurance policy cancelled.
A story to laugh about with your grandkids if you get a ‘good cop’ — or an event which traumatizes an entire family if the Haia police catch you.
The Haia are the ‘morality police’ who are in charge of keeping ‘decency’ in the society and sometimes the Haia police will charge traffic police officers with ‘undermining society’ for knowingly going along with such charades. (Unfortunately, those helpful officers often get fired in such cases)
Probably just one more reason why Abdullah cracked down on extremists in his country during his time as reigning monarch. The single most successful nation in the world (as judged by numbers of terrorists captured, convicted and sentenced) the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia often sentences terrorists to lifetime imprisonment for people who plan terrorist acts — or beheading for those who actually commit terrorist acts in Saudi Arabia.
Hey, if you don’t want to do the time, or put your neck on the line, don’t do the terrorist crime. Pretty simple.
Saudi Arabian Relations with the United States
Abdullah, while a strong defender of Islam and of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, also saw the wisdom of continued businesslike relations with the United States.
At home, Abdullah was forced to defend his reforms — even as some in the West attacked him for moving too slowly.
When extremists from both sides of the political spectrum are attacking you with equal fervor, you know you’re doing it right!
U.S. President Barack Obama saluted the late king’s commitment to close U.S.-Saudi ties.
“As a leader, he was always candid and had the courage of his convictions,” Obama said in a statement. — Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Through very challenging times and in only 10 years — Abdullah of Saudi Arabia moved his country ahead by 25 years. By any standard, Abdullah was a friend to his people, to his own religion and other religions, and to this world.