Egypt Also Excluded – Major Recipient of U.S. Military Aid
By John Lawrence
Why did Trump try to impose tighter vetting on 7 nations in the Middle East without including Saudi Arabia and Egypt? Could it be that it’s because Saudi Arabia which is a hotbed of terrorism is also an ally of the US and an enemy of Iran?
Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were Saudis. Osama bin Laden was a Saudi. The machete wielding attacker at the Louvre recently was Egyptian. Neither Egypt nor Pakistan nor Afghanistan were included on the so-called President’s list. Pakistan harbored bin Laden. Afghanistan is the home of the Taliban. If Trump had wanted to keep terrorists out of the US, surely he should have included these countries in his ban. But terrorism is more about U.S. alliances than it is about morality or human rights.
“Since 9/11, no one has been killed in this country in a terrorist attack by anyone who emigrated from any of the seven countries,” added William C. Banks, director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University College of Law. The large majority of jihadists who have carried out attacks in the U.S. have been U.S. citizens or legal residents.
What about “extreme vetting” for gun purchasers? Every day in the U.S. on average 32 people are murdered with guns. 58 kill themselves and 216 people are shot and survive. But that’s OK; it’s just Americans killing each other. That’s their Second Amendment right. They’re not being killed by foreigners who have no Second Amendment rights. No background checks required.
Some History About the US and Saudi Arabia
U.S. ties with Saudi Arabia run deep. US businesses have been involved in Saudi Arabia’s oil industry since 1933, when Standard Oil of California (now Chevron) won a concession to explore in eastern Saudi Arabia and discovered oil in 1938. Before that who knew Saudi Arabia had oil? It was discovered by an American corporation.
The Arabian American Oil Company, or Aramco, established by Standard Oil and three partners—who would later become Texaco, Exxon, and Mobil—discovered the kingdom’s reserves in 1944 and made the country the world’s largest oil exporter. Saudi Arabia gradually bought out foreign shareholders by 1980, and the company is now known as Saudi Aramco, but U.S. energy companies maintained business interests in Saudi Arabia. Chevron, Dow Chemical and ExxonMobil continue to be involved in refining and petrochemical ventures.
Despite all the mutual oil ventures between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, the latter country has harbored a vicious form of Islam know as Wahhabism which preaches the destruction of the west including the U.S.. America’s seventy-year alliance with the kingdom has been reappraised as a ghastly mistake, a selling of the soul, a gas-addicted alliance with death, a veritable deal with the devil. According to a 2009 U.S. State Department communication by Hillary Clinton, United States Secretary of State, (disclosed as part of the Wikileaks U.S. ‘cables leaks’ controversy in 2010) “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”
Human Rights Violations in Saudi Arabia Kept Hush Hush
Human rights violations run rampant in Saudi Arabia, but nary a word about them in the Hypocritical Halls of Congress or the White House. Public beheadings are de rigueur according to Sharia law. Newsweek reports:
Yet, for all the outrage these [ISIS] executions have engendered the world over, decapitations are routine in Saudi Arabia, America’s closest Arab ally, for crimes including political dissent—and the international press hardly seems to notice. In fact, since January , 59 people have had their heads lopped off in the kingdom, where “punishment by the sword” has been practiced for centuries. …
It’s a mystery why the U.S. and the European Union, which strongly support the regime in Saudi Arabia, with its vast oil wealth and strategic and military importance, do not publicly condemn the country for its grisly, medieval public executions. In September, Secretary of State John F. Kerry was in Saudi Arabia, meeting with Arab diplomats when setting up the coalition against the Islamic State, commonly called ISIS. Human rights violations were not mentioned.
But there is a clear double standard. Iran, for example—Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical rival in the Middle East—is often cited by politicians such as Senator John McCain for gross human rights violations. But Iran, part of what President George W. Bush called “an axis of evil,” has, in fact, a far more democratic political process than Saudi Arabia.
So why the blind eye when it comes to Saudi Arabia? ISIS beheadings are repugnant, but the Saudis’ beheadings are ignored. “There seems to be a disconnect between Saudi Arabia’s condemnation of the practices of the Islamic State and the kingdom’s own state-sanctioned practices,” says Lina Khatib of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.
Yet for economic reasons, the U.S. continues to do deals with the devil. The preponderance of evidence in my opinion indicates that the U.S. is more concerned with its strategic military alliances and the continuance of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency than with being on the side of moral propriety.
A survey taken by the Saudi intelligence service of “educated Saudis between the ages of 25 and 41” shortly after the 9/11 attacks “concluded that 95 percent” of those surveyed supported Bin Laden’s cause. A 2002 Council on Foreign Relations Terrorist Financing Task Force report found that: “For years, individuals and charities based in Saudi Arabia have been the most important source of funds for al-Qaeda. And for years, Saudi officials have turned a blind eye to this problem.” So why have we made Iran the pariah and Saudi Arabia our friend? The answer is found in oil and dollars.
Nixon Took the U.S. Off the Gold Standard
In 1971 President Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard. That meant that anyone holding dollars could not convert them into gold. In its place he talked the Saudi kings into pricing oil only in dollars. That meant any country wanting to buy oil from the Saudis or OPEC would have to purchase the oil with dollars and not with their native currency. In return the Saudis were given U.S. military protection. During that era the U.S. built and administrated numerous military academies, navy ports and Air Force military airbases. Also the Saudis purchased a great deal of weapons that varied from F-15 Nixonwar planes to M1 Abrams main battle tanks that later proved useful during the Gulf War. The Saudis became the number one buyer of U.S. military equipment with the money that piled up from the so-called “petrodollars.”
On October 20, 2010, U.S. State Department notified Congress of its intention to make the biggest arms sale in American history – an estimated $60.5 billion purchase by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In addition to making U.S. defense contractors rich, the Saudis and other oil producing nations bought U.S. Treasury bonds. This allowed the U.S. to go into massive debt, secure in the knowledge that there would always be a ready supply of dollars that needed to be reinvested in the U.S.. This arrangement of oil for dollars, which were then recycled into U.S. military equipment and Treasury bonds, vaulted the U.S. dollar into the status of the world’s reserve currency. Part of the reason for the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was Saddam’s threat to sell oil in euros instead of dollars thus potentially upending U.S. economic hegemony in the world.
Saudi Arabia Biggest Purchaser of U.S. Military Equipment
In addition to the largest arms sale in American history,
Saudi Arabia was the top destination for U.S. arms in 2011–2015, purchasing 9.7 percent of U.S. exports. Recent sales approved by the U.S. State Department include Black Hawk helicopters worth a total of $495 million and Patriot Missiles worth $5.4 billion, as well as a $1.3 billion sale of air-to-ground munitions meant to replenish stocks used in Yemen. That has drawn criticism from human rights groups and a couple of U.S. lawmakers, who have cited the high civilian toll of the Saudi-led air campaign. Saudi Arabia’s total arms imports increased by 275 percent over 2006–2010, according to the research organization SIPRI (PDF). The United States also helps Saudi Arabia secure its oil assets by providing training and advisers to Saudi security forces.
But the U.S.-Saudi alliance has shown signs lately of cracking. Upon becoming regent in 2005, King Abdullah’s first foreign trip was to China. In 2012 a Saudi-Chinese agreement to cooperate in the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes was signed. Abdullah also welcomed Russian president Vladimir Putin to Riyadh in 2007, awarding him the kingdom’s highest honor, the King Abdul Aziz Medal. Russia and Saudi Arabia concluded a joint venture between Saudi ARAMCO and LUKOIL to develop new Saudi gas fields.
After 9/11 the Saudis did not cooperate with Americans wanting to look at background files of the hijackers or interview the hijackers’ families. In September 2016, despite the objections of the Obama administration, the Congress passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act that would allow relatives of victims of the September 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for its government’s alleged role in the attacks. The Saudis immediately threatened to dump $750 billion of U.S. securities. Since President Obama took office in 2009, the U.S. has sold $110 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia. Have they got us by the balls?
The U.S. invasion of Iraq and support of regime change there was allegedly to promote democracy. Iraq was ruled by a minority Sunni administration while the majority of the people were Shiites. So in a democratic election one would expect that Iraq would become ruled by Shiites. A major contradiction developed here when the U.S. realized that Iran, who we made a pariah, is a majority Shiite country which actually has sent troops to fight alongside the Shiite Iraqis. Meantime, our ally, Saudi Arabia, Iran’s arch enemy, is majority Sunni. Of course, they wouldn’t fight to install or maintain a Shiite regime in Iraq. ISIS which is trying to take over Iraq is Sunni and is being supported by our friend, Saudi Arabia. So exactly who are the terrorists here and whose side are we on?
In Syria the situation is reversed. The Assad regime is Shiite while the majority of Syrians are Sunnis. The Obama administration was so confused with its policy of regime change which played into the Syrian civil war and led to massive killings and property destruction that it took the Russians to step in and try to put an end to the war without the help or cooperation of the U.S.. They seem to be gaining ground in that regard although it’s not over yet. So the U.S. is faced with the irony of perhaps supporting terrorism or at least the major exporter of it, Saudi Arabia, while at the same time trying to fight terrorism. So what is terrorism? It depends whose side you’re on and what strategic affiliations you have.
Egypt, a Major Recipient of U.S. Money
Following the peace treaty with Israel, between 1979 and 2003, the U.S. has provided Egypt with about $19 billion in military aid, making Egypt the second largest non-NATO recipient of U.S. military aid after Israel. In 2009, the U.S. provided military assistance totaling $1.3 billion and an economic assistance of $250 million. Israel and Egypt are the two largest non-NATO recipients of U.S. aid, and are, therefore, major non-NATO allies of the U.S.. Egypt is the strongest military power on the African continent, and according to Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies’ annual Middle East Strategic Balance, the second largest in the Middle East, after Israel.
So we have bought Israel a friend. We need to continue to pay for whatever friends we have in the Middle East, but that does not mean that Egyptian citizens are our friends. Witness the Louvre attacker.
Military cooperation between the U.S. and Egypt is probably the strongest aspect of their strategic partnership. General Anthony Zinni, the former Commandant of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), once said, “Egypt is the most important country in my area of responsibility because of the access it gives me to the region.”
Egypt was also described during the Clinton Administration as the most prominent player in the Arab world and a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. U.S. military assistance to Egypt was considered part of the administration’s strategy to maintaining continued availability of Persian Gulf energy resources and to secure the Suez Canal, which serves both as an important international oil route and as critical route for U.S. warships transiting between the Mediterranean and either the Indian Ocean or the Persian Gulf.
It seems that U.S. policy in the Middle East is all about oil and petrodollars. It’s not about terrorism. Terrorism as defined by Sunnis is all about Shiites and vice versa. What is clear is that if the U.S. wants to fight terrorism, it shouldn’t be aligned with Saudi Arabia, but then, if that were to change the position of the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency, the result might be that the U.S. would no longer be the world’s economic and military hegemon.
Renewable Energy Threatens U.S. Dollar Hegemony
If the U.S. takes global warming seriously (which it will not under Trump) and renewables replace oil as the main energy source, the whole world financial order based on oil, petrodollars and the dollar as the world’s reserve currency will change. The U.S. will no longer be in the position of having oil purchased with U.S. dollars because there will no longer be a huge demand for oil so there will be fewer petrodollars to be reinvested in the U.S. in Treasury bonds and military equipment. So it’s a question of whether we want to preserve the U.S. as the world’s hegemon with the dollar reigning supreme or do we want to save the earth from global warming which means that the world financial system will probably no longer be based on the dollar?
When fossil fuels are replaced with renewables, the earth will be better off, but will the U.S. economy, which will no longer be in the position of running huge national deficits? The market for U.S. military equipment which is predicated on our allies purchasing stuff with petrodollars will collapse. At that point the second largest economy, China, which is also investing heavily in renewables will probably become the world’s economic and military hegemon. Then the U.S. will have nothing to lose by getting rid of fossil fuels and going full steam ahead with renewables.
Politicians, realizing which side their bread is buttered on, will probably become converts to the cause of preventing global warming and the U.S.-Saudi alliance will become a thing of the past. One thing is clear: the U.S., allied with the largest human rights violator on the planet, Saudi Arabia, should no longer lecture the rest of the world about human rights.