Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.
Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo’s January 24, 2016 piece in the The New York Times is a great primer for anyone who believes the next U.S. President will take anti-Saudi action during his/her administration.
Relying on information from multiple sources, Mazzetti and Apuzzo focus on how Saudi Arabia (“The Kingdom”) and the U.S. intelligence community (“IC”) – primarily the Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”) – have worked together for decades to achieve their strategic and tactical goals.
Even peripheral watchers of the Middle East are aware of how Washington (under the Reagan administration) and Riyadh worked together to defeat the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
What many may not know is that in the 1970s The Kingdom “organized … a coalition of nations including Morocco, Egypt and France that ran covert operations around Africa at a time when Congress had clipped the C.I.A.’s wings over years of abuses, in the 1980s … helped finance C.I.A. operations in Angola, [and] in 1984 … pledged $1 million per month to help fund the contras, in recognition of the [Reagan] administration’s past support to the Saudis [eventually contributing] $32 million, paid through a Cayman Islands bank account.”
These joint actions between the two nations transcend any changes to the political winds as the above operations occurred during Democratic and Republican administrations. Indeed, as the article notes, the CIA station chief – the IC’s representative – is the “true locus of American power in the kingdom,” more than the ambassador – the representative of the White House.
Consequently, and despite the numerous and significant changes occurring in the Middle East, the intelligence alliance between the two countries remains close and strong to this day. As the CIA implements the current administration’s policies in the Middle East, it continues Washington’s reliance on funding from Saudi Arabia and, to a lesser extent, “Qatar, Jordan and Turkey.”
This alliance, obviously, buys Riyadh leverage within the U.S. political establishment; and since it transcends political parties and is unlikely to end anytime soon, the leverage will likely continue for the foreseeable future.
So, why does any of this matter to the average voter – particularly on the Republican side of the aisle? Muslims, and especially Islamic governments in the Middle East, have come under harsh criticism from the Republican candidates. Talk of banning Muslims from entering the United States, surveilling mosques and their parishioners, carpet bombing countries, etc. has become the norm on the Republican campaign trail.
What these candidates do not talk about is how U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and Africa depends on support from Saudi Arabia, and how the IC will not let someone who is in power for a maximum of eight years destroy a six decade plus relationship!