When it comes to entangling alliances, the “special relationship” between the United States and Israel tends to take center stage. Interposing one’s self between a herd of American politicians and an opportunity to appease Benjamin Netanyahu is a good way to get trampled to death.
Lately, though, US relations with Saudi Arabia seem to be hogging the spotlight, and not in a good way.
US relations with the Saudis have always seemed pretty good, apart from a brief low point in 1973-74, when the Kingdom participated in an oil embargo, pressuring the US to in turn pressure Israel on the matter of Syria’s Golan Heights.
It worked. Relations immediately improved, and ever since there’s been a steady traffic of Saudi oil to the US, US arms to Saudi Arabia, and lots of money flowing back and forth, too. In 1991, I was among the hundreds of thousands of US troops sent to defend Saudi Arabia’s oil fields and crush the threat of Saddam’s Iraq (liberating Kuwait was the excuse, not the reason, for Desert Storm).
Since then, though, things seem to have gone downhill behind the scenes.
The oil, arms and money still flow, but 28 still-classified pages of the US Senate’s report on 9/11 reportedly implicate the Kingdom in that attack’s funding. Former US Senator Bob Graham, lead author of the report, has launched an effort to make those pages public.
Now, famed investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, writing in the London Review of Books, credibly claims that the Obama administration’s account of the killing of Osama bin Laden is a fairy tale: That the Kingdom paid off Pakistan’s government to protect bin Laden, keeping him under “house arrest” in Abbotabad and that, contra the whole Zero Dark Thirty narrative in which adept US intelligence analysts tracked him down, a rogue Pakistani official dropped the dime on him for the multi-million-dollar reward.
Obviously, openly admitting either of the above as fact would entail a very public reconsideration of the “special relationship” between the US and Saudi Arabia.
Just as obviously, three major concerns — oil, Israel and the Kingdom’s putative status as a regional counterweight to Iran — militate in America’s corridors of power against that kind of disclosure and reconsideration.
But this is the kind of agonizing reappraisal entangling alliances always come down to sooner or later. If we’ve been clasping a viper to our bosom, better sooner.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.