The Decline and Fall of the US-Saudi Alliance — and the US and Saudi Empires
By Kevin Barrett
Summary: We are nearing the end of the age of US/Saudi hegemony. During this period, Saudi Arabia dominated the Muslim world in the same way the US dominated the larger geopolitical world. Symbolically, this age of US/Saudi hegemony began on February 14, 1945, when FDR met Abdul-Aziz Ibn Saud aboard the USS Quincy in the Suez canal to cut an oil-for-security deal: The US gained de facto control of the vast Arabian oil fields and their leverage over global energy markets; while the Ibn Saud family got American uniformed thugs to guard them as they took their cut from the looting of Arabia’s wealth—then stashed it in Swiss bank accounts and US securities.
Since then, US and Saudi elites have been joined at the hip. Parallels between the US empire and its junior partner the Saudi oil empire include:
*Economics: Both empires are built on excess wealth. The US has long been the world’s leading economic power, emerging from WW2 with about half of the world’s manufacturing capacity and more than a third of global GDP. The US has used its excess wealth to build the world’s first fully global empire. Saudi Arabia, too, has been awash in excess wealth, which it has used to dominate the Muslim world.
*Declining Economic Base: The US and Saudi Arabia are both losing their respective economic bases. The US built its world-dominating economy primarily through manufacturing, which has now migrated offshore. It also benefitted from technological leadership, which it is now losing. And its attempts to prop up its empire by using its military to maintain the dollar as the global reserve currency are doomed, since the cost of wars just exacerbates the problem. Saudi Arabia is also losing its economic base: oil. As Matt Simmons and others have pointed out, the Saudis have depleted much of their reserves. They recently tried to bankrupt their competitors and adversaries by pushing oil prices through the floor, and those efforts failed. They have an exploding population with ever-higher expectations, but their revenues are decreasing. Bin Salman’s shakedown of his cousins may be a desperate response to impending bankruptcy.
*Failed adventures: The US has failed monumentally in its wars on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. It has wasted six trillion dollars according to official, conservative estimates. The Saudis are also bankrupting themselves with failed adventures. Their war on Syria, war on Yemen, blockade of Qatar, kidnapping of Yemen’s Prime Minister, have all failed as catastrophically as their oil price war on Russia, Iran, and the North American shale oil industry.
*Culture: Both the US and Saudi Arabia have promoted what might be termed fundamentalist cultural imperialism. The US has imposed its spiritually and esthetically impoverished version of consumer capitalism on much of the world. Likewise, the Saudis have imposed their spiritually and esthetically impoverished version of Islam on much of the Muslim world. Benjamin Barber’s book Jihad vs. McWorld explores this “clash of fundamentalisms” as Tariq Ali calls it. Both the US and Saudi Arabia have been able to force their dumbed-down cultures down the world’s collective throat using excess wealth as the primary weapon.
*Religion/Ideology (elite hypocrisy): Both the US and Saudi Arabia have de facto state religions – whose tenets are violated in grotesquely excessive ways by both nations’ ruling elites. The de facto official US creed or “nationalist faith” (David Ray Griffin) is a kind of liberalism grounded in the Enlightenment ideals of the American founding fathers—and as Griffin says, Americans are programmed to believe their government honors those ideals and would never do anything seriously wrong or evil. Yet American ideals and the Constitution embodying them are effectively a dead letter, as corruption, militarism, and empire-building have turned the USA into the most ruthlessly totalitarian surveillance state in all of human history – light years beyond anything the East German Stasi ever dreamed of.
Saudi Arabia, for its part, is built around the state religion Salafi-Wahhabism, a puritanical offshoot of Islam. But Saudi leaders, like US leaders, are (with few exceptions) hypocritical liars. Most Saudi royals violate the letter and spirit of Islam in almost everything they do, just as US leaders violate the letter and spirit of their own Constitution in almost everything they do. The hideous spectacle of rulers flouting their nations’ most basic principles and ideals, while imposing draconian punishments and humiliations on ordinary people, is so pervasive in both countries that people have grown inured to it.
This extreme, almost schizoid discrepancy between ideals and realities is the most basic feature of both nations. There is the official Saudi Arabia of of the pious descendants of the Prophet imposing good Islamic behavior on the nation while protecting and cherishing the holy places. And there is the real Saudi Arabia of outlandish corruption and hyperactive collaboration with the enemies of Islam and Muslims; of bulldozing the holy places and destroying historic and spiritual monuments; of pretending to do dawa (Islamic outreach) while in fact collaborating in the production of the most extreme anti-Islamic propaganda—and in the genocidal wars against Islam and Muslims that have killed at least 32 million since 9/11 according to the Australian expert Dr. Gideon Polya.
Likewise there is the official America of free elections and Constitutional protections and continual progress in protecting civil rights. And then there is the real America in which the best political leaders are assassinated by government operatives, torture is widely practiced, mass incarceration has reached unprecedented levels, elections are stolen by rigged voting machines, citizens are programmed below the level of consciousness by ever-more-refined brainwashing techniques, and a nearly perfect panopticon of omnipresent universal surveillance has been established. In short, the most unfree society in all of human history is continually hectored into believing it is the most free. The epitome of this schizoid hypocrisy is the 9/11 false flag operation, staged by American neoconservatives and America’s Saudi proxies as a desperate and doomed attempt to enable a new American century, a new Saudi century, and of course a new Israeli century.
In both the US and Saudi Arabia, the extreme contrast between official lies and sordid truth creates a social and political instability. In Saudi Arabia, dissidents of various stripes have arisen against the regime, and analysts have long been expecting the House of Saud to eventually fall like a house of cards. Likewise US, citizens increasingly no longer believe their official lies. Beginning in the 1980s, two-thirds of the American people have rejected the official explanation for the assassination of the wildly popular John F. Kennedy, vaguely (and correctly) understanding that the JFK killing was a coup d’état. More recently, the internet age has launched a “truth revolution” whose central pillar has been the 9/11 truth movement. Indeed, it was Americans’ increasing suspicion towards official discourse, cleverly manipulated by the likes of Steve Bannon, that allowed the election of the destabilizing “conspiracy theorist” Donald Trump.
Fractiousness: As destabilizing truth undermines these two ultra-hypocritical, lying regimes, both US and Saudi rulers find themselves increasingly vulnerable to fractiousness and polarization spreading among their populations. The US in the age of Trump is polarized as never before. 70% of Americans say the country is at least as divided as it was during the Vietnam war, and some are going all the way back to the Civil War to find a parallel. Saudi Arabia is also suffering from internal conflict, notably among the elites. Crown Prince Salman has arrested many of the leading figures in the Kingdom, including his own relatives, and confiscated their fortunes. He has turned against his Wahhabi clergy. This has undermined the structural foundations of power in the kingdom.
Subserviance to Israel: As the US and Saudi Arabia decline, both have grown ever-more-subservient to Israel. Today, Netanyahu gets standing ovations from the US Congress and deference from Trump. Saudi Arabia too has essentially surrendered to Netanyahu’s extremist Likudnik Israel.
Summary: Both Nations Are Losing Hegemony: Saudi Arabia is losing its leadership in the oil markets and in the Muslim world, while the USA is simultaneously losing its global hegemony. Will the two declining nations cling together ever-tighter, like two drowning people who can’t swim, each trying to use the other as a life buoy? There are hints that the Saudis may try to survive at the expense of the US by ditching the petrodollar in favor of the Chinese yuan. They are scheduled to sell off Aramco this year, and the most likely buyer is the Chinese government, the world’s likely future hegemon, which (unlike the US) is ever-more-dependent on Saudi oil. By selling Aramco to China and blowing up the petrodollar, Saudi Arabia could hasten the decline and fall of the US empire, while also triggering desperate US counter-moves that could hasten the fall of the Ibn Saud dynasty.
So which of these two declining powers will fall first, the US or Saudi Arabia? Will their mutual entanglement, and desperate efforts to free themselves from it, prove their undoing?