site said “Middle East EyeIn his report entitled (The 9/11 attacks: US-Saudi relations is evidence that the “war on terror” was a lie), the Al Saud regime is an example of the corruption of the ruling class in the region, as it ran the kingdom’s economy for decades as a family bank account.
Supporting authoritarianism in the Muslim-majority world
The site, whose editor is British writer David Hurst, highlighted that the strategic interests of the United States serve well in supporting authoritarianism in the Muslim-majority world. Defending the American public from terrorism has never been Washington’s priority.
According to the article, last week, US President Joe Biden announced the declassification of FBI files on possible links between Saudi Arabia and Al-Qaeda, the cell responsible for the atrocities of September 11, 2001.
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The move came in response to years of pressure from victims’ families to demand more transparency on the issue, while at the same time prosecuting the Saudi regime for accountability in the courts.
The author of the article considered that proving any connection between the 9/11 attackers and mid- or low-level Saudi officials would undoubtedly be an important story.
But there is no possibility that the regime itself would have approved an attack on the United States. After all, the House of Saud has always effectively depended on Washington’s protection for their survival.
As the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, and while Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan appears to signal the end of the 9/11 wars, there are deeper and more profound questions to be asked about US-Saudi relations and what they tell us about US-Saudi relations. The so-called “war on terror”.
Let’s remember what we know about the origins of the threat from groups like Al Qaeda. There are two interrelated grievances that these groups feed on. The first is the proliferation of corrupt governments that lack popular legitimacy in the Muslim-majority (“near enemy”) world.
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The second is the support provided to those regimes by outside powers, as well as direct military interventions in the region carried out by those same powers (the “far enemy”).
In principle, such grievances may express themselves in a number of ways. In an earlier period, they were mostly mobilized by various forms of semi-socialist and anti-colonial nationalism. More recently, in the case of groups such as al-Qaeda, a moving ideology is one of religious fundamentalism, which accounts for both the extremism of its methods and its relatively limited appeal across diverse Muslim societies.
These groups are only able to emerge from the shadows in “failed states” and ungoverned places, where the suffering of the local population is so severe that they may be willing to acquiesce temporarily to their presence, in exchange for basic security and governance.
Al Saud is an example of the corruption of the ruling class
If the confluence of grievances, ideology, and material conditions is what produces groups like Al-Qaeda, then the US-Saudi alliance can only be considered a major driver of this form of terrorism.
The Al Saud family is the epitome of the region’s ruling class corruption, running the kingdom’s economy for decades as a family bank account, enabling greed and embezzlement on an epic scale.
The weapons and security guarantees Washington has provided represent a formidable obstacle to any Saudi seeking to take their country down a different path, and they have played an important, and perhaps decisive, role in keeping the regime in power.
Read also: Saudi involvement in the September 11 attacks.. America declassifies and publishes the first document on the attacks
Saudi Arabia has also established itself as the epicenter of a broader regional network of authoritarianism, sending troops to Bahrain and cash to Egypt to facilitate the crushing of the Arab Spring since 2011.
Once again, Washington is the ultimate sponsor and guarantor of this repressive regional order, through massive arms deals, training of the regime’s security forces, and a large-scale presence of its own forces and military hardware.
Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen
Meanwhile, direct and indirect Saudi interventions have exacerbated civil conflicts from Afghanistan to Syria to Yemen, helping to perpetuate those ungoverned spaces in which terrorist groups thrive. And in each of these cases, the United States provided vital assistance.
All the while, the Saudi religious establishment has made strenuous efforts to export its fundamentalist ideology as widely as possible across the region and beyond, with the full complicity of the royal family and acquiescence (at best) from the American protectors.
As Kim Ghattas documents in her latest book, The Black Wave, Saudi proselytizing has played a leading role in spreading the hateful chauvinistic worldview that characterizes al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
Why, if Washington’s priority is to defend the United States from terrorist attacks, has it involved itself in this toxic relationship with the House of Saud? Frankly, the answer is that defending the American public from terrorism is not a priority for Washington.
Instead, the main strategic objective is to project the military and political power of the United States into the leading oil and gas producing region of the planet. This position provides Washington with significant structural leverage over its main geopolitical rival, China. An additional benefit is the wealth extracted from regimes like Saudi Arabia in exchange for Washington’s protection, which comes in the form of huge investments in the US economy and the purchase of US government debt.
So US-Saudi relations expose the lie that the US government’s priority since 9/11 has been the safety and security of the American Prime Time Zone.
But they also expose another lie at the heart of the war on terror and the new Western imperialism of the twenty-first century.
And over the past 20 years, a simple contiguous duo has been introduced. On the other hand, “Western values” of freedom, democracy and even secular rationality. On the other hand, fundamentalist authoritarianism has consistently been portrayed as almost synonymous with Islam and the culture of the Muslim-majority world. The War on Terror has been promoted by many of its prominent protagonists as an existential confrontation between these two opposing forces.
US-Saudi relations reveal this narrative as a fiction. It is not just that the US government is comfortable with fundamentalist tyranny when exercised by its geopolitical allies. That is, this fundamentalist despotism is a well-established and essential part of Washington’s presence in the Muslim-majority world.
It is a preference and a choice with which the United States has consistently pursued its strategic interests for decades. Showing it as something strange and contradictory to the West is undoubtedly nonsense. In the absence of popular legitimacy, authoritarianism in the Muslim-majority world is often a joint project of local elites and the Western powers on which they depend for their survival.
Twenty years after 9/11, it is clear that the war on terror has been a disaster that cannot be mitigated. The estimated combined death toll in all theaters is about 900,000 Prime Time Zone, including more than 300,000 civilians, with a little significant reduction in the terrorist threat to show for it.
It’s been a long time since we wondered whether the things we told ourselves about the war on terror were true. The US-Saudi coalition would be an excellent place to start this re-examination.
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