Regional reflections

8 Dec, '06

First, we had that Washington Post OpEd by Obaid, a security consultant for the Saudi government, in which he opined that:

In February 2003, a month before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, warned President Bush that he would be “solving one problem and creating five more” if he removed Saddam Hussein by force. Had Bush heeded his advice, Iraq would not now be on the brink of full-blown civil war and disintegration.

One hopes he won’t make the same mistake again by ignoring the counsel of Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki al-Faisal, who said in a speech last month that “since America came into Iraq uninvited, it should not leave Iraq uninvited.” If it does, one of the first consequences will be massive Saudi intervention to stop Iranian-backed Shiite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis.

Lovely. I suspect that with Obaid’s intricate knowledge of Saudi thinking, especially in their security aparatus, this piece reflects their thinking, and they – the Saudis – would be fools for not considering all eventualities that could affect this turbulent region of the world. I am dismayed however that their thinking is once again sectarian in nature, rather than diligently working on reducing tensions, bringing opposing forcing to discussion tables and the like. Adopting what Obaid has considered is to my own thinking very reactionary: “Let them first get out and then we are only going to go in or at least supply arms, funding and fighters to ensure the exclusive survival of our Sunni brothers.”

This is not statemanship, this is brinmenship.

Furious political denials ensued after the publication of that OpEd culminating in an expected dismissal of Nawaf Obaid.

That’s one. Follow the full story at the excellent (and very bookmarkable Crossroads Arabia.)

The other (again via Crossroads Arabia) is a huge bribery and corruption investigation by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) into the £40 billion Al-Yamama project initiated over 20 years ago between the two countries. So much so, that the Saudis are seriously considering canceling a new £10 billion pound Eurofighter deal because of the ensuing “embarrassment” of the continuing investigation!

A prominent Saudi businessman told The Times yesterday that it was a huge mistake for Britain to alienate the Royal Family, which controls all government contracts in a country flush with the proceeds of record oil prices.

“Saudi Arabia does not make commercial or defence decisions based on what shareholders or voters think,” he said. “It is run like a family business. If you upset members of the family, they will simply choose another supplier.”

Key figures in the Saudi Royal Family are understood to feel badly betrayed by the Government over public disclosures made during the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into alleged corruption. BAE is said to have established a slush fund, which it allegedly used to bribe senior Saudi officials to secure contracts.

They can sink all bribe-givers and takers for all I care. What stopped me is the second paragraph which I italicised, as that sounds very familiar, and it shouldn’t! Maybe that’s why we should fight tooth and nail for transparency and anti-corruption measures in our countries, because without them what are our countries other than huge piggy banks and jam jars wide open to exclusive sticky mitts? In fact I believe that in the continuing dwindling of our resources, transparency is the only real tool which can ensure an equal and fair distribution of opportunities.

But then, the very countries that we look to to base our fledgling democracies on are, well, disappointing to say the least:

MPs are preparing to send a delegation to Tony Blair demanding that he intervene to save the £10 billion Saudi arms deal threatened by a corruption inquiry.

Backbenchers whose constituents’ jobs rely on the contract to sell Eurofighter jets to Saudi Arabia say the prime minister must halt the two-year investigation.

They will warn Blair that 50,000 British jobs are at risk if the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) does not wrap up its investigation into allegations that BAE Systems, manufacturer of the Eurofighter in Britain, operated a slush fund into which it made payments for members of the Saudi royal family.

In addition to the backbenchers’ plan, Jack Straw, the Commons leader whose Blackburn constituents could lose jobs if the deal is cancelled, is understood to be privately urging Downing Street to take action…

So what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander. Fascinating. What about transparency, democracy, and all that? All disappear of course out of the window! It’s true what they say about politics, there is no right or wrong, just using any situation to keep the politician’s seat secure.

This is the proof that we should grow our version of democracy on our own but base that on accepted tenets of democracy rather than pre-packaged ones that Iraq has shown us just do not work.

And you know what? We are at an ideal position to do just that, with all the detracting factors, with all the transgressions which happened in our own elections over the last fortnight, even with the very sectarian make up of our current parliament, this is our chance to develop our own democracy, one that will work for us.

How? Let this parliament carry on as it is and I hope they will rise to the occasion of redressing the bad legislation of the previous parliament and take care of mundane business over the next four years. At the same time, create national committees, much like the ones which wrote the original constitution of 1973 and the other which created the National Charter, to create a new, cohesive and contractual constitution that will serve us for the next 100 years. How difficult could that be?

update: 20 Dec, ’06: The probe into the Yamama corruption has been called off. What a surprise.

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Comments (13)

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  1. B says:

    Obeid got sacked by the Saudis for writing that

  2. Bandargate says:

    to develop our own democracy

    Honestly, I usually don’t feel well hearing such expression. I understand what you mean, but princes and kings in our region understand it in a totally different way. “Our own democracy”, as they understand it, gives them more power and restricts freedom. It means a powerless parliament that has nothing to discuss except the viel, alcohols, bluthooth, and the likes.
    Moreover, we are not different than British, czechs, Indians, French, Americans, etc. We are part of the human race who are looking for the same basic needs. As everyone else in the whole universe, we look for a country with a system that protects our own rights and makes us feel equal and proud. The democracy that we long to is the same as any other modern democracy where equal opportunities and respect for human rights and freedom prevail.

  3. mahmood says:

    that’s why I emphasised: but base that on accepted tenets of democracy.

  4. Bandargate says:

    I really don’t know what the Americans are doing in Iraq! They simply cannot put one foot with democratic reforms and another one with totalitarian regimes. They cannot fight terrorism in one country while supporting regimes that produce terrorism. Everybody knows that Saudis are the ones that sponser terrorism in Iraq, so why the hell are they the closest allies to USA? Instead of supporting liberals and democratic reforms in the region, they support the back dated totalitarian regimes of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the likes. 9/11 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia and Americans are probably still wondering!

  5. can we talk says:

    “why the hell are they the closest allies to USA?”

    because the Saudis have been there to bail out the americans financially time after time after time. you don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

  6. Ibn says:

    “why the hell are they the closest allies to USA?”

    because the Saudis have been there to bail out the americans financially time after time after time. you don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

    Well said CWTN.

    I remember reading a piece once on the 70s “oil crisis” that took place. Did you know that the US was preparing plans to literally go into Saudi Arabia and militarily take “their” oil, as well as control of the fields that produced them, if the oil embargo ensued?

    Often Americans will deny that their country’s interests (in the mideast) revolve around oil. But so many times I have heard them slip over it.

    Just the other day, I got to class early, and students from the previous class were slowly leaving, when I overheard two students discuss US foreign policy in broad terms. They got onto the subject of oil, (you would have never guessed it eh? hehe), and one of them goes “…oh yeah, and because of US interests from our oil over there, blah blah blah..”

    Our oil?

    Its really quite humorous. Discuss it openly with them, and they will get very defensive, and go into denial. But catch them with their pants down, and the truth is right there for all to see.

    I seriously sometimes find myself wondering if this is all a candid camera episode on a century time scale. Just what is it about that region that makes foreginers think they have a right to lay claim over it? The Zionist Jews claim some areas above ground as their own, and the Americans claim some areas below ground as their own. Just what the hell happened? When did this grand auction take place? Are we that popular?

    🙄

  7. chan'ad says:

    On the topic of the Saudi-US oil connection, Robert Vitalis’s “America’s Kingdom” looks like an absolutely fascinating and new read on the situation:
    http://abuaardvark.typepad.com/qahwa_sada/2006/12/vitalis_america_1.html

    Can’t wait till I get my copy!

  8. Chap says:

    This is a well-informed post! I’ve been following Crossroads Arabia for a good while now, and am glad I have.

    Some of the commenters are discussing American foreign policy over the years. I’ve got a link that might explain part of it. It’s a twelve page pdf to an article in the journal Commentary by Jeane Kirkpatrick in 1979, when she was criticizing the Carter administration’s foreign policy. Kirkpatrick later became ambassador to the UN from the US and helped end the Cold War.

    The article isn’t entirely germane to the points raised, but it does indicate some of the logical problems Americans can have in foreign policy.

    Mahmood also mentioned the venality and greed of MPs in another country lobbying to stop a corruption investigation. This is one of the reasons I have the political opinions I do in my country; people, being people, will always eventually fail and at one time or another there will be ethically weak people and fools running the government. Therefore a government that is smaller and less powerful, and more controllable over the long term by the people that government is supposed to serve, is a good thing…

  9. Barry says:

    “Often Americans will deny that their country’s interests (in the mideast) revolve around oil. But so many times I have heard them slip over it.”

    Actually, the only Americans I know who do this are those who:

    – Are staunch, blind, and bull headed conservatives who think anything which affects business is a “Liberal consipracy”

    – Those who have a vested interest in the oil industry

    – Those who have a modern day “Manifest Destiny” ideal. Meaning they believe it is our “right” and “duty” to rule the world. Yes, I have heard people mention this. One went as far to say we should’ve taken all of Mexico, rather than the western states (California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas).

    Ask any American whose head is not jammed so far up their asses they can smell what they had for breakfast on their breath, and they will admit that yes, the entire reason we are in the middle east, and we meddle in the affairs there IS oil.

    You can bet that once the reservoirs dry up (and they will), interest will level out to null (I’m not necessarily talking peak oil here either). Once that happens, I’ll be sure to see oil rigs off of the coast here (because plenty of conservatives have backed drilling off the coast in the marine sanctuary here).

  10. HL&H says:

    “I remember reading a piece once on the 70s “oil crisis” that took place.” Ibn do you remember where you read it? I would love to read about it.

  11. Ibn says:

    HL&L,

    No prob – to be honest, I do not remember the exact article I read, although I do remember seeing a documentary regarding this very issue on the discovery channel as well.

    However, with that said, I have found a source for you on this particular topic, in order to get you started. Check this out:

    US contingency plan to invade Arab oil fields.

    Let me know if I can help in any other way.

    -Ibn

  12. Ibn says:

    Argh! I cant get the hang of link syntax! :blush:

    Sorry, again, heres the link:

    US contingency plans to invade Arab oil fields

    Enjoy.

    -Ibn

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