Freedom Rider: ISIS—A US-Saudi chicken comes home to roost

Saudi Arabia is clearly of great importance to the government of the United States. President Obama not only cut short his India trip to visit with newly installed King Salman, but brought along a who’s who of administration officials and congressional leaders for the ride. Secretary of State John Kerry, former secretaries Condoleezza Rice and James Baker, Vice President Joseph Biden, Senator John McCain, Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and CIA director John Brennan were all part on the entourage. All that fire power was devoted to a visit which lasted for just a few hours. The show of force was not coincidental.

The reaction of the corporate media to the death of the late Saudi king Abdullah tells us everything we need to know about the United States/Saudi axis of evil. It is one thing for the president to call Abdullah his friend and for the secretary of state to claim that the absolute monarch was a “man of wisdom and vision” but it is another for the media to parrot the same words. The New York Times called Abdullah a “shrewd force” and a “cautious reformer.” He didn’t reform the policies of beheading and flogging his citizens or creating instability in other countries. Those facts don’t count when our government makes it clear that he was a partner in America’s imperial designs.

It is easy to tell who is and isn’t an American ally just by reading the newspaper. Hugo Chavez was elected president of Venezuela three times but the most positive description from his New York Times obituary referred to him as “a polarizing figure.” Unlike the Saudi royals, Chavez didn’t intervene in the affairs of other nations. In fact he used his nation’s oil wealth to aid neighboring countries. You wouldn’t know any of that from the media which get and obey marching orders that come straight from the White House.

Saudi Arabia gets the kid glove approach from the press because it works hand in hand with Washington. It is now more than thirty years since the Saudis joined the United States in backing jihadists in Afghanistan to drive out a left-wing government. The blowback resulted in past allies like Osama bin Laden attacking the United States on September 11, 2001. Similarly, ISIS wouldn’t exist without collusion between the West and the gulf monarchs. Now ISIS makes clear that it wants to rid the region of the same kingdoms that brought it into existence. ISIS is a United States/Saudi chicken that inconveniently came home to roost.

The Saudis backed jihadists in Libya to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi and in the process created an ongoing civil war and the destruction of a once prosperous country. They did the same in the as yet unsuccessful effort to dispatch Bashar al-Assad in Syria and now nine million people are refugees. They committed those crimes in full accord and cooperation with the United States.

Saudi Arabia is able to create so much damage because it has the world’s largest oil reserves and decides what everyone else on the planet will pay for energy. It may produce a lot of oil or a little and thus determines whether prices are low or high. Recent Saudi and American machinations have brought prices down very precipitously and caused considerable damage to other oil producers such as Venezuela, Iran and Russia. Because these governments demand their rights as sovereign states they have been declared enemies. The two bad actor nations are willing to forego temporary profits if they think they can rid themselves of troublesome countries that won’t obey their dictates.

The Saudis and the American government are locked in a loveless marriage of convenience. The Americans have military and economic dominance and want to keep it. That means working against the aspirations of any nation that refuses to toe the line. The Saudis are natural allies because they don’t want democracy in their own country or anywhere else in the region. They have become useful in providing support to the jihadists du jour who do their bidding for a brief time but eventually wind up being very ungrateful.

Sometimes the Saudis want what the United States can’t give. Obama failed in his attempt to directly attack Syria in 2013. He also knew that the tide had turned in Egypt and Hosni Mubarak had to go. The Saudi monarchs have been itching for an attack on Iran but that is biting off more than America can chew. The two countries need but are also wary of one another.

Of course the president came running with a huge retinue to pay homage to Salman. He doesn’t really have a choice. The desperate imperialist game will go nowhere without the House of Saud. In turn, the new monarch needs American muscle on his side to make Saudi Arabia an undisputed power with the ability to decide who lives and who dies.

Any head of state who gets a visit from the American president, vice president, and current and former secretaries of state is up to no good. If all of those criminals descend at once it means that evil acts are in the works. The old adage is true. There is no honor among thieves.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)

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