And with the King's absence perhaps the most insidious relationship of the Bush presidency comes to an end. It is an occasion for all Americans to celebrate.
This administration and the Bush family's all too cozy relationship with the Saudis and their Royal Family goes back at the very least to 1986. That was the year when then Vice President George H. W. Bush traveled to Saudi Arabia to plead with King Fahd to restrain oil production and in effect to reactivate a then moribund OPEC in order to protect the profit margins of the American oil industry. The almost immediate effect was the near doubling of crude oil prices within the year to $18 a barrel, the resuscitation and the de facto recognition of the OPEC cartel as an American policy protectorate -- with a direct lineage reaching to today's mid sixty dollar a barrel prices (I know there are other reasons but they all pale by comparison to the machinations of the OPEC coven).
Then Gulf War I, fought in large measure to protect Saudi Arabia from Saddam Hussein's predatory ambitions, for which we got no thanks for our sacrifice in blood other than ever higher oil prices engineered by the Saudi state.
Since the ascendancy of George Bush it has become clear that no one individual in Washington has had as much influence on policy issues relating to Iraq and the Persian Gulf as the erstwhile Saudi Ambassador Price Bandar. He has probably spent more productive time at the White House than at the Saudi Embassy in Washington.
Since the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration, under Saudi tutelage, has expended America's good name, blood and billions in a disastrous and failed attempt to effect a stabilized Iraq with this administration forever focused on assuring a ranking position for the Sunni minority in an Iraqi coalition government. A policy objective assiduously supported and propagated by Saudi Arabia, their reigning Royal Family and their fellow Sunni subjects and imams.
The result has been this administration's incessant focus on Shia trespasses, with rarely a word of condemnation of the largely Sunni insurgency other than oblique references to Al Qaeda without reference to its Sunni roots. While properly condemning Iran and Syria for their bloody meddling rarely is there a word of condemnation of the Saudi monies pouring to Sunni insurgents through Saudi charities, the vilification of the Shias and Americans by imams in Saudi mosques inspiring thousands of Saudi volunteers for suicide missions inside Iraq and elsewhere.
While focusing on the Syrian/Iraqi border, never a condemnation of the porous 814 km Saudi/Iraqi border allowing transit to suicide bombers, monies and armaments for the Sunni insurgency. Never a word of condemnation of the billions being funneled by Saudi charities to radical schools and prayer halls and mosques worldwide spreading fundamentalist Wahabbi scripture that is in many ways the core essence of the vicious Sunni insurgency in Iraq and much disequilibrium around the world.
Never a condemnation of Saudi disinformation within and without OPEC rationalizing and propagandizing the ever greater push to higher oil prices. Never any condemnation of Saudi influence within the halls of our government where millions upon millions are spent on K Street lobbyists and Washington law firms, to protect and sponsor Saudi interests. Never any condemnation of Saudi interference with our internal process of law whereby according to Debra Burlingame in the New York Post we are informed that The Council On American Islamic Relations has received millions in funding from Saudi Arabia, enough to pay the lawyers in the "Flying Imams" lawsuit. To quote Burlingame, "That lawsuit is a dangerous threat aimed at a vital component of public transit security -- the public itself".
Never any condemnation but rather support of Saudi Arabia joining the World Trade Organization in spite of their continuing to constrain production of oil and colluding with others to manipulate the price of oil which flies in the face of W.T.O tenets; never any condemnation of the paucity of information of oil production capabilities and oil reserves on which so much of the world's economies are dependent; never any condemnation of Saudi school books used in Saudi schools, teaching that "Christians and Jews are the enemy of Islam, and that the Muslim must wage jihad in order to spread the faith in battle against the infidel", and on comparing Christians and Jews to apes and swine; only a whisper of condemnation of Saudi Arabia's relegating of women to second class citizenship; only a whisper of condemnation of the total lack of religious freedom extant in Saudi Arabia as reported by the Center for Religious Freedom's Nina Shea. Continuing on to the abject acquiescence by our government of permitting King Abdullah to summon our Vice President to Riyadh to give him a scold (see post "Dick Cheney and King Abdullah Take a Meeting", 12.23.06)
Seems like only yesterday that our president and King then Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia were thick as thieves. Remember the picture of the two of them strolling hand in hand at the president's Crawford, Texas, ranch two years ago? And how many times have we heard of the exceptionally close ties between the Family Bush and the House of Saud?
With the Democratic victory last fall, with the recent votes in the House and Senate setting a timetable for an exit from Iraq by American combat forces, the Saudis have come to realize that the proprietor of the Crawford Ranch is a ten gallon hat cowboy without any cattle. That the battle of Sunni ascendancy, or even balanced participation in Iraq is lost or will be lost as soon as the President's term is at end. That the United States is no longer prepared to make Iraq safe for Saudi Arabia at the cost of American lives and treasure while Saudi Arabia's wealth grows exponentially through undreamed of high oil prices (nearly 200% higher than the months before the Iraq invasion) and the continuing curtailment of what otherwise would be significant and competitive increases of Iraqi oil production had the onslaught of the Sunni insurgency not come to pass (see post "Iraq's Oil Productionat Post Invasion Lows. Cui Bono?" 4.02.06)
With the realization the bonds of brotherly love appear to be fraying, as evidenced by the news that Abdullah has backed out of a mid-April White House state dinner planned in his honor is but one manifestation. Bandar jetted to Washington, D.C., to explain things, but rumor has it that even he couldn't quell the queasy feeling in the pit of the administration's stomach. Good friend Abdullah seems to be distancing himself from his beleaguered buddy George Bush.
Having stepped out of the shadows to publicly intervene in the prickly problems confronting the Middle East, King Abdullah has apparently decided that Bush and his Secretary of State Condi Rice are more a hindrance than a help. What with a civil war raging between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, a shaky peace between the rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah, Iran's dangerous meddling in Iraq and Lebanon, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's obsession with developing nuclear power/read: bomb in the face of global condemnation, and the Arab League summit to revive a plan for peace with Israel, the king's has his hands full keeping a lid on the many crises in his part of the world. Certainly the administration hasn't had much success in dealing with any of these issues.
That Abdullah is going his own way should come as no surprise. The Saudis have looked to the United States, more specifically their relationship with the Bush family to continue the sacrifice of both American blood and treasure to assure an outcome in Iraq that would vest the Sunni minority with a position of influence or possibly even dominance in any new Iraqi government before America withdraws from the field. With the midterm election results, with the president's popularity ratings, with the American public's growing abhorrence to our Iraqi presence and finally with the vote of both the House of Representatives and the Senate mandating troop withdrawal from Iraq, one can assume the Saudis understood that the writing was on the wall. That America's patience with the Iraq expedition was at an end no matter what the outcome of President Bush's "Surge". That America's withdrawal was now inevitable after the expiration of President Bush's term of office and in turn the Shia ascendancy has become preordained. That President Bush's influence has crumpled and that the Saudis now view him as an empty suit. And with that realization it would become necessary for the Saudis to rebuild bridges to Iran's Shia government and Iraq's Shias if for no other reason but to prevent the entire region from going up in flames. Ergo King Abdullah's pronouncement that America's presence in Iraq was illegal, ergo the invitation to have President Ahmadinejad visit Saudi Arabia, while canceling King Abullah's visit to the White House. It is now clear that a relationship with Washington was an embarrassment given that the Bush family was no longer able to deliver a regional policy corresponding to the needs of the Saudis.
Given the blood and treasure sacrificed by this nation (to this day we spend some $100 million a day of taxpayer dollars on our Navy's task force patrolling the Saudi Coast standing ready to protect the Saudi's against aggressive action. In effect becoming their protectors of last resort), the missed opportunities to diversify our energy feeding frenzy away from oil over the years because of our drugged reliance on Saudi oil occasioned by our 'head in sand' relationship with the "friendly" Saudis.
That it should end this way is ironic. And we must therefore thank the Saudi's for facing Mecca and incanting "I Divorce Thee, I Divorce Thee, I Divorce Thee America". Much more efficient than our doing it through the trial bar and/or our divorce courts here.
Oh, one last thing. After canceling out on the President (he still is our President) the New York Times quoted a Saudi official in Riyadh with close ties to the Royal Family. He allowed that "we don't want the Americans to drop Iraq and leave; we would hold the Americans responsible for the damage if that happens". (see post "Saudi Realpolitik:Political Blackmail, Oil Price Extortion" 12.17.06)
Strange, no mention by the Saudis of those fifteen "martyrs" formed by Saudi Arabia's culture, of Saudi nationality, who were on those planes that slammed into the World Trade Center on Sept 11, 2001 and set off this horrific and miserable chain of events.
Let's all hope that the chant of "I Divorce Thee" was loud and clear and that at long last our 'heads you win, tails we lose' relations with the Saudis will have come to an end and that President Bush will have to get a real job after his Presidency rather than a Saudi sinecure.