Upon his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, Bush reaffirmed his "close personal relationship" with King Abdullah. Much of that close personal relationship culminated in the proposed sale of $20 billion dollars of advanced, highly sophisticated military equipment including bomb guidance kits with built in satellite and motion sensing navigation systems. For President Bush and his fawning subservience to the Saudis, this is fully in keeping with his "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" posture in a relationship that has been massively detrimental to our nation's well being. The arms sale will require Congressional approval and is now under discussion. Before authorizing the sale of some of our most sophisticated military hardware to a fair weather friend at best, if at all, to the nation from which the majority of the 9/11 perpetrators sprung, a number of questions should be asked and answered. Let me list a few:
• Has the Saudi Arabian Government stopped Saudi financing of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq through charity fronts and otherwise, and how will this interdiction be monitored?
• Has Saudi Arabia taken the needed steps to end the flow of Saudi nationals from entering Iraq, enlisting in the insurgency and becoming the largest group of foreign fighters engaged as suicide bombers?
• How will Saudi Arabia monitor its 814 kilometer border with Iraq and make it impenetrable to clandestine movement of equipment, men and funding in support of those interests intent on sabotaging the Iraqi government and presenting grave danger to coalition forces (please see post "Iraq's Oil Production at Post Invasion Lows. Cui Bono?," 4/02/06)?
• What steps will the Saudis take to eliminate the rhetoric of jihad, and hate directed at Western and American society, Christians, Hindus, Shiites and Jews from the state supported imams and religious centers in Saudi Arabia and the Saudi funded madrassas, mosques and religious centers around the world.
• A few weeks ago Saudi Arabia released 1,500 Al Qaeda operatives from detention within the kingdom. According to Saudi officialdom these individuals were counseled and seemingly purged of their "takfir" ideology which holds that there are separate rules that allows believers to kill, to lie to and steal from nonbelievers. As a condition of their release they were required to sign a statement promising only to refrain from jihad within the Arabian Peninsular. Does this mean they have it upon higher authority to attack cities within the United States and cities around the world, free to fly airplanes into buildings as long as they are outside of the Arabian Peninsular?
• What long overdue steps will the Saudis take to begin liberalizing their society starting at the very least by enfranchising and imparting civil rights to their women citizens? The sentence of 200 lashes as punishment for the "Qatif Girl" rape victim being an especially gory example of the perversity of Saudi justice, though her sentence was thankfully commuted by King Abdullah after worldwide condemnation.
• The United States and a fleet of vessels from other nations patrol the Arabian Gulf in essence riding shotgun for Saudi oil loadings and in actuality protecting both her ports and insuring her national integrity. Such patrols are both in the interest of the participating nations as it is in even greater measure to Saudi Arabia. The cost of this enterprise to our national treasury approaches $100 million dollars a day. Will Saudi Arabia understand that they have an obligation to share at least a major part of these costs being incurred, that permit their oil to have unencumbered access to the high seas, oil shipments from which they profit shamelessly.
• Early in 2007 with the price of oil hovering about $50/bbl, Saudi Arabia as the leader of OPEC, organized a production cut of 1.7 million barrels a day from OPEC's production quotas. Since then the price of oil has escalated by 100% touching $100/bbl just some two weeks ago. Such an increase in price is virtually unprecedented and is beginning to wreck havoc on world economies, especially the poorer nations. Obviously the 500,000 barrels production a day that were reinstated in November are a far cry from what is needed. Why, in spite of this dramatic price escalation has Saudi Arabia not mandated OPEC to reinstate, at the very least, the full 1.7 million barrels of production?
• Our Energy Department is confused. They know so little about Saudi Arabia's true production capabilities. Saudi Arabia had let it be known for many years that it holds 260 billion barrels of crude oil reserves. Yet in March of last year the head of reservoir management at Saudi Aramco, estimated the kingdom's reserves were almost three times greater, being closer to 716 billion barrels and possibly as great as a trillion (1,000,000,000,000) barrels. "Lack of transparency in oil markets and poor quality of information contribute to volatility and uncertainties," so the International Monetary Fund's truism seconded by the Group of Seven (G-7) urging producing countries to lift the veil of secrecy and share data on output and reserves -- Saudi Arabia has steadfastly refused to do so. Not an idle nor in the least unreasonable request given that so much of the world's economy, as its economic forward planning, is dependent on this data. Will Saudi Arabia recognize its responsibility and provide this data henceforward?
• In the summer of 2004, during the U.S. election campaign, the Saudis announced that they would be increasing oil production capacity to 11.3 million barrels a day, and if called upon to do so, could up production to 12 million bbls/day in short order. Have the Saudis ever met this pledge? They are now pumping barely 9.0 million bbls/day.
• In mid 2004 Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi, with oil prices reaching into the $30/bbl declared himself, one more time, to be in favor of the cartel's then broadcast $22-$28 target range. He went on to comment however that "the market desires a price of $35 because it's frightened of [the price rising to] $50." He went on to repeat his old saw that the Saudis too were "frightened" of that price because it might damage the world economy and propel the search for alternative energy sources. That was then and this is now with oil prices ranging into the $90-$100/bbl, a staggering increase of over 50% from the already high $49.90/bbl price just a year ago. This is an almost unprecedented move over such a constrained time period for a commodity of such major significance as oil. And this without an apparent trigger other than the restraint of production by OPEC, read Saudi Arabia, its putative head. The question then becomes when will the Saudis put enough oil on the market to bring it back, at very least, to the potentially destabilizing $50/bbl level feared by them not so very long ago
• A better indicator of the true quality of relationships between King Abdullah and President Bush, between the United States and Saudi Arabia became clearly manifest just today. OPEC which is beholden to and guided by Saudi Arabia as its most important producer and exporter by far, was asked by President Bush during his visit, and a few days thereafter by our Energy Secretary Sam Bodman (It's important there's an increase in supply") to make more oil available to the marketplace. With our economy 'barreling' into recession the greed of the Saudis and their front men in OPEC goes unabated. With the usual phony shibboleths, "the market is well supplied", "the market sets the price" (as if OPEC's Saudi led collusionary production cutbacks were an act of nature), Reuters was able to nail it just right yesterday, "OPEC Dismisses U.S. Calls For More Oil". With friends like these, ...! .
A suggestion. If the administration cannot get acceptable answers to these queries from the Saudis to satisfy Congress, they should then give the Saudis a copy of "Jane's Encyclopedia of Military Weapons" and politely suggest to them they should go shopping elsewhere. Congress might even use the occasion to take King Abdullah at his word, when he branded the U.S. presence in Iraq "an illegal foreign occupation" and exit Iraq altogether (please see post, "http://www.huffingtonpost.com/raymond-j-learsy/is-it-time-to-take-saudi-_b_52099.html," 6/14/07.
Given the immediacy of the issue I have permitted myself to stitch together an amalgam of previous postings, similar but updated, some going back many months. In that this matter is coming before our Congress in the immediate, the questions raised seem more pertinent than ever before.