US-Saudi Friendship: Hypocrisy at Its Best

US support of Saudi Arabia actively contradicts every aspect of the moral argument against Russia

Thu, May 14, 2015
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Can't look Putin in the eye, though. Go figure.
Can't look Putin in the eye, though. Go figure.

Hypocrisy — from the Greek hupokrisis, which, if you don't speak Greek for some weird reason, means 'acting of a theatrical part’ — is really the only appropriate word to describe the U.S. courting of Saudi Arabia. Not that I'm unique in my observation of this gaping hole in the well-constructed fabrication that is U.S. foreign policy, but it is a feature that is not emphasised enough. It could simply be termed double standards — but it's really plain, unbridled hypocrisy at its best.

"When it comes to the Saudi-American relationship, the White House should be called the 'White Tent." - said Mohammed Al-Khilewi, a Saudi diplomat who defected in 1994 to the United States. Indeed many have tried to suggest that the U.S. has been squirming in the oil-coated hands of the Saudis for years. But this has clearly been to the benefit of U.S. national interest. Here lies the hypocrisy: U.S. support of Saudi Arabia actively contradicts every aspect of the moral argument against Russia. The supposed lack of human rights, muffled press, intolerance of political opposition —  are all considerably worse in Saudi Arabia — even to the extent that four Royal Princesses continue to be held under house arrest for daring to speak out against human rights’ violations.

In 2013, the U.S. State Department listed the "worst" human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, which encompassed the following: "citizens’ lack of the right and legal means to change their government; pervasive restrictions on universal rights such as freedom of expression, including on the Internet, and freedom of assembly, association, movement, and religion; and a lack of equal rights for women, children, and noncitizen workers." In 2014, the World Economic Forum ranked it 130th place out of 142 countries in its annual report on equality between men and women.  And here's another statistic: 950 is how many floggings the atheist blogger Raif Badawi will receive by the Saudi government along with his 10 year prison sentence, handed out earlier this year. Let's view that in the context of the US State Department Foreign Policy Agenda goal: "to build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community".  Doesn't add up, does it?

Then there is the overlooking of the Saudi terrorist threat. Going back to 9/11, 15 out of the 19 hijackers were Saudi Arabian. But was Saudi Arabia targeted by the U.S. in its war on terror? Of course not. Business partners of that calibre are untouchable.  Even today it is well known that the Saudis prefer Sunni jihadism to democracy. Sir Richard Dearlove, a former head of MI6, revealed last year that the Saudis were probably complicit in the ISIS takeover of Northern Iraq, while fomenting Sunni-Shia rivalry across the region. Ironically, in its assault on the Middle East under the cover of ‘exceptionalism’, the US has made an ‘exception’ of Saudi Arabia.

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Russia, meanwhile, is brandished as the naughty boy in the international playground, violating the territorial integrity of its neighbours through acts of 'aggression' as reiterated by U.S. State Department officials. Meanwhile, the U.S. supports Saudi military intervention in Yemen, disregarding the country's sovereignty entirely. This dual foreign policy strategy towards Russia and Saudi Arabia is effective however as: i) exaggeration of the Russian threat allows the US to pursue a policy of containment of Russia in the form of NATO and EU expansionism in Eastern Europe and ii) it distracts global attention from the US' own aggressive policies in the Middle East and involvement in Ukraine. If Russia had launched a full-scale attack on the Maidan protestors to defend the Ukrainian government back in 2013 similar to the way the Saudis intervened in Yemen, it would have been met by more than sanctions. 

In fact, some have gone as far to suggest that the Saudi lowering of the oil price was not in order to compete with increased fracking production in the U.S. but was rather an intentional attack on the Russian economy. This tactic worked in the 1980s to harm the Soviet economy — as was outlined by Peter Schweizer in Reagan’s War — and it works today.  Economists corroborate this by citing low oil prices and not the Ukrainian conflict as the reason for the ruble crisis towards the end of last year.

Ostensibly with the shale oil boom in the U.S. and the driving force behind the U.S.-Saudi relations — black gold — becoming obsolete in the relationship, it was thought the two would grow further apart.  But experts suggest the Americans could be taking the long view. While Saudi Arabia, together with other OPEC members Kuwait and the UAE, has proved reserves of 460 billion barrels of oil, the U.S. on the other hand has only 10 billion, with the U.S. Energy Information Agency predicting that shale oil production will plateau in 2020. So fracking has not yet replaced dependence on Saudi oil.

And yet oil is not all. How else do the Saudis benefit? The answer lies with Russia’s partner in this global game of tennis doubles: Iran. Saudi Arabia is intent on containing Iran in the Middle East and relies on U.S. support for this. They are also wary of the Russian-Iranian relationship, which although capricious in the past is likely to remain positive in the near future in light of the deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations. Indeed, Saudi regional hegemony and defence against the ‘Iranian threat’ will always be contingent on U.S. support.

It seems the two countries will be partners in crime for some time to come. While the U.S. operates under the guise of democracy and freedom, the Saudis use the cover of Islamic faith. Ideology for both is a façade for imperialist aggression. The Saudis may be leading a ruthless dictatorship within their kingdom, but the U.S. is responsible for something far worse — a morally bankrupt autocracy on a global scale.


Johanna Ganyukova is a graduate from the University of Edinburgh in Russian Studies and is completing an Msc at the University of Glasgow in Russian, Central and Eastern European Studies. She is RI’s Russian Media Editor

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