OPINION | No One Asks Why Saudi Arabia is an US ally

OPINION | No One Asks Why Saudi Arabia is an US ally

By C.J. Werleman


Any discussion in the US media as it relates to that nation’s respective relationships with both Saudi Arabia and Iran is an exercise in complete and utter dishonesty, and following the Arab state’s very recent execution of 47 alleged terrorists, including a prominent Shia cleric, the US media has gone into chicanery overdrive.

OPINION | No One Asks Why Saudi Arabia is a US ally

Image Attribute: President Barack Obama visited with King Salman bin Abdulaziz in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh / Source: CommonDreams

It matters not whether you toggle between CNN and Fox News; NBC and CBS; ABC and PBS. It matters not because one politician after another is able to state to one television journalist after another that Saudi Arabia remains a vitally ally to the United States – without a single journalist asking, in turn, “why?”

Why is this question, a simple question, so completely out of bounds? On CNN today alone, no less than four different spokespeople and/or surrogates for the Obama Administration stated the Kingdom remains a staunch US ally, and yet again – not one CNN journalist asked, “Why?”

Not only is this question never asked, never answered, but also US television audiences are subjected to pro-Saudi, anti-Iran narratives that betray both honesty and reality. This week The Intercept tracked how Saudi Arabia’s “well-funded public relations apparatus” clicked into gear to “shape how the news is covered in the United States” following the execution of Nimr al-Nimr – the Shia cleric.

Politico, The Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal each spun the mass executions to fit a pro-Saudi narrative, according to the journalists Zaid Jilani and Lee Hang – with each print media outlet presenting pro-Saudi analysts to paint either al-Nimr a violent radical or Iran as the chief protagonist.

Max Boot, a Marco Rubio 2016 foreign policy advisor, penned an opinion piece titled “[Saudi Arabia]: An American Ally of Necessity.” His piece essentially boiled down to the following sentence: “Distasteful as the Saudis are, the Iranian regime is far worse.”

Nowhere in Boot’s unapologetic pro-Saudi piece is an explanation of what’s in it for America, and let’s be frank– US foreign policy is hardly known for its commitment to altruistic benevolence.

Even when US politicians can bring themselves to mutter something about how Saudi Arabia serves to protect US “vital,” “strategic,” or “national” interests in the region, they never mention what those interests are. And again no US journalist is ever inclined to ask the obvious question, either.

So I’ll answer the never asked question for you: Saudi Arabia is a US ally because Saudi Arabia is essential for the US economy. Yes, you already knew this. Yes, there is nothing conspiratorial here. Yes, it’s s statement of the bleating obvious, so why can no US politician summon the intestinal fortitude to state this all too conspicuously, self-evident matter-of-fact, and why can no US journalist lead a single politician to state this on the record?

I can’t give you the answer to either question, but I can tell you exactly how beneficial Saudi Arabia is to the US economy. In short, it’s very good. Almost, existentially good, and it’s not just about the oil – although oil is a big part of it.

As the head of OPEC, Saudi Arabia controls 40% of the world’s oil supply. Saudi Arabia itself sits on 460 billion barrels of proven reserves. While the US has successfully moved away from OPEC oil dependency, with analysts predicting US oil independence will be achieved within the next two decades, it’s OPEC oil that keeps the world economy humming. China, the world’s second biggest economy, has now overtaken the US as the biggest importer of oil – with 46 percent of China’s 7.4 million barrels per day coming from the Middle East.

Given China is the US’ second largest trading partner, one can see how devastating a Saudi led 1970s “oil shock” would be not only to China, but also to the US and the entire global economy.

But as mentioned earlier, the Saudi-US alliance is not only based on keeping the oil spigot turned on, it’s also about keeping the US petrodollar system intact, which again is something you never hear mentioned anywhere in mainstream US media.

I will spare you the history lesson but the key headline here is that in 1973 a deal was struck between the US and Saudi Arabia to price oil in US dollars – thus creating permanent demand for the greenback.

How does global demand for US dollars help the US economy? It gives the US Treasury a “permission slip” to print more, says economist Jeremy Robinson – who also points out that the US really only has four ways of resolving its economic problems: Increase taxes, which is politically unpopular; cut spending, which is politically unpopular; borrow money via government bonds, or finally the preferred and politically convenient kick-the-can-down-the-road solution - print more money.

Global demand for the US dollar keeps inflation low, while allowing the US to “print” its way out of trouble. Faced with a more than $18 trillion national debt – one can see how calamitous an un-pegging of the US dollar to oil would be for the US economy.  Yes, think a Weimar Germany-esq hyper-inflationary environment. It also goes along way to explain how countries that have attempted to move away from the petrodollar – Iran, Venezuela, North Korea – have been labeled as enemies of the United States.

Beyond that, Saudi Arabia is the United States’ most valuable arms customer. Under the Obama administration alone, the Kingdom has procured more than $100 billion worth of US manufactured weapons, which is not only huge for the US trade balance, but that also translates to tens of thousands of high-paying jobs at corporations like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and co.

Beyond oil, dollars, and arms is the enormous amount on investment Saudi Arabia infuses into the US economy. More than 80,000 Saudi students paying exorbitant international tuition fees adds up, while some estimates have total Saudi investment holdings in the US up to $1 trillion.

These are the reasons why Saudi Arabia remains a US ally come hell or high water. Saudi Arabia could execute 10,000 political activists at the same time Iran swore to uphold an unblemished human rights record – and the US would still stand firmly by the monarchy. Same rule applies if let’s say, hypothetically, 15 out of 19 US airline hijackers, some time in the future, happen to be Saudi.


So ignore US politicians and pundits who say we side with Saudi Arabia because their export of terrorism is not as bad as Iranian sponsored terror, or that Iran’s human rights record is worse than Saudi Arabia’s. This is all gobbly-gook to distract you from the reality of the situation: the US would dump Saudi Arabia for Iran in a heartbeat if Iran offered the US a bigger, better deal, which coincidently – given the success of the Iranian nuclear deal – is exactly what Saudi Arabia is concerned about.

About The Author:

CJ Werleman is a journalist, political commentator, and author of 'The New Atheist Threat: the Dangerous Rise of Secular Extremists'.

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