An Unholy Alliance – The West and the House of Saud

In response to the recent Islamist attack on Westminster, Paul Nuttall suggested that now was the time to ban Saudi Arabia from funding British mosques. In my view, Mr Nuttall went not far enough but the very fact that a leading British politician was prepared to make the link between the activities of the Saudi government and the “cancer” of Islamic extremism was momentous. What is more, as with the infamous attack on the Twin Towers, there was a clear link to the attack in Westminster with the Saudi government being forced to confirm that Khalid Masood had visited the country on at least three occasions and I would personally be willing to bet that at least part of Masood’s ‘radicalisation’ took part in the Kingdom.   The links between the Saudi government and Islamist terror groups are undeniable – not even Hillary Clinton was daft enough to be in denial of the blindingly obvious – and what is more these links are historic, they go back to the foundations of the Saudi state as does the tawdry relationship with both the British and American governments. Saudi Arabia was formed in a tidelwave of blood and fanaticism the like of which, had he been responsible, may even give the Prophet Mohammed himself occasion to blush.

Humble Origins

In 1744 Muhammad ibn Saud, a tribal chief and ruler of Dir’aiyah (a village now on the outskirts of the current Saudi capital, Riyadh), allied himself with Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, a conservative religious thinker. Wahhab gave his name to Wahhabism, a strand of Islam that put a stress on the purity of religious practice, conservative social standards and the unity of one god. This alliance was to prove highly significant, although it did not fully fructify until nearly 200 years later. From their base in Dir’aiyah the Saudis (here meaning members of the Al-Saud tribe, not Saudi Arabians) expanded their influence steadily through the region. A clutch of cities fell under their domination. However, the area was under the sway of the Ottoman empire. A system of direct and indirect rule ensured its hegemony and it was not about to let it slip. Muhammad Ali, a governor of Cairo and Ottoman satrap, was instructed by his masters to put down the irksome Saudi insurgency. Eventually his son, Ibrahim Pasha, drove the Saudis back to Dir’aiyah, which in 1819 was razed to the ground. Though the Al-Sauds surfaced again in 1845 – ruling Riyadh until 1891, when it fell to the Al-Rashid family – they were eventually driven into exile in Kuwait. However, by the end of the 19th century the star of the Ottomans had waned. Britain successfully invaded Egypt in 1881 and France invaded Tunisia during the same year. Internally, the Caliphate was wracked by dissent and bureaucratic intrigue. Thus, by the time World War I broke out in 1914, the ‘sick man of Europe’ was already on its last legs. The eventual victory of France, the United States and Britain against the Triple Alliance sealed the Ottoman Empire’s fate. Its territory was part of the spoils of victory. The Middle East was divided into British and French protectorates. Meanwhile, the eventual founder of Saudi Arabia, Abdel Aziz Abdel Rahman Al-Saud (or Ibn Saud), had begun to claw back the land lost by the Al-Sauds. He recaptured Riyadh in 1902. In doing so he gave an early indication of his personal ruthlessness and the carnage that was to follow his ascension to power. He spiked the heads of his enemies on the city gates and burned over 1,000 people to death. Britain had signed a treaty with Faisal Al-Saud, Ibn’s grandfather, in 1865, and so it had had some contact with the Al- Sauds previously. Contact was established in 1904. Britain agreed to advance Ibn Saud small subsidies – these subsidies were used to expand and maintain colonies of Wahhabi fanatics, the Ikhwan, which would later form the backbone of Ibn Saud’s conquering army. Afforded a decisive advantage by Britain’s backing and able to make use of Ikhwan fanaticism, Ibn Saud was able to bring the whole of eastern Arabia under his control by 1917. By 1925 the Hijaz, an area that included Mecca, Medina and the most urbanised parts of Arabia, had succumbed to his armies. Mecca and Medina play a hugely significant part in the Islamic religion as does the Saudi government, many Muslims determine the start of Ramadan by the sighting of the new moon in Saudi Arabia.

Ironically though far from being a model of Islamic piety, the House of Saud is decadent beyond belief – stories abound of its leading members involved in a lifestyle so full of sex, drugs and maybe rock and roll that it would make your average pop star autobiography look distinctly small beer. However, you get the distinct impression that by no means all of the stories regarding the House of Saud get told in the Western media because it is a sad reality that although Al-Sauds may have begun their reign of terror heavily dependent on British support, the Saudi tail is now very much wagging the Western dog – how else can we reasonably explain the fact that no serious action has been taken in regard to the Saudi government despite the fact that all but one of the 9/11 attackers was of Saudi origin or the fact that Saudi Arabia currently occupies a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council despite the actions of the Saudi government in Yemen and a horrific record in regards to respecting human rights. The fact also remains that Western foreign policy interventions in the Middle East tend to invariably benefit the House of Saud perhaps most notably it’s ‘noble defence’ of Kuwait against the avaricious eye of Saddam Hussein which in reality was more to do with providing the House of Saud with a buffer zone between it and Iraq. Part of the explanation of this relationship undoubtedly is due to the vast sums of ‘black gold’ that Saudi Arabia has in its possession.

Oil

In terms of capacity Saudi Arabia has no equal among the Gulf states. There are 264 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (more than a quarter of the world total) with up to one trillion barrels of oil probably being ultimately recoverable (Energy Information Administration report, January 2002). Not only is it present in vast quantities, but it is also cheaply produced due to flat land and huge deposits at shallow depths. However, Saudi Arabia’s vast oil-producing potential was not recognised at first. The first oil concession was granted to a British company, Eastern General Syndicate, in 1923. Though Eastern General did confirm the existence of “some oil”, it sat on it. Britain itself was hardly in desperate need of a new source, possessing as it did access to ample supplies in Iraq, Iran and Bahrain; what is more, it was in decline as an imperial power. In contrast, America was in desperate need of a foreign supplier of oil and was in the ascendant. In 1933, Standard Oil, a Californian company, won the concession for the bargain price of $250,000. Having attained his dominant position by aligning himself with what was then the world’s foremost power, Ibn Saud was not slow to recognise the shift that had taken place in global politics post-World War II. Writing in the margins of an agreement to lease the Dhahran airbase to America, he urged his descendants “to maintain the friendship of our American brothers”. The “American brothers”, in the course of time, made Ibn Saud himself and his successors fabulously wealthy. Previously they had been reliant on British subsidies and revenue generated from Muslims making the Hajj pilgrimage. Now, the opportunity to make money existed on a truly mind-boggling scale. An unnamed prince, who allegedly gave away a new Cadillac when the petrol tank was empty and bought another with a full tank, is pretty mild example of the House of Saud’s profligacy. In return for cheap oil the military industrial complex of the US and Britain supply vast quantities of the latest sophisticated weaponry – battle tanks, surface-to-air missiles, fighter-bombers, ships, etc. British prime ministers – Labour and Tory, US presidents – Democrat and Republican – happily connive in this charade even Donald Trump has recently approved more arms sales to the Saudis.

Let’s be crystal clear. The Saudi government is demonstrably funding and providing the ideological ballast for the people who go out and kill British and American citizens indiscriminately – nothing exposes the rank hypocrisy of the establishment more than their relationship with the House of Saud. If we are serious about cutting this cancer out of our own society then we have to recognise that the Saudi government is literally a cancer in the body politic of the world. Cutting off Saudi funding for British mosques is just the beginning of the options we will have to consider but it is certainly a good start.

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