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Monday, 30 September 2019 00:01


Written by Femi Ogunkolati
Saudi US Special relationship oil and arms Saudi US Special relationship oil and arms

Oil prices have retreated back to the pre- strike levels as Aramco reports it has  restored full production capacity. Their  prompt actio has  made markets reluctant to demand much, if any, oil price risk premiums, as if we are to believe what we are told, the Saudi's have the ability to quickly recover from any production outage.

Crude oil prices gained traction after Pentagon announced that the United States will be deploying military equipment and support personnel to Saudi Arabia in response

to the drone and missile attacks aimed at  Saudi Arabian oil facilities earlier in September. In plain speak the US will now be manning Saudi air defense. It is a fudge of sorts as the man in the Whitehouse has one eye on re-election in 2020 and seems determine not to be drawn into any military scale action in the Middle East.

However given Saudi Arabia's ostentatious purchase of American military hardware, one might be justified in questioning quite why they need the US to defend the Kingdom. The Saudis have spent over $80 billion on arms bought from the UK and the US in the last couple of years and between 2014- 2018 were the largest global importer of arms. If these arms are not going to be used to protect the Kingdom then what is the point of buying them?

 The Saudi strategy seems clear, these multi billion dollar purchases firmly establish a symbiotic relationship which allows the Saudis to  leverage the US and  its western allies of  whom arms it buys  and who in return are prepared to overlook  Saudi’s human rights abuses, assassinations and other excesses  because there is too much money to be made. A foreign policy model which not only uses its vast oil wealth to buy silence, but  uses  its strategic position as the largest global oil exporter ( and swing supplier)to get its allies to defend it.

 The simple truth is that Saudis do not fight their own battles, they typically and historically hire mercenaries or employ proxies  from other poor countries and pay them well enough to keep them  fighting. The conflict in Yemen supposedly prosecuted by a Saudi led  “ Arab coalition” , is a clear illustration of this policy. The Saudi led coalition

 which  includes mercenary forces from Egypt, Jordan and Morocco, as well as Sudanese child soldiers do all the fighting. Then the substantitve question must be, is it an acceptable proposition for the Whitehouse to employ US lives to defend and support the  proselytization  of Saudi Arabian sectarianism? It is difficult  to exaggerate the  paranoia that exists in the minds of Sunni Arabs about the threat from Shia Islam and a Persian – Iran.

If a "locked and Loaded" US intervene to support a Sunni agenda the most likely outcome is a calamitous destabilisation of the region which is the least desirable outcome for the US.  All at a time when the fidelity of the 'special relationship' between Riyadh and Washington has lost much of its lustre. The US no longer rely on Saudi oil, accounting for less than 10% of total US imports. The Saudi Arabia led Operation Decisive Storm disasterous intervention in Yemen civil war supporting an ousted Sunni  government has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis. It has created a Sunni - Shiite proxy war which if care is not taken will engulf the whole region. But importantly it has created a vociferous lobby in Washington that vilifies the  tenor of the Washington-Riyadh relationship and is opposed to Saudi actions in Yemen.

 There are clear signs that the US-Saudi relationship forged in 1945 is coming to an end. Though the US have imposed additional sanctions on the Iranian Central Bank and deployed 200 odd more support troops, for what Pompeo, the Secretary of State classified as an act of war, the US response has been muted. Indeed there has been push back in Washington from 'progressive' actors that see the relationship with the Saudis as immoral and incompatible with US values. President Trump has even intimated that the US are now energy independent, the inference being the value of the Saudi relationship to the US has diminished. Whilst his observation might be slightly premature, the direction of travel is spot on.

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