US oil dependency clouds Middle East policy


WASHINGTON, October 17, 2014 — In the aftermath of Western exuberance over the Arab Spring, the United States has shown that the thirst for oil dominates is policy agenda. Washington’s need for petroleum from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar is blinding policy makers to human rights and democratic concerns across the Middle East.

American dream of freedom and democracy has motivated and attracted millions of immigrants to our country. Our policy toward democracy is bright and clear. As a result of the forefather’s enlightened thinking, we now enjoy the freedoms granted by the first amendment. As history witnesses so many people dedicated their lives, in order to spread the concept of democracy.

Some believe when the US sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold. Yet we are not willing to use such power to have better impact on the world. As much as we enjoy the idea of democracy, we are not showing interest toward delivering that to other countries. The lack of democracy in the Middle East costs many lives, yet still our political interest and our ally’s undemocratic benefits are more important.

Saudi Arabia is spending all their oil money to make sure democracy does not reach the people of the Middle East. Democracy in the countries such as Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia would allow their own citizens to have a role in the government and force kingdoms to share their wealth.

Saudi Arabia has gained influence since the Arab Spring, and its shadow is obvious in which leaders were deposed in the process.

Before we examine a couple of examples, we need to note that Libya and Syria used to be strong countries, both economically and militarily. Saudi Arabia, in order to gain the power and become a leader of Arab world needs to get rid of those countries which do not support the Saudi ideology of extremism and dictatorship and ignore Saudi leadership. The lack of dependency of the Syrian and Libyan nation was not acceptable to the Saudi leadership.

Saudi uses the United States oil dependency to put pressure on US leadership to push and / or support a change in leadership in the said nations by spreading propaganda of a threat to American national security.

For instance, the case of Libya, where international forces defeated Muammar Qaddafi. The United States participated in the overthrow of the Qaddafi regime despite an apparent about-face by Qaddafi in terms of his relations with the West.

Qaddafi, who was responsible for the bombing of an airliner and known for bellicose statements toward the West, shifted politically in an effort to gain greater international acceptance. On December 19, 2003, Libya dismantled its nuclear weapons program, voluntarily handing over all material, equipment and programs that could create weapons of mass destruction and long- range ballistic missiles.

Unfortunately, lack of planning and preparation for Qaddafi’s fall allowed massive instability in Libya and major arms shipments from Libya to terrorists. The deficiency in post-Qaddafi strategy lead to an increase the threat to American National security. The US was blinded by its oil dependency and intimidation by Saudi Arabia that it took an action which, in return, back-fired and put the nation in danger.

Another country we are still struggling to change is that of Bashar Al Assad, a Syrian leader whom everyone thinks is monster. At least that’s what the media tells us to think. But if we examine the history of Syria, we can see that Syria wasn’t as bad as the media and our allies portray.

Financially, during the Al-Asad family reign, Syria was very stable. Syria was the one who exported fruit and medical supply to neighboring countries. As a matter of fact, the Syrian medicines were one of the best in the Middle East. Syrians barely imported anything from outside.

The Syrians used to build, farm and produce many thing in their country. The best olive oil and fruit you could find in Arab countries came from Syria. Syria’s economic independence is unlike other Arabic countries who are importing A to Z from outside the country.

If we ask Syrians inside the country, everyone agrees that minorities such as Shia and Christians lived among others without a serious problem.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) claimed that the Al-Assad regime is killing innocent people. While there is no doubt about the Al-Assad violations, no one talks about the innocent people who were killed by the FSA and terrorist groups such as Al-Nusra Front. With respect to the aforementioned, we know that our relations with the Syrian government were not that bad until the Saudi recognition of Syria and Libya as a threat to their influence in Middle East.

The United States cares for the freedom of others and wants to bring democracy to the Middle East. This is our claim and we are doing everything to support that. However, Gaddafi and Al-Assad are nothing compared to the real dictators in Qatar, Bahrain and our best friends in Saudi Arabia. There are many Shia Muslims, Christians and other minorities in these countries under pressure. None of these countries respects the human being.

For instance, the Kingdom of Bahrain holds the largest prison for underage children. Many men and women are abused, tortured, raped and killed in Bahrain but we are silent. In Saudi Arabia, many minority members are imprisoned and we are silent again. In Qatar, members of different Islamic sects, such as Shia Muslims, are expelled from the country just because of their religion and we are silent.

We have turned our back to laws that violate the rights of citizens and hold them back from their true potential in such nations, all in attempt to safe-hold our international relationships. Saudi Arabia holds 16% of world’s oil reserves and is second largest petroleum exporter to the United States. So far, in 2014, the United States has imported more than 248,260 million barrels of oil from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

There are many more examples of how we are destroying our reputation in favor of certain Arab leaders. We have been shutting our eyes to our fundamental beliefs of individual rights in support of our allies. With Saudi Arabia being our second largest petroleum exporter of oil, we are feeling too week to stand up and deny Saudi domination in the Middle East.

We have turned our backs on our fundamental beliefs and basic concepts upon which this great nation was built, in a lame attempt to maintain the oil trade with the Saudi Kingdom.

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Mustafa Akhwand
Mustafa is a Human Rights activist and the founder of Shia Rights Watch. He has been awarded by Human Rights Education Associates for his work on Minority Rights. He is a programmer and developer who dedicated his professional and academic life to protecting minorities and writing about their oppression. Due to his work and background in the Middle East, he has gained a great deal of knowledge and experience in the region and in working to prevent extremism and violence against all minorities. As a Shia Muslim, his main concern is in the oppression of Shia Muslims with respect to the rights of minorities. Follow @MAkhwand
  • Christian Soto

    You seem to be stuck in the late nineties. American oil production is driving the global price of oil down, and the majority of our current imports are from Canada, actually twice as much from Canada as from the Saudi princes. I am enjoying my 2.65 per gallon, and it only looks to get cheaper as the Dakota’s pump out oil. I guess it’s time for you to find the real reason for the behavior you attribute to American oil thirst.