CHARLOTTE, N.C., July 11, 2017 — Someone once said that the best way to understand Saudi Arabia is to think of the country as a juggler using three balls. No matter how you negotiate with them, the Saudis will concede as many as two at any one time, but they will never give away the third.
Saudi Arabia is an enigma that is misunderstood by most Americans. Thanks to a biased and, oftentimes uninformed media, the impression of the Saudis is that they are an Islamic American ally in the Middle East.
Forget the fact that most of the instigators of 9/11/01 were Saudi. Ignore the fact that Mecca is the birthplace of Islam. Don’t even consider the idea that Wahhabism, the extremist ideology adhered to by the most brutal Islamic jihadists in the world today, was established in Saudi Arabia as a means of following the words and deeds of the prophet Muhammad.
Much as Yassar Arafat (the Nobel Peace Prize winner) used to do, the Saudis, more often than not, say one thing to the media and do something completely different in private. Were it not for the abundance of oil and Mecca, Saudis would likely be on the lowest rung of the Arabic totem pole in terms of respect in the Middle East. Even the Palestinians would rank higher.
What the West has in dealing with Saudi Arabia is the ultimate Middle Eastern “frenemy.”
At any given time, the Muslim world that is led largely by Arabic thinking is in a constant state of flux. Chaos is merely a relative term that determines the level to which Islamists are fighting on a particular day or week.
The Middle East is a labyrinth of alliances, treaties, truces, and agreements all held together by worthless handshakes and disappearing ink. The region is so complex that it is virtually impossible to know who supports who at any point in time.
All of which means that trusting the most paranoid and lazy society in the Arab world is tantamount to sticking a finger into the mouth of a rattlesnake.
When the Saudis turned their back on Osama bin Laden who offered them protection following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, they chose an alliance with the United States rather than their native son. For bin
For bin Laden it was the ultimate snub. Not long after, 9/11 became a day that changed the earth’s orbit.
The Saudis continue to juggle with self-preservation as the ultimate goal. The situation has become so tenuous that it has not only driven Saudi Arabia closer to relying on the US but even more astonishing, with Israel.
The Saudi throne is now designated to pass to Prince Muhammad bin Salman who is said to be a “reformer.” Given the current plight of the Saudis in the Middle East, the question arises, if bin Salman really cares about reform, will he make adjustments to the economy and give women more freedom.
Sounds simple, except there is still the Wahhabi factor that has been such a useful tool since the country was unified. If bin Salman makes the first reforms, he concedes losing Wahhabism and that’s a major point of contention.
Two balls being juggled but only one of them can land.
Saudi Arabia does not like it when they get squeezed about their funding of global terrorism; mosques, literature, charities and religious organizations are all part of the program.
Considering that oil has only been a player in the Middle East since the late 1930s, it has been less than a century since Saudi Arabia has been able to manipulate global markets by using the threat of their liquid gold mines as leverage.
If you watched a movie depicting historical events in the 30s, 40s, and 50s they were about Germany and Hitler. Certainly, they did not focus on the desert societies that have become so prominent today.
This is a new problem, and it’s one the West still does not understand. We continue to fight our enemies just as we did in Hitler’s time rather than adapt to the cultural anomalies of the Arab world and fight them using their own tactics.
The Saudis are the chameleons of the Arab world. They change colors and shapes as necessary. Make a deal with a Saudi in the morning and, if he gets a better one in the afternoon, the morning deal never existed.
In the early 1920s, with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Saudis threw their support to the group because of its goals to control the West.
As time passed, and the Kingdom found that other extremists were changing courses and turning on them, the Saudis removed their support of the Brotherhood and now claims to be fighting the likes of ISIS and al-Qaeda.
All the balls are back in the air again.
As Melanie Phillips puts it in the “Jerusalem Post”
“Iran presents the world’s principal terrorist threat. To fight it, the West needs Saudi support. Saudi Arabia, however, is itself a menace to the West. Yet it badly needs the West’s support. So now is the time to rein it in.”
There are strange alliances brewing in these perilous times. Saudi Arabia continues to juggle, but they are vulnerable. The time has come for the West to realize that we are in a good position to put the squeeze on a society that has been playing both ends against the middle for centuries.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)