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Hichem Karoui: US policy drifting away
November 18, 2012
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

A fact sheet on the website of the US State Department (June 29, 2012) reminds the readers that the United States and Saudi Arabia “established full diplomatic relations in 1940. Saudi Arabia’s unique role in the Arab and Islamic worlds, its possession of the world’s largest reserves of oil, and its strategic location make its friendship important to the United States.”

So far, so good. However, one wonders what would happen to this relationship, since it is based only on oil interests, the day the United States would no longer need Saudi oil?

I raise the question and would like my readers to meditate with me on the following:

The World Energy Outlook (WEO 2012), just released, says that the global energy map is rapidly changing. Many people will be surprised to know that although the global demand on energy will continue to grow until 2035, “China, India and the Middle East accounting for 60% of the increase,” the United States is expected to release its economy from what George W. Bush has called “our addiction to oil.”

According to the WEO (2012), “by around 2020, the United States is projected to become the largest global oil producer (overtaking Saudi Arabia until the mid-2020s) and starts to see the impact of new fuel-efficiency in transport. The result is a continued fall in US oil imports, to the extent that North America becomes a net oil exporter around 2030 (...) The United States, which currently imports around 20% of its total energy needs, becomes all but self-sufficient in net terms — a dramatic reversal of the trend seen in most other energy-importing countries.”

If this projection is accurate — and I don’t see why it should not be — given the “recent rebound in US oil and gas production driven by upstream technologies that are unlocking light tight oil and shale gas resources,” not only the United States would free its economy from an enormous burden, but this would also understandably impact its global strategy, particularly in the Middle East.

Assumedly, so far the Americans have been refrained in some of their policies by their needs for Saudi oil, since Saudi Arabia is a partner, which they cannot afford to alienate, regarding its role of moderator inside Opec and in the Middle East. However, it is not a secret that at least, since September 11, there is an organised campaign targeting the US-Saudi alliance inside the United States. The leaders of the campaign are tightly connected to the neoconservatives and the Israeli lobby. An important literature of their production may already be witness of their methods and goals. When Prince Turki Al Faysal wrote, on January 23, 2009, an op-ed in The Financial Times of London, about decades to promote Arab-Israeli peace and recalling especially the Abdullah Plan of 2002, Daniel Pipes, the right-wing pundit, described him as follows: “Turki has a history of Islamist radicalism and hot-headedness vis-à-vis the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

Why?

Because the Saudi prince merely expressed an opinion that millions of Arabs surely share with him. He actually wrote, addressing Obama, “The Bush administration has left you [with] a disgusting legacy and a reckless position towards the massacres and bloodshed of innocents in Gaza. Enough is enough, today we are all Palestinians and we seek martyrdom for God and for Palestine, following those who died in Gaza.”

Comment of Pipes: “Sounds like the revolutionary Iranian regime, not the Saudi monarchy.”

Yet, the Palestinian problem is still there, though.

First, people thought that because president Obama was under electoral pressure, the right-wing Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly confirmed the worst fears of all those who wished Obama could fulfil his promises of the famous Cairo speech.

What happened is this: politically stranded at the corner, unable to get along with almost an Israeli “intifada” against him, a short time ago, Netanyahu is seeking a way out of the impasse, by either provoking the Palestinians in order to retaliate (scenario of Gaza war again), or pushing towards a confrontation in the Gulf with the Iranians over the nuclear issue. Thus, he expects the Israelis would rally him, because “he” represents the hardline against the “security threats.”

But today, what is the excuse?

President Obama has obtained a landslide victory in the elections. Theoretically, he does not need “anybody” now. The question was hitherto, would he disappoint millions of people in the Arab world, wishing a change in US stances, a better understanding of what occurred since the Arab Spring, and a clear and empathic view of the Palestinian plight?

The US official reaction is so far — alas! — lamentable. Siding with Netanyahu would be more understandable, if Romney won the election.

While the Arab states, Saudi Arabia included, condemned the Israeli brutality, the US State Department Deputy spokesperson Mark C. Toner, said on November 14, “There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organisations are employing against the people of Israel.”

No, of course, there is none. Not even the continual occupation. Not even the siege of Gaza and the starvation of millions of innocents.

Recently, the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, James Smith, told Asharq Al Awsat that American foreign policy would now change after President Barack Obama’s re-election. Ambassador Smith “stressed the desire of President Obama to resolve a number of foreign issues, most notably restoring negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian sides, responding more strongly to Iran, and working with allies to end the Syrian crisis, in addition to providing support for the new governments in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, and assisting the current Yemeni President,” Asharq Al Awsat reported.

However, anticipating any change that is not favourable to him, Netanyahu triggered the incidents that would give him the upper hand on the US foreign policy, “obliged” to appear servile to the Israelis. Is it not shameful to see the biggest and strongest nation in the world abase itself shamelessly and repeatedly to please the Zionist fundraisers and lobbyists, just a few days after the elections?

Here we go again. An American president, Nobel prised, newly re-elected, getting entangled in an endless process of re-shaping, re-organising and re-negotiating what has been already endlessly re-shaped, re-organised and re-negotiated...in vain!

Siding with Netanyahu who needs a war for his own interest?! To get him re-elected? This is appalling. Did the Democratic White House decide to give the Neocons a political victory after they lose the election?

As I write down these lines, the Arab League is calling for an extraordinary meeting of the Arab foreign affairs ministers. There is still a hope. Saudi Arabia, which is all the same an influential leader in the Arab world, and we hope has still a voice in Washington, needs to take the initiative now to stop the escalation. The peace process is long dead anyway, and with Netanyahu in power, naïve are those who still dream of peace.

The Obama administration should also understand that the Arab world has profoundly changed, since the speech of Cairo. We live the time of the Arab Spring. The Arab opinion will not be muted.

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The author is an expert in US-Middle East
relations at the Arab Center for Research
and Policy Studies (Doha Institute)
 

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