The Best Foreign Policy Saudi Money Can Buy

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Let’s say that there are three Muslim countries in the Middle East, which, facing a domestic insurgency, use ruthless tactics to suppress it. Which one gets a pass?

The answer is easy. The Saudi ally gets the pass; the others get invaded. But “pass” is too mild a word, because after bombing Libya into submission, while preparing to do the same thing to Syria, the Obama administration has actually resumed arms sales to Bahrain. And the only real reason those arms sales were originally halted, was because of objections from Congress.

What’s the difference between Libya, Syria and Bahrain? Not all that much. All three had rulers widely hated by the people for being unrepresentative tyrants. All three responded to domestic protests with armed force. In Syria, there is a Sunni majority being ruled over by a Shiite splinter group minority, while in Bahrain, there is a Shiite majority being ruled over by a Sunni minority. Why pick one over the other? Because Saudi Arabia is the big brother of the Bahraini monarchy, and so a Sunni tyranny over a Shiite population is legitimized, while a Shiite tyranny over a Sunni population is delegitimized.

While the Obama administration is dancing around the edges of arming the Syrian rebels, it is also arming the Bahraini government. While the United States participates in the Friends of Syria group, whose goal is to overthrow the Syrian government and replace it with the Muslim Brotherhood, it has renewed security cooperation with Bahrain. While Syrian diplomats were being expelled from Washington, the Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa came to Washington and met with Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta—nearly every important foreign policy figure in the administration with the exception of Obama.

The optics of having Obama shake hands with a tyrant while handing out Medals of Freedom might have come off as a little tacky, even from an administration that jumps when the House of Saud tells it to, without asking how high. But while the Crown Prince may not have left with Obama’s fingerprints on his palm, he is leaving with Seahawk helicopters, AMRAAM missiles, F-16 parts, a frigate and an option on some armored personnel carriers, for the next time things get hot down in Manama.

What’s even more extraordinary is that the State Department’s press statement on the renewal of arms sales to Bahrain appeared to blame both protesters and Bahraini authorities for the violence, and even teetered on the brink of placing the weight of the blame on the protesters.

“We are concerned about excessive use of force and tear gas by police. At the same time, we are concerned by the almost daily use of violence by some protestors,” the statement reads. “We urge all sides to work together to end the violence and refrain from incitement of any kind, including attacks on peaceful protestors or on the Bahraini police.”

The statement could hardly have had more wriggle room or a softer condemnation of the regime, if it had actually been written by the Crown Prince or one of his flunkies. It is all the more startling to compare this to State Department bulletins on Libya and Syria, which lack any such moral ambiguity or strained refusal to take sides in the conflict between government and anti-government forces.

The deciding factor isn’t Bahrain’s reliability as a regional ally or base space. If that was the issue then Mubarak wouldn’t have been sold out to the Muslim Brotherhood and Yemen’s President Ali Saleh would have enjoyed the same backing as the Crown Prince of Bahrain. Not to mention lesser allies like Tunisia’s President Ben Ali, whom the Obama administration triumphantly jeered to the exit only to see him replaced by Islamist Al-Nahda terrorists. It’s not about how good an ally of America a given country is, but how good an ally of Saudi Arabia it is.

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  • Alvaro

    Forget about Syria. Invade Saudi-Arabia instead.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      It happened the other way around.

  • Frank

    I have visited Syria and am currently in Bahrain, you clearly have not! To compare the two countries shows your unprofessional and just have a personal vendetta against Saudi Arabia. A few here from the opposition say they see some effort from the prince, but not from the whole royal family. How about you do more research and less unbiased work. These attempts for the "15 minutes of fame" from reporters is just getting sickening.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      The point of comparison is the violent suppression of protests by military force, which both governments have done.

  • Liam

    I have to disagree with many of the things the Daniel have written in this article. The writer obviously has unresolved issues with the Saudi Monarchy, also noticed that he likes to throw big statement without fact checking.

    1st, you compared Bahrain to Syria and Libya? on what bases? the Bahrain protests that took place with a minority speaking on behalf of the majority without their consent and im not talking about sects. Protesters were violent from the beginning (Attacked and killed policemen and civilians, occupied the capital for a month and attacked university students)

    2nd, you said that in Bahrain the shia majority are revolting against the sunni minority. Now that’s a big statement, can you show us the sect statistics that you based this statement on? As far as I know and all bahrainis know, there has never been an official statistics that based on religious sect. There was one done by the United Nations but it can’t be counted because to was based on random sampling and did not include the entire population.

    3rd, you also stated that “Saudi tanks rolled to manama and that the “saudi” peninsula shield does the killing. You obviously lack the knowledge of all the facts about Bahrain’s events during 2011. The saudis did not just “roll” to manama and its not called the Saudi peninsula shield, it is called only peninsula shield and it represents all GCC countries not just saudi. These troops were only present to protect vital and strategically important infrastructures and they did not even have to leave their base camp, which was also stated in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiries report, so its a bit going too far with your statement when you’re saying that the peninsula shield killed people in Bahrain.

    I would appreciate if you fact check your articles before posting them in the future. They’re an insult to those who actually know the details of the events that took place in Bahrain.

    Sincerely, an expat living in Bahrain :)

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Repeating government talking points does not disprove the article and is not a "fact check".

      Both Bahrain and Syria are ruled by a religious minority over a religious majority, which staged violent protests. The Bahrain protesters are a lot less violent than the Syrian protesters. Each government has its motives for claiming the protesters are marginal and vice versa. Without a true democracy, it's impossible to tell.

      3. Peninsula Shield is Saudi dominated, like the GCC. I'm not even going to dignify the nonsense about the tanks protecting vital infrastructure. That's a government talking point was debunked long ago.

  • Salman Al-Tayib

    I think this is a time to focus on what's real and what's exaggerated. Poor innocent civilians died in both Syria and Libya from the usage of live ammunition, that's not the case in Bahrain. It's unfortunate there were deaths in Bahrain, something a bit over 30-35, (which includes police officers killed by violent protesters), however, you can't compare that to what happens in Syria. They have death tolls that reach the hundreds in a day and their total death toll almost if not reached a bit over 10,000. seeing that number, of course there is more focus and a need of retaliation to that one government. It's not double standards when they are not alike. That's something I urge many to realize.

    This is not an open and shut case. Some do demand the change of the government, but that does not mean each government is the same and every country should be treated with warfare. Saudi Arabia did not "invade" Bahrain, or participate in the "killings" that this article states. I also doubt the most powerful country in the world, the US, will just bow down and do anything Saudi Arabia says. Fictional conspiracy theories are fun to read in novels, not in articles.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Death tolls in these conflicts are an open question. The regime wants a small death toll. The opposition wants a large one. The truth is usually somewhere in between.

      Libya, Syria and Bahrain have all had wildly inflated death tolls and minimized death tolls.

  • Bamaguje

    Bahrain was given a pass because the US 5th fleet which polices the Persian Gulf is based there.
    Furthermore many of Bahrain's majority Shiites are sympathetic to Iran.
    A pro-Iranian Shiite dominated regime in Bahrain would have meant the end of American base in Bahrain, thereby jeopardising oil flow from the Middle east.

    As for Libya, Gaddafi was not a universally hated by his people as erroneously stated in the article.
    The so-called rebellion against his rule was a localized uprising by Al-Qaeda linked Islamists in Benghazi, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) which fought in Afghanistan and produced more Jihadists killing American troops in Iraq than any other Muslim country…So said a US military inteligence report:

    Libyan has known no peace since the misguided NATO intervention.
    The ruling NTC has no control over rampaging armed militias that have refused to disarm, battled against each other, and perpetrated heinous atrocities against Blacks and suspected Gaddafi supporters, causing Amnesty International to demand for investigation.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Gaddafi was widely hated, though the uprising was dominated by the so-called reformed LIFG, and are the likely long-term beneficiaries of it.

  • Snorbak

    I wouldnt be too worried about Saudi Arabia, their going to have enough on their plate soon enough contending with the Shia resurgence & the looming showdown with Iran. 1400 years of Shia humiliation at the hands of the Sunni is about to boil over. Why do you think they are increasing their military spending?

    • Daniel Greenfield

      That's one reason they're scrambling, but the Shiites aren't anywhere near the point of being able to outweigh the Sunni countries, especially if the Muslim Brotherhood takes Egypt and Syria.

      • Snorbak

        wow minus 5, I seemed to have touched a nerve.
        Note to self, ok to be critical of Islam, but Saudi is off limits.
        What a crock.

        • wctaqiyya

          Knee jerk liberals have their counterparts. Sad, but true. To them, anything even slightly off the reservation is verboten.

        • Beth

          I don't understand the thumbs down either Snorbak. (as for me….thumbs up)

  • alakhtal

    why have deleted my comment

    • wctaqiyya

      The automatic moderator tool they use on this site deletes anything that even resembles a 'bad' word. It happens to most of us from time to time.

  • KKKK

    why are we even invovlded in these islam-occuiped-territories? they are under the control of the Death CUlt and have been for 1400 years. we should support Israel in that region, not any islamofascist hellhole.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      See the article.

      Saudi foreign policy.

  • wctaqiyya

    Good article as usual Mr. Greenfield. I will immediately add that the Bush administration was equally mesmerized by the Saudi regime, along with every other previous administration. So much for that tired old saw about how the Jews control American foreign policy. That stuff aside, it is curious that America is invading everyone over there, but the Saudis. This is remarkable since they have most of the oil, an easily defeated military and a small population. They are widely despised, envied and resented. Plus, this salient fact for the anti-terrorists, all or most of the 9-11 attackers were Saudi nationals. And, Osama Bib Laden was a Saudi national and most of the money supporting jihad around the world comes from Saudi Arabia. America could conquer the Saudis quickly and nobody over there would miss them. Let me add that an occupation and/or destruction of Mecca and Medina might raise a few eyebrows and it might be better if we charged visitors a steep fee and restricted visiting hours. You know, like Obama is doing with our national recreation areas. It also might be a good idea to have a nuke on a short fuse placed under each holy site to keep the Muslims obedient. But I digress. So, I have to ask why the ever belligerent neo-cons, who never see a country they can't improve through invasion, passed on this obviously juicy target? It's also interesting that our esteemed peace prize winner, so busy with parties, vacations and golf, would tie himself to the same habit of, 'who do we invade next to advance Saudi policy?' As Mr. Greenfield asks, why is it American policy to do what the Saudis want? Let's follow the money.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Saudi control over US foreign policy goes back much further than most people realize too.

  • koran kid

    It's win win. This kind of rolling war keeps oil prices high, even in downturns, which is good news for the King of Kings. As for Barry, high oil price helps him justify the renewable energy agenda. And both sides get to air their revolutionary credentials, at a safe distance, and at a profit for their own coteries. A marriage made in heaven!

    • wctaqiyya

      Good comment kid. Lets not forget the lucrative market for fancy weapons, while we are at it.

  • AntiSharia

    Bahrain is an American ally, Libya wasn't and Syria isn't. Bahrain is where our gulf fleet is headquartered, and the country is caught between Iran(which backs the Shiite majority) trying to annex it, and Saudi Arabia(which is cozying up to the government) which is trying to bring it under its sphere of influence. We should do whatever is possible to guarantee the independence of Bahrain. If we don't we lose a key naval base and the country falls to Islamic fanatics, of either the Iranian or Saudi variety.

    • wctaqiyya

      With respect, none of those countries can really be called allies. And, they are already under the control of Islamic fanatics. Moreover, that navel base and all the other military bases in the ME should be closed and the troops sent home. If we drill, frack and mine our own huge energy resources, we don't need to bother with that region at all. Let the Muslims get back to doing what they like the most, killing each other.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      It's as much an ally as Saudi Arabia is. Which is to say it's a place to put troops for the protection of its rulers, while the rulers fund a Jihad against us.

  • marios

    What is difference for us Saudi Arabia or Syria or Iran… All of them islamic countries and when they in war with each other it is good for us. They have goal "World wide Chaliphate" or as they proclaimed "islam will dominate in the world." Islam is evil and any of Muslims country is evil as well. Hatred is 80% of Koran. The less we will involved in their conflicts the better. The best is stop any financial aid as well as any aid at all. As for Syria question is who are opposition to Asad? Al Kaida as many reported. Arab "spring" brought more radicalized regimes in comparison with pro-Western( if we can say so) dictators. During reign of our own Imperor Hussein situation in the ME is dramatically changed to the worse. His Cairo speech promissed those changes.

  • Silver Scumbag


    When do you believe the Jordanian Monarchy, Royal Family, King will have to flee to save themselves? Do you believe that this will happen? Why, Why not?

    And if it happens do you believe that this will be a positive or negative for Israel? Will the Israeli govt be able to exploit it?

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Jordan’s king is in a tricky position. Sooner or later the Brotherhood will likely have Jordan. For now he’s relying on Western backing and being generally overlooked.

      The fall of Jordan would be negative for Israel, unless Israel exploits the opportunity to end the Palestinian state farce.

      • Snorbak

        Actually, I believe that Jordan, along with the Sinai will end up being incorporated into Israeli territory, if the Muslim Brotherhood grab both Jordan & Egypt.
        Some idiot will sooner or later have another go at Israel & Israel will be forced to deal decisively with its enemies & grab land to increase its defensible borders.
        Long term i believe its a realistic scenario.

    • wctaqiyya

      Your questions are good. But the platform is insufficient for your needs. It would take considerable time and space to respond in a comprehensive manner. I will contribute these thoughts. Jordanians are literate. They are well educated. By any standards, the average Jordanian and the NCO and Officer corps are sophisticated. They use and understand advanced western technology, language skills and are curious and savvy about world politics. Jordan, even assuming a ME meltdown, will not just go away. They have institutional strength and well earned regional respect. Even with and in spite of the fact that 40% of their population are Arab 'refugees', Jordanians are neither helpless victims nor puppets. Israel understands and appreciates Jordan. The US used to have that same understanding. I agree with Daniel that a failed Jordan would be bad for Israel. But, I don't see Jordan going away. Too many other regional powers need them and their inherent strength is seriously underestimated. Jordanians are impressive far beyond what you might see on TV.

  • Mel M

    Another example where the Obama (and previous) US administrations have turned a blind eye to the egregiouos evils of a Saudi friend is in Sudan…another genocidal state which ruthlessly suppresses all opposition. The death toll of innocent civilians there is approaching that of Nazi Germany's holocaust. Yet because the junta in Khartoum was put in place by the Muslim Brotherhood, and because it is backed by Saudi Arabia, it survives with a wink and nod of approval from Hilary Clinton and Hussein Obama.

  • Truth aboutbahrain

    Irresponsible and uneducated to compare these three countries. This happens when people need to reduce issues to make it understandable. This is dangerous. Bahrain is not near these countries in current status. Syria is in civil war… Bahrain's government constantly implements reforms to respond to opposition requests. They want to listen, the others want to kill.

  • marios

    For Muslims point of view sure, Muslims countries are different. Indeed, Iran is shiite's, Saudi Arabia is sunnies, etc. But for non-Muslims all of those have the same goal to build World wide Chaliphate. So they are all our enemies and what the reason to help them for achieving that goal? If only Western civilization prefers suicide instead survival.

  • Edgar Davidson


    Looks like the Saudis got their people in early in the comments.