When President Barack Obama asked Congress Aug. 31 to approve military intervention in Syria, it threw Saudi Arabia’s plans for a loop, hoping U.S. military intervention would rid the region of Shiite President Bashar al Assad. Backing numerous Wahabbi Sunni groups hoping to topple al-Assad, Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan expressed public displeasure about the U.S. cozying up to Iran. While former Iranian Presidnet Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did his utmost to find common ground with the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia rejects Iran’s Shiite government. “This shift away from the U.S. is a major one,” said Prince Bandar, miffed because the U.S. opted to allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to disarm al-Assad’s chemical weapons rather than start firing Cruise Missiles. For eight years, Ahmadinejad tried to exploit Saudi antipathy toward Israel to find common ground.
Lasting over three years, the U.N. estimates that over 100,000 Syrians have been massacred by al-Assad’s forces, mostly with conventional weapons. When an Aug. 21 chemical attack in East Damascus killed over a thousand Syrians, public pressure in the U.S. and abroad pushed Obama to military action. Obama had promised that chemical weapons would be a “red line,” a possible trigger for U.S. military intervention. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton backed a “no-fly-zone” in Syria since 2012. It’s ironic that Prince Bandar would back any type of military intervention in Muslim holy lands. Calling U.S. policy a “charade,” Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal ripped Obama for pulling the rug out from underneath Sunni rebels for opting not to intervene militarily, something strongly backed by U.S. public opinion.
Saudi’s ire seems disingenuous when you consider they finance the proxy war against al-Assad. When you consider that Palestinian’s 57-year-old Hamas leader in exile Khaled Meshaal, who was granted asylum in Damascus by al-Assad for over 10 years, has joined forces with the Saudi-backed Sunni fighters, it’s an undeniable quagmire. While strong voices like McCain backs U.S. military intervention in Syria, Obama decided to ask for House approval, knowing full-well it had a snowball’s chance of passing. Rejecting a two-year term on the U.N. Security Council, Prince Turki expressed displeasure over Obama’s decision giving Putin’s disarmament plan a chance. After ending the Iraq War Dec. 15, 2011 and scheduling an end to the 12-year end to the Aftghan War in 2014, Obama had no stomach for more war, especially joining Saudi’s proxy war against al-Assad.
Fortunately for Obama, the U.S. gets very little Saudi oil anymore. Unlike OPEC’s 1973 Oil Embargo, the U.S imports less that 5% of its petroleum from Saudi Arabia. Over 90% of U.S. oil comes from Canada and Mexico. In the not-to-distant- future the U.S. oil-shale or tar sands industry will make the U.S. totally independent of Mideast oil, making Saudi threats moot. Secretary of State John Kerry tried to mollify Saudi Arabia, insisting no deal has emerged with Iran. “I have great confidence that the United States and Saudi Arabia will continue to be the close and important friends and allies that we have been,” Kerry told reporters. When Obama sized up the situation in Syria, he realized that he’d be stepping into the middle of a Sunni-Shiite sectarian war. Instead of blaming the U.S. for not intervening in Syria, Saudi Arabia should put-up-or-shut-up when it comes to military action.
Criticizing the U.S. for not intervening in Syria, Saudi Arabia admits that they’re involved only in proxy wars. Backing the fight against Shiite Islam in Syria, Saudi Arabia has no intent of directly intervening in Syria’s civil war. Joining Saudi Arabia’s proxy war would play the U.S. for a fool, having spent trillions in Iraq and Afghanistan, losing over 5,000 soldiers. “We know their game. They’re trying to send a signal that we should all get involved militarily in Syria, and I think that would be a big mistake to be in the middle of the Syrian civil war,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). McCain wanted Obama to support 56-year-old Free Syrian Army’s Brig. Gen. Salim Idriss, without knowing the various Wahabbi factions, including al-Qaeda, seeking to topple al-Assad. Given budgetary constraints, U.S. public opinion overwhelmingly opposes Syrian military intervention.
In a strange twist of fate, Saudi Arabia finds itself backing 64-year-old Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling on Obama to show restraint before reconciling with Tehran. “We Saudis observed President Obama’s efforts in this regard. The road ahead is arduous,” said Prince Turki, referring for efforts to stop al-Assad from massacring Sunnis trying topple his Shiite government. “Whether [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani will succeed in steering Iran toward sensible policies is already contested in Iran. The forces of darkness in Qom and Tehran are well entrenched,” doubting that the new Iranian president can change Iran’s subversive foreign policy. While the Saudis hoped Obama would join its proxy war in Syria, the president put the ball back in the U.N.’s court, so far incapable of taking any collective action to stop the bloodshed.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in global and national news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.