I speak fluent Arabic. I was the first professor of the Arabic Language and Middle East Studies at West Point where I was twice judged best classroom teacher and was offered permanent tenure which I declined not wishing to become a permanent school teacher rather than a soldier.
I have spent 40+ years working on or in the Middle East as an active duty US Army officer, diplomat, senior civilian DoD official responsible for intelligence on the Middle East, and South Asia and a business executive directly involved with places like Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia was created by the conquest of the Arabian Peninsula after 1900 by tribes loyal to an extreme form of Wahhabi fanatic Islam based on the Hanbali school of Sunni Islam as reinforced by the extremist medieval scholar Ibn Taimmiya. For him the only good non-Muslims were either slaves or corpses whose women had been taken as booty and distributed among the true Muslims.
The Saudi pseudo state remains largely motivated by the same ideas. There is no constitution but Sunni Hanbali religious law. There is no toleration of other than the official cult. There are Shia Muslims in the Eastern Province but they are in constant danger from the regime.
The Al-Saud family (thousands great and small) run the place as their private holding. Any talk of Saudi citizenship is a bad joke. In SA there are: the Family, their toadies and flunkies, the Wahhabi Ulema, foreign guest workers and tribal, rural Arabs some of them migratory and others small town people. This melange is held together by an effective police state that is restricted in power only by the royal prerogative.
Modernization? Hah! MBS has confessed to the brutal murder of Kashoggi. The native masses, to the extent that they exist, have been intensively and exclusively conditioned with Ibn Taimmiya’s views on the inherent enmity between the Faithful Wahhabi Sunni and the Kuffar (infidels, i.e. us). The number of Saudi subjects of the king who are not horrified and disgusted by the West is trivially small.
The US has maintained a relationship with this conglomeration since 1944 when FDR met aboard a US cruiser in the Gulf with the creator of The Kingdom. This symbiosis used to be justifiable on the basis of containment of the USSR and the oil of Arabia. Neither of those necessities exist any longer.
Donald Trump is driven by desire to sweeten the balance sheet of the US as well as a deluded belief in whatever it is that he thinks Israel stands for. Israel seeks to manipulate the medieval barbarism of Saudi Arabia to further its fantasy of regional hegemony. They should “wise up.”
The Saudi who killed three people at Pensacola is representative of the breed.
It is time for a basic re-appraisal of our relationships in the Middle East.
Originally published on Sic Semper Tyrannis. Republished by permission.