Why Don't Saudis Trust Democrats in Washington?

By Sultan S. Al-Qahtani

Saudis have an old complex called: the Democratic Party. This complex has evolved through the years until Riyadh has become concerned whenever a republican president leaves the White House. The Saudis really felt uneasy when Obama's administration refused Gulf intervention in Bahrain's recent crisis. They had considered it an alarming failure. 


The Saudi-American conflict about the Bahrain's demonstrations was a vexing matter for Saudis. Their concern was agitated by Hillary Clinton's statements regarding the Saudi - Gulf intervention in Bahrain's crisis. That returned Saudis' old complex of democratic presidents in Washington, D.C, the dull city which was named after the Military Commander of the American Revolutionary War, George Washington. 


During Bahrain's conditions, Clinton had said about the Gulf military intervention, "We have also made that very clear to our Gulf partners who are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council, four of whose members have sent troops to support the Bahraini government. They are on the wrong track."


The former U.S. Secretary of State's statements at that time which implicitly criticized the Saudi's position, describing it as "wrong track" had placed the relation between the allies on the brink. This was the reason that stimulated common diplomatic talks in order to reach joined aims for dealing with the situation in the Gulf. This is what happened after a lot of give and take.


A spokeswoman for the US Department of State told to me in a prior conversation that "The U.S. believes that the situation in Bahrain needs to be settled by the Bahraini people and government. We urge all parties to restrain from using violence and force, by all means, and to be involved in the required diplomatic dialogue to deal with the Bahraini people's wishes and injustices. "


She adds, "This is a call, we sent to other governments in the region as well. Relying on security measures in solving major political issues won't work. Also, it threatens to worsen the situation."


One of the secrets between Riyadh and Washington during the days of unrest in Bahrain's crisis is that the Royal Palace was extremely irritated by Clinton's statements which stimulated the old premonitions of democratic decision-makers. Thus, the King declared a high state of alarm, especially since the smoke of political fires has almost reached Riyadh's sky.


The state of alarm manifested in several movements. Some of which was holding Saudi National Security Council urgently for the first time since its establishment. All members attended and discussed the region's conditions thoroughly; particularly Bahrain, Yemen and other obscure and proclaimed files aiming at preserving Saudi Arabia stability and reviving diplomatic efforts that had subsided in the recent months. 


According to a politician who is conversant with the Kingdom's ruling affairs, after some intensive calls, Clinton changed her tone towards Bahrain's conditions and after Saudis had clearly stated to their counterparts that, "Bahrain is a red line. Washington mustn't force us to take positions that may upset it because this matter is concerned with our superior strategy, so this matter isn't negotiable at all".  


Washington wanted Riyadh to compel Manama to responds to the opposition's demands, increase political freedom in the small Kingdom which is considered a Sunni fortress against the Iranian influence in the region, and some other steps that would grant the Shiite sect a qualitative preeminence along with their superiority in numbers; since they constitute more than fifty percent of population ratio. 


Some democratic leaderships had suggested to the U.S. administration to congratulate the Saudi resolution to enter Bahrain. John Kerry, before he positioned at the Department of State, was among the first advocates. However, that did not extinguish the flames of conflict between the two countries.


Saudi Arabia is still discontented with the U.S. position, which it considers as something usual from the democrats. A veteran politician who is as old as France's Bordeaux wine, said to me, "After Franklin, we have only seen little good from them (the democrats)".


Saudis have historical experiences with the democrats that built a mountain of doubts and deepened a feeling of distrust of any democratic administration. In Harry Truman's term of office, his first decision was to recognize of Israel, although the Saudis had a covenant with the U.S. stating not to recognize the newborn Zionist country without a prior coordination with them.


 In addition, Kennedy also rushed to recognize toppling the Imamate regime in Yemen, even though the Saudis did not approve it as they saw that toppling the presidency would be a direct threat to their blockade monarchy. To go from bad to worse, he ameliorated his relations with Jamal Abdel Nasser who was trying to overthrow monarchy in Saudi Arabia.


As for his successor Lyndon Johnson, he formed a flagrant alliance with Israel just like what happened in the War of 1967. 


After Johnson, it was Carter's turn. His term of office was a complete failure. The American politics became extremely soft, which caused the overthrowing of Shah of Iran. It was just like the old vintage political Saudi saying, i.e. "a contemptible failure".


However, Clinton's term of office was distinguished in the first two years with clear cold relations between Riyadh and Washington if it had it not been for King Fahd who obviated the situation by conducting a business deal between the two countries which in turn contributed in soothing the atmosphere between the two.


The reason behind that coldness in Clinton's term of office could be the lack of chemistry between him and the famous Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. , Bandar bin Sultan, who refused receiving Clinton on several occasions; such as when he was a candidate for the Governor of Arkansas. Clinton had not forgotten about that, especially after he humiliatingly left the Saudi Embassy one time when Bandar refused seeing him. 


As described by the "Daily Telegraph"(the soft president), it's Obama's turn now to confuse allies before foes. He made Riyadh feel as if he could abandon it. Thus, Riyadh had to act quickly on the big stage; where the Saudi King sent two arrows from his quiver, the first was Bandar bin Sultan to China, Malaysia and Pakistan, and the second was Saud Al Faisal to Europe and Moscow.


According to this conversant politician who talked to me about the intensive Saudi activity during the last period was a signal to the Americans that "The Kingdom will be even more intransigent when it comes to the Arabian Gulf and that it has all the allies it needs".


Bandar had exerted a pivotal effort on the Saudis movements after two years of hiding in the shadow, which are considered lost years in his personal history. Perhaps researchers would write about those years' secrets that are similar to Shakespeare's last years in London which no one knows anything about.


Furthermore, Bandar the shark who knows when to sleep and when to wake up, his efforts were cast upon "Distortion and attempts of hindering Iran's special armaments deals", as said by a Saudi politician who refused to state his name. He indicated that there are other files which can be discussed, for example: an attempt of international mobilization to explain the Kingdom's stance on the region's conditions and particularly Bahrain. There are other files as well that are included in the ambit of "state secret", that cannot be spoken of.


These Saudi movements might have probably seemed strange to the allies in Washington, but not surprising. Especially since some parties in the U.S. administration support Riyadh's approach in its intransigent defense of Bahrain's security, then of course its internal security.  


Maybe, the image inside the U.S. is similar to that outside. Inasmuch an American diplomat had already told me that, "There is more than one America. There are evident divisions within the U.S. administration and a sense of weakness in the President's performance in many situations; the last one was the U.S. position towards Egypt and Libya."


He continued, "There is an opposite position on the President's, which is represented by the Congress and among the Democratic-Republican Party themselves, as well as the Pentagon, intelligence and oil beneficiaries."



It seems that the U.S. needs to review the region's files again in order to comprehend what is happening.

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