08:46 GMT +3 hours27 June 2016
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President Barack Obama, right, meets with King Salman of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office of the White House, on Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, in Washington

Why Americans Should Stop Fearing Being Held Hostage by Saudi Oil

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The United States should stop supporting Saudi Arabia's despotic oppression at home and war crimes abroad out of the fear that Riyadh might manipulate global oil prices and cause harm to the US economy, according to Independent Institute Center on Peace and Liberty Director Ivan Eland.

In Eland's timely article, which appeared shortly before Riyadh's latest mass execution, the author explained how, because the United States has a thirst for oil, and Saudi Arabia is one of the world's major oil producers, Washington is willing not only to overlook Riyadh's atrocious human rights record at home, but also its war crimes, and support for Islamist radicalism, abroad.

Focusing on the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen, which has led to thousands of civilians killed and international condemnation, the analyst noted that for its part, Washington not only provided the Saudi coalition with targeting intelligence, but also offered coalition aircraft refueling assistance, "thus extending the range of their bombing."

"Yemen," the analyst writes, "is a small, poor, and insignificant (from the perspective of US vital interests) country just south of Saudi Arabia. It doesn't even produce much oil; but of course Saudi Arabia does –and that's why the Saudis are getting so much US support, despite Saudi Arabia's despicable foreign and domestic policies."

With Washington initiating military campaigns to oust undemocratic regimes across the Middle East "and loudly criticiz[ing] Iran's bad human rights policies," Eland notes that when it comes to Saudi Arabia, the US instead "mutes its criticism of [the country's] atrocious human rights record, sweeps under the rug that the 9/11 attackers were mostly Saudi nationals, and ignores that Saudi Arabia is the biggest exporter of militant Sunni Islamism by its support for radical schools around the Islamic world."

"Why," the analyst asks, "does the world's only superpower tolerate a major ally supporting potential US enemies?"

The answer, Eland finds, lies with the close ties formed between the US and the Saudi dynasty during the Second World War, "when Saudi King Abdel Aziz bin Saud traded US access to Saudi oil for US protection of that oil."

And with the US economy perceived to have become dependent on cheap and readily accessible Saudi oil, many have begun to fear that the US cannot afford to criticize Riyadh, and must provide it with its backing. This entrenched belief, according to Eland, is absurd.

"Although Saudi Arabia is the anchor of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil cartel, the country does not have the control over the world's oil market that both policymakers and the public believe. OPEC, like most cartels, has failed to achieve long-term control over the price of its commodity."

Even the 1973 Arab oil embargo, which was initially believed to have brought the US to the brink of economic ruin, didn't really have as much of an impact on the US economy as the phenomenon of stagflation, "caused by poor US government economic policies," Eland explains.

Moreover, "if the oil embargo and production cutback were so successful, why haven't the Arab countries ever tried it again during the other wars in the Middle East?" 

The answer, the analyst notes, is that "similar to what brought about the fracking technology recently, higher oil prices in the 1970s just increased supplies – non-OPEC sources of energy were found and conservation practices became more prevalent. Finally, industrial economies are much more resilient to oil price hikes than is commonly perceived and have become even more so since the 1970s, because oil consumption accounts for a smaller percentage of developed nations' GDP."

With oil only serving as a "strategic" resource "when [it is] needed to power military forces in a war," and with the US producing "enough oil domestically to supply its military in a fairly large war several times over," it's high time, Eland suggests, for the US to wean itself of its embarrassing and dangerous alliance with the House of Saud.

"If the United States had a truly vital interest in holding its nose and supporting an autocracy like Saudi Arabia, that would be one thing. However, ignoring the despotic kingdom's oppression and likely international war crimes –in the erroneous belief that Saudi Arabia can successfully trump global market forces to manipulate long-run oil prices – is unnecessary, ethically questionable, and only increases the likelihood of blowback terrorism against the United States from the victims of Saudi aggression."

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Tags:
expert opinion, expert analysis, oil, energy independence, war crimes, OPEC, Yemen, United States, Saudi Arabia
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  • Dan
    The Author of this article seems to have missed the oil plot. The US is not much worried by the prospect of the Saudis manipulating oil price, they are more worried by the Saudis selling their oil with other currencies besides/instead of the US Dollar.
  • Jg38691
    Yes, much better for USA and Israel to support Iran who openly calls for their destruction. KSA is no ally of the US but they are beholding to US....not the other way around as the author suggests. In the meantime, KSA can keep Iran and Russia in check.
  • Mark Gewiss
    Adam Curtis' brilliant documentary "Bitter Lake" makes this clear:

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pn2z7zp1V0

    Very simply stated, post WWII, the US and UK cut a deal with the Saudis promising them ongoing military support, oil revenue, and free reign to propagate fundamentalist/apocalyptic Wahhabism worldwide.

    That's how we got to this point.
  • There is enough heavy crude in Venezuelas Orinoco to make BOTH saudi supply and Canadian tar sands redundant for the next 100 years. And a government change is most likely there now. And gas is increasingly becoming the new oil.
  • professor.hornblow
    Perhaps it is because the House of Saud through various entities buys up all the worthless treasury bills that come to auction rather too often. Sometimes it appears that Belgium is an avid buyer.
  • dvdgrg09
    The US sticks with Saudi not because Saudi has a lot of oil but because Saudi sells its oil for dollars, and spends the dollars on US goods, such as weapons. If Saudi ever stopped doing that they would be spitting sand out of their mouths. This is about US dollars and US hegemony by way of dollars, weapons sales and geostrategic positioning. (And I don't think anybody knows anything about stagflation.)
  • buckwheatisback
    I have news for you, America is waking up to the political corruption and the true evil that is the government of Saudi Arabia, also Qatar, the UAE and Kuwait. Saddam was the first to have had it up to his eye balls with these Wahhabi parasites back in 1991, to bad he stop at Kuwait, he could have rolled all the way to the Yeman boarder before anyone would have came to the stinking Saudi's rescue.
  • coolerheads
    There are well entrenched special interests in the U.S. that support Saudi Arabia, but as far as the general American population is concerned, Saudi Arabia is no better than Iran or Syria. They are a brutal regime that executes people for praying to the wrong god or questioning the king. They treat American tourists well, but if a Saudi national converts from Islam to Christianity, they are likely to face the death penalty. Why are my tax dollars supporting a regime like that?!
  • I am not sure why Obama wanted to touch him!? If I were there in that armchair I would be like a Chinese in Beijing with a mask on my face! And rubber gloves.
  • Ivan Zadorozhny
    Oil is only part of the story. The Saudies are the reflection of the US inner self, spearheading the Washington drive to bomb the Middle Easat back into the stone age.
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