Humint Events Online: Power Politics in the Middle East-- Interview with Vijay Prasad

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Power Politics in the Middle East-- Interview with Vijay Prasad

This in a fantastic interview on the "Unauthorized Disclosure" podcast with Vijay Prasad. It's very refreshing to hear about the Middle East and not hear any mention of terrorism. There's nothing about conspiracy either, but the discussions on the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US have very much to do with conspiracy and 9/11.

Some key excerpts-- first about Libya's destruction being like Iraq's and Hillary's role:

KHALEK: Let’s start with Libya. Because of the election, a lot of what is happening in the Middle East right now has sort of been put on the back burner, media-wise. But the U.S. just started bombing Libya again, and it’s basically a lawless hellhole that’s turned into this haven for extremists, for ISIS. A few years ago, the U.S. apparently liberated Libya. So, give us a rundown of what happened and—I thought Libya was free now. Why didn’t our bombs work? 
PRASHAD: If you go back to 2011, the United States was pushed by the French and the British to join a regime change operation in Libya based on the worry, at the time, that there would be enormous civilian casualties as a result of Moammar Gaddafi’s army moving on the city of Benghazi. As it turned out, and as some of us were saying at the time, evidence for the massive casualties was very weak. 
There was a reliance on the Saudi media, particularly on Al Arabiya, which was arguing at the time that tens of thousands of civilians had already been killed in the space of just a few weeks. Later, Human Rights Watch found that at most 350 civilians had been killed and the male-female ratio was skewed in such a way that it looked like mainly men had been killed. So, when you do a study of civilian casualties, when one generally finds civilian deaths, there is a basically a population balance of male-female. Because, if say an army is shelling houses, it’s as likely for women to die as men. 
When you look for instance at Israeli bombing in Gaza, the male-female ratio is almost close to the ratio of the population. But in Libya, in 2011, it was mainly men dying and not so many women, and the numbers were far below what the Saudi media had been broadcasting and what the Americans, French and the British started to talk about in the United Nations. So, under the pretext of violations of human rights, the French and the British particularly pushed the Americans. 
In the United States government, Hillary Clinton played a very important role. She essentially carried the baton of the French and the British and convinced the Obama administration to join this regime change operation. Under cover of a UN resolution, they went in saying that they were only going to protect civilians, but very quickly their bombing transformed itself into the destruction of the Libyan state. 
Once you destroy state institutions, once you empower various factions on the ground who are being supplied by mainly Gulf Arabs—This is a very important issue is that on the ground the Gulf Arabs, particularly the Qataris, the Emiratis, and the Saudis, were picking and choosing their preferred proxies on the ground, and given the character of the Qatari and Emirati disposition, their view of what is a good proxy, the people on the ground that were well-armed were largely extremist. So, NATO then became the air force for the extremists and allowed a regime change operation to essentially destroy the Libyan state. 
The destruction of Libya was not somehow rooted in the culture of Libya or in the history of Libya over the last fifty years. It was actually rooted in the nature of the regime change operation. Since 2011-2012, matters have become much graver in Libya. There is now virtually no rule of law. There are at least three governments in Libya—a Western-backed government that is in Bayda near Benghazi and Tobruk and there is a government, which is largely an Islamist government, sections of the Muslim Brotherhood, sections of fighters who have previously been with al Qaida in Afghanistan, including Mr. Belhadj, who had been delivered to the Libyans by the British. He’s a very popular man in Tripoli. So, there is a Tripoli government, there’s the Bayda-Tobruk government, and then there’s the ISIS government, which has rooted itself in the central Libyan city of Sirte. 
You have a country, which is oil-rich, which had pretty high social indicators, which indeed had a suffocating political atmosphere for the last several decades but nonetheless was not where we are now, which is a destroyed state, a malfunctioning social order, and where there are assassinations of decent people happening on a weekly basis. This is really the destruction of a country before our eyes by Britain, France, and the United States. 
KHALEK: Because there wasn’t an invasion, it did seem like a lighter version of the way that the Iraq War happened, where you had faulty intelligence that people were saying was faulty. That the idea of bombing was based on faulty intelligence that was being pushed by someone like Hillary Clinton and others. And they went in with no plan for afterwards, and they overthrew a regime and now ISIS has expanded. It just seems like a replaying of that, but for some reason, it just hasn’t received as much scorn. I’m not really sure why that is. 
When you look across the Middle East, what’s happening in Libya is recurring in other places. It just seems like that situation has replicated itself in other parts of the Middle East, where you have the Gulf Arab states funneling weapons to extremists and making sure that democratic revolutions can’t happen. And then, you have the U.S. and European forces allying with various rebel groups to topple governments but not explicitly. It seems like that’s what is happening in Syria in a way. 
PRASHAD: Let’s back for a minute to your earlier statement about Iraq, which is important. After the regime change operation in Iraq in 2003, there was dissatisfaction among the kind of European liberal intelligentsia, which worried that George W. Bush had destroyed the legitimacy of the West to intervene when the West wanted to. So, two years after George Bush’s invasion of Iraq, the UN Security Council—In total, the UN Secretariat moved an agenda called responsibility to protect or the R2P doctrine, which was then adopted the UN in 2005.

On the relationship with the US and Saudi Arabia:
GOSZTOLA: I’d like to ask you a question about what you’re talking about with the media failing in its ability to cover U.S. foreign policy, and specifically, to look at Saudi Arabia. I want to know your thoughts on how this country continues to hold such a great influence over the political class in the United States. Specifically, David Sirota and Andy Perez reported last year that the Clinton Foundation, that a number of its donors were able to obtain weapons deals through Hillary Clinton’s State Department. And so, we see the extreme influence that this country has over what is happening here in the United States, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on what this means for what we see happening in these Middle Eastern countries. 
PRASHAD: You see, there is a kind of suicidal death pact between the American elites and the Saudi elites, and this goes back to the 1970s. Some of it manifests itself on the surface as a mutually conjoined interest in engaging Iran. This goes back to the Carter Doctrine of 1979, where essentially the U.S. government pledges itself to protect the Saudi royal family. On the surface, it appears what unites them is something like Iran. On the surface, it also appears that this has to do with oil, but we know that the United States is actually not reliant on Saudi oil imports. 
It’s not the oil itself that’s important. It’s not Iran itself that’s important. It’s the massive amount of liquidity of wealth that the Saudis have in their pockets. Even now, when there’s a crisis in Saudi Arabia, they still have reserves of over 600 billion dollars. Their sovereign fund is still quite flush, even though their balance of payments struggles now because of low oil prices. So, what is underneath this surface phenomenon of Iran or oil exports? Well, at least two things. Both of them are reflected in the question you ask, but let’s do the first one. 
The first one is that Saudi Arabia has an enormous amount of wealth that it has to hold in some currency or the other, and what it has held that wealth in since the ’50s, but really since 1973, since the time when oil prices spiked and their profits went through the roof. Saudi hold their profits in dollars, and we call that the petrodollar market. That’s a market of dollars, which allows the United States Treasury Department to print money with abandon, without fear of inflation. Because so much of the dollars, of the liquidity produced in America flows out into the Euro dollar and the petrodollar market. So, you have this enormous service that Saudi Arabia provides to the dollar. 
And linked to that is that Saudi Arabia puts parts of its enormous amount of its profits in American banks, providing them again with a different kind of liquidity. In other words, on the one side, it provides the government with the opportunity to deficit finance without worries of inflation, without worries of having some kind of credit problem because they are able to print money. And linked to that is that the Saudis basically take their oil profits and put them in American banks. So, Saudi oil money liquifies the U.S. banks and the U.S. Treasury Department. This is an enormous service that the Saudis provide. 
Recently, last year, the Russians turned to the Chinese, and they said why don’t you buy oil from us. We are having a hard time selling to Europe because of the sanctions over the Ukraine. So, you buy oil from us and we’ll take payment not in dollars but in renminbi, in the Chinese currency. Angola, China’s second-largest supplier of oil, also accepts payments in renminbi. Saudi Arabia’s sales to China flattened because they cannot afford to take payment in renminbi. They are entirely linked into the dollar system, and it would be a great political betrayal for them to start denominating their oil sales to China in the renminbi. So, the first great service the Saudis is this financial service. 
The second major service is what you alluded to, what you mentioned, which is, of course, that Saudi Arabia is the great recycler of the arms industry. They put a lot of their profit into buying weapons from very important arms dealers in the United States, and as a recycler of arms, we know that the arms industry has a big role in Washington, DC. There’s a terrific film that will come out this year called “The Shadow World,” and it’s a film about the global arms industry. What you learn from this is, of course, countries like Saudi Arabia, which basically very rarely have any strategic gains they can make with their weapons. We see this in Yemen, where they have been bombing the country since March 26, but they’ve made no strategic gains at all. 
But they have an enormous arms industry, which essentially is a warehouse of the global arms dealers, who then recycle Saudi profits back into the 1% of the United States. So, these are the two reasons why there is a close, as I said a kind of suicide death pact between the elites of Saudi Arabia and the United States. It’s because they are reliant of the recycling of dollars and the recycling of dollars through arms purchases. It’s not entirely about Iran or entirely about oil sales.

There are very interesting points about Iran and Saudi history and recent conflicts. 


Blogger anonymous wak said...

gadaffi was eliminated because he kicked the IMF bastards out of his country and started to sell his oil for libyan currancy instead of dollars. that's exactly what saddam did in iraq to ensure his demise.
you don't mess with the dollar.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the article needs to be broken up into readable paragraphs

4:40 PM  

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