America’s Deja Vu with Saudi Arabia

“The refusal to utter or condemn by name radical Islamic terrorism only helps make the battle against Islamic terrorism impossible to win.—–If you cannot identify the problem, you cannot beat it.” [Steven Emerson, executive director of the well established Investigative Project on Terrorism].

On April, 1981, President Ronald Reagan, one of Israel’s few friends among US presidents, approved a deal with Saudi Arabia over the sale of AWACS. This despite stiff opposition. Then, as now in the case of Israel’s other presidential friend, Donald Trump, rationalization followed similar arguments.

In the wake of the overthrow of the Shah, no military power existed to restore security to the politically unstable but economically vital region. When Islamic militants seized the American Embassy in Teheran holding 53 Americans hostage on November 4, 1979 resulting in a crisis lasting 444 days ending only when Reagan was inaugurated on January 20, 1981 the Persian Gulf was in a state of chaos.

At the time, Saudi Arabia was pursuing the need for AWACS to acquire early detection of low flying enemy aircraft which might have been used by any of 3 hostile powers in or near the Gulf, Iraq, Iran or Soviet military forces in Afghanistan launching a surprise attack against the regional oil fields. Reagan was determined to secure security to the Persian Gulf by having the US effectively replacing the Shah as the guarantor of security. He felt that the only way he could attain the goal was to agree to the Saudi Arabian’s “demand” for the AWACS and hence to create a favorable coalition.

In addition thereto the US needed Saudi Arabia to support the American effort to achieve a comprehensive peace settlement in the Middle East. Reagan believed wrongly as have so many US leaders that the Israeli-Arab conflict was the primary source of political instability in the Middle East. Saudi support for the peace process was seen by Regan as critical to achieving the desired settlement.

Steven Emerson has established himself as the pre-eminent expert on terrorism. His experience extends to attendance in mosques including the one in which Obama addressed in the US which is associated with terrorism and Israel bashing. He commenced his investigator career working on the staff for the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee until 1982, and as an executive assistant to Democratic Senator Frank Church of Idaho.

Emerson is the author or co-author of 6 books on terrorism and national security. He left CNN in 1991 to work on a documentary, Terrorists Among Us – Jihad in America for PBS. In the documentary, he is seen standing in the front of the Twin Towers and warned:

“The survivors of the explosion at the World Trade center in 1993 are still suffering from the trauma, but as far as everyone else is concerned, all this was a spectacular news event that is over. Is it indeed over? The answer is apparently not. A network of Muslim extremists is committed to a Jihad against America. Their ultimate aim is to establish a Muslim empire.”

In 1985, in his first book, The American House of Saud: The Secret Petrodollar Connection on the influence of Saudi Arabia on US corporations, law firms, public relations outfits and educational institutions in their pursuit of large contracts with Saudi Arabia, he makes the case that US businesses became unofficial unregistered lobbyists for Saudi interests. This book is particularly useful in providing an insight as to possible consequences of Trump’s current foreign policy.

Steven Emerson explains his purpose in writing the book is to provide the American public with the facts about the Saudi Arabian influence in the US and with the dimensions of the secret petrodollar connection. Certain politicians actively focused on the so-called “Jewish lobby” while deliberately ignoring the build-up of support for certain Arab countries and the PLO. Notwithstanding this, during 1981, the proposed sale of AWACS to Saudi Arabia was not a foregone conclusion as a sizable cadre of Congressman felt that dangers lurked by allowing advanced military technology be placed in the hands of a country who was regarded as a potentially unstable regime.

Thus was born a lengthy report by the Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Studies, a prestigious neoconservative think tank, to allay the fears of Congress. Support for this group originated directly or indirectly from companies having profitable ties with the Middle East. Emerson states ironically, “Somehow, even after reading references to beheadings, stonings, severances of hands, lack of habeas corpus, inequality, and a strong emphasis on obtaining confessions, one still gets the impression [from the report] that Saudi Arabia is a bastion of democracy.”

Emerson makes many interesting observations. He notes that the American public failed to realize that in the Reagan’s 1981 decision to allow the sale of AWACS to Saudi Arabia [Chapter 10] or in many other incidents as revealed in his book – was the long but invisible arm of the Saudi government. He also asserts that contrary to common belief , American policy has often followed the dictates of Arab policy, yet Arab governments have been shielded.

Emerson sees as flawed the belief that American policy is blindly pro-Israel and anti Arab. “In the end”, writes Emerson, “a vast ripple of petrodollar influence has washed over American society as business and politics have become intertwined” resulting in surreptitious political manipulation, bigotry, and above all else, advancement of other nations secret political maneuvering.

In a COMMENTARY Sept.1, 1985 review of Emerson’s book by Samuel Mccracken, he specifically addresses the Saudi lobby. He notes that the Saudis are in the unique position of being both officially pro-American as well as anti-Israel. He draws attention to how the nature of Saudi influence in the US is strikingly different from that of Israeli influence. The Israel lobby is overt, while the Saudi lobby is covert. The former outwardly mobilizes Americans to exercise their franchise on behalf of America’s only democratic ally in the Middle East. On the other hand, “—the Saudi lobby is energized by international threat and by payment of vast sums to private individuals, corporations, and institutions.”

In observing that the two lobbies are admittedly identical in their ultimate focus: the survival of Israel, there is a difference, as stated by Mccracken. One supports Israel’s survival, while the other does not. “We know all about how the one operates; thanks to Steven Emerson, we may begin to understand the other.”

Emerson addresses anti-Israel activities undertaken by prominent Americans who were receiving Saudi or prepared to receive Saudi money. He questions the arrangements by which paid by agents surreptitiously promote the goals of a foreign government , while ostensibly attempting to promote American interests.

A number of former American ambassadors to the Arab countries were on the Saudi payroll. One of them, Andrew, I. Kilgore has stated publically that his company did not undertake public relations work for Saudi Arabia, when in fact, it did. A second former ambassador, John C. West was also publically active and James E. Akins, a 3rd former ambassador was given to such a strong pro-Arab stance that he frequently appears ” more Arab more so than the Arab officials states Steve Emerson.

The American House of Saud consists of 19 chapters and 443 pages. Obviously, it is only possible to scan this vast and important landscape. Chapters 10 and 11 is dedicated to the AWACS, Chapter 14 covers The Aramco Pipeline and Chapter 5, Dutton of Arabia

Early on, Saudi Arabia recognized the need for someone to be their “voice” in the US and with the assistance of oil company officials obtained the services of one Frederick G. Dutton a “most respected and best-connected individuals in the nation’s capital.”

Dutton attempted to portray the national debate over the AWACS as one that pitted the interests of Israel against those of the US. “if I had my way, I’d have bumper stickers plastered all over town that say ‘Reagan or Begin'” he said to the Washington Post.

In justifying the Arab oil embargo of October, 1993, Dutton laid blame on the Israeli “settlements” in the “occupied territories” and on Jewish immigration to Israel. He used these terms totally ignoring international law. During April, 1983, Dutton sent an 11 page letter to every member of Congress in which he asserted that aid to Israel should be significantly cut.

Chapter 14 of Emerson’s comprehensive book addresses The Aramco Pipeline. From this we learn that Frank Jungers, a former Aramco chairman explained that the oil companies funded pro-Arab groups because “it amounted to doing business in the Kingdom. Aramco had only one interest in mind – to retain the oil concession.” Undermining popular support for Israel, a foreign policy obsession of Saudi Arabia was, according to Jungers, considered legitimate and proper by Aramco. He was also given to proclaiming, “We saw the lack of evenhandedness as a business. We were not alone——virtually every business, everybody that ever did business in the ME saw this problem of American policy being so against the Arabs. We saw it as a possibility of damaging American business, American interests.”

A few quotes from Emerson’s book further captures the background of Israel’s struggle against the odds:

Andrew J.Killgore, former US Ambassador to Qatar: “There is one thing I do personally. I let no Zionist statement go unchallenged.”

Former Vice President Spiro Agnew: “I see no reason why nearly half of the foreign aid this nation has to give has to go to Israel, except for the influence of the Zionist lobby.”

Orrin Parker, President of Amideast: “Israel’s massive aggression has seriously harmed American interests in the ME and in the word generally.”

President Jimmy Carter: ” I have learned more than I have ever known as President about the suffering of the Palestinian people.” In talks with Saudi leaders, he said: “We discussed the adverse consequences of reductions in oil demand—–” This is how he refers to the Arab oil embargo of October 20, 1973!!!!

There are two strange omissions in Steven Emerson’s excellent and informative book. He only mentions the Oil Embargo of October 20, 1973 casually [Pages 38-40] and UN Resolution 3779 of November 10, 1975 not at all. The latter originated with an idea from the Soviet, but brought into existence by the Saudi funded PLO. This libel is a lesson about the role of anti-Semitism in international politics with its paralyzing effect on both the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

Steven Emerson’s Epilogue makes the point that never before in American history has any foreign economic power been as successful as Saudi Arabia in reaching and cultivating powerful supporters.

Today, he serves as the Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, one of the world’s largest storehouses of archival data and intelligence on Islamic and Middle Eastern terrorist groups. He has testified before and briefed Congress dozens of times on terrorist financing and operational networks of Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and the rest of the worldwide Islamic militant spectrum.

Typical of his IPT present day contributions:
[a] Analysis: Why the Muslim Brotherhood Declared US an Enemy State.
[b] As Attacks on Jews Rise in Europe, Anti-Semitism is the New Cool.
[c] Financial Desperation Leads ISIS to Sell its Own Coins Online.
[d] “Moderate” Palestinian Factions Praise Father’s Murder as an “Operation.”

About the Author
Alex Rose was born in South Africa in 1935 and lived there until departing for the US in 1977 where he spent 26 years. He is an engineering consultant. For 18 years he was employed by Westinghouse until age 60 whereupon he became self-employed. He was also formerly on the Executive of Americans for a Safe Israel and a founding member of CAMERA, New York (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America and today one of the largest media monitoring organizations concerned with accuracy and balanced reporting on Israel). In 2003 he and his wife made Aliyah to Israel and presently reside in Ashkelon.
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