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Parry writes: "The transformational Israeli-Saudi alliance is dragging the American people into a sectarian religious war that dates back 1,300 years."

Prince Bandar bin Sultan meeting with President George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas. (photo: White House)
Prince Bandar bin Sultan meeting with President George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas. (photo: White House)

The Transformational Israeli-Saudi Alliance

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

31 March 15


The tangle of conflicts in the Middle East is confusing to many Americans who lack some key facts, such as the transformational Israeli-Saudi alliance that is dragging the American people into a sectarian religious war dating back 1,300 years, as Robert Parry explains.

ew Americans seem to comprehend what is unfolding in the Middle East – with the latest conflict involving Saudi airstrikes against the Houthi rebels who now control Yemen’s capital of Sanaa. In this swirl of regional wars, it’s often not clear where the U.S. government stands and how American interests are affected.

The reason for the confusion is simple: Many key pundits who get to explain what’s going on from the op-ed pages of the major U.S. newspapers and from the TV talk shows prefer that the American people don’t fully grasp what’s happening. Otherwise, the people might realize the dangers ahead and demand substantial changes in U.S. government policies.

But a few basic points can help decipher the confusion: Perhaps the most important is that – although it’s rarely acknowledged in the mainstream U.S. media – Israel is now allied with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Persian Gulf states, which are, in turn, supporting Sunni militants in Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly, this Israel-Saudi bloc sustains Al-Qaeda and, to a somewhat lesser degree, the Islamic State.

The U.S. news media is loath to note these strange Israeli bedfellows, but there’s a twisted logic to the Israeli-Saudi connection. Both Israel and the Saudi bloc have identified Shiite-ruled Iran as their chief regional adversary and thus are supporting proxy wars against perceived Iranian allies in Syria and now Yemen. The Syrian government and the Houthi rebels in Yemen are led by adherents to offshoots of Shiite Islam, so they are the “enemy.”

The schism between Sunni and Shiite Islam dates back to 632, to the secession struggle after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. The dispute led to the Battle of Karbala where Hussein ibn Ali was captured and beheaded in 680, an event that gave rise to Shiite Islam as a rival to Sunni Islam, which today has both moderate and extremist forms with Saudi Arabia sponsoring the ultra-fundamentalist Wahhabism.

The extremist Wahhabism has inspired some of the most radical Sunni movements, including Al-Qaeda and now the Islamic State, along with their practice of suicide attacks as a form of martyrdom that has become a staple of these groups’ anti-Western jihad.

In other words, what has most outraged Americans has been the behavior of these Sunni extremists, from Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks to the Islamic State’s beheading of helpless hostages and religious minorities in Syria and elsewhere. And, the principal backer of this Sunni extremism has been Saudi Arabia where wealthy prince-playboys buy leniency for their licentious behavior from the religious ulema (or leaders) by financing the extreme Wahhabi teachings. [See’s “The Secret Saudi Ties to Terrorism.”]

Confusing the American People

The West has had grievances with elements of the Shiite world, too, such as the seizure of U.S. Embassy hostages in Iran in 1979 and excessive violence by the Syrian military against opposition forces in 2011. But the most intense American anger has been provoked by the actions of Sunni fundamentalists involving mass murder of innocents.

Yet, over the years, the U.S. government has exploited the general lack of knowledge among Americans about the intricacies of Middle East religions and politics by funneling the anger against one group to rationalize actions against another.

For instance, in 2003, as revenge for the 9/11 slaughter of 3,000 Americans – carried out primarily by Saudi extremists under the leadership of Saudi Osama bin Laden – President George W. Bush shielded the Saudis from blame and ordered the invasion of Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, a secular Sunni dictator who was a fierce opponent of Al-Qaeda and other religious fanatics.

Ironically, that war put Shiites in power in Baghdad, turned Iraq’s Sunnis into a persecuted minority, and created fertile ground for a particularly virulent strain of Al-Qaeda to take root under the leadership of Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. That group became “Al-Qaeda in Iraq,” later morphing into “the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” and finally into “the Islamic State,” with its own twisted branches reaching out across the Middle East and Africa to justify more provocative slaughter of Westerners and “non-believers.”

While on the surface, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Persian Gulf states repudiate this violent extremism, some of their oil-rich princes and intelligence services have provided covert support to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State to advance the cause of breaking the “Shiite crescent” – from Tehran through Baghdad and Damascus to Beirut.

In seeking to smash this “Shiite crescent,” these Sunni-ruled states have been joined by Israel, which has taken the position that Iran and its Shiite allies are more dangerous than the Sunni extremists, thus transforming Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State into the “lesser evils.”

This was the subtext of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress on March 3 – that the U.S. government should shift its focus from fighting Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State to fighting Iran.

One of the hit lines of Netanyahu’s speech was when he told a cheering Congress that the United States should not collaborate with Iran just because it was the most effective counterforce to the bloodthirsty ISIS. Or as he put it, “So when it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.”

But Netanyahu was soft-pedaling his real message, which was that ISIS with its “butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube” was a minor annoyance compared to Iran, which he accused of “gobbling up the nations” of the Middle East. To the applause of Congress, he claimed “Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. And if Iran’s aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow.”

His choice of capitals was peculiar because Iran took none of those capitals by force and, indeed, was simply supporting the embattled government of Syria and was allied with elements of the government of Lebanon. As for Iraq, Iran’s allies were installed not by Iran but by President George W. Bush via the U.S. invasion. And, in Yemen, a long-festering sectarian conflict has led to the capture of Sanaa by Houthi rebels who deny that they are supported by Iran (although Iran may have provided some limited help).

Amid the wild and inchoate cheering by Republicans and many Democrats, Netanyahu continued: “We must all stand together to stop Iran’s march of conquest, subjugation and terror.” But, in reality, there has been no “march of conquest.” There have been no images of Iranian armies on the march or a single case of Iranian forces crossing a border against the will of a government.

Cheering the Propaganda

Netanyahu’s oration was just another example of his skillful (but dishonest) propaganda – and the groveling behavior of the U.S. Congress when in the presence of an Israeli leader.

Among the many facts that Netanyahu left out was Israel’s historically close ties to Iran even during the reign of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the 1980s when the Israelis served as a key Iranian arms supplier after the Saudi-backed Iraqi invasion of Iran. Only after that eight-year-long war ended – and Iran’s treasury was depleted – did Israel shift away from Iran and toward the oil-rich Saudis.

Regarding the Syrian civil war, senior Israelis have made clear they would prefer Sunni extremists to prevail over President Assad, who is an Alawite, a branch of Shiite Islam. Assad’s relatively secular government is seen as the protector of Shiites, Christians and other minorities who fear the vengeful brutality of the Sunni jihadists who now dominate the anti-Assad rebels.

In one of the most explicit expressions of Israel’s views, its Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, then a close adviser to Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post in September 2013 that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

And, if you might have thought that Oren had misspoken, he reiterated his position in June 2014 at an Aspen Institute conference. Then, speaking as a former ambassador, Oren said Israel would even prefer a victory by the Islamic State, which was massacring captured Iraqi soldiers and beheading Westerners, than the continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria.

“From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” Oren said.

Israel’s preference has extended into a tacit alliance with Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front in Syria, with which the Israelis have essentially a non-aggression pact, even caring for Nusra fighters in Israeli hospitals and mounting lethal air attacks against Lebanese and Iranian advisers to the Syrian military.

A Powerful Alliance

Over the past decade, the Israelis and the Saudis have built a powerful alliance, a relationship that has operated mostly behind the curtains. They combined their assets to create what amounted to a new superpower in the Middle East, one that could project its power mostly via the manipulation of U.S. policymakers and opinion leaders – and thus deployment of the U.S. military.

Israel possesses extraordinary political and media influence inside the United States – and Saudi Arabia wields its oil and financial resources to keep American officialdom in line. Together, the Israeli-Saudi bloc now controls virtually the entire Republican Party, which holds majorities in both chambers of Congress, and dominates most mainstream Democrats as well.

Reflecting the interests of the Israeli-Saudi bloc, American neocons have advocated U.S. bombing against both the Syrian and Iranian governments in pursuit of “regime change” in those two countries. Prominent neocons, such as John Bolton and Joshua Muravchik, have gone to the pages of the New York Times and Washington Post to openly advocate U.S. bombing campaigns against Iran. [See’s “NYT Publishes Call to Bomb Iran.”]

But the problem with this Israeli-Saudi strategy for the American people is that the only viable military alternatives to the Assad government in Syria are Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the even more brutal Islamic State. So if Israel, Saudi Arabia and the neocons succeed in ousting Assad, the likely result would be the black flags of Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State flying over Damascus.

That would likely mean major atrocities, including executions of Christians and other religious minorities, as well as terrorist plots mounted against Europe and the United States. An Al-Qaeda or Islamic State conquest of Damascus would likely force any U.S. president to invade Syria at enormous costs in blood and treasure, albeit with little hope of achieving any long-term success.

Such a U.S. intervention might very well mean the end of the United States as a viable democratic society – to the extent that one exists today. A full-scale transformation into a militaristic state would be required to sustain this open-ended conflict, channeling national wealth into endless warfare and requiring the repression of anti-war sentiments at home.

So, what is at stake for the American Republic is essentially existential, whether the constitutional structure that began in 1789 will continue or will disappear. Politicians, who say they love the Constitution but follow Netanyahu into this dead-end for the Republic, are speaking out of both sides of their mouths.

The only hope for the Republic would come from recalling the wisdom of America’s first presidents – to avoid entangling foreign alliances when they drag the United States toward destruction.


Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here. your social media marketing partner


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+38 # dbrize 2015-03-31 15:39
Oh my. Our "American Republic" is gone.

It has been a bipartisan funereal. It may be resurrected in some form if the "people" take to the streets but the Imperial City is already preparing for this unlikely event by militarizing local law enforcement and conducting "trial runs".

Consider that the Wizards of the Beltway can always go general shopping, judge shopping and theory shopping in order to justify whatever they choose to do. To wit; NDAA, The Patriot Act, Presidential "findings", decrees and other sordid proofs that this is no longer a republic.

Little remembered but prescient was author John T Flynn 75 years ago, "Fascism will come not from outside but at the hands of perfectly authentic Americans".

There is nothing in this article that is unknown or secreted information. It is all out there in the public domain. Many don't care, those that do are powerless.

The Constitution that explicitly assigned a process for war among other items, has fallen victim to the "penumbras and emanations" of whomever resides currently, it's words lost to an induced veil of rewrite making them meaningless as wall paper covering.

Perhaps when the economic costs become too severe or our satraps grow weary of us, we will at last come to our senses. At least, those of us left who remember our republic can hope.
-52 # egbegb 2015-03-31 22:37
As a student of the Middle East, Mr Parry's writing is confused and incorrect in areas. That suggests he has a view he wants to express but cannot fully defend it. He leaves a lot of acts out and concludes without justification. The history of the Middle East is much more difficult than a 3000 word essay and Mr Parry knows that.
+45 # lewagner 2015-03-31 23:27
Where did Mr. Parry claim to be writing a history of the Middle East in 3000 words?
A criticism of the essay that Mr. Parry DID write is more difficult than 65 words, and you know that.
+17 # hadgembes 2015-04-01 00:27
You may have completely misunderstood his message. I suggest that if you want to really understand the history of the Middle East, there is significant literature written about the region way before the so-called countries like Saudi Arabia, Israel, Kuwait and UAE, etc evolved as states. It is not an old history; all happened during the last century.
+7 # jsluka 2015-04-01 01:09
Quote; "skillful (but dishonest) propaganda." That's an oxymoron since all propaganda is, by definition, dishonest.
+4 # Radscal 2015-04-01 11:28
Propaganda need not be false.

1. information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.
2. the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.
3. the particular doctrines or principles propagated by an organization or movement.

noun pro·pa·gan·da \ˌprä-pə-ˈgan-d ə, ˌprō-\

: ideas or statements that are often false or exaggerated and that are spread in order to help a cause, a political leader, a government, etc.
the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person
: ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause;
+6 # Billsy 2015-04-01 01:14
Any examples proving your point?
+18 # caphillprof 2015-04-01 06:28
Our support for British Petroleum in Iran, the overthrow of a democratically elected government (we're very good at that, see, e.g., Chile, Ukraine), the foisting of the Shah over Iran and the untidy fact that Iran hasn't invaded another country in hundreds of years, . . . . . .
+6 # MidwestTom 2015-04-01 06:57
I will say it again, if we outlaw people holding dual citizenship from our government, we will save thousands of lives, and save Trillions of dollars.
+10 # dsepeczi 2015-04-01 08:12
Quoting MidwestTom:
I will say it again, if we outlaw people holding dual citizenship from our government, we will save thousands of lives, and save Trillions of dollars.

To be honest, I don't think that would have any effect at all. These politicians that are licking Israel's boots aren't doing that out of any sense of sovereignty or loyalty to their "2nd home". They don't even have any love or respect for the country they were tasked with representing here in the US. These calls to war have nothing to do with safety or security of, or loyalty to, any nation. They are doing it for one reason and one reason only ..... money ! LOTS of money !
+19 # ericlane 2015-04-01 08:05
George W. Bush, the gift that keeps on giving. The child idiot president and his court jesters invaded Iraq and, in their complete ignorant understanding of history, removed the only counterbalance to Iran. It's ironic, however, how Israel and Saudi Arabia and other Sunni supporters paint Iran as this evil country when, in fact, they have invaded no one. Most of the evil coming out of the Middle East today is Sunni based. The real problem with all fundamentalist ideologies is that they have no end point. They only survive on fear and nihilism. They are all waiting for some sentient being to return and tell them how marvelous they are and how grateful they are that they massacred so many people in his name. Old W opened Pandora's Box and there is no way to fix it. It's an utter and total disaster.
+14 # Floridatexan 2015-04-01 08:47
Although I share your disdain for the idiot president, I don't believe he and his partners in crime were ignorant of the volatile situation in the Middle East and Northern Africa. He had Poppy and Poppy's advisors...Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and a host of dual Israeli/US citizens in positions of power with a deep knowledge of the consequences of their actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. I also believe the Saudi/Israeli alliance predates 9/11. It is the wealthy of both countries allied against their own citizens and against the interests of the United States when our leadership refuses to fall in line.
+11 # ericlane 2015-04-01 09:16
Floridatexan, idiocy can fool you. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld may appear as knowledgeable people but the reality is they are guided by the blindness right wingers. They honestly believed American soldiers would be welcomed with flowers and chocolates. They are moronic zealots who fooled a lot of the people a lot of the time. But the proof is in the pudding. The Middle East is a complete disaster. There is no way to predict the outcome. It's like shifting sands. One minute you're supporting this faction, the next the other. It will continue this way until so much blood is spilt that exhaustion brings it to a conclusion. The ultimate threat, though, is nuclear. The Middle East could lead to nuclear war especially with the other idiot, Netanyahu, strutting his war mongering ignorance every day. No, we will be lucky if the consequences of Bush W. don't lead to absolute disaster.
+12 # fredboy 2015-04-01 08:31
No surprise, as the US gave Saudi a pass after 9/11, avoiding a full criminal investigation because everyone knew where the $ path led.

In all of this I am surprised Iran has not offered to end all nuclear research if Israel would agree to give up the bomb and all nuclear research. Then both sides would get parity and the region and the world would be spared a nuclear war. How about it, guys?
+18 # progressiveguy 2015-04-01 08:47
Bush and his gang of thugs have no remorse. In fact, they are proud of the hell they created in the middle east. The loss of American lives and Arab lives mean nothing to them. These indecent slobs should be hiding their faces from the American people. Instead some never miss an opportunity to brag. McCaine, the self appointed expert that couldn't find Iraq on the map, is on the Sunday network talk shows frequently. He proves that, at least among republicans, that ignorance is bliss. But most Americans are buying this neo-con BS and just might elect another neo-con asshole Bush next year.
-14 # stannadel 2015-04-01 08:56
Given the long standing hostility, to put it mildly, between Israel and Saudi Arabia the question that needs to be asked is what could possible bring them into an alliance. If you ask that question, which Parry does not, the conclusion has to be a common threat against both--the Anglo-American- Soviet alliance of WWII comes to mind. The reality of a threat from Iran can't be ignored if it is capable of bringing such antagonists together and the Iran apologists on the left need to wake up to that reality and get their heads out of the sand.
+9 # dsepeczi 2015-04-01 11:06
Quoting stannadel:
Given the long standing hostility, to put it mildly, between Israel and Saudi Arabia the question that needs to be asked is what could possible bring them into an alliance. If you ask that question, which Parry does not, the conclusion has to be a common threat against both--the Anglo-American-Soviet alliance of WWII comes to mind. The reality of a threat from Iran can't be ignored if it is capable of bringing such antagonists together and the Iran apologists on the left need to wake up to that reality and get their heads out of the sand.

You need to wake up to the fact that Iran hasn't invaded any country since anyone on this forum's been breathing. In fact, they've shown remarkable constraint given the fact that the US has initiated regime change over there, installing a brutal dictator (Shah) in the process, the US armed Iraq and encouraged it to attack Iran, and lest we forget, the US later turned on Iraq and toppled their regime without cause. Meanwhile, Israel has bombed Iran without any retaliation, as well. You really need to brush up on your history of the region. It's sorely lacking. Only a complete denial of simple facts can allow people like you to watch the US/Saudi Arabia/Israel provoke violence in every region that doesn't fall in line with their aspirations and then call the ones being bombed or otherwise provoked the aggressors. It's like punching someone 100 times, then calling them violent when they hit you back.
-8 # kalpal 2015-04-01 09:03
In the 1930s the Arabs explained to the Brits that they would rather be poor without Jews than rich with Jews. This still stands and the Arabs, including the oil producing nations, are still very impoverished but they are without Jews in their nations. The rich Arabs who govern their nations are not opposed to doing business with Jews so long as it does not become public knowledge on the streets. The Sunna controlled nations will do anything they need in order to suppress the Shia, even if Jewish skills and knowledge are a helpful necessity. Pragmatism is a necessity in governance.

BTW I have watched some amazing talk shows broadcast from Arab nations in which scholars take Islam and its empty bragging to task. Arab Muslims have not been a force to reckon with for about 400 years but this is not acknowledged in Arab schools or by Arab clerics.
+6 # Salus Populi 2015-04-02 09:21
So what does that have to do with Iran? Iran is not Arabic -- even the base Faux Noose occasionally acknowledges this undisputed fact -- nor is it singling out Jews for oppression [Bahá'ís bear that role], as Iran contains some of the largest Jewish communities outside the U.S. and Israel. By elementary logic, the Israeli state should be allying with Iran against the Arabic "anti-Israel" states.

The fact that it has chosen instead to ally with its enemies to destroy a country with which it has no historic enmity should tell you something regarding state interests vs. people's interests. The Israeli state is run by Likud and its partners, and Likud's charter calls for the equivalent of an _eretz_ Israel consisting of all the territory that has ever belonged to any Jewish state going back to Biblical times.

In this, Israel is a gangster state, and it makes sense that, in contravention to logic, it allies with other gangster states [such as the U.S. and Saudi Arabia] and groups [such as Ukrainian neo-Nazis, Islamic State terrorists, and Chechen criminal gangs].

Despite Netanyahu's clever constructions, it is the enemies proclaimed by his friends that he considers his enemies.
+10 # Floridatexan 2015-04-01 09:27
One of these dual US/Israeli citizens, who worked in the administrations of both George W Bush and Ronald Reagan, is Dov Zacheim, who was appointed Comptroller of the Pentagon in May, 2001. If you'll recall, on September 10, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld reported $2.3 trillion missing from the Pentagon. Zakheim was also a signatory of PNAC and had significant private sector ties to a number of US companies involved with the military...the MIC...

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