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Fisk writes: "In their golden palaces, the Saudis fear. They fear the Iranians."

John Kerry at news conference in Saudi Arabia. (photo: Reuters)
John Kerry at news conference in Saudi Arabia. (photo: Reuters)

At Least One Country Agrees With Netanyahu: Saudi Arabia

By Robert Fisk, The Independent

07 March 15


n their golden palaces, the Saudis fear.

They fear the Iranians. They fear the Shia. They fear Isis and al-Qaeda. They fear the Muslim Brotherhood. They fear American betrayal and Israeli plots. They even fear the “power” of tiny Qatar. They fear their own Shia population. They fear themselves. For where else will the revolution start in Sunni Muslim Saudi but within its own royal family?

Just look at the past week. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards — Shias to a man — have been fighting on behalf of the Iraqi government army — almost Shias to a man — against Sunni militias around Tikrit. This is Shia Iranian expansionism on a scale undreamed-of since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. At least 2,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards are fighting alongside Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria. Against Sunni militias. Then the US President seeks foreign policy medals with a friendly US-Iranian agreement on nuclear power. And finally, Saudi Arabia thinks the Israeli Prime Minister is its friend.

No wonder US Secretary of State John Kerry rushed from his nuclear talks to Riyadh on Thursday to assure the Saudi royal family that despite the cosy arrangement he is working on with Tehran, the US would not take its eye off Iran’s “destabilising actions” in Iraq and elsewhere.

Rather more feisty than his American opposite number, the elderly Saud bin Faisal, the Saudi Foreign Minister, talked about the “hegemonic” actions of Iran, telling Kerry that “Iran is taking over Iraq”, a comment that might be less damaging to the Americans if it did not contain the merit of truth.

Iran is boasting of its military assistance in the Tikrit battle, its soldiers flying their own national flag inside Iraqi sovereign territory; Iranian state television is broadcasting footage of its Revolutionary Guards in the Iraqi desert — and the presence of that most infamous of Iran’s clever generals, Qasem Soleimani. So when Benjamin Netanyahu stood up in the US Congress to warn of the global threat of Iran, it was only to be expected that Faisal Abbas, the editor-in-chief of the Saudi Al Arabiya English-language news channel, would announce that, while “it is extremely rare for any reasonable person to ever agree with anything Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says or does … one must admit, Bibi did get it right, at least when it came to dealing with Iran”.

Abbas might not represent the Saudi royal family – but he would never have uttered such words unless they had been blessed by the monarchy.

Netanyahu makes an unlikely Saudi ally (photo: AFP/Getty)

Netanyahu makes an unlikely Saudi ally (photo: AFP/Getty)

So be a Saudi for a moment. Think not of your vast wealth nor your oil, not the declarations of eternal loyalty from your tribal and ethnic friends — let alone from the Americans. Remember that your kings are perpetually old and that your Foreign Minister uses a walker when he moves around his palace or greets the kingdom’s visitors — as he did, rather pathetically, when John Kerry turned up. And recall, as the Saudis will have done, that Kerry — with his folksy reassurances for the King and Foreign Minister — is the same political failure who promised peace between Israelis and Palestinians within months, and then walked away from this high aspiration with little more than a shrug when it inevitably collapsed.

It is worth reminding ourselves, however, that the Saudis have a few aspirations of their own, quite apart from destroying Iranian ambitions. While ladling out massive pay increases to keep the kingdom’s citizens in unrevolutionary mood, the Saudi government intends to construct 16 nuclear power reactors at a cost of $80bn within 20 years, with France’s help and “peaceful intentions”. These are the problems argued out between the hundreds of restless princes of the kingdom.

As for the Americans, you can scarcely blame the Saudis for regarding Barack Obama as being just as untrustworthy as Netanyahu suggested. For right now, the American President is striking Isis from the air while the Iranians have also been bombing Isis from the air and shelling them on the ground. Assad’s army, too, is fighting Isis. But Obama hates Assad and also refuses to co-ordinate with Iranian troops, or so the Americans claim in a conflict which requires – as well as weapons — ever larger pinches of salt.

John Kerry has been quick to reassure the Saudi royal family (photo: Getty)

John Kerry has been quick to reassure the Saudi royal family (photo: Getty)

Can you therefore blame the Saudis – we are talking of individuals, of course, not for a moment their government, whose adherence to international law is legendary – if they fund the “Islamic Caliphate” when it fights the Shia regimes in Iraq, Syria and Iran and the Shia militia in Lebanon? Oh for the glorious days of Saddam Hussein when he protected the Sunnis from Shia Persian aggression…

Then Saddam decided to add Kuwait (and possibly Saudi Arabia) to his own Iraqi republic. The CIA used Saudi territory to call upon the Iraqi Shia to rebel, then left them in the lurch. And the survivors were “liberated” by George W and Tony, and took over Iraq. And now, in their golden palaces, the Saudis tremble.

It was predictable that Al Arabiya would suggest on Thursday night that Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, was fatally ill. The Israelis publicised the same tale. The Saudis know all about the death of elderly leaders – and of the old leaders who replace them. And in their golden palaces, the Saudis tremble. your social media marketing partner


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+44 # Radscal 2015-03-07 15:43
“This is Shia Iranian expansionism on a scale undreamed-of since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.”

What? Iran has never attempted “expansionism” either before or after the Revolution. Even after Jimmy Carter convinced Saddam to invade Iran, and after almost a decade of war and a million killed, when Iran held much territory in Iraq, they pulled back their troops when a Peace Treaty was finally signed by Iraq.

“At least 2,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards are fighting alongside Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria.”

Yes. Iran and factions in Lebanon have joined the fight to resist the U.S. fomented and funded “regime change” in Syria. Despite using the same tactics (and even the same “rebels” and weapons) used to “regime change” Libya, Iranian military assistance, Russian diplomatic interventions and the discovery of the falsified sarin gas “red line” have so far prevented that “Mission Accomplished.”

In both Iraq and Syria, Iran has proven to be crucial in the battle against what the U.S. claims publicly is the most dangerous threat to both the Middle East and the U.S. itself: ISIL.

Of course, Saudi ties to ISIL are well documented, so little surprise that they agree with their ally, Israel on the “Iranian expansionism threat.”
+12 # davehaze 2015-03-07 19:43
Thanks for reminding us of a little history Bob Fisk left out.

When it comes to Iran the US thinks of itself as innocent onlookers. And of Iran has evildoers on a mass scale.
+2 # Activista 2015-03-07 20:46
excellent synopsis by Daniel where we are, and where we are going ...
+34 # CarolynScarr 2015-03-07 16:41
Shame on Fisk for repeating that old lie that Saddam had ambitions to add Saudi Arabia to his territory. It was even a Florida newspaper that found the satellite photos that proved that Iraqi tanks were not massing on the Saudi border.

Also remember that Sallinger wrote how Saddam was trying to force an end to Kuwaiti slant drilling and had grievances about a debt. This does not justify an attack. But both Sallinger and Viorst write that the Kuwaiti/Iraqi disputes would have been amenable to a negotiated settlement if the U.S. had not been hot for war. Viorst is clear that the U.S. pulled the rug out from under such attempts. See New Yorker article and Sallinger's book.
+36 # geraldom 2015-03-07 18:03
If I remember correctly, George H.W. Bush purposely, and by design, misled Saddam Hussein into thinking that it would be just fine with the United States if he, Saddam, decided to invade Kuwait because Kuwait was stealing Iraqi oil. George Bush Senior, in effect, was looking for any excuse to invade Iraq at the time because Saddam Hussein had lost favor in the eyes of the United States. Saddam Hussein was no longer willing to jump through U.S. hoops at the time. Saddam would have never invaded Kuwait if he didn’t get the implicit go-ahead by the United States.
+23 # futhark 2015-03-07 20:05
Saddam Hussein was led by American diplomats to think that he could take over Kuwait and enjoy the profits from the sale of its petroleum as a reward for attacking Iran. We know now that he was set up by the United States to be the successor "bad guy" after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The whole history of post World War II American foreign relations can be understood as a constant quest to find or synthesize a series of bogeymen that need to be militarily intimidated for the benefit of the military-indust rial complex.
+11 # fletch1165 2015-03-08 00:53
They never told Saddam not to invade Kuwait. That is all it would have taken.

And to make the threat look real, in satellite photos Cheney cut and pasted t-62 tanks on the highway to Saudi Arabia to convince people of the imminent threat. Later views from another Russian satellite passing nearby at the same time proved the data falsified.
+18 # Misterioso 2015-03-07 17:18
The Saudis fear the "Arab street" much more than they fear Iran.
+9 # fredboy 2015-03-07 18:09
Wouldn't it great to see the Israelis and Saudis lock lips? Wow!
0 # Cappucino 2015-03-08 15:17
Great-- now I'm stuck with THAT image. Ick. :P
+30 # jwb110 2015-03-07 18:17
The Saudis have never stepped up to fix anything in their region. Why? Because the US will do all the work.
Every member of the 911 flights were Saudi. The Saudis gave money to Al Qaeda to save their own asses. Money that was used to buy arms to kill American Troops. This is an ally? If Saudi Arabia is afraid of the Iranians then let them stew in in their own juices until THEY do something about. Let their men and women die in battle and see how they like it. And oil be damned in the process.
Our President is doing everything possible to solve the problem with Iran diplomatically. This is a good thing given how overstretched we have to be becoming in that region. If we didn't have jerks like John McCain and Lyndsey Graham we would be a lot farther along in negotiating with all of the Middle East. But at least, this President is trying and that in and of itself could be a sea change for everything that goes on in the Middle East.
I, for one, would not trust the Saudis as far as they could be thrown.
+21 # Radscal 2015-03-07 20:05
A detail: 14 of the 19 on CIA's list of hijackers were Saudi. 4 were from our other allies, Egypt and UAE and 1 was Lebanese:

I strongly support the negotiations to acknowledge Iran's right to a peaceful nuclear program (with international inspections) and especially to welcome Iran back into the international community.

I am quite certain that once we open relations and end the sanctions, the people of Iran will elect ever-more progressive governments. They were well on their way to establishing a modern, Western social-democrac y before Carter encouraged Iraq to invade them and Reagan empowered the Ayatollah's group through his treasonous interventions promising cash and weapons.
+13 # Activista 2015-03-07 20:44
"Carter encouraged Iraq to invade them .."

Recently declassified CIA files prove that, during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), US intelligence agencies actively assisted in some of the most horrific chemical weapons attacks in history, which resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people. These CIA files are the subject of an important new exposé by reporters Shane Harris and Matthew M. Aid in Foreign Policy dated August 26, 2013....
In a key military engagement in 1988, during the final period of the war, the CIA determined that Iranian forces were massing and about to break through Iraqi lines....."
most of the war was under Reagan ...
-16 # hadgembes 2015-03-07 19:50
The lack of knowledge of the writer of the article is astounding. Such an article is presented on Reader Supported news?
+15 # Activista 2015-03-07 20:35
Think that Robert Fisk view is refreshing - and valid - there is lot of satire in Fisk writing - especially last paragraphs - Fisk knows the Middle East ...
+5 # John Escher 2015-03-08 11:57
Fisk does know the Middle East better than any other western journalist, but I wonder if Bibi recognizes that Isis exists. To him, Iran is the greatest terrorist threat in the world (think proximity and self-projection ). Bibi did not mention Isis once in his AIPAC speech, which did not lead me to listen to his MAIN speech a day later, but I don't think he emphasized Isis then either.
+4 # Radscal 2015-03-08 15:54
ISIL has never targeted an Israeli, Israeli occupied territory, Israel itself or any Israeli ally.

ISIL has attacked Sunni and Shia Muslims and Christians, and has attacked only two of the countries that Israel has claimed were existential threats since 1948.

Israel has worked with "moderate rebels" who are allies of ISIL, including providing coordinated airstrikes and medical care.
0 # Activista 2015-03-08 21:51
- ISIL is Saudi/Israel tool against Iran ... enemy of my enemy is my friend is Netanyaho motto ...

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