Which made the Arabs hate the United States
USA and Saudi ArabiaStory of an opaque relationship
Where is the journalist Jamal Khashoggi? What happened to him? In a television program, US President Donald Trump demands information from the Saudi government about this.
"We can't let it happen. He went in and it doesn't look like he came out."
And Trump makes it clear who makes the announcements in the relationship between the two states: Without the USA, there would be no Saudi Arabia.
"If there were no United States, there would be no Saudi Arabia because we protected them."
Arms trade, monetary affairs - and oil
For the Islamic scholar and Saudi Arabia specialist Michael Lüders, the relationship between the two states is more differentiated.
"If you go into detail, then you get very dim, because these close relationships sometimes go into gray areas of illegality, arms trade plays a role there, espionage activities play a role and very questionable business deals that have continued to grow that leading shadow banks in the US are today to a significant extent co-financed or even substantially co-owned by Saudi owners. "
The USA and Saudi Arabia. Who dominates whom? Who makes the specifications? Who follows Geographically, the question leads to the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia. In the area near the city of Dhahran on the Persian Gulf.
Along a long car route: dunes, nothing but dunes. And then, as if out of nowhere in the flickering mirages, an enigmatic frame that at first glance seems to resemble the Eiffel Tower. In fact, it is a derrick, explains the companion from the Saudi press office.
The American oil seekers came in the 1930s - the royal family cleared the way for them (picture alliance / dpa / epa Ali Haider)
"We're standing here at the first well ever to produce oil in Saudi Arabia, well number seven. Between 1938 and 1982 it produced 32 million barrels."
So on one side of the alliance: the USA. A rising world power, in the late 1930s with a skyrocketing demand for the raw material that powers ships, aircraft carriers, cars and machines. And on the other side?
State foundation with the help of camel drivers
There are also pointers for this on the desert road to Dhahran. A enclosed space opens up not far from the piste. There are a good dozen camels in it, guarded by tribesmen in white robes and brightly colored sashes. Around the mouth and nose cloths against the dust.
Bedouins like them have always formed the core of the Saudi population.
When the American oil explorers approached in 1938, the founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, had only conquered the desert regions around the holy cities of Mecca and Medina a few years earlier. With the help of camel drivers. And thanks to an ultra-conservative Islamic movement: the Wahhabis. They helped the founder of the state to hold the drifting tribes together. The Islamic scholar and journalist Michael Lüders:
"The Wahhabis have given the al Saud religious legitimation. They are, in a sense, on the right path of God. In contrast to the other clan and tribal leaders who also existed. And in the course of a 150-year struggle it is the al Saud succeeded in gaining power over the entire current kingdom of Saudi Arabia in alliance with the Wahhabis, until it was actually established in 1932. "
State founder Abdulaziz Ibn Saud conquered the desert region at the beginning of the 20th century with the help of camel drivers (picture alliance / CPA Media / Pictures From History)
But it was not possible to create a state in the barren desert region with just a religious ideology. Abdulaziz was in dire need of money. How the relationship between the unequal partners began, describes the Saudi dissident Abdelrahman Munif in his book "Salt Cities", which is banned in Saudi Arabia. When American oil explorers approach in the mid-1930s, a member of the royal family must first clear the way for them. After all, the Wahhabi preachers had told people that all innovations were un-Islamic and that all unbelievers were to be hated. A sheik tells the prince what speaks against the Americans, apart from their loose morals: They behave arrogantly, and entire areas of land around the oil explorers' camps are deserted. The tribal population is attracted with high wages. Bedouins are turning into oil workers, forgetting their roots and their families and only indulging in materialism and consumption. Conclusion: The Americans are undesirable here.
"But we want your help," said the prince mockingly. "And if you don't want it? We only know one medicine for troublemakers: this one. And with that he pointed to a saber that hung from the wall."
Subtle form of colonialism
After the tribes were urged to receive the Christians kindly, the way was clear for the American oil explorers.
In the traditional room of what is now the state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco, spokeswoman Conny Falossy shows framed copies of the first concession contracts.
Nothing but desert - and oil: after the founding of the state, King Abdulaziz needed money (imago / Wolfgang Zwanzger)
Classical regional powers like England and France, she says, had deeper roots and long experience in dealing with Arab culture. But the founder of the state, King Abdulaziz, awarded the contract to the Americans, who were then unknown in the region. And there was an important reason for that.
"The British had discovered the first oil. But the Saudi king at the time did not like the colonial aspects of the British administration. By negotiating with the Americans, he believed he could avoid this colonial aspect."
In fact, the US company Aramco - the Arabian American Oil Company - transferred 50 percent of all oil revenues to the ruler. The king passed it on to the population, what seemed appropriate to him. Saudi Arabia was completely dependent on the United States in this way.
But that was never said.
"Do you gentlemen like to add anything at this time about that question?"
With everything she says, the American Aramco spokeswoman never forgets to get the approval of the Saudi government - represented by the companions from the press office.
Just being a guest in a government whose authority is respected, that was the attitude Aramco demanded of its employees. At a time when other great powers were withdrawing from their colonies, the United States developed a highly subtle form of governance during the 1950s and 1960s. In Saudi Arabia, their representatives did not appear in uniform or as political advisers, but always as managers of a private company. Although they guaranteed military security to the outside world, they never interfered in internal affairs.
The Saudis should keep the feeling of being masters in their own house. In a conservative Islamic tribal monarchy whose way of thinking and living was not touched. And that was due, among other things, to the experience that had been made in the so-called banana republics.
Aramco spokeswoman Conny Falossy:
"If you read some of the early Aramco management documents, you can see that the lesson was learned from South and Central America. You had seen what happens when the locals are not allowed to run their own businesses and if then overnight these companies are nationalized. The people who came to Saudi Arabia were visionaries in this regard. They knew that if you forge good relationships in the beginning, the relationship will last into the future, even over that That is why it has always been important to Aramco to train a Saudi workforce. "
Fear of a revolution like in Iran
Aramco remained an American company until the 1980s and was nationalized by mutual agreement.
King Saud of Saudi Arabia in 1955 next to the then Shah of Persia - after he was overthrown by the revolution, relations went downhill (picture alliance / AP)
In the 1980s, Saudiization brought so many petro-dollars into the royal family's coffers that Washington could ask them to spend the money right away - in the fight against the Islamic revolution in neighboring Iran. Islamic scholar Michael Lüders:
"The dictatorship of the Shah was overthrown and the Iranian republic was constituted. Since then, Saudi Arabia has seen Iran as the great enemy. Today it is said that it is above all the difference between Sunnis in Saudi Arabia and Shiites in Iran that creates this antagonism who would explain this hostility today between these two countries.
That is by no means the case. The Sunnis in Saudi Arabia and the Shiites in Iran got along very well during the time of the Shah. From a Saudi perspective, it is this revolutionary impulse emanating from Iran that worries them. "
The foundation for 9/11 was laid in the 80s
The second major US-Saudi joint venture was to contain the Soviet Union, which - also in the 1980s - threatened to establish itself in Afghanistan. Suddenly the Saudi state ideology, radical Islamic Wahhabism, became interesting again.
"Here Saudi Arabia played a key role, also in a close alliance with the USA, because these mujahideen were armed, financed and logistically equipped. And the chief military leader of the mujahideen was Osama bin Laden, then still a Saudi citizen, who worked closely with the US consulate general in Peshawar on the Pakistani border with Afghanistan, this mujahideen, who coordinated their activities. "
The disaster occurred on September 11, 2001 at the latest. Mainly Saudi assassins carried out an attack on the US Pentagon and the World Trade Center on bin Laden's instructions.
Money is getting tighter - the Saudis have to work
It was only with the foreseeable end of the great oil era, the falling state revenues in the 2000s, that the al-Saud felt compelled to deal again with a topic that they had not dealt with for a long time. It was about society. They had postponed the subject since they had successfully broken the resistance of the tribes to the innovations from overseas. Since then, other critics have been pacified with generous gifts. But now, in times of scarce finances, that would soon no longer be possible. Society - it suddenly appeared in a whole new light to the Saud. To save the monarchy from its own impending bankruptcy. The people in the country had to be encouraged to finally earn money and pay taxes on their own.
In order to win the support of the new, well-educated middle class, huge cities have been built out of the ground since the late 1990s and early 2000s. Like not far from the oil metropolis of Dhahran.
A spokesman for the responsible Royal Commission for Yanbu and Jubail shows the dimensions of the industrial and residential park from his car.
"Now we come to this district with around 2,000 residential units. The Royal Commission built them, initially for their own employees. Here in Jubail, a city center is not even planned, everyone should find everything they need in the neighborhood. In this way It is no longer necessary to go anywhere. And everything is quiet. After hard work in the industry, the employees can relax here. And at the same time, by concentrating on their own house, the Saudi family customs are respected. "
Egomaniac, sole ruler incapable of criticism
But just staying at home is what many no longer want - not even women. The middle class young people are polyglot after two generations of prosperity. They have often studied abroad and demand to be able to live like their peers in other parts of the world.
For the first time in the history of Saudi Arabia, women are allowed to drive (picture alliance / Gehad Hamdy)
In June 2018, the de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, allowed female Saudis to drive for the first time. Dress codes were relaxed and cinemas opened. Many representatives of the new middle class placed their hope in the fact that the Crown Prince would not just stop with such gestures, but would allow the population to have a say in their own lives.
"Mohammed bin Salman could do himself a favor. He could bring even more stability to Saudi Arabia by finally embracing people's hopes for democratic change."
This is how the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi put it.
"I believe such reforms are our last chance given what is happening in the world today."
"This hope is definitely deceiving."
Said the Saudi Arabia specialist Michael Lüders.
"Mohammed bin Salman gave himself the image of a reformer, a liberal, but that was a very superficial image. Mohammed bin Salman is a highly egomaniacal, autocratic ruler who is not capable of criticism, who himself uses the moderate form of criticism, as expressed by Jamal Khashoggi, as blasphemy, as an insult to majesty and could not handle it. He immediately stops even the slightest and cautious form of criticism, has opponents executed and he locks everyone in prison who criticizes him. "
But who is the Saud's point of contact if not its own society? On whom do they base their absolutism when they can no longer keep the population happy with generous gifts as they used to be? The answer is amazing; it seems to be the same today as it was in the 1930s: Aid comes from overseas.
From the point of view of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the pillars are the USA. If you don't like that, you have to expect the sword that hangs on the wall for you - as in the case of Khashoggi. The dependencies are now mutually exclusive and, according to Michael Lüders, go beyond the purely political. An opaque network has emerged between the Saud and the families of high-ranking US politicians.
"The close, one could almost say family ties, especially the presidential Bush family with the House of Al Saud, have made a major contribution to this. Close business relationships developed that led to the oil companies that, for example, the Bush clan operated in Texas, were closely interlinked with the oil production activities in Saudi Arabia and the most important liaison figure in this context was Prince Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, who worked there for over 15 years, who, in a sense, saw the Bush family as part of their own al -Saud family looked at. "
From the point of view of today's US Trump administration, the Saudi royal family is an indispensable partner. The US President's son-in-law plays a key role in this.
"Jared Kushner has been to Saudi Arabia repeatedly and maintains very close relationships with Mohammed bin Salman. And they do so with two intentions. On the one hand, Jared Kushner, on behalf of his father-in-law, ensured that Saudi Arabia is very closely involved in the anti- Iranian front, into the line of confrontation that the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are pursuing with Iran. "
A self-created creature
And, according to Lüders, there are other joint projects.
"Jared Kushner also has President Bush's mandate to work out what is known as a deal of the century, namely to dispose of the Palestine question once and for all in a kind of Indian reservation. And for that Jared Kushner is needed, for that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is needed The brutal war in Yemen, for which he is responsible, has no consequences for him. The Americans stand by him in every way. "
In the course of time, the respective US governments have cultivated the assumption that they could use a financially strong country that is dependent on them any number of times for their foreign policy interests and their economic consolidation. It seems, however, as if the USA had more and more drawn on a kind of golem, which they believed they were skilfully controlling, from whose arms they can hardly - or want to - free themselves. A golem that is beginning more and more to devour its own original American values. The basic values of human and civil rights.
Murdered: the journalist Jamal Khashoggi (dpa / Virginia Mayo)
"The crime against Jamal Khashoggi is terrible and unacceptable."
Writes US President Donald Trump in his official statement on the Khashoggi murder.
"It is quite possible that the Crown Prince knew about it. It could be, but it could not be either. Our partner is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. As President of the United States, I can only assure you: the world is a dangerous place. America is haunted in it his national interests. "
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