Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 14, 2021

What Was Biden's Diktat The Saudis Are So Furious About?

Two seasoned commentators, Abdel Bari Atwan and M.K. Bhadrakumar, note the recent snag in U.S. - Saudi relations. Writes Atwan:

The past two weeks have seen an unprecedented rise in tensions between the two sides, which could lead to political and economic standoffs in the days and months to come. Several recent developments attest to this. Last week the Associated Press, well known for its connections to Washington decision-makers, confirmed that the Biden administration has withdrawn all its Patriot and (more sophisticated) THAAD air defence systems from the kingdom.
Then it was announced that a visit to the kingdom by US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin – as part of a Gulf tour that included Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain — had been postponed or cancelled, ostensibly due to ‘scheduling issues’. That was an unprecedented snub reflecting official Saudi anger at the US.

A minor Saudi prince, Sattam Bin-Khaled Al Saud, was assigned to explain that it was Saudi Arabia that called off the visit. The ‘great kingdom’, he tweeted, would not be dictated to, and would only conduct relations on the basis of ‘shared interests and mutual respect’. No ruling family member has spoken about the US this way previously.

The young royal, who is close to Crown Prince Muhammad Bin-Salman, went on to contrast the cancellation of Austin’s visit with the very warm reception the kingdom accorded to Leonid Slutsky, head of the Russian Duma’s international affairs committee. This was intended as a warning to Washington that Riyadh potentially has an alternative ally in Moscow — a ‘brave’ but potentially risky and very costly challenge.

There was also the recent publishing of FBI findings about Saudi involvement in 9/11. And on Afghanistan the U.S. worked with Qatar instead of using Saudi channels. But both issues are neither new nor do they justify such a response.

Bhadrakumar opines:

The incipient signs of a US retrenchment from Saudi Arabia have appeared in a series of moves in the past 2-3 weeks.
Without doubt, the Biden Administration has just made a big statement in its regional strategies in West Asia by the removal of the most advanced US missile defence system and Patriot batteries deployed to Saudi Arabia to counter Iran and face down air attacks from Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Riyadh showed its displeasure already by abruptly cancelling a scheduled visit to the kingdom by US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin.

I doubt that this snag is really about the two Patriot batteries and one THAAD system which the U.S. brought into Saudi Arabia after the 2019 attack on the Saudi oil installations in Abqaiq.

Everyone knows that those systems are pretty much useless against the drones the Houthi (or Iran) had used in that attack. The removal of these system has been anticipated for some time. In April the Saudis rented a Patriot battery from Greece in anticipation of the removal of the U.S. systems. The actual removal of the U.S. systems was announced in early June. Back then a Saudi spokesman said that his country had no problem with it:

US military assets downsizing in Saudi Arabia will not affect the kingdom’s defense capabilities, a Riyadh-led coalition told local press, Sunday. In a statement to the reporters, coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki said that the tactical withdrawal of the United States troop and Air Defence units in the Arab Gulf region will “not affect Saudi,” adding that there is a strong understanding between the kingdom and its allies and partners in the region and that the country is capable to defend itself.

I doubt that the military view on the Patriot issue has changed much since then.

But on September 9 the Saudi Prince Turki Al-Faisal mentioned the Patriots in an interview with CNBC:

He was responding to a question on what the Middle East needs from the U.S. in the wake of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.

"I think we need to be reassured about American commitment," the prince, Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief, told CNBC's Hadley Gamble last month.

"That looks like, for example, not withdrawing Patriot missiles from Saudi Arabia at a time when Saudi Arabia is the victim of missile attacks and drone attacks — not just from Yemen, but from Iran," he said.

For Turki Al-Faisal the Patriots are a symbolic, not a military issues. The core problem is a lack of 'assurance about U.S. commitment'.

Pulling Patriot missiles from the kingdom is "not indicative of America's declared intention to help Saudi Arabia defend itself against outside enemies," Al-Faisal said, adding that he hopes the U.S. will give assurances of its commitment to deploy "whatever is needed" to help.

Who are the Saudis outside enemies? The Houthi in Yemen? Biden had announced to end support for Saudi attacks in Yemen back in February. He correctly believes that the Saudis have lost that war and should end it. His position on that is not a surprise and has not changed. Why would the Saudis now make an issue out of it?

So what is the Saudi concern really about?

Bhadrakumar seems to thinks that the U.S. is ready to find a new agreement with Iran and that this is the issue the Saudis are disturbed about. But the door on a nuclear deal with Iran is closing and there is no sign from the Biden administration that it really wants to reactivate it.

In my view the real issue here can not be the Patriot missiles, the Houthi, or an Iran deal. None of those issues is new or is coming as a surprise.

What else might it have been that would justify to cancel, on very short notice, a planned visit by a U.S. Secretary of Defense?

Such a move is unprecedented in its outright hostility. There must be  a really big and current issue behind it.

The minor Saudi prince Atwan quotes lamented about the 'great kingdom' being 'dictated to'. What was the 'diktat' about? The harsh reaction lets me presume that it was something very personal to Clown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, who runs the daily business in Saudi Arabia.

Did Biden order him to fully retreat from Yemen, a war the crown prince had started?

Might Biden even have asked the King to replace the crown prince with a more agreeable figure?

Or are there other issues I have not thought about?

Posted by b on September 14, 2021 at 18:08 UTC | Permalink

« previous page

@S #49:

If houthis are legitimate then that means saudi lost and committed ethnic cleansing in an unholy war. then their custodianship of mecca cant be legitimate because they violated the tenets of jihad in the name of allah, and their credibility as custodians of mecca is gone, therefore they are occupying the holy land, therefore all are obligated to engage in jihad against them. Its quite simple with the technicalities of sharia law. Once this all solidifies we are one fatwa away from islamic ww3.

Posted by: Poshpotdllr | Sep 15 2021 18:29 utc | 101

And further to my comments about Saudi Arabia and SCO: the decision to admit the Kingdom plus Egypt as dialog partners has already been taken.

SCO to induct Egypt and Saudi Arabia as dialogue partners---CGTN

Posted by: Gordog | Sep 15 2021 18:35 utc | 102

Whatever this fight is about, it's not about the US wanting to lower oil prices. Wallstreet is heavily invested in fracking, an industry that never made any money, and that industry needs high oil prices to survive:
“A sustained price rise to $50 a barrel will “trigger growth again,” according to Bernadette Johnson, vice president for strategy and analytics at Enverus. At $60 a barrel, U.S. shale will come back strongly, she said.”

Saying that an industry that has been losing for more than a decade is about to make a comeback is kind of funny, but I think she is right about the prices. And remember, fracking isn’t about selling gas to make money, it’s about ‘energy independence’, ie geo strategy.

Does the price hike work? Seems so:

Posted by: Jörgen Hassler | Sep 15 2021 19:26 utc | 103

Wow, they really are on a roll!

"With debt under control, some firms like EQT could soon attain investor-grade credit ratings."


Posted by: Jörgen Hassler | Sep 15 2021 19:29 utc | 104

@100 JackRabbit

JackRabbit: Obama did things that benefited Israel at the cost of his own credibility.

Tom: Every U.S. president since...what, Truman? has done stuff to benefit Israel at the expense of the U.S. and of that President's credibility with most U.S. citizens. Obama was in over his head by many feet...surrounded by Israel-firsters, the PNAC neocon crowd...but, as I recall, he did drag his feet about going all-in on the Syria war after the "red line" was crossed, and the false-flag chemical warfare trick was played.

Most of the U.S.' foreign policy doesn't benefit the general (U.S.) public, JackRabbit.

(Tom checks himself....hmm, gotta be something we've done (foreign policy scope) that was good for the average U.S. citizen....hmmm. Not coming to mind right off the bat...

No, JackRabbit, the Israel crowd has done a very thorough job of subverting and misdirecting U.S. foreign policy, more or less across the board. Tough for a President to buck that, at the moment...although I must say, things seem different now.

===== Separately....

One more point I didn't make earlier, germane to the Saudis and the mid-East in general.

Did you know, barflies, that most oil is used for transport fuel? Some petrochems like plastics, but mostly to operate cars and trucks.

Did you know that most of the major auto manufacturers in Europe and the U.S. have committed themselves to selling only EVs within a decade? China is also investing heavily in EV cars.

The implications are that the demand for oil is going to fall. The role of oil in geopolitics is coming to an end. Natural gas has a while longer to go.

What does this mean for the major oil producing states? What does it mean in terms of the U.S.' commitment and engagement with those states? And for dollar-denominated trade?

Another question: how come the switch to EV took the whole world, apparently, by surprise? It wasn't on anyone's radar screen 10 years ago. Nobody. EVs were a curiosity. Negligible market share, very little investment.

And Tesla changed all that? All by itself?

Does that strike you as plausible?

And at about the same time, a gusher of investment in U.S. shale oil happened.

It just makes me wonder.

Posted by: Tom Pfotzer | Sep 15 2021 20:57 utc | 105

Tom Pfotzer @Sep15 20:57 #105

Jeez ... I'm feeling tired as I watch you dance around my point about Saint Obama (patron saint of jackasses)/sarc.

There was a deliberate attempt at making it appear that Obama was not a friend to Netanyahu or Israel when, in fact, he was just like any President of recent times. Obama served the establishment and the Empire (for which Israel is a proxy).

Are you disputing that?


Posted by: Jackrabbit | Sep 15 2021 21:18 utc | 106

Maybe the Saudis know Iran, because of Russia and China and vulnerable US targets... despite the (((neocons))) fever dreams, is off the table.

Saudi must be Arab for 'patsy,' B.

Posted by: Florin N | Sep 15 2021 22:19 utc | 107

Tom Pfotzer #105

Another question: how come the switch to EV took the whole world, apparently, by surprise? It wasn't on anyone's radar screen 10 years ago. Nobody. EVs were a curiosity. Negligible market share, very little investment.

And Tesla changed all that? All by itself?

EV's were on every strategic policy makers mind elsewhere in the world. They have been for many decades and Toyota made the first serious exploratory gesture with the Prius in 1997. There needed to be certain foundation technologies with maturity and certain reliability for that to happen. And so it was.

China has a plan for an entire domestic EV car culture by 2030 (perhaps 2035).

That is long before the USA has even woken up and taken a dump called Tesla.

It is a surprise that the USA has had the foresight to hedge its bets with domestic fracking and some ev's on their roads. I guess they listened to a prudent voice from the green movement cautioning about energy independence and pollution and idiotic things like climate change - all that 'extremist green' stuff. That is the surprise. But note the oil oligarchs get to continue their oil mining and the rubes will subsidise their pump price and the Tesla fakery.

Posted by: uncle tungsten | Sep 15 2021 22:25 utc | 108

@106 JackRabbit

JR said: "Are you disputing that?"

Tom: What did I say that suggests I dispute that point?

Quote what I said, not what you think I said. Be precise.

You spend a lot of effort to put words in other people's mouths. That might be why you're feeling tired.

Posted by: Tom Pfotzer | Sep 16 2021 0:00 utc | 109

Tom Pfotzer @Sep16 0:00 #109

Quote what I said, not what you think I said.

I didn't quote what you said and I didn't say what I thought you said.

I said that you danced around what I said.

Then I asked you if you disagreed because your dancing seemed to point away from the point (Obama psyop).

Be precise.

It's funny that you ask for precision because it still looks to me like you're dancing.

Seems that you don't want to acknowledge the psyop. Soft spot for Obama?


Posted by: Jackrabbit | Sep 16 2021 0:20 utc | 110

Many thanks to BM @ 73 for capturing the essence of what I've been putting forth for a while now...

Russia's increased energy trades outside the USD/petro-dollar scheme puts increased pressure on the ME oil producers. Saudis are struggling financially: it's one big BRIBE operation that's held up by a US protection racket. They are the weakest link. Russia need only say what their plans are and the painting is on the wall for the Saudi Royal Family. With tossing in the towel against the Taliban, the US has proven incapable of actually fighting off religious fanatics (the ones that are knocking on the family's door). And the PATRIOT missiles have been shown to be worthless. Russia likely offered [working] defense systems and a stronger trade arena for Saudi oil (larger share of Chinese market? for sure over the longer-term): Saudis would continue to use foreign labor for their ground troops at home, so it's not like they face losing US troop support. And if the Saudis lean away from the USD then it's over for the petro-dollar (USD collapse).

Summing up: USD is backed by the faith in the US military's power; that power has been shown to be paper power. US military products are about as equally usable. Saudis are under increased pressure to keep expanding their bribe program in order to keep their little kingdom party going. Real trade value and real military equipment can be found in Russia and China. Iran is the only sticky part: I suspect that Russian diplomacy might be able to tamp this down.

Posted by: Seer | Sep 16 2021 0:28 utc | 111

Not the first time KSA cancelled an appointment. Not hostility. As an Australian once told me "wogs are hot headed and get offended by the smallest things".

I got $10 on Biden telling the Kingdom you have to at least have 1 LGBT-friendly city for tourists. Takers?

Posted by: itlookedgoodonpaper | Sep 16 2021 2:52 utc | 112

Current SCO rules allow any one full SCO member country to block/reject a country applying to become a full member of the SCO. With Iran about to become a full SCO member country with strong backing by Russia and China, any speculation what will happen when Israel, KSA etc apply for full membership status ?

Posted by: curious | Sep 16 2021 6:40 utc | 113

At Pjotr 54

Personally, I have no high opinion of anyone alive in the US as of today.
They elect scumbag politicians, as we all do, but theirs are worse and more criminal.
I would propose a new round of Nuremberg trials today, but wit the caveat, that there will be just two verdicts: not guilty, guilty= Death sentence by strangulation, publicized on public TV in the best hours.
That will teach our politicians accountability and maybe garner more faith in our political system.
There is no accountability in our systems today.
Maybe except Russia.

Posted by: Den Lille Abe | Sep 16 2021 6:47 utc | 114

There is no accountability in our systems today.
Maybe except Russia.

Posted by: Den Lille Abe | Sep 16 2021 6:47 utc | 114

That is the problem, not enough corrective feedback into the "elites". Without that, you wind up in the ditch eventually.

China seems to be doing some house cleaning to. It can be done.

Posted by: Bemildred | Sep 16 2021 9:06 utc | 115

pretty straightforward.yemen is more valuable to the us than both Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: mcohen | Sep 16 2021 11:29 utc | 116

A very good piece on the Saudia issue in today's New Eastern Outlook, the online journal of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences: Washington’s Rift with Riyadh Grows Deeper

Some top-notch analysis in this journal, especially from the Russian writers who always seem very serious and circumspect, although they do publish guys like Gordon Duff and William Engdahl, who can be hit and miss.

It cannot be ruled out that, amid the compromise of the Americans in Afghanistan, the volume of arms purchases from the US will decrease. This could be one of the symptoms of the disintegration of the former Pax Americana, writes the Polish publication Defence 24.

These circumstances, as well as several other difficulties in relations with Washington in the recent period, have prompted the Middle Eastern Kingdom to think about diversifying military cooperation and its military procurement.

Therefore, it is not surprising that Saudi Arabia has turned its gaze to Russia, with its superior weaponry well known worldwide, which has already proven its worth in the fighting in Syria.

Wanting to overcome its complete dependence on American weapons systems, as early as 2020, Riyadh began to negotiate with Moscow over the possible supply of S-400 air defense systems. After the attacks on Saudi targets, it became apparent in the Middle Eastern kingdom that American systems are flawed, and Americans are not prepared to defend their allies.

Besides the S400, the highly regarded Sukhoi Su35 air superiority fighter jet is mentioned, and, significantly, the feared Iskander hypersonic, short-range 'quasi-ballistic' missile, which I touched on in my technical discussion on hypersonic missiles.

The Iskander has been exported only to Russia's most trusted allies and partners, including Armenia and Algeria. [Contrary to disinformation, the Iskander was never used in the Ngaorno-Karabakh conflict of last year.]

The rapprochement between Russia and Saudi Arabia was officially explained by Awwad Bin Saleh Al-Awwad, Minister of Culture and Information of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

He stated that Riyadh seeks “to diversify its foreign policy and foreign economic relations, as necessary for the implementation of the strategic development program Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 2030.”

Indeed, due to the recent visits of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Riyadh and the Saudi Princes and King of Saudi Arabia to Moscow, the participation of an impressive Saudi delegation at the Military-Technical Forum “Army-2021” in Kubinka near Moscow on August 23 have boosted business contacts and military cooperation between the two countries.

Russia is also important for the kingdom to develop nuclear energy. The Saudi authorities have previously announced plans to build dozens of nuclear power plants in the country, and Moscow would also like to be involved in these projects.

In these circumstances, and fearing such a Russian-Saudi rapprochement, the US has called on Riyadh and its other allies to avoid significant defense deals with Russia...keeping the kingdom in its orbit and not allowing it to get closer to Russia and China.


However, these moves by Washington are only further pushing Saudi Arabia to strengthen and expand ties with Russia.

A very worthwhile read.

Posted by: Gordog | Sep 16 2021 17:08 utc | 117

@Gordog | Sep 16 2021 17:08 utc | 117

Decreasing volumes of US arms sales is obviously a point of contention. Good point.

Posted by: Norwegian | Sep 16 2021 17:32 utc | 118

What's driving the conflict between Saudi Arabia and America?

According to Tom Luongo, Russia.

In particular, Saudi Arabia is distancing itself from America and establishing a military and geopolitical relationship with Russia based on Russians arms sales to the Saudis and mutual coordination on oil production/price through OPEC+.

Needless to say, the America Massa ain't too happy that one of its vassals is pulling its shackles off....

Posted by: ak74 | Sep 16 2021 23:30 utc | 119

Khashoggi took the "Assad must go!" curse to a new level with his article about "cutting up" Syria.

After watching George Galloway bloviating about his good friend Jamal, I came to the conclusion that Galloway is a blowhard waste of time.

Posted by: tucenz | Sep 18 2021 9:29 utc | 120

This probably didn't help.

Xi also noted that the SCO will launch procedures to admit Iran as a member state of the SCO and Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar as new dialogue partners.

Posted by: BraveNewWorld | Sep 18 2021 15:57 utc | 121

US Will Push More Arab States To Normalize With Israel

This month marked the one-year anniversary of Israel normalizing with the UAE and Bahrain.


Posted by: Jackrabbit | Sep 18 2021 22:50 utc | 122

pretty straightforward.yemen is more valuable to the us than both Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: mcohen | Sep 16 2021 11:29 utc | 116
mcohen, I wasted ten minutes going thru the article. It in no way hints of why Yemen is or is not valuable to the US. I wonder what you have in mind.

Posted by: sarz | Sep 19 2021 15:07 utc | 123

« previous page

The comments to this entry are closed.