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The Trump Circus In Saudi Arabia – 3 – U.S Troops In Saudi Arabia?, The “Arab NATO,” Why Trump To Saudi Arabia Now?

June 11, 2017

What is known as the South Pars field (in blue) whose underground natural gas reserves are divided between Qatar (in amber). Having failed to “produce” for the US in Syria through its terrorist allies – that is to overthrow the Assad government there, the U.S has turned to Saudi Arabia to do the job. The Saudis and Washington want Qatar to “fall in line” and accept “Saudi leadership” – it too is a major funder of terrorism in Syria – but Qatar is resisting. The Saudis, for whom economic crises continue to add up, are also eyeing control of the lucrative Southern Pars natural gas field which help ease its financial burden as well as enabling Riyadh to put more pressure on Iran…target of the new sectarian Sunni campaign which Trump has encouraged.

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Note: In Part Three of this interview – KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues on May 23, 2017 – we discuss a number of things –  The little known fact of U.S Troops In Saudi Arabia, The collapse of  “Arab NATO” even before it got off the ground,” Why Trump To Saudi Arabia Now?

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Part One of the Series

Part Two of the Series

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Transcript: Part Three.  KGNU – Boulder – May 23, 2017. Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues

Rob Prince: Ibrahim, one of the things we talked about in our discussions before tonight was the rarely acknowledged presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. I’d like to look at that a little bit because their presence is kind of opaque if you like in terms of how it’s seen here in the United States.

It takes place in a number of ways.

First of all of this weaponry that the Saudis have been buying from the United States – not just this most recent $110 billion deal – but they have been doing so for some time. Just in the Obama years, and even before – the Saudis purchased more than $150 billion worth of arms sales, 42 military contracts – this was during the Obama presidency! Now Trump is trying to outdo him. But the interesting point is, that the Saudi ability to use that weaponry is, to put it politely, rather limited.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Or nonexistent

Rob Prince: In that case, who manages these complex weapons’ systems? It’s American military personnel and advisers.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: One of the misconceptions we have here is the illusion that the United States pulled their troops out of Saudi Arabia and took them to Qatar or Bahrain.

But nothing is further from the truth. What have the U.S. and the Saudis done? Under the banner of “advisers” U.S. troops have moved into various Saudi military bases and sites.

Rob Prince: They are not considered American military bases, so under the cover of Saudi military bases we have American advisers and troops operating in Saudi Arabia.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: And then the United States claims that Washington has no bases in Saudi Arabia and that the troops have been pulled out. But in reality the pictures of U.S. military personnel in Saudi Arabia have been presented either trying to guide Saudi troops, teaching them. There are some claims that some of these sophisticated aircraft being flown over Yemen are being piloted either directly by Americans or by some other foreign mercenary pilots brought in from various private security firms. But, they are there.

And then the United States claims that Washington has no bases in Saudi Arabia and that the troops have been pulled out. But in reality the pictures of U.S. military personnel in Saudi Arabia have been presented either trying to guide Saudi troops, teaching them. There are some claims that some of these sophisticated aircraft being flown over Yemen are being piloted either directly by Americans or by some other foreign mercenary pilots brought in from various private security firms. But, they are there

In Syria there are close to 5000 U.S. troops in the northeastern region close to the Iraqi-Turkish border. There are a number of images showing U.S. troops trying to direct and guide the Kurds and so-called other moderate resistance fighters.

What is happening? If you want to receive sophisticated weaponry from the United States, change your name, call yourself “moderate rather than Islamic opponents” of the Syrian regime and then the United States will remove your organization from the “terrorist organization” watch list and then your organization can receive huge amounts of sophisticated weapons, training and other forms of support.

This is one of the problems that we have.

Rob Prince: What do you think of this so-called alliance, the “Arab NATO” that the United States and the Saudis are attempting to put together. Do you think that it will hold? All the machinations that have been going on. The Saudis reconciling with the Israelis, the Gulf states saying they will open diplomatic relations with Israel, the attempt to put the U.S. backed team together in a way that it hasn’t been for some time. How do you see this situation evolving?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Rob, you know as well as I do that the Saudis have been working with the Israelis, have been in contact with them for many years, if not decades, so this is nothing new.

But as far as the ability of the so-called “Arab NATO” we know that the Saudis tried under the auspices of (at least) the Obama Doctrine to put these five or six countries from the Persian Gulf states, to put them together against Yemen. The war is in its third year. They are trying to beat the Yemenis. The Yemenis are poor, backward but very determined group of people and this so-called alliance hasn’t been able to do anything.

The main problem is different. If the United States really wants to get rid of ISIS, al Qaeda and so on, and all these terrorist organizations in the Middle East, it’s not the Saudis, the Qataris or the Turks that they have to work with. Instead, they have to work with the Iranians, with the Russians, the Chinese – the nations that for different reasons are really concerned about the crisis in the Middle East.

For example, one of the consequences of the Trump-Salman conversation a few days ago, the Bahrainis immediately went on a repressive rampage, arresting and killing Shi’a religious leaders yesterday and today which has provoked a huge crisis in Bahrain with threats and counter threats being made.

Bahrain got “the green light” (from Washington and Riyadh) that these peaceful protesters, demonstrators are terrorist organizations. Peaceful demonstrators are “transformed” into terrorist organizations!

Rob Prince: Ibrahim, I wanted to spend a little time talking about some of the domestic considerations.

Beyond the antics – his stupidity – and that of Secretary of State Tillerson and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross – to participate in a Saudi sword dance…this trip does mark a shift in the U.S. approach to the region – from Obama’s “soft” hegemony – trying to tone down some of the conflicts, thus the Iran deal …to a “hard hegemony” – more direct military involvement – mammoth arms deals, giveaways to client states and a harsher – provocative posture towards Iran, commitment to keep the Syrian conflict going – continued plan to partition the country.

I am wondering about what Americans think about this trip to Saudi and how they are responding to it. Two questions that emerged from this trip are:

The first question: why did Trump go where he went? For most American presidents their first trip is to Canada, Mexico, in Europe to the UK or Germany. Why did Trump choose Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy?

The second question: why now?

Trump was worried about his reception in Canada and Mexico – as well as the European countries where angry demonstrations against is policies have already taken place. He chose countries in the Middle East where he will be well received – or thought so – especially a country like Saudi Arabia where demonstrating and protesting is a risky business.

As you noted Ibrahim, Trump’s Saudi visit did trigger protests in Bahrain and the wave of repression. I didn’t know anything about that.

Of course he expected  a warm welcome in Israel; actually he was received politely there but with virtually no fanfare although there were thousands of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories who demonstrated against his visit, the U.S. arms giveaways to Israel and in support of Palestinian political prisoners – some 6000 of them – many of whom are on extended hunger strikes. The Palestinians are also demonstrating against the deal that Trump, the Saudis and the Israelis are trying to impose on the Palestinian Authority as a part of this overall plan to restructure the region to Washington’s liking and interests.

The question of “why now?” – you’ve covered it already Ibrahim. Undoubtedly one reason was for Trump and his entourage to get away from the growing Congressional investigation into his ties with the Russians – and the possibilities of impeachment that does not seem to go away but only get bigger.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: By the way Rob, as we discussed between ourselves, Hamas and the Palestinians are only a marginal issue. The central issue is to destroy any kind of resistance to American hegemony.

Remember what Condoleezza Rice said in 2006 about the creation of “the new Middle East.” In the construction of the new Middle East there is no space for what is referred to as “the axis of resistance” (opposition to U.S. regional plans). In any shape or form it has to be destroyed.

Rob Prince: So the current pressure on the Palestinians is a part of the same overall program to put pressure on Hezbollah (in Lebanon), on the Yemenis, to call for and organize regime change in Syria and isolate and ultimately to overthrow the government of Iran. It’s one plan. This is basically what the alliance is about. At its heart and soul it’s an anti-Iranian alliance . One of its “side-shows” is to put pressure on the Palestinians. Basically the supposed deal that is being offered to them is: take this now, this is the best deal you are going to get and if you don’t accept it..well, your situation, already very harsh, will get even worse.

So the current pressure on the Palestinians is a part of the same overall program to put pressure on Hezbollah (in Lebanon), on the Yemenis, to call for and organize regime change in Syria and isolate and ultimately to overthrow the government of Iran. It’s one plan. This is basically what the alliance is about. At its heart and soul it’s an anti-Iranian alliance . One of its “side-shows” is to put pressure on the Palestinians. Basically the supposed deal that is being offered to them is: take this now, this is the best deal you are going to get and if you don’t accept it..well, your situation, already very harsh, will get even worse

I was reading recently how the Saudis have essentially abandoned their position calling for the end of the Israeli occupation as a precondition for beginning a peace process. What they are proposing is another “Oslo Process” – a step by step process. I know there have been many criticisms of Abbas, and valid ones, but I cannot imagine any Palestinian leadership accepting such conditions and then expecting to survive politically.

When it comes to other domestic considerations for the Trump trip, yes there is the talk of impeachment, but less noticed it was during this trip that his budget to Congress would be introduced with its herculean cuts to human and social services, increases in military spending.

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