Saudi Arabia

1) Saudi Arabia is a young country, founded in 1932 on the remains of the Ottoman Empire. This is, as the name suggests, the al-Sauds' Arabia, the country of one family; the biggest family business in the world. Some four thousand princes occupy most key positions in the State. The wider Saud family may number as many as forty thousand individuals, a figure which will double within a generation since the country has the world's highest birth rate. The most powerful members are the direct descendants of King Abdul Aziz, about two hundred in number.

2) This work-shy Bedouin society can afford to hire foreigners to work for them, who comprise some seventy per cent of the total workforce.

3) The Sauds returned from exile in Kuwait to fight the Rashids, then the leading tribe, in 1901. The Saud family and the rulers of Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar were originally all from the same tribe, the Aneyza.

4) The country has been run by one man for more than a decade, King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud. The Saud family is fundamentalist, believing in a return to the teachings of the Koran. That does not mean, of course, that they wanted to hand their kingdom over to bin Laden, the son of a construction worker.

5) In 1740 Abdul Wahhab, the son of a qadi (religious judge), met a man called Mohammed, from the little-known house of Saud. These two made a pact to reform Islam by armed force. They succeeded, largely thanks to the British (who wanted to hinder Turkish dominance in the region). What seemed sensible at the time turned out to be a disaster, for the British too, who were soon replaced by the Americans.

6) The Bush and the Saud families are among the most powerful dynasties in the world, perfect partners in the same industry.

7) It was the Saud family who wanted the Americans to collaborate with them in their oil fields, believing that this would bring greater stability to the region as a counterweight to British exploitation in Kuwait, Iraq, and Qatar. The British had a reputation for wanting to take charge. The Americans just wanted to make money. The deal was the invention of Kermit Roosevelt: the USA would support the Saud family politically and militarily in return for an oil price fixed in dollars. Both parties made financial commitments to the Carlyle Group, the largest private-equity firm in the world. So the Saudis took on Standard Oil of California, later Amoco, later fifty per cent owned by Texaco.

8) The deal was brokered with the help of St John Philby, a British agent and friend of Ibn Saud, better-known as the father of Kim Philby, the most harmful double agent in Western history. Amoco was later to develop something of a tradition of employing CIA agents.

9) The USA has been cooperating with the Bedouins in Saudi Arabia for as long as it could. This strategy has now run out of time. Possession of Iraq was thought to be an alternative source of oil for the USA, an insurance policy in case the Sauds should be overthrown.

10) The Saudi-American investment company Carlyle Group is led by a group of men around George Bush senior. Even Colin Powell had his hand in these pockets. Much of the Washington establishment has been taking money from the Saudis for decades in return for support. This is not a matter of occasional bribes, but a system of corruption that has been institutionalized on Capitol Hill.

11) The chief executive of the Carlyle Group, Frank Carlucci, was national security adviser in the Reagan administration. The bin Laden family were part-owners, and had to be bought out when Osama suddenly turned against the USA. Not only was the bin Laden family an ally of the Americans against the Communists, but it also included members of Islamic fundamentalist groups (Wahhabites, Islamic Brotherhood, Taliban).

12) It is ironic, but probably no coincidence, that Osama bin Laden decided to lead his warriors of the Islamic Brotherhood in an attack against the USA on the very day that his brother Shafiq participated in a conference led by the Carlyle Group in Washington (see Pierre 2005: 280).

13) Saudi Arabia does not have one centre, but many. The country's four thousand princes have different political ideals, and they finance Islamic movements more or less all over the planet, in places like Chechnya and Central Asia. (That is why Chechnian terrorist often carry the most expensive weapons)

14) Oil is easy money. After the oil is gone, the Saudis will rapidly decline as a culture, and cease to be an international player. This nation will fall much faster than seventeenth-century Spain after it had spent all the gold that was stolen in the Americas. Spain at least built some impressive cathedrals for the money. All the Saudis have managed to buy is American weapons, since that has been what the USA most needed to sell, about $100bn worth since the 1970s.

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