Sunday, January 31, 2016

516. Over het gebruik van de naam Anglo-Zionist.

Een blog van The Saker. ( in Russia Today.)

Why I Use the Term 'AngloZionist', and Why It’s Important

"How long are we going to continue to allow the top 1% of Jews enjoy a bizarre form of political immunity because they hide behind the memory of Jews murdered during WWII..."
"We need to start talking freely about the “elephant in the room” and stop fearing reprisal..."

One of the issues over which I am most vehemently criticized, even by well-meaning friends, is my use of the term “AngloZionist”.  
After carefully parsing all the arguments of my critics, I wrote a special explanatory note on my blog two years ago, in order to make sure that my argument leaves no room for misunderstanding.
I reproduce it below as a (rather long) introduction to the article which follows, which is essentially a further development of the ideas in my 2014 post.
To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize
- Voltaire

(The following quoted section is from the Saker's blog (with slight modifications), from September 2014)
Why do I speak of “AngloZionists”? I got that question many times in the past, so I am making a separate post about it to (hopefully) explain this once and for all.
1) Anglo:
The USA in an Empire. With roughly 1000 overseas bases (depends on how you count), an undeniably messianic ideology, a bigger defense-offense budget then the rest of the planet combined, 16+ spy agencies, the dollar as the world’s currency, there is no doubt that the US is a planetary Empire.
Where did the US Empire come from? Again, that’s a no-brainer – from the British Empire. Furthermore, the US Empire is really based on a select group of nations: the Echelon countries, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and, of course, the US. What do these countries have in common? They are the leftovers of the British Empire and they are all English speaking. Notice that France, Germany or Japan are not part of this elite even though they are arguably as important or more to the USA then, say, New Zealand and far more powerful.
So the “Anglo” part is undeniable. And yet, even though “Anglo” is an ethnic/linguistic/cultural category while “Zionist” is a political/ideological one, very rarely do I get an objection about speaking of “Anglos” or the “Anglosphere”.

2) Zionist:
Let’s take the (hyper politically correct)Wikipedia definition of what the word “Zionism” means: it is “a nationalist movement of Jews and Jewish culture that supports the creation of a Jewish homeland in the territory defined as the Land of Israel“. Apparently, no link to the US, the Ukraine or Timbuktu, right? But think again. Why would Jews – whether defined as a religion or an ethnicity – need a homeland anyway? Why can’t they just live wherever they are born, just like Buddhist (a religion) or the African Bushmen (ethnicity) who live in many different countries?
The canonical answer is that Jews have been persecuted everywhere and that therefore they need their own homeland to serve as a safe haven in case of persecutions. Without going into the issue of why Jews were persecuted everywhere and, apparently, in all times, this rationale clearly implies if not the inevitability of more persecutions or, at the very least, a high risk thereof. Let’s accept that for demonstration sake and see what this, in turn, implies.
First, that implies that Jews are inherently threatened by non-Jews who are all at least potential anti-Semites. The threat is so severe that a separate Gentile-free homeland must be created as the only, best and last way to protect Jews worldwide. This, in turn, implies that the continued existence of this homeland should become a vital and irreplaceable priority of all Jews worldwide lest a persecution suddenly breaks out and they have nowhere to go. Furthermore, until all Jews finally “move up” to Israel, they had better be very, very careful as all the goyim around them could literally come down with a sudden case of genocidal anti-Semitism at any moment. Hence all the anti-anti-Semitic organizations a la ADL or UEJF, the Betar clubs, the networks of sayanim, etc.
In other words, far from being a local “dealing with Israel only” phenomenon, Zionism is a worldwide movement whose aim is to protect Jews from the apparently incurable anti-Semitism of the rest of the planet.
As Israel Shahak correctly identified it, Zionism postulates that Jews should “think locally and act globally” and when given a choice of policies they should always ask THE crucial question: “But is it good for Jews?“.
So far from being only focused on Israel, Zionism is really a global, planetary, ideology which unequivocally splits up all of mankind into two groups (Jews and Gentiles).  It assumes the latter are all potential genocidal maniacs (which is racist) and believes that saving Jewish lives is qualitatively different and more important than saving Gentile lives (which is racist again).
Anyone doubting the ferocity of this determination should either ask a Palestinian or study the holiday of Purim, or both. Even better, read Gilad Atzmon and look up his definition of what is brilliantly called “pre-traumatic stress disorder
3) Anglo-Zionist:
The British Empire and the early USA used to be pretty much wall-to-wall Anglo. Sure, Jews had a strong influence (in banking for example), but Zionism was a non-issue not only among non-Jews, but also among US Jews. Besides, religious Jews were often very hostile to the notion of a secular Israel while secular Jews did not really care about this quasi-Biblical notion.
WWII gave a massive boost to the Zionist movement while, as Norman Finkelstein explained it, the topic of the “Holocaust” became central to Jewish discourse and identity only many years later. I won’t go into the history of the rise to power of Jews in the USA, but from roughly Ford to GW Bush’s Neocons it has been steady. And even though Obama initially pushed the Neocons out, they came right back in through the backdoor. Right now, the only question is whether US Jews have more power than US Anglos or the other way around.
Before going any further, let me also immediately say that I am not talking about Jews or Anglos as a group, but I am referring to the top 1% within each of these groups. Furthermore, I don’t believe that the top 1% of Jews cares any more about Israel or the 99% of Jews than the top 1% of Anglos care about the USA or the Anglo people.
So, here is my thesis:
The US Empire is run by a 1% (or less) elite which can be called the “deep state” which is composed of two main groups: Anglos and Jews. These two groups are in many ways hostile to each other (just like the SS and SA or Trotskysts and Stalinists), but they share 1) a racist outlook on the rest of mankind 2) a messianic ideology 3) a phenomenal propensity for violence 4) an obsession with money and greed and its power to corrupt. So they work together almost all the time.
Now this might seem basic, but so many people miss it, that I will have to explicitly state it:
To say that most US elites are Anglos or Jews does not mean that most Anglos or Jews are part of the US elites. That is a straw-man argument which deliberately ignores the non commutative property of my thesis to turn it into a racist statement which accuses most/all Anglos or Jews of some evil doing. So to be very clear:
When I speak of AngloZionist Empire I am referring to the predominant ideology of the 1%ers, the elites which form the Empire’s “deep state”.
By the way, there are non-Jewish Zionists (Biden, in his own words) and there are plenty of anti-Zionist Jews. Likewise, there are non-Anglo imperialists and there are plenty of anti-imperialists Anglos. To speak of “Nazi Germany” or “Soviet Russia” does in no way imply that all Germans were Nazis or all Russians Communists. All this means it that the predominant ideology of these nations at that specific moment in time was National-Socialism and Marxism, that’s all.
My personal opinion now:
First, I don’t believe that Jews are a race or an ethnicity. I have always doubted it, but reading Shlomo Sand really convinced me. Jews are not defined by religion either (most/many are secular). Truly, Jews are a tribe (which Oxford Dictionaires defines as: a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader). A group one can chose to join (Elizabeth Taylor) or leave (Gilad Atzmon).
In other words, I see “Jewishness” as a culture, or ideology, or education or any other number of things, but not something rooted in biology. I fully agree with Atzmon when he says that Jews can be racist, but that does not make them a race.
Second, I don’t even believe that the concept of “race” has been properly defined and, hence, that it has any objective meaning. I therefore don’t differentiate between human beings on the basis of an undefined criterion.
Third, since being Jew (or not) is a choice: to belong, adhere and endorse a tribe (secular Jews) or a religion (Judaics). Any choice implies a judgment call and it therefore a legitimate target for scrutiny and criticism.
Fourth, I believe that Zionism, even when secular, instrumentalizes the values, ideas, myths and ethos of rabbinical Judaism (aka “Talmudism” or “Phariseeism”) and both are racist in their core value and assumptions.
Fifth, both Zionism and Nazism are twin brothers born from the same ugly womb: 19th century European nationalism (Brecht was right, “The belly is still fertile from which the foul beast sprang”). Nazis and Zionists can hate each other to their hearts’ content, but they are still twins.
Sixth, I reject any and all form of racism as a denial of our common humanity, a denial of the freedom of choice of each human being and – being an Orthodox Christian – as a heresy (a form of iconoclasm, really). To me people who chose to identify themselves with, and as, Jews are not inherently different from any other human and they deserve no more and no fewer rights and protections than any other human being.
I will note here that while the vast majority of my readers are Anglos, they almost never complain about the “Anglo” part of my “AngloZionist” term. The vast majority of objections focus on the “Zionist” part. You might want to think long and hard about why this is so and what it tells us about the kind of power Zionists have over the prevailing ideology. Could it be linked to the reason why the (openly racist and truly genocidal) Israeli Prime Minister gets more standing ovations in Congress (29) than the US President (25)?  Probably, but this is hardly the full story.
(This is the end of the 2014 blog entry.  The current article begins below)
It is undeniable that Jews did suffer persecutions in the past and that the Nazis horribly persecuted Jews during WWII.  This is important because nowadays we are all conditioned to associate and even identify any criticism of Jews or Zionist with the kind of anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist rhetoric which the Nazis used to justify their atrocities.  This is quite understandable, but it is also completely illogical because what this reaction is based on is the implicit assumption that any criticism of Jews or Zionist must be Nazi in its argumentation, motives, goals or methods.  This is beyond ridiculous.  
Saint John Chrysostom (349 – 407), the “Golden Mouth” of early Christianity, recognized as one of the greatest saints in history by both Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics, authored a series of homilies, Kata Ioudai┼Źn, which are extremely critical of Jews, yet no sane person would accuse him of being a Nazi.  Chrysostom was hardly alone.  Other great saints critical of Jews include Saint Cyprian of Carthage, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Saint Ephrem the Syrian, Saint Ambrose of Milan, Saint Justin Martyr and many others.  
But if these saints were not Nazis, maybe they still were racist, no?  That, of course, depends on your definition of 'racism'.  Here is my own:
First, racism is, in my opinion, not so much the belief that various human groups are different from each other, say like dog breeds can be different, but the belief that the differences between human groups are larger than similarities within the group.
Second, racism is also a belief that the biological characteristics of your group somehow pre-determine your actions/choices/values in life.
Third, racism often, but not always, assumes a hierarchy amongst human groups (Germanic Aryans over Slavs or Jews, Jews over Gentiles, etc.) 
I reject all three of these assumptions because I believe that God created all humans with the same purpose and that we are all “brothers in Adam”, that we all equally share the image (eternal and inherent potential for perfection) of God (as opposed to our likeness to Him, which is our temporary and changing individual condition).
By that definition, the Church Fathers were most definitely not racists as their critique was solely aimed at the religion of the Jews, not at their ethnicity (which is hardly surprising since Christ and His Apostles and most early Christians were all “ethnic” Jews).  This begs the question of whether criticizing a religion is legitimate or not.  
I submit that anything resulting from an individual choice is fair game for criticism.  Even if somebody is “born into” a religious community, all adults come to the point in life where they make a conscious decision to endorse or reject the religion they were “born into”.  Being a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew (in the sense of “Judaic”) is always a personal decision.  The same applies to political views.  One chooses to become a Marxist or a Monarchist or a Zionist.  And since our individual decisions do, indeed, directly impact our other choices in life, it is not racist or objectionable to criticize Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Marxism, Monarchism or Zionism.  Criticizing any one of them, or even all of them, in no way denies our common humanity which is something which racism always does.
Having said all that, none of the above addresses a most important, but rarely openly discussed, issue: what if, regardless of all the arguments above, using expressions such as “AngloZionism” offends some people (Jews or not), what if the use of this term alienates them so much that it would make them unwilling to listen to any argument or point of view using this expression?
This is a very different issue, not an ethical, moral or philosophical one – but a practical one: is it worth losing readers, supporters and even donors for the sake of using an expression which requires several pages of explanations in its defense?  This issue is one every blogger, every website, every alternative news outlet has had to struggle with.  I know that I got more angry mails over this than over any other form of crimethink I so often engage in.
I will readily admit that there is a cost involved in using the term “AngloZionist Empire”.  But that cost needs to be compared to the cost of *not* using that term.
Is there anybody out there who seriously doubts the huge role the so-called “Israel Lobby” or the “Neocons” or, to use the expression of Professor James Petras, the “Zionist Power Configuration” plays in modern politics?  Twenty years ago – maybe.  But not today.  We all are perfectly aware of the “elephant in the room”, courtesy not only of courageous folks like Gilad Atzmon, Israel Shahak or Norman Finkelstein but even such mainstream Anglo personalities as John J. Mearsheimer , Stephen M. Walt or even Jimmy Carter.  
It is plain silly to pretend that we don't know when we all know that we all know.
Pretending that we don't see this elephant in the room makes us look either subservient to that elephant, or simply like a coward who dares not speak truth to power.  In other words, if you do want to shoot your credibility, pretend really hard that you are totally unaware of the elephant in the room: some of your sponsors might love you, but everybody else will despise you.
What about the very real risk of being perceived as some kind of Nazi?  
Yes, the risk is there, but only if you allow yourself to flirt with racist or even para-racist notions.  But if you are categorical in your rejection of any form of racism (including any form of anti-Jewish racism), then the accusation will simply not stick.  Oh sure, the Zionists out there will try hard to make you look like a Nazi, but they will fail simply because they will have nothing to base that accusation on other than some vague “overtones” or “lack of sensitivity”.  In my experience, people are not that stupid and they rapidly see through that worn-out accusation of “anti-Semitism” ( a meaningless concept to begin with, as Michael Neumann so brilliantly demonstrates in his essay “What is Antisemitism?”).  
The truth is that the Zionists are only as powerful as we allow them to be.  If we allow them to scare us into silence, then indeed their power is immense, but if we simply demand that they stop treating some humans as “more equal than others” then their own racism suddenly becomes obvious for all to see and their power vanishes.  
It is really that simple: since nobody can accuse a real anti-racist of racism, then truly being an anti-racist gives you an immunity against the accusation of anti-Semitism.
So what we need, at this point, is to consider the terms used.
“Israel Lobby” suffers from several major issues.  First, it implies that the folks in this lobby really care about Israel and the people of Israel.   While some probably do, we also have overwhelming evidence (such as the testimony of Sibel Edmonds) that many/most folks in the “Israel Lobby” use the topic of Israel for their own, very different goals (usually power, often money).  Have the people of Israel really benefited from from the Neocon-triggered wars?  I doubt it.  
Furthermore, when hearing the word “Israel Lobby” most people will think of a lobby in the US Congress, something like the NRA or the AARP.  The problem we are dealing with today is clearly international.  Bernard Henri Levi, George Soros or Mikhail Khodorkovsky have no connection to AIPAC or the US Congress.  “Zionist Power Configuration” is better, but “configuration” is vague.  What we are dealing with is clearly an empire.  Besides, this is clearly not only a Zionist Empire, the Anglo component is at least as influential, so why only mention one and not both?
Still, I don't think that we should get too caught up in semantics here.  From my point of view, there are two truly essential issues which need to be addressed:
1) We need to start talking freely about the “elephant in the room” and stop fearing reprisals from those who want us to pretend we don't see it.
2) We need to stop using politically correct euphemisms in the vain hope that those who want us to shut up will accept them. They won't.
Currently, much of the discourse on Jewish or Zionist topics is severely restricted.  Doubting the obligatory “6 million” murdered Jews during WWII can land in you jail in several European countries.  Ditto if you express any doubts about the actual mode of executions (gas chambers vs firing squads and disease) of these Jews.  “Revisionism”, as asking such questions is now known, is seen either as a crime or, at least, a moral abomination, even though “revisionism” is what all real historians do: historiography is revisionistic by its very nature.  But even daring to mention such truisms immediately makes you a potential Nazi in the eyes of many/most people.  
Since when is expressing a doubt an endorsement of an ideology? This is crazy, no?
I personally came to the conclusion that the West became an easy victim of such “conceptual hijackings” because of a sense of guilt about having let the Nazis murder so many European Jews without taking any meaningful action.  It is a fact that it was the Soviet Union which carried 80% or more of the burden of destroying Hitler's war machine: most Europeans resisted shamefully little.  As for the Anglos, they waited until the Soviet victory before even entering the war in Europe.   
Okay, fine – let those who feel guilty feel guilty (even if I personally don't believe in collective guilt).  But we cannot allow them to try to silence those of us who strongly feel that we are guilty of absolutely nothing!  
Do we really have to kowtow to all Jews, including the top 1% of Jews who, like all 1%ers, do not care about the rest of the 99%?  How long are we going to continue to allow the top 1% of Jews enjoy a bizarre form of political immunity because they hide behind the memory of Jews murdered during WWII or the political sensitivities of the 99% of Jews with whom they have no real connection anyway?
I strongly believe that all 1%ers are exactly the same: they care about themselves and nobody else.  Their power, what I call the AngloZionist Empire, is based on two things: deception and violence.  Their worldview is based on one of two forms of messianism: Anglo imperialism and Zionism (which is just a secularized version of Judaic racial exceptionalism).  This has nothing to do with Nazism, WWII or anti-Semitism and everything with ruthless power politics.  Unless we are willing to call a spade a spade we will never be able to meaningfully oppose this Empire or the 1%ers who run it.  
In truth, since we owe them nothing except our categorical rejection and opposition.  It is, I believe, our moral duty to shed a powerful light on their true nature and debunk the lies they try so hard to hide behind.  
If their way is by deception, then ours ought to be by truth, because, as Christ said, the truth shall make us free.  
Euphemisms only serve to further enslave us.
The Saker

Monday, January 25, 2016

515 Syria: Saudia Arabia, the CIA and the Pentagon ( from the NY Times.)


Shiite Muslims in Karachi, Pakistan, protested the Saudis’ beheading of a dissident cleric this month. The Obama administration did not publicly condemn it. CreditRizwan Tabassum/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — When President Obama secretly authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to begin arming Syria’s embattled rebels in 2013, the spy agency knew it would have a willing partner to help pay for the covert operation. It was the same partner the C.I.A. has relied on for decades for money and discretion in far-off conflicts: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Since then, the C.I.A. and its Saudi counterpart have maintained an unusual arrangement for the rebel-training mission, which the Americans have code-named Timber Sycamore. Under the deal, current and former administration officials said, the Saudis contribute both weapons and large sums of money, and the C.I.A takes the lead in training the rebels on AK-47 assault rifles and tank-destroying missiles.

The support for the Syrian rebels is only the latest chapter in the decadeslong relationship between the spy services of Saudi Arabia and the United States, an alliance that has endured through the Iran-contra scandal, support for the mujahedeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan and proxy fights in Africa. Sometimes, as in Syria, the two countries have worked in concert. In others, Saudi Arabia has simply written checks underwriting American covert activities.

Continue reading the main story

Secrets of the Kingdom

Decades of Discreet Cooperation

The joint arming and training program, which other Middle East nations contribute money to, continues as America’s relations with Saudi Arabia — and the kingdom’s place in the region — are in flux. The old ties of cheap oil and geopolitics that have long bound the countries together have loosened as America’s dependence on foreign oil declines and the Obama administration tiptoes toward a diplomatic rapprochement with Iran.
And yet the alliance persists, kept afloat on a sea of Saudi money and a recognition of mutual self-interest. In addition to Saudi Arabia’s vast oil reserves and role as the spiritual anchor of the Sunni Muslim world, the long intelligence relationship helps explain why the United States has been reluctant to openly criticize Saudi Arabia for its human rights abuses, its treatment of women and its support for the extreme strain of Islam, Wahhabism, that has inspired many of the very terrorist groups the United States is fighting. The Obama administration did not publicly condemn Saudi Arabia’s beheading this month of a dissident Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who had challenged the royal family.
Although the Saudis have been public about their help arming rebel groups in Syria, the extent of their partnership with the C.I.A.’s covert action campaign and their direct financial support had not been disclosed. Details were pieced together in interviews with a half-dozen current and former American officials and sources from several Persian Gulf countries. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the program.
From the moment the C.I.A. operation was started, Saudi money supported it.
“They understand that they have to have us, and we understand that we have to have them,” said Mike Rogers, the former Republican congressman from Michigan who was chairman of the House Intelligence Committeewhen the C.I.A. operation began. Mr. Rogers declined to discuss details of the classified program.
American officials have not disclosed the amount of the Saudi contribution, which is by far the largest from another nation to the program to arm the rebels against President Bashar al-Assad’s military. But estimates have put the total cost of the arming and training effort at several billion dollars.


King Salman of Saudi Arabia and President Barack Obama in September at the White House.CreditGary Cameron/Reuters

The White House has embraced the covert financing from Saudi Arabia — and from Qatar, Jordan and Turkey — at a time when Mr. Obama has pushed gulf nations to take a greater security role in the region.
Spokesmen for both the C.I.A. and the Saudi Embassy in Washington declined to comment.
When Mr. Obama signed off on arming the rebels in the spring of 2013, it was partly to try to gain control of the apparent free-for-all in the region. The Qataris and the Saudis had been funneling weapons into Syria for more than a year. The Qataris had even smuggled in shipments of Chinese-made FN-6 shoulder-fired missiles over the border from Turkey.
The Saudi efforts were led by the flamboyant Prince Bandar bin Sultan, at the time the intelligence chief, who directed Saudi spies to buy thousands of AK-47s and millions of rounds of ammunition in Eastern Europe for the Syrian rebels. The C.I.A. helped arrange some of the arms purchases for the Saudis, including a large deal in Croatia in 2012.
By the summer of 2012, a freewheeling feel had taken hold along Turkey’s border with Syria as the gulf nations funneled cash and weapons to rebel groups — even some that American officials were concerned had ties to radical groups like Al Qaeda.
The C.I.A. was mostly on the sidelines during this period, authorized by the White House under the Timber Sycamore training program to deliver nonlethal aid to the rebels but not weapons. In late 2012, according to two former senior American officials, David H. Petraeus, then the C.I.A. director, delivered a stern lecture to intelligence officials of several gulf nations at a meeting near the Dead Sea in Jordan. He chastised them for sending arms into Syria without coordinating with one another or with C.I.A. officers in Jordan and Turkey.

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In Past Pages of The Times: the Early Days of the U.S.-Saudi Relationship


U.S. Warship Becomes Arab Court In Miniature for Ibn Saud's Voyage

Aboard an American warship, complete with a lavishly decorated tent and sheep for slaughter, King Ibn Saud prepared to meet with President Franklin D. Roosevelt to secure an agreement providing oil in exchange for military support.
The New York Times
See full article in TimesMachine

Months later, Mr. Obama gave his approval for the C.I.A. to begin directly arming and training the rebels from a base in Jordan, amending the Timber Sycamore program to allow lethal assistance. Under the new arrangement, the C.I.A. took the lead in training, while Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency, the General Intelligence Directorate, provided money and weapons, including TOW anti-tank missiles.
The Qataris have also helped finance the training and allowed a Qatari base to be used as an additional training location. But American officials said Saudi Arabia was by far the largest contributor to the operation.
While the Obama administration saw this coalition as a selling point in Congress, some, including Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, raised questions about why the C.I.A. needed Saudi money for the operation, according to one former American official. Mr. Wyden declined to be interviewed, but his office released a statement calling for more transparency. “Senior officials have said publicly that the U.S. is trying to build up the battlefield capabilities of the anti-Assad opposition, but they haven’t provided the public with details about how this is being done, which U.S. agencies are involved, or which foreign partners those agencies are working with,” the statement said.
When relations among the countries involved in the training program are strained, it often falls to the United States to broker solutions. As the host, Jordan expects regular payments from the Saudis and the Americans. When the Saudis pay late, according to a former senior intelligence official, the Jordanians complain to C.I.A. officials.
While the Saudis have financed previous C.I.A. missions with no strings attached, the money for Syria comes with expectations, current and former officials said. “They want a seat at the table, and a say in what the agenda of the table is going to be,” said Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A. analyst and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
The C.I.A. training program is separate from another program to arm Syrian rebels, one the Pentagon ran that has since ended. That program was designed to train rebels to combat Islamic State fighters in Syria, unlike the C.I.A.’s program, which focuses on rebel groups fighting the Syrian military.


Prince Bandar bin Sultan, in a 2007 photo, directed Saudi spies to buy thousands of AK-47 assault rifles for Syrian rebels. CreditHassan Ammar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

While the intelligence alliance is central to the Syria fight and has been important in the war against Al Qaeda, a constant irritant in American-Saudi relations is just how much Saudi citizens continue to support terrorist groups, analysts said.
“The more that the argument becomes, ‘We need them as a counterterrorism partner,’ the less persuasive it is,” said William McCants, a former State Department counterterrorism adviser and the author of abook on the Islamic State. “If this is purely a conversation about counterterrorism cooperation, and if the Saudis are a big part of the problem in creating terrorism in the first place, then how persuasive of an argument is it?”

In the near term, the alliance remains solid, strengthened by a bond between spy masters. Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Saudi interior minister who took over the effort to arm the Syrian rebels from Prince Bandar, has known the C.I.A. director, John O. Brennan, from the time Mr. Brennan was the agency’s Riyadh station chief in the 1990s. Former colleagues say the two men remain close, and Prince Mohammed has won friends in Washington with his aggressive moves to dismantle terrorist groups like Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The job Mr. Brennan once held in Riyadh is, more than the ambassador’s, the true locus of American power in the kingdom. Former diplomats recall that the most important discussions always flowed through the C.I.A. station chief.
Current and former intelligence officials say there is a benefit to this communication channel: The Saudis are far more responsive to American criticism when it is done in private, and this secret channel has done more to steer Saudi behavior toward America’s interests than any public chastising could have.
The roots of the relationship run deep. In the late 1970s, the Saudis organized what was known as the “Safari Club” — a coalition of nations including Morocco, Egypt and France — that ran covert operations around Africa at a time when Congress had clipped the C.I.A.’s wings over years of abuses.

Continue reading the main story

The Big Four in Saudi Arabia’s Government

Brief background information on the most powerful figures in the kingdom, and how they stand in the sometimes complicated order of succession.

“And so the kingdom, with these countries, helped in some way, I believe, to keep the world safe at a time when the United States was not able to do that,” Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former head of Saudi intelligence, recalled in a speech at Georgetown University in 2002.
In the 1980s, the Saudis helped finance C.I.A. operations in Angola, where the United States backed rebels against the Soviet-allied government. While the Saudis were staunchly anticommunist, Riyadh’s primary incentive seemed to be to solidify its C.I.A. ties. “They were buying good will,” recalled one former senior intelligence officer who was involved in the operation.
In perhaps the most consequential episode, the Saudis helped arm the mujahedeen rebels to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. The United States committed hundreds of millions of dollars each year to the mission, and the Saudis matched it, dollar for dollar.
The money flowed through a C.I.A.-run Swiss bank account. In the book “Charlie Wilson’s War,” the journalist George Crile III describes how the C.I.A. arranged for the account to earn no interest, in keeping with the Islamic ban on usury.
In 1984, when the Reagan administration sought help with its secret plan to sell arms to Iran to finance the contra rebels in Nicaragua, Robert C. McFarlane, the national security adviser, met with Prince Bandar, who was the Saudi ambassador to Washington at the time. The White House made it clear that the Saudis would “gain a considerable amount of favor” by cooperating, Mr. McFarlane later recalled.

Prince Bandar pledged $1 million per month to help fund the contras, in recognition of the administration’s past support to the Saudis. The contributions continued after Congress cut off funding to the contras. By the end, the Saudis had contributed $32 million, paid through a Cayman Islands bank account.
When the Iran-contra scandal broke, and questions arose about the Saudi role, the kingdom kept its secrets. Prince Bandar refused to cooperate with the investigation led by Lawrence E. Walsh, the independent counsel.
In a letter, the prince declined to testify, explaining that his country’s “confidences and commitments, like our friendship, are given not just for the moment but the long run.”
Correction: January 24, 2016 
An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the beheading of a Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. While the execution was not kept secret, it is not the case that it was carried out in public.