|U.S. President Barack Obama (left) greets Saudi's Haj Minister Fouad Al-Farsy and Saudi's Oil Minister Ali |
al-Naimi (center) Oil Minister upon his arrival at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh June 2009.
(Photo by Tribes of the World)
By Eric Zuesse
The richest person in the world isn’t anyone in the Forbes list, which excludes calculations for any heads-of-state, but is instead King Salman of Saudi Arabia, whose net worth is in the trillions of dollars. He virtually owns the Saudi Government, which owns the world’s largest oil company, Aramco, among other assets.
Aramco alone is worth “anywhere between US$1.25 trillion and US$7 trillion, making it the world’s most valuable company.” The company’s website says: “1980: Saudi Arabian government acquires 100 percent participation interest in Aramco,” most of which it had already owned. The Saud family’s partners since 1933 had been Chevron Corporation, or Standard Oil of California, which built Aramco.
It was a Rockefeller company then; but no one can say who controls it today. As of 2013 (see p. 56 there), the only two investors that owned more than 0.002 or .02% of Chevron, each owned around 6% of it: Blackrock, Inc., and State Street Corp., and they essentially jointly controlled that company, regarding anything on which the two agreed. But the controlling stockholder of Blackrock in 2013 was PNC Financial Services, at 20.8%. PNC is jointly controlled by Wellington Management, Blackrock and the Vanguard Group, each at more than 5%. Wellington, the main stockholder, is jointly controlled by Blackrock, Dimensional Fund Advisors, Royce & Associates, T. Rowe Price, and Wellington Management itself. Some companies, such as Wellington Management, simply hide their owners. All of this is called ‘democracy.’ (Or, at least, it’s “capitalism” of the fascist sort.)
However, King Salman’s ownership of the Saudi Government is relatively clear, since he controls the Government as his private fiefdom, and since his Government owns Aramco and other assets. Individuals such as Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, Warren Buffett, and Amancio Ortega, are each only around 1/20th to 1/50th as rich as is he.
The officially-given-out figure for Salman’s personal wealth is $18 billion, but Forbessimply omits including him at all. (Bloomberg’s billionaires-list does likewise.) They don’t want to offend the richest people in the world; and heads-of-state who have become enormously wealthy from heisting an entire country prefer to keep the actual size of their heists hidden. (Furthermore, in order to pretend that the basic capitalist myth is true — that accumulation of wealth reflects mainly one’s merit instead of one’s power — they need to play down wealth that’s been accumulated by crime, or by inheritance; and head-of-state wealth tends strongly to be the product of both.)
On October 14th, Britain’s Guardian bannered, “Saudi Arabia: Mother of Saudi man sentenced to crucifixion begs Obama to intervene,” and opened:
“The mother of a Saudi protester sentenced to death by beheading and crucifixion has begged Barack Obama to intervene to save her son’s life. In her first interview with foreign media, Nusra al-Ahmed, the mother of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, whose case has made headlines around the world, described the intended punishment as savage and ‘backwards in the extreme’. … She said her son had been detained sometime after joining Shia demonstrators in the eastern coastal city of Qatif seeking equal religious rights in the Sunni-majority country. … Visiting after his arrest, she alleged he had been tortured. ‘When I visited my son for the first time I didn’t recognise him. I didn’t know whether this really was my son Ali or not. I could clearly see a wound on his forehead. Another wound in his nose. They disfigured it. …[When] I started talking to him [he told me that] during the interrogation [he was] being kicked, slapped, of course his teeth fell out … For a month he was peeing blood. He said he felt like a mass of pain, his body was no more.’”
This was/is his punishment for participating in a peaceful demonstration.
Ali Mohammed al-Nimr’s father “Mohammed al-Nimr, said his son is among eight young men facing capital punishment but insisted that he was completely innocent of the charges against him.” The father is similarly pleading for British leader David Cameron to push publicly for his son’s life to be spared. The Guardian reported the father on October 8th saying, “My son is completely innocent. He has denied all accusations against him and said so in court. My son is a peaceful man. They forced him to sign a confession for a crime he never committed.”
This is part of a global war between Sunni and Shiia political leaders. America and its vassal-states (including David Cameron’s Britain) are allied with Sunni-run nations, while Russia and its cooperating nations are allied with Shiia-run nations.
The Saudi royals are the world’s top Sunni force, and they have long been allied with the United States, against post-Shah (post-1979) Iran and all other Shiia-ruled countries, such as Syria, and such as the next-door Yemenese Shiite Houthis, who are being bombed incessantly by the hard-line Sunni Sauds using their U.S. weapons. According to the former bookkeeper of the Sunni organization Al Qaeda, the man who collected all of the financial donations to that organization, virtually all of Al Qaeda’s funding consisted of multimillion-dollar donations, mainly from the Saud family but also from other Sunni Arab royals; and their followers, the terrorists, were mercenaries in their pay, almost as much as they were true-believing fundamentalist Sunnis — they were being paid very well by their royal sponsors, to serve as a ‘volunteer’ army for jihad to bring a globalized version of the ancient Caliphate, or Sunni Empire. Such terrorism can be quite lucrative for a jihadist, even if the bigger payoff is promised to come in his afterlife.
The official religion of Saudi Arabia is the Wahhabist or Salafist fundamentalist Islamic sect of the Sunni version of Islam. It’s the version of Islam that seeks a return of the ancient Caliphate or Sunni Empire, but now on a global level (extending at least as far away from Arabia as Afghanistan and Pakistan) — and, of course, the Saud family (after all their ancient conquests) owns Mecca, in whose direction every Muslim (Sunni or not) is required (according to the standard understanding of the Quran, in Surah “The Cow” or “ Al Baqarah,” 142-143) to bow towards in prayer, every day. So: King Salman controls not only the estimated quarter-trillion-barrels of oil that Aramco has, but also the Mecca for all of Islam. And, of course, he also relies upon the decades-long military backing of the United States Government.
If President Obama, or Prime Minister Cameron, pleads publicly for King Salman not to behead Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, then what about the perhaps hundreds of other head-chops that Salman will do (via his hired executioners) this year? (There are already more than a hundred so far in 2015. You can see a few of them in secretly-filmed phone-videos that are included on this recent documentary, which also shows the boy/man Ali Mohammed al-Nimr whose crime was to seek an end to the systematic discrimination against Shiia in Saudi Arabia. It also discusses the situation of women, and the plight of slaves.) For Obama to issue any such request publicly would get in the way of his (and especially the Sauds’) anti-Shiia “Assad Must Go” campaign. After all, in September 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives issued a report saying that:
Today we are witnessing the largest global convergence of jihadists in history, as individuals from more than 100 countries have migrated to the conflict zone in Syria and Iraq since 2011. Some initially flew to the region to join opposition groups seeking to oust Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, but most are now joining the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), inspired to become a part of the group’s “caliphate” and to expand its repressive society. Over 25,000 foreign fighters have traveled to the battlefield to enlist with Islamist terrorist groups, including at least 4,500 Westerners. More than 250 individuals from the United States have also joined or attempted to fight with extremists in the conflict zone.5,000 foreign Sunni jihadists in Syria came from Tunisia — it’s how Tunisia managed to get rid of enough of them to be able to establish something of a democracy in their own land. The second-biggest national contingent, 2,275, is from Saudi Arabia itself, the same country that supplied fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 terrorists. But the exodus of 2,275 jihadists from Saudi Arabia can’t enable democracy to emerge in Saudi Arabia, because the Saud family’s own Wahhab faith is based upon supporting jihad. Most of the Saudi population aren’t in favor of extending Wahhabism around the world, but the Sauds are. Conveniently, their war to spread Allah’s power happens to be also a war to spread the Sauds’ power. (It’s not spreading the power of the rest of the Saudi population.) The Sauds believe that Allah is on their family’s side. After all: God (and the pillaging that had enabled the Saud family to conquer the country) gave them 260 billion barrels of oil!
These warriors are all doing battle to oust Bashar al-Assad, the most secular (or non-sectarian) leader in the Middle East (far more secular, for example, than is America’s ally, Israel). The Syrian Constitution under his Ba’ath Party has always been non-Islamic, and not only non-jihadist. There is a strict separation of religion from politics. By contrast, in Saudi Arabia, “The Qur’an is declared to be the constitution of the country, which is governed on the basis of Islamic law (Shari’a).” Furthermore, “No political parties or national elections are permitted and according to The Economist’s 2010 Democracy Index, the Saudi government was the seventh most authoritarian regime from among the 167 countries rated.” (Notice that euphemism ‘authoritarian.’ When we were fighting self-declared fascists in World War II, we used instead the honest term for them, “dictatorships.” The Sauds are dictators.) The Sauds are dictators.) TheEconomist rated Syria the fifth-most “authoritarian,” but theEconomist is allied with the Saudi royal family and wants Assad to be overthrown. And, at seventh-worst, Saudi Arabia was actually ranked far worse than any other of the magazine’s listed allies. (The Economist is hardly a trustworthy source, more a mouthpiece of the aristocracy.)
U.S. President Obama has consistently since 2011 argued that, “The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people. We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” How wonderful to know that our President cares so much about “the Syrian people” as to bomb their government and try to replace it with one more like the Sauds’. The stars-and-stripes waves so proudly around the world. (Actually not — certainly not now.)
Obama said on 2 October 2015, “They’ve been propping up a regime that is rejected by an overwhelming majority of the Syrian population because they’ve seen that he has been willing to drop barrel bombs on children and on villages indiscriminately.” He blatantly lied.
Polling in Syria, even by Western polling firms and throughout the period of the invasion by Saudi and other fighters and the U.S. bombing of Assad’s forces, has consistently shown at least 55% support by Syrians for continuation of Assad as being Syria’s leader. There are no such political polls published in Saudi Arabia; its royals don’t allow that; but, if such polls were to be done there, then anyone who might be indicated to threaten continuation of the Sauds’ dictatorship would simply be beheaded anyway.
That’s the type of orderly nation the United States can defend. The United States can also support the regime it had installed in a violent February 2014 coup in Ukraine that’sfirebombing the residents of the area that refused to accept the coup-government the U.S. had installed. (Firebombs areworse than barrel bombs.) For some reason, things like this are not what U.S. politicians and ‘news’ media talk about, with ‘our’ ‘free’ press. So, it’s easy for the U.S. public to be unaware of such realities about the ‘democracy’ that ‘they’ ‘elect.’ Out of sight is out of mind; ignorance is bliss. Under such circumstances as this, it’s more comfortable for the public to be ignorant, and America’s aristocrats want their public to be comfortable, at least enough so that the public will vote for the candidates they finance. Just as George W. Bush wanted his torture-operation to be done offshore, Barack Obama also wants the beheadings etc. to besmirch other countries such as Saudi Arabia, not the U.S., which keeps regimes like that in power while demanding that Syria, Libya, Russia, etc., must have “regime change,” in order, supposedly, to bring there the blessings of ‘democracy.’
What ‘blessings of ‘democracy’ has the United States recently brought to the people in Honduras, or in El Salvador, or in Guatemala? The results have been floods of refugees from there, just like the floods of refugees from U.S. bombing campaigns in Libya and in Syria. America and its allies and their ‘news’ media blame the refugees on the countries that America has destroyed. This, too, helps promote, among the public, the ‘bliss’ that is ignorance — or, worse yet, deception — in these ‘democracies’: blaming the U.S.-caused refugees for the refugees-problem (both in the U.S. and in Europe).
America’s rot in international affairs is pervasive. Take for example Obama’s drone-warfare program to kill some Saudi-inspired extremists; it too is full of lies. In a rare example of honest mainstream U.S. journalistic dissent, Jeremy Scahillat Huffington Post reported on October 15th that:
“The White House and Pentagon boast that the targeting killing program is precise and that civilian deaths are minimal. However, documents detailing a special operations campaign in northeastern Afghanistan, Operation Haymaker, show that between January 2012 and February 2013, U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. During one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets.” (Yet, even knowing this, Obama continues his drone program.)Obama was mainly building support there for the Saudi-originated Taliban (they started out as being called the“Mujahideen” and were supplied weapons by the U.S.). Taliban gain support among villagers whose loss of innocent family-members on account of these U.S. drone-strikes drives them to favor the fight against the enemy that has been killing their loved-ones (i.e., against the U.S.). The Taliban are actually allies of the Sauds, who sometimes are even brought in to help persuade them to back off (and another example of that is here). In fact,
“Riyadh helped foster the rise of the Taliban beginning in the mid-1990s largely to serve as a proxy force against Afghanistan’s post-Soviet leadership. But Saudi Arabia also supported the radical Islamic militants to counter Iran.”So, at the very same time that the U.S. Government tries to fool its public that the U.S. military are focused primarily against the threat from Islamic jihadists (not against Russia), U.S. policies are actually directed instead against the enemies of the Sauds (who are behind Islamic jihadists): that’s to say, against Iran, the leading Shiia power; and especially against Russia, the leading competitor to Saudi Arabia in the oil and gas markets — and the chief country that’s still holding out against takeover by the U.S. aristocracy.
Without continuing U.S. support, the Sauds would be treated by Saudis even worse than Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Nicholas II, and Benito Mussolini, were: they’d be treated the same way they themselves have treated anyone in Saudi Arabia who has protested their decades-long tyranny. Would the fanatic fundamentalist clergy that the Sauds have shared power with be treated any better? Even from the standpoint of moderating Islamism, the results of overthrowing the Sauds would likely be better than what America — the world-policeman for the imperial Saudi tyrants — has produced. But it would need to be done before the Sauds acquire nuclear weapons.
What needs to be changed first is the American government — its control by an aristocracy that’s firmly wedded to the Sauds. The American aristocracy (especially its three most powerful components: petrodollar Wall Street, oil-and-gas billionaires, and military-industrial-complex billionaires — all of whom benefit from alliance with the Sauds) needs to be defeated in America. The American people need to strip the U.S. aristocracy (at least those three elements of it) of their power over the U.S. Government. It can’t be done unless the news-media start informing the American people of reality. (For example, in neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party Presidential debates has this immense problem, and candidates’ positions regarding it, been even so much as mentioned. That can’t possibly reflect a democratic nation — an authentic democracy.)
Continued dishonesty will lead only to catastrophe. If honesty doesn’t start now, it probably won’t start until such a disaster can’t be avoided. Honesty needs to start now. It starts here, or it won’t start at all.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.