by Nick Giambruno,, International Man:
Obama pulled out his veto pen 12 times during his presidency.
Congress only overrode him once…
In late 2016, Obama vetoed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). The bill would allow 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in US courts.
With only months left in office, Obama wasn’t worried about the political price of opposing the bill. It was worth protecting Saudi Arabia and the petrodollar system, which underpins the US dollar’s role as the world’s premier currency.
Congress didn’t see it that way though. Those up for reelection couldn’t afford to side with Saudi Arabia over US victims. So Congress voted to override Obama’s veto, and JASTA became the law of the land.
The Saudis, quite correctly, see this as a huge threat. If they can be sued in US courts, their vast holdings of US assets are at risk of being frozen or seized.
The Saudi foreign minister promptly threatened to sell all of the country’s US assets.
Basically, Saudi Arabia was threatening to rip up the petrodollar arrangement, which underpins the US dollar’s role as the world’s premier currency.
Donald Trump and the Saudis
Unlike every president since the petrodollar’s birth, Donald Trump is openly hostile to Saudi Arabia.
Recently he put this out on Twitter:
Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money. Can’t do it when I get elected.
The dopey prince that Trump is referring to is Al-Waleed bin Talal, a prominent member of the Saudi royal family. He’s also one of the largest foreign investors in the US economy, particularly in media and financial companies.
The Saudis openly backed Hillary during the election. In fact, they “donated” an estimated $10 million–$25 million to the Clinton Foundation, making them the most generous foreign donors.
Besides Hillary Clinton, the single biggest loser from the US presidential election was Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis did not want Donald Trump in the White House. And not because of some bad blood on Twitter. There are real geopolitical issues at stake.
At the moment, Trump seems determined to walk back on US support for the so-called “moderate” rebels in Syria.
The Saudis are furious with the US for not holding up its part of the petrodollar deal. They think the US should have already attacked Syria as part of its commitment to keep the region safe for the monarchy.
Toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a longstanding Saudi goal. But a President Trump makes that unlikely. That’s not good for Saudi Arabia’s position in the Middle East, nor its relationship with the US.
This is just one of the ways President Trump will hasten the death of the petrodollar.
Saudi Arabia, Islam, and Wahhabism
I loathe quoting a neoconservative historian like Bernard Lewis, but even a broken clock is right twice a day:
Imagine if the Ku Klux Klan or Aryan Nation obtained total control of Texas and had at its disposal all the oil revenues, and used this money to establish a network of well-endowed schools and colleges all over Christendom peddling their particular brand of Christianity.
This is what the Saudis have done with Wahhabism. The oil money has enabled them to spread this fanatical, destructive form of Islam all over the Muslim world and among Muslims in the West. Without oil and the creation of the Saudi kingdom, Wahhabism would have remained a lunatic fringe in a marginal country.
This is actually an apt description of Wahhabism, a particularly virulent and intolerant strain of Sunni Islam most Saudis follow. ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and a slew of other extremists also follow this puritanical brand of Islam. That’s why Saudi Arabia and ISIS use the same brutal punishments, like beheadings.
Many Wahhabis consider Muslims of any other flavor—like the Shia in Iran, the Alawites in Syria, or non-Wahhabi Sunnis—apostates worthy of death.
In many ways, Saudi Arabia is an institutionalized version of ISIS. There’s even a grim joke that Saudi Arabia is simply “an ISIS that made it.”
After living in the Middle East for three years, it’s clear to me that many people in the region despise everything about Wahhabism. Yet it flourishes in certain Sunni communities, among people who feel they have nowhere else to turn.
It’s also widely believed in the Middle East that Western powers deliberately fostered Wahhabism, to a degree, to keep the region weak and divided—and as a weapon against Shia Iran and its allies. That includes Syria and post-Saddam Iraq, which has shifted its allegiance towards Iran.
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