In the Mideast, it’s customary for less important people to go call on their betters, not vice versa. The more important you are, the longer you keep callers waiting.
US President Joe Biden ignored all these customs on his recent pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, whose de facto ruler he had previously termed a ‘pariah.’
Everyone knew Biden had come to Saudi to politely grovel before its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the potentate whom CIA claims ordered critical Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi kidnapped and chopped up into little pieces.
Prince Mohammed denies any responsibility.
The real reason for Biden’s supplication was, of course, the worldwide shortage of oil which was partly caused by the US-led embargo on Russian oil exports. Americans are deeply outraged by high oil prices which can be the kiss of death for many a politician.
Americans care about three things above all: gasoline, God and guns.
As everyone knows, gasoline prices have hit the roof just when US midterm elections are on the horizon. The Biden White House is rightly panicking as the president’s feeble approval ratings drop ever lower.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump sits in his Floridian version of Elba waiting for the time to return to power. No current Democrat looks capable of standing up to Trump. One even wonders if the frail-looking Biden will make it to election day.
Many Republicans question Biden’s pouring of at least $74 billion in arms and aid into Ukraine (plus $5 billion to overthrow the democratically elected former government in Kiev). More US weapons are on the way to Ukraine.
Washington’s plunge into the Ukraine has threatened to provoke a nuclear clash with Moscow over a part of the world in which the US has never had any strategic or historic interest.
This matters little to most Americans or Congress. The US and Canada are swamped by pro-independence Ukraine agitation. To some, Ukraine has become a sort of second Israel and is seen as a potential refuge for persecuted European, or even Israeli, Jews.
Democrats will lose the election unless telegenic California governor Gavin Newsome decides to run for president from the perch once held by Ronald Reagan.
Biden’s Democratic Party has long received substantial funding from ardently pro-Israel groups. Biden is a strong supporter of Israel, both its leftwing and rightist parties. Trump was a booster for Israel’s hard right-wing expansionists. He redirected US Mideast policy to suit Israel’s needs and curry favor with the Christian far right. Biden is simply continuing Trump’s pro-Israel policies, albeit with a bit more subtlety and a bit less bible thumping.
The so-called ‘Abraham Agreements’ forged by Trump & Co. were a cynical bad joke. They forced despotic Arab regimes to reveal that their under the table dealings with Israel that had been going on for decades. Saudi Arabia just beheaded 81 prisoners last week. The accords openly linked some of the Mideast’s most repressive regimes and worst violators of human rights to oppose Iran.
As a former columnist for leading newspapers in Dubai and Qatar, I watched all this happen. First under Obama, Trump, and now Biden, the Mideast’s people were relentlessly squeezed by dictatorial rulers backed and armed by the United States and Britain. The US Air Force and British RAF provided the aircraft, pilots, and ground crews that ravaged remote Yemen and slew large numbers of its people – just as they did in Afghanistan.
The Saudis, Egyptians and Emiratis hope to rule the Arab world and Red Sea littoral as cat’s paws for what I call the ‘American Raj.’ It’s brutal and cynical but readily understood by the Mideast’s people.