A new perspective reveals our weird Middle East policy

Summary: Ex-British diplomat Craig Murray says obvious truths about America’s Middle East policy that are unmentionable in polite company. We should listen to his harsh words.

Are these useful allies for America?

Group photo of Saudi Princes

Beneath Contempt

By Craig Murray at his website, 19 September 2019.
Posted with his generous permission.

The ruling caste of Saudi Arabia presents the most striking example in world history of the extreme combination of avarice and personal cowardice. They are gagging for a war with Iran so long as somebody else fights it for them. Due to a dispute over who ought to have been Caliph 1400 years ago, they are champing at the bit for somebody to massacre the Shia in the Shia heartland – provided they don’t have to do the massacring.

It is not that they object to blood on their pure white robes, they often get that when executing a bound prisoner or raping the housemaid. But the thought of their own blood being spilt is an abomination. Let some helpful young Israelis or Americans risk fighting the Iranians, while the Saudi rulers sniff their cocaine in their London penthouses.

It is not that Saudi does not have its own military. Bombing civilian Shia Houthis from a great height with no chance of retaliation is great sport {for them}. And there were some actual Saudis in some of the tanks sent in to massacre the unarmed democracy demonstrators of Bahrain. But the world’s greatest spender per capita on weapons systems has no intention that its own elite should do any fighting.

No matter how relentlessly Israel, abetted by the United States, persists in the slow genocide of the Palestinian people, Saudi will always remain a firm US and Israeli ally, because the biggest coward always hides behind the biggest bully. From that position Saudi Arabia will use all its money and influence to promote military action against Iran – by others.

The British government, having armed, supplied, trained and lent special forces to the ongoing Saudi massacre of Houthi civilians in Yemen, is horrified and full of condemnation that the Houthis have the temerity to hit back at an oil facility. The attack by drones was a brilliant bit of assymetric warfare that shows money is not everything in war. For US Vice President Mike Pence, after meeeting Mohammed Bin “Chopper” Salman, to denounce this attack as “An act of war” is pretty otiose {as did SecState Pompeo). There are many thousands of mutilated or orphaned Houthi children who could have told him there was a war on, had he bothered to talk to them rather than their oppressor.

It is an act of massive folly for the West to get drawn in to the Sunni-Shia small wars that rage across the Middle East and risk blowing them into something much larger. We do not have a “side” in an Islamic sectarian divide which everybody should be seeking to heal, not to exacerbate. There is no genuine western interest at play here other than a desire to bolster Israel and its Saudi alliance. The demonisation and crippling by sanctions of Iran, with its profound and ancient culture and massive human capital and economic potential, is a major mistake.

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A note from our past

John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams by G.P.A. Healy (1858).

John Quincy Adams gave us sound advice in his speech at the House of Representatives on 4 July 1821.

“{What} if the wise and learned philosophers of the elder world… should …enquire what has America done for the benefit of mankind? Let our answer be this: America … has held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity.

  • She has uniformly spoken among them …the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights.
  • She has …respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own.
  • She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings. …

“Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.

“She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force.”

Lord Palmerston, one of Britain’s greatest foreign ministers, gave similar advice to us in 1848.  Two sentences of that are especially relevant to us today.

“I hold with respect to alliances that England is a Power sufficiently strong, sufficiently powerful to steer her own course, and not to tie herself as an unnecessary appendage to the policy of any other Government. …We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”

Since 9-11 we have ignored their advice. But we can learn from our failures and dark deeds. We can exert ourselves to regain control of the government and change its militaristic foreign policy. Let’s take a first step on this long road.

Craig Murray

About the author

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He joined the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1984. His career culminated as British Ambassador to Uzbekistan 2002 to 2004. It ended when he criticized regime as repressive and using torture (both the American and British governments freaked out). Afterwards he was Rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. In 2016 the US government refused to allow him entry to the US.

See his articles at his websiteSee his bio. See his Wikipedia entry – he has led an extraordinary life. One of Murray’s most interesting books is Sikunder Burnes: Master of the Great Game. From the publisher…

“This is an astonishing true tale of espionage, journeys in disguise, secret messages, double agents, assassinations and sexual intrigue. Alexander Burnes was one of the most accomplished spies Britain ever produced and the main antagonist of the Great Game as Britain strove with Russia for control of Central Asia and the routes to the Raj.”

For More Information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information see all posts about Saudi Arabia, about Israel, about Iran, about our wars since 9/11, and especially these …

  1. Martin van Creveld: A history of the turmoil in the Holy Land – You can’t understand the action without it.
  2. The Fate of Israel.
  3. Stories about Saudi Arabia reveal mysteries of the world’s most powerful kingdom.
  4. Ali Shihabi explains what the media won’t about Saudi Arabia.
  5. Stratfor looks at the strange Saudi – Israel alliance.
  6. New and secret alliances reshape the Middle East.

Two timely books about Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia: A Kingdom in Peril
Available at Amazon.
Saudi, Inc.: The Arabian Kingdom's Pursuit of Profit and Power
Available at Amazon.

11 thoughts on “A new perspective reveals our weird Middle East policy”

  1. Pingback: Craig Murray looks at our evil Middle East policy – Fabius Maximus website | Everyday News Update

    1. kakatoa,

      I”m sure I’ve read dumber bits of geopolitical analysis, but I can’t recall any. That essay is pretty much, line by line, all bs. I’ll give two examples, rather than wade too deeply in it.

      (1) The Professor is unhappy that US foreign policy does not meet his exalted standards. He neglects to give examples of regional or global hegemonic powers that have done so. The Soviet Union? The Brits? The Spanish? China? If none of these have done so, his whining is nothing more than “this isn’t Heaven!” Everybody over 12 years of age knows that.

      (2) His complaint that “After US President Trump’s call for “huge” monetary payments by allies hosting US troops, it seems the US is again pursuing “other possibilities.”

      This is daft, even for a pol sci professor. The US has no obligation to spend money and put our soldiers at risk to defend other nations. We have every right to set whatever price we choose on doing so, and other nations can accept or decline. The Prof’s whine is esp daft as most nations “hosting” US troops are quite capable of doing so, and devote a far smaller fraction of their GDP to defense than does the US.

  2. It’s certainly a warts and all denouncement of one of the world’s 3 rogue states, alongside the USA and North Korea. These denouncements are coming thick and fast now as the evidence is too obvious to ignore. Trump might just have proved his worth in disseminating the message via his incoherence. I think I may has listed one or more of these articles earlier;

    https://newmatilda.com/2019/08/06/talk-to-the-totalitarian-hand-state-responses-to-the-torture-of-julian-assange-morally-disengaging-media-and-what-it-means-for-us-all/

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/52282.htm

    https://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2019/09/16/incentives-rule-the-world/

  3. In the 1840’s most economies were nation based, with few corporations operating outside their borders, with the exception of farmland or resources, bought directly or held as Colonies.

    In today’s global world, the Western companies have spread around the world and they put influence on the political class in subtle and not so subtle ways, by this I mean indirect actions like expanding or setting up a factory in a politically supportive area or investing money in groups that will promote a particular political ideal, no borders or even border walls.

    When 80-90% of our consumer goods are made abroad, or in the case of European who are energy dependant on Russia or the Middle East, then subtle and not so subtle influences becomes more central to political action.

    Nation States that are largely self sufficient and trading only a smaller percentage of excesses or areas of economic advantage, with more homogeneous population, at least culturally, if not ethnically, would be more able to act in the “shining light way”. Countries with huge deficits, energy dependency or even huge social conflicts are often forced into expediency. The US is perhaps the most self sufficient of Western and Industrialised nations, but is still greatly influenced by these factors, while the UK and EU are hugely more influenced by these factors.

    Australia dependent on exports of resources and International Students, most seeking Permanent Residency is not able to directly offend China, or even show the the resolution Trump is, without having a recession.

    It is perhaps like having a brother in law you have over time come to hate, and the shining light answer would be to strongly guide him to the light, but since otherwise the marriage is a good one and the said brother in law is only seen for 4 or 5 hours twice a years, what do you do. Like a politician in action, my solution, is usually a large brandy before they arrive, several more while he is visiting and avoid subjects we clash on. When we visit them, ask my wife to drive back and repeat process or get an Uber.

    In short, the ideals are important and we should all seek to live up to our ideals, but the world of globalisation is a different one, and if the writers of the 1840’s were alive today, their objectives would be the same, but the methodology might change. Murray is of course, right and to paraphrase Disreali, we should be spending less time in other people’s front gardens and more time putting our own back gardens in order. That would involve a retreat from globalisation and rebuilding the nation state, but in time it would make the nations more able to live up to the ideals on which it was founded.

    This of course, reflects my biases, strong national state, which are more self sufficient, rather than globalisation and rule by Global Committees, too influenced by business needs and money.

    1. Just a Guy,

      “In today’s global world, the Western companies have spread around the world and they put influence on the political class in subtle and not so subtle ways”

      This is nothing new. Britain’s foreign policy in the 19th century was to a large extent for the convenience of its business interests. In some cases, like the East India Company, Britain in effect subcontracted its foreign policy to a corporation. Colonial wars were often fought for business interests (eg, the Boer War).

      The western economy was globalized by the 18th century, with import and export markets vital to the prosperity of Europe. Governments acted accordingly.

      1. True, which is why the US talked of “shining light” in the 1840’s and the UK talked of alliances and interests, at this time.

        Both, I would venture now think in alliances and interests, in their wars and business dealings. If the US leads the allies into war with Iran, business interests will not be far behind the scenes pulling the strings. As Ellen Ward says in her book,Saudi Aramco is twice the size of Apple, or the size of Apple, Google and Exxon combined. Buys a lot of influence in the world of alliances and interests.

        I am inclined towards a Nation State that trades as a modest percentage of GDP. The issues between Sunni and Shia are just that, their issues. Look at the migration into the UK and EU or into the US, I ain’t making us happier or richer.

      2. Just a guy,

        Saudi Aramco is not a company in any meaningful sense. It is part of the Saudi government. Comparing it to US corporations is silly. That will change to some degree if the govt sells off a big piece of it.

        “I am inclined towards a Nation State that trades as a modest percentage of GDP.”

        Absurd. Some nations are by their circumstances forced to have trade as a high fraction of GDP – if they are to be prosperous. For some, a low fraction is appropriate. In any case, nations’ foreign policy is influenced by its trade circumstances more than by the degree of public or private ownership of the economy.

        And nations are influenced by their geopolitical circumstances as much or more than by the role of trade in their economies.

  4. Come on Larry,

    What’s good for GM is good for America, Obama’s cabinet and Goldman Sach list etc, etc… It is the same the world over.

    The comparison with Aramco and the 3 US corporation was Ellen Ward’s in her book, it is, she said run like a modern international corporation to the highest standards, one assumes to keep the profits rolling in. The Saudi Government uses it to influence the world when it can, as does Russia and China, the West has a more complex arrangement, company needs and what helps Government. So Nike had a factory in China to supply the US market and one in Vietnam to supply the EU, as taxes on Vietnamese products were higher into the US previously. Now I am sure they just play the two factories off to reduce costs.

    I live in Australia now and it is being bought by China and influenced through Chinese State backed companies, it is obvious now even to the most blinkered Liberals. If the prices and ranges of goods decreases a little to run your own country, I will pay that price. We are being colonised and mostly through the Permanent Residency visa route via Universities with full fees students, our companies bought out and farmland purchased. I teach International Students and the way they now talk about China and why we should do as they say is a joke. Chinese students have beaten up Hong Kong students at the local Campus and it was played down and called a “bit of Student High Spirits”, a pick-up painted in Western Chinese Police (the known toughest) markings driven round the town parked outside HK student homes. Played down and the oh please send us more students, we have a Ricardian economy and no other industry as we specialised in mining and international students, with a side order of food and coffees, but we have more economic goods at cheaper prices, only costing our liberty.

    The US can de-industrialise and still have power, due to the role of the US $ in global trade, but price taker can’t. For me I think Trump is right on re-industrialising (where possible) and ensuring a level trade platform, but I only look in from the outside.

    I also see most students from Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand dislike the Chinese a lot for the way they are buying influence. They mainly admire the way Trump stands up to China, while their leaders too often kow-tail, while being bought for an investment in a stadium or light rail. In turn the Chinese student are two distinct groups very nationalist you must obey us, or quietly out of ear shot, how the hell to I get to stay here it is terrible back in China. They often fear to speak up even in Australia for fear a Pro CCP student reports them and their family has problems at home.

    Sorry, Larry for the rant, I fear we are giving up our liberty at times for our economic ideals, when we don’t realise we are often the only ones playing our economic game. Specialisation between Aus and US would be fine, China would laugh and say if you think we are closing uneconomic Universities or mines you are mad. But do go ahead and close all your factories and set ones up in our country. You can only own 49% and the equipment stays in China if you leave – those are the conditions. Plus we will rip off your technology, we don’t have all your copyright ideals. Students tell you this in Tutorials.

  5. Pingback: A new perspective reveals our weird Middle East policy by Craig Murray | Israel Genocide?

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