scholars and rogues

House votes to cut all aid to Saudis…kinda sorta….

The House of Representatives has voted to cut off all aid to Saudi Arabia. The vote came despite assurances from the Bush administration that the Saudis are cooperating in the War on Terror.â„¢ The aid ban was passed as part of a 34.2 billion dollar bill to support US foreign operations.

dubyaandabdullah.jpgThis isn’t the first time the House has tried to stop aid to Saudi Arabia, but on this occasion the loophole that allowed President Bush to waive the ban by invoking War on Terrorâ„¢ requirements has been closed.

So this means something, right?

Not really.

Here’s why. First, there’s the issue of how much aid the Saudis will actually lose:

…the Bush administration channeled a total of more than 2.5 million dollars to the kingdom in fiscal 2005 and 2006 as part of their partnership in the war on terror, congressional officials said.

That’s 2.5 million – not 25 million or 250 million or 2.5 billion. And that’s 2.5 million over two years. In terms of foreign aid, that’s chump change. The Saudis won’t miss it, really. So why would the House do this?

The Saudis have their theories. Mohammed al-Zulfa of the Shura Council (the monarchy’s consultative body) dismisses the action as futile – and meddling:

…the US action represents one method out of several that the US Congress has used to pressure the Saudi government into carrying out reforms, whether in the fields of human rights or religious freedom. The US Congress and other US organizations are mistaken if they think this method has any value….

But the House holds that the Saudis must be made to understand that their support of organizations who foment violence is unacceptable:

The amendment’s sponsors are particularly upset by what they described as Saudi Arabia’s support for the anti-Israeli Palestinian group Hamas, which has seized control of the Gaza Strip…. In a media fact sheet, the lawmakers said that Hamas received more than half of its financing from Saudi Arabia, and last May alone the Saudi government planned to send 300 million dollars to the Islamist group.

Now we do the math. If we gave the Saudis 2.5 million bucks over the last two years, and they gave Hamas 300 million in May, with our 1.25 million withheld – assuming our aid to the Saudis this year stayed at previous levels – the House’s ban might force Hamas to get by on 298.75 million dollars.

That should slow them down.

Besides, that’s not where the Saudis are getting their money from us:

Saudi Arabia provides about 20 percent of total US imports of crude oil.

That amounts to revenues of about $40-$50 billion from us to the Saudis for oil over the same period. I’m guessing that should offset the loss of $2.5 million in aid.

Unless we can get Congress to act other ways than this, denying the Saudis a pittance in foreign aid is purely a symbolic act designed to play to voters rather than a sincere effort to come to terms with Saudi Arabia’s complicated role in the Iraq War – and in terrorism.

2 replies »

  1. [sigh] I just keep waiting for SA to blow completely up. You have a corrupt monarchy with a financial commitment to zillions of “princes” that’s going to bankrupt the government. You have that little Wahabbist thing that’s surely no friend to the US. You can’t help suspecting that if they ever DID hold free and fair elections we’d have to come to terms with the concept of President bin Laden.

    It just seems like the question is “when,” not “if.”

  2. “I just keep waiting for SA to blow completely up.”
    I’m not sure how you envision it would go down, but the Saudis are one step ahead of you. They have rigged their entire oil infrastructure with dirty bombs.

    “They began exploring the possibility of a single-button self-destruct system, protected with a series of built-in fail-safes. It was evidently their way to ensure that if someone else grabbed the world’s largest oil reserves and forced them to flee the country they had founded, the House of Saud could at least make certain that what they left behind was worthless.

    This became a top-priority project for the kingdom. Posner provides considerable detail about the mechanics of the sabotage system, how it relied on unmarked Semtex from Czechoslovakia for explosives and on radiation dispersal devices (RDDs) to contaminate the sites and make the oil unusable for a generation. The latter possibilities included one or more radioactive elements such as rubidium, cesium 137, and strontium 90.”