Prince Alwaleed bin Talal: “America is shooting itself in the foot, and it’s going down”

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is one of the richest man in the world, and the biggest foreign investor in the US. If you’re an investor, or a just a finance buff, you’ll very well know that when The Prince talks, you’ll should be paying attention (unlike Jim Rogers and Warren Buffet, The Prince is known for not giving too many interviews). And this what The Prince has to say about the current US Foreign Policy:

Via The Wall Street Journal

“The U.S. has to have a foreign policy. Well-defined, well-structured. You don’t have it right now, unfortunately. It’s just complete chaos. Confusion. No policy. I mean, we feel it. We sense it, you know.”

Members of the Saudi royal family have voiced their displeasure with the Obama administration’s approach to the Middle East through private channels and recently in public as well. None of them puts it quite like HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud

[…] “America is shooting itself in the foot,” he says. “Saudi Arabia and me, myself, we love the United States. But what’s happening right now here, from Republicans and Democrats, is just not helping the image of the United States and is making this perception that America is going down a reality.”

The Tea Party is not the one saying these words, but one of the world’s most influential businessman, whose financial holdings are worth $26 billion.

Mr. Alwaleed struggles to understand how a wing of the GOP can shut down the government and threaten a debt default. His company has a significant economic bet on the U.S. through Twitter TWTR -2.52% and New York’s Plaza Hotel, among many holdings. As for President Obama, his second term is “going downhill completely,” he says, adding on several occasions the disclaimer that “this is the impression I have in Saudi Arabia.” But it’s clear that the Saudis believe that the president’s political troubles shape his actions in their region.

Mr. Obama’s recent Hamlet act on Syria surprised and infuriated Riyadh. After the worst chemical-weapons atrocity of the war, the American leader heeded long-standing calls for military intervention, then hedged by asking for congressional approval, then nixed airstrikes in favor of a disarmament pact with Syria’s Bashar Assad. The civil war continued—with Assad and his Iranian allies lately taking the upper hand. Mr. Alwaleed says of Mr. Obama: “He blinked.”

Then came the autumn outreach to Iran’s new president, Hasan Rouhani, leading to this week’s negotiations in Geneva on Iran’s nuclear program. Another “impression” from the prince: President Obama’s falling popularity explains his “overeagerness” for an agreement made “very fast to at least put one issue in foreign policy aside” because “he’s wounded now across the board.” The Saudis view the Shiite theocracy in Tehran as the biggest threat to the Sunni Arab world.

[…] A frequent Saudi complaint these days is that this White House doesn’t listen to them or reveal its true intentions.

“Frankly speaking,” Mr. Alwaleed says, during the first Obama term “his communication was almost nil,” aside from a brief visit with King Abdullah in Riyadh in 2009. Ronald Reagan and every president since cultivated personal ties, but “Obama is very cold because he is very, very immersed” in domestic policy.

Hillary Clinton, who logged 956,733 air miles in four years at the State Department, came to Saudi Arabia once. “She was not really tackling the Middle East,” the prince says. In less than a year at Foggy Bottom, John Kerry has called on the Saudis three times, and the royals appreciate his engagement. 

Unbelievable. Can anyone imagine Hillary Clinton as President?

The deal on offer in Geneva this week relaxes sanctions on Iran in exchange for promises to slow work on parts of the nuclear program. The Saudis and Israelis have both pre-emptively condemned any agreement that doesn’t dismantle Iran’s ability to enrich uranium and build a bomb. This one won’t. Mr. Alwaleed says the Saudis are trying to “put maximum pressure now on the United States not to succumb to the president of Iran’s soft talk.”

He endorses Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s line to describe Mr. Rouhani: “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” He notes this startling alliance of Wahhabist Saudi Arabia, custodian of Islam’s holiest sites, and the Jewish state. “For the first time, Saudi Arabian interests and Israel are almost parallel,” he says, his voice rising. “It’s incredible.”

The prince stops short of endorsing an Israeli military strike on Iran, but in the same breath says he thinks a military option to “neutralize” Iran’s nuclear potential is preferable to a bad diplomatic deal.

“It’s Incredible.” Ode to the cynicism of world politics. It’s like Israel and some Arab States  are now singing “Come together.” However, The Prince is not mixing words. The rumor going on is that Saudi Arabia and Israel are getting ready for a potential attack against Iran. Please see Israelis in secret trip to Saudi Bases, and Israel, Saudi Arabia cooperating on possible attack on Iran.

If Iran does go nuclear, Saudi Arabia may not be far behind. It has options. Riyadh underwrote Pakistan’s atomic-bomb program and keeps the country’s economy afloat with its largess. The “arrangement with Pakistan is too strong” to dismiss an almost overnight nuclearization of the Arab peninsula with their help, Mr. Alwaleed suggests. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who returned to power in June, lived in Saudi exile after a 1999 military coup. “Nawaz Sharif, specifically, is very much Saudi Arabia’s man in Pakistan,” Mr. Alwaleed says.

So, Mark Urban from the BBC was right on the spot. See A Nuclear Saudi Arabia? And since the Saudis can’t rely in the US anymore, they’ve started to take matters into their own hands, along with…China.

As the U.S. distanced itself from Egypt after July’s military coup, Russia has offered Cairo arms and support. The Chinese are in no position or mood to take the baton of regional enforcer from the U.S., which polices the Strait of Hormuz to keep it open for oil tankers and protects friendly Gulf states. But the Saudis are getting along better by the day with Beijing, says Mr. Alwaleed, adding that “China is very eager to fill any vacuum that the United States may create.” Bluff, threat or prediction? Check back in a few years.

Hopefully, we’ll be still alive

Another feature of the Obama era is the regional freelancing by countries that previously deferred to Washington. Defying the U.S., the Saudis in 2011 sent soldiers over the causeway into Bahrain to protect the island’s Sunni king from street demonstrations by members of the Shiite majority pressing for greater political rights. The Saudi royals also blamed Washington for abandoning an old American friend in Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, who was deposed in February 2011. For the record, Mr. Alwaleed thinks the Mubarak presidency was unsalvageable.

From the start of the Syrian conflict, Saudi and Qatari support flowed to the anti-Assad rebels. Mr. Obama held back before permitting small-arms deliveries in recent months. But Assad’s chemical attacks and an emergency lifeline of Iranian fighters, money and arms have turned the tide of the war. Mr. Alwaleed says Riyadh has upped its weapons supplies and training for the rebels but can’t do as much as a superpower.

As the West stood aside, extremist factions in the rebel coalition strengthened and turned on each other. Some are linked to al Qaeda, “really savages, like in Afghanistan,” says Mr. Alwaleed. Of course, Gulf money and weapons also went to them, as it goes to their brethren in Afghanistan and Pakistan today—but that’s left unsaid.

Mr. Alwaleed believes that Washington has now decided to keep Assad in place at least long enough to surrender his chemical weapons stockpile. “The U.S. policy is to have the devil you know,” he says. “Saudi policy is to have any devil in Syria other than the devil you know.”

Mr. Al-Waleed bin Talal ends up the interview by stating some geopolitical facts largely ignored by Western politicians and media

Mr. Alwaleed notes that Saudi diplomacy also carries a fat checkbook in Jordan, Palestine and Yemen, which are in his words “under our hegemony.”

“If you look at a map of the Arab world now, Saudi Arabia is very much the leader,” says the prince. “America cannot afford to have the leader of the Arab world not be on the same wave length as the United States.”

It’s not like the Saudis were never aware of their power. They were just waiting for the right moment and the right time. And what better time than now?

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