Archive for the ‘Saudi Arabia’ Category

How Saudis suppress free speech in Canada

Monday, January 21st, 2008
A Canadian newspaper publisher called Ezra Levant decided to publish the Danish cartoons in his newspaper, irking a radical Saudi trained imam. That imam, who has called for the imposition of Sharia - Islamic law - in our northern neighbor has utilized a Kafka-esque government entity called the "Canadian Human Rights Commission" -- think of it as the Candian version of the Saudi Mutaween, aka the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice -- to investigate the publisher for exercising his fundamental right to free speech in a way that a radical Muslim perceives as offensive. Essentially, this imam is using the Canadian Human Rights Commission to enforce radical Islamic speech codes. The clips below of the interrogation are a must see for anybody who cares about the preservation of our freedom. Ezra Levant's opening statement at the interrogation: The interrogating bureaucrat on the hunt for a thought crime: If you would like to support this brave man's fight for our inalienable right to free speech, you can do so at his website EzraLevant.com.

Bush begs the Saudis

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008
(Crossposted at Middle East Strategy at Harvard (MESH)) Bush Abdullah President Bush’s appeal to the Saudis to increase oil production is more pitiful than understandable. At $100 a barrel, the United States bleeds over a billion dollars per day in order to finance its petroleum import needs. The result: ballooning trade deficits, growing unemployment, a weakened dollar and crumbling financial institutions like Citigroup and Merrill Lynch now forced to beg Persian Gulf monarchies for cash infusions. At current oil prices, the U.S. economy is melting faster than the ice caps. But despite the president’s sweet-talk, his ridiculous appearance in a traditional Arab robe, his hand-holding with the Saudi monarchs, and even his gift of 900 precision-guided bombs, the Saudis were quick to respond with a slap in the face. Within one hour, the kingdom’s oil minister announced that oil prices would remain tied to market forces and the Saudis would not open the spigot. This is hardly a surprise to me. The Saudis—despite their claims that oil high prices are the doing of Wall Street speculators and American SUV-driving soccer moms—are the first to blame for the current oil crisis. Their reluctance to invest in new production, their lack of transparency on reserve data and their anti-market practices, which prevent international oil companies from operating in their midst in any meaningful way, are the real reason for the quadrupling of prices in the past six years. The Saudis are also the prime reason for the failure of the Iraqi oil industry to take off. Exactly four years ago I warned that the United States was turning a blind eye to the Saudi failure to seal its border with Iraq. This led to a migration of thousands of Saudi jihadists into Iraq, a fact that contributed to the terror campaign against Iraq’s oil industry. If not for the attacks, Iraq today could have been producing at least five million barrels per day. Instead it does less than three. Of course no one has ever held the Saudis accountable for the loss of two million barrels per day—an amount of oil that, were it in the market today, would have dropped prices by at least $30 a barrel. We’d rather beg than blame. The truth is that the Saudis feel quite cozy at $100 oil. The world economy hasn’t come down (yet), the American public is docile, and oil-exporting countries—the recipients of a transfer on a scale the world has never known—are having a jolly time. Furthermore, the Saudis feel they have already met their obligation to the American economy by standing steadfast against other OPEC members like Iran and Venezuela, which are pushing for an OPEC decision to dump the dollar as the currency used for oil trades. Such a step could send the dollar down like a rocket. So much of this is our own doing. Two years ago President Bush committed a major blunder, allowing Saudi Arabia’s admission to the World Trade Organization. By dint of its leadership of the OPEC cartel, no other country is more responsible for violating free trade than Saudi Arabia. Yet, its admission was not contingent on any behavioral change. Thus the Saudis enjoy the benefits of free trade while continuing to manipulate the price of the world’s most important traded commodity. Furthermore, the United States has its own mechanisms to bring down oil prices. It owns 770 million barrels in strategic reserves. OECD countries have between them 4 billion barrels in stock. Yet, not a drop of oil has been released. Now that the Iowa caucuses are over, the United States could remove the 54-cent tariff on imported ethanol and bring billions of gallons of alternative fuel into the country almost overnight. This alone could drive down gasoline prices by at least 50 cents per gallon. And there are more strategic solutions which could remove the yoke of our oil dependence, like providing fuel choice and electrifying our transportation system. (We no longer produce electricity from oil.) The spectacle of American presidents kowtowing to the Saudis is as old as U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Six decades ago FDR had to steal a cigarette in a stairwell of the USS Quincy in order not to smoke in King Abdulaziz’s presence. (Winston Churchill, on the other hand, had a smoke and a drink!) With growing dependence on the Saudis, our sovereignty and freedom of action have been steadily eroded. Barring some serious action, no matter who the next president is, he or she will have to ride a lot of camels and wear a lot of robes to keep the oil barrels rolling.

Get flexible

Sunday, December 9th, 2007
The newest Set America Free Coalition member, Admiral James Lyons, writes in the Washington Times:
Terrorist training camps and insurgents in Iraq and elsewhere are funded by Saudi and Iranian petrodollars. So are bounties for families of suicide bombers. It is incredible: by buying Saudi-controlled OPEC oil we finance a war against ourselves. But the Saudis are not alone. Iran has used its vast accumulation of petrodollars to support terrorism throughout the Middle East as well as providing funds for their drive to develop a nuclear weapon. Oil has also given Iran, Venezuela and — in the past — Libya the flexibility to ignore economic sanctions by finding amoral partners such as China, Russia and some of the European countries who are willing to trade with them. Petro revenue has provided Vladimir Putin the means to centralize his power, bully his neighbors and steer Russia on an independent course that has been unhelpful to U.S. interests. For all these reasons, as well as for our long-term economic and security concerns, we must break our addiction to oil... We have technology that will underpin an energy strategy that will break our petro-addiction and OPEC's hegemony. That strategy lies in something already available: mixed-fuel technology; vehicles that use a mixture of ethanol, methanol and gasoline. Ethanol is produced from a variety of agricultural sources, primarily sugarcane and corn, at as low as $1.50 a gallon. In 2006, methanol, which can be made from coal, natural gas and agricultural waste, was being sold without any subsidies for 80 cents per gallon. The engineering difference for a flex fuel car requires an additional sensor and computer chip that controls the fuel-air mixture. It also should have a corrosion resistant fuel system. The overall increase in costs for a flex fuel car will average about $100 per vehicle. This year Detroit has offered two dozen models with a flex fuel option. To accelerate this program, Congress needs to put politics aside and enact legislation to require that 50 percent of all vehicles produced by our auto manufacturers must be flex fuel by 2012. This will not be easy. However, this is a figure the Big Three auto makers proposed to President Bush when they met last year.

West’s energy security ever-more at the mercy of foreign governments

Friday, December 29th, 2006
Set America Free Coalition member Frank Gaffney writes in the Washington Times:
As the Communist Chinese and fascistic Russian regimes move to forge close relations with energy-rich nations like Iran, Libya, Sudan, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Saudi Arabia, and as the Kremlin consolidates its control over Russia's own vast resources, America and her allies will find themselves increasingly imperiled by their dependency on such sources for oil products and/or natural gas. As a result, President Bush needs to make increased U.S. energy security a central part of the overhauled war-fighting strategy that he is set to announce next month. To do so, he must clearly go beyond the lip service that he paid to our "addiction to oil" in last year's State of the Union speech by taking steps that will make a difference. Done properly, energy security could be one of the most promising areas for cooperation between the Bush Administration and Democrats in Congress. By concentrating on areas where considerable progress is possible (rather than on such neuralgic issues as drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or increased CAFE fuel-efficiency standards), America -- and in particular its gas-guzzling transportation sector -- could be made significantly less reliant on oil supplied by unstable or hostile regimes. Such a course of action has been laid out in a blueprint produced by the Set America Free Coalition -- a group spanning the political spectrum -- that forms the basis for the bipartisan, bicameral Vehicle & Fuel Choices for American Security Act (introduced in the last session of Congress as S.2025 in the Senate and H.R. 4409 in the House). It entails two principal steps: (1) ensuring all cars sold in America will be Flexible Fuel Vehicles, capable of burning not just gasoline but ethanol and methanol (or some combination thereof); and (2) assuring the availability of substantially increased quantities of such alternative fuels. This legislation would also help make electricity a true transportation fuel, by promoting the manufacture of plug-in hybrid vehicles. Since scarcely any electricity is generated in America by burning oil, the widespread use of such vehicles could greatly reduce our dependence on foreign sources of petroleum. To realize the full potential of this option, however, President Bush and the Congress will need to join forces on one other important initiative: assuring large-scale U.S. production of advanced lithium ion batteries, an essential ingredient for our future energy -- and national -- security and the competitiveness of our auto industry.

Doing business, Saudi style

Monday, December 18th, 2006
The short version: 1. The British were investigating a 60 million British Pound slush fund set up to bribe Saudi princes into buying British military jets. 2. Saudis got mad. Saudis said they'll call off the 10 billion Pound deal unless the investigation is called off by, well, yesterday and buy French planes instead. SURPRISE! Longer version.

China: Oil at any cost

Monday, October 30th, 2006
China's Sinopec sees crude imports rising 21% this year
According to Zhang Yuqing, deputy head of the Chinese National Reform and Development Commission (NRDC)'s energy department China imported 38.34 million tons of crude oil from Africa in 2005, accounting for 30 percent of its oil imports.
In 2005, Saudi Arabia was China's largest source of crude oil, followed by Angola. Four African countries, namely, Angola, Sudan, Congo and Equatorial Guinea, were among the top 10 oil exporters to China in 2005. By the end of 2005, China had invested in 27 major oil and natural gas projects in 14 African countries, including Sudan, Algeria, Angola and Nigeria. Zhang said the government will encourage Chinese firms to expand their cooperation with African countries in the energy sector. (China Daily)
"China's fast-growing economy has created a deep thirst for oil that has pushed it to do business with some of the most corrupt and dangerous regimes on Earth, several of them in Africa. [...]
"Beijing's guiding philosophy of noninterference with the affairs of other nations, and its growing financial involvement in the developing world, are having an overwhelmingly negative effect on stability and human rights. Setting aside China's stonewalling on efforts to crack down on nuclear threats posed by Iran and North Korea, its reluctance to impose tough sanctions on Sudan (where it has significant oil interests) is contributing to the ongoing murder, rape and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people in the Darfur region.[...] "Chinese banks haven't signed on to the Equator Principles, a voluntary set of environmental and human rights guidelines adopted by 80% of the world's commercial lenders. This makes it easier for Chinese banks to do business with corrupt government officials. "

Meanwhile, in the Persian Gulf:

"the importance of energy cannot be underestimated when examining Sino-Arab relations. China is the world's second-biggest energy consumer and third-biggest importer. Its oil consumption surpassed Japan's in 2003 and now stands at 6.5 million barrels per day, compared to 20 million barrels per day for the US. [...] "Today, 58 percent of China's oil imports come from the Middle East, mostly from the Gulf. China has adopted a strategy of geographical diversification by investing in foreign oil and gas fields in more than 20 countries including Venezuela, Nigeria and Australia. But diversification away from the Middle East has its limits. Two-thirds of proven oil reserves are located in the region, mostly in the Persian Gulf. Similarly, many of the oil reserves in non-Middle Eastern countries are rapidly being depleted. The I.E.A. predicts that Chinese oil imports from the Middle East will rise to at least 70 percent by 2015, underpinning that the future of the Chinese economy is inextricably tied to the Middle East. [...] "China has the closest relations with Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer. China is now Saudi Arabia's fourth-largest importer and fifth-largest exporter. Saudi Arabia is China's biggest oil supplier, accounting for almost 17 percent of China's oil imports. Trade between the two has grown an average of 41 percent a year since 1999, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. "Saudi Arabia's oil exports to China increased to some 500,000 barrels per day in 2005, up from 440,000 barrels in 2004. This is set to increase further after Saudi oil giant Aramco agreed to provide the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) with 1 million bpd by 2010. Abdallah Jum'ah, president of Aramco, described China and Saudi Arabia "as among the most important energy relationships on the planet." "In April of this year King Abdullah became the first Saudi king to visit China. This was Abdullah's first trip outside the Middle East since ascending to the throne in 2005, potentially signaling a new strategic alignment. During the three day visit, King Abdullah told Chinese legislative chief Wu Bangguo that Saudi Arabia considered China a "truly friendly country" and hoped that their relations would become "better and better."
"The summit saw the signing of five agreements, including a landmark pact for expanding cooperation in oil, natural gas and minerals. Saudi Arabia also granted China a loan to improve infrastructure in China's oil-rich Xinjiang region and offered Chinese companies investment opportunities in Saudi’s enormous infrastructure sector. "

We've been beating on this drum for a while. Further reading:

The Sino-Saudi Connection

U.S., China Are on Collision Course Over Oil

Fueling the dragon: China's race into the oil market

China's oil rush in Africa

Chinese Quest for Crude Increases Focus on Africa

As Set America Free's Anne Korin said to UPI:

"'We don't want to see it escalate to a resource conflict' [...] The Set America Free Coalition says the best solution is to help China help itself [..] allowing Beijing to be steered away from its oil dependence.

"'In the same way (developing countries) skipped wires by going right to wireless, they could leapfrog oil and go right to alternative energy sources'"

And the U.S. should lead by example.

So who pays for it?

Monday, October 30th, 2006
Mark Steyn in his new book America Alone:
"What gives the jihad its global reach? It's not difficult to figure out: Wahhabism is the most militant form of Islam, the one followed by all nineteen of the September 11 terrorists and by Osama bin Laden.  The Saudis, whose state religion is Wahhabism, export their faith and affiliated local strains in lavishly endowed schools and mosques all over the world and, as a result, traditionally moderate Muslim populations from the Balkans to South Asia have been dramatically radicalized. "That kind of operation doesn't come cheap.  So who pays for it? "You do. After September 11, George W. Bush told the world, 'You're either with us or with the terrorists.' [...] why should anyone take the president's demand to choose sides seriously when America itself refuses to:  the United States is both 'with us' and 'with the terrorists.' American taxpayers are in the onerous position of funding both sides in this war.  In the five years after September 11, the price of oil rose from $12 a barrel to hit an all-time high of $70 - so, if you sell oil, your revenues are five times what they were.  And there's nothing like bigger oil windfalls to drive powerful despots down ever crazier paths. 'Looking at it another way,' wrote Frank Gaffney in his book War Footing, 'Saudi Arabia - which currently exports about ten mbd [million barrels of oil a day] - receives an extra half billion dollars every day.' Where does that extra half-bil go? It goes to the mosques and madrassas that the Saudis fund in every corner of the planet. Oil isn't the principal Saudi export, ideology is - petroleum merely bankrolls it."

Buying the support of a third of humanity

Thursday, October 12th, 2006
Saudi Arabia Woos China and India:
"In January 2006, Saudi king Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud visited China and India, a trip some commentators labeled "a strategic shift" in Saudi foreign policy and reflective of "a new era" for the kingdom. It was King Abdullah's first trip outside the Middle East since taking the throne in August 2005, and it was also the first trip by a Saudi ruler to China since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1990. "Abdullah's travel was significant. His reception suggested both Chinese and Indian recognition of the House of Saud's role in regulating global oil prices and the impact that Saudi oil policy has not only on Western economies but on the Chinese and Indian economies as well. Riyadh's relations with Beijing and Delhi are not shaped by energy alone, however. There is a major political component to Saudi strategic thinking. The royal family wishes to engage China and India in order to create a political alternative to its relationship with the United States. Saudi thinkers may believe that an Asian alternative will make the kingdom less susceptible to Western pressure on such issues as democratization and terror financing. [...] "Many Saudi officials, annoyed with U.S. pressure to cease funding Islamist and terrorist groups, find Beijing's no-questions-asked policies attractive."  Read the whole thing.
Also read: The Sino-Saudi Connection Fueling the dragon: China's race into the oil market

Victor Davis Hanson: How oil lubricates our enemies

Monday, June 12th, 2006
VDH: "Take away the $300-500 billion in windfall profits piled up in the coffers of the oil-exporting nations recently, and Hugo Chavez becomes just another spluttering Castro, hardly able to pay for his bankrupt populism in Venezuela, much less export it beyond his borders. Without petroleum largesse, Iran's Mohammed Ahmadinejad could afford neither a multi-billion-dollar nuclear weapons program nor costly subsidies for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. Vladimir Putin's crackdown on capitalists, political freedom, and further Russian reforms comes only because he controls energy exports vital to the world economy. "And huge petroleum profits don't just empower dictators, subsidize nuclear proliferation, and curtail economic reform. They also have pernicious psychological effects. Americans hit with gasoline price hikes of nearly a dollar a gallon have fallen to despairing over our economy. Try telling furious motorists that the extra cost for most drivers amounts only to about $500-700 per year--a pittance compared to sky-high housing prices that leap tens of thousands of dollars annually. No matter: people see the numbers on the gas pump, and less cash in their wallets, and figure the U.S. is teetering on the brink. "Foreign policy is warped as well. Because of its dependency on Middle East gas and oil, Europe's high talk about human rights doesn't apply much to Arab extremists with energy-rich patrons in the Gulf. America is in a war against Islamic fascism, yet treads carefully around Saudi Arabia, despite the kingdomͳ subsidies to America-hating madrasahs. When poor oil-importing countries in Africa and Latin America make sacrifices to enact tough market reforms, their hard work only helps to enrich failed states like Iran, Libya, and Venezuela lucky enough to have an accidental resource beneath their feet that was found, exploited, and mostly purchased by the Westerners they demonize."

Mark Steyn says it like it is

Sunday, June 11th, 2006
Exactly: "half a decade on from Sept. 11, the Saudis are still allowed to bankroll schools and mosques and think tanks and fast-track imam chaplaincy programs in prisons and armed forces around the world. Oil isn't the principal Saudi export, ideology is; petroleum merely bankrolls it." For more on Saudi oil fueled bankrolling of radical Islam, an excellent Washington Post article by Nina Shea.