Saudi Arabia – a family holding company, not a friend. Republished 13 October 2022


I speak fluent Arabic.  I was the first professor of the Arabic Language and Middle East Studies at West Point where I was twice judged best classroom teacher and was offered permanent tenure which I declined not wishing to become a permanent schoolteacher rather than a soldier.

I have spent 40+ years working on or in the Middle East as an active-duty US Army officer, diplomat, senior civilian DoD official responsible for intelligence on the Middle East, and South Asia and a business executive directly involved with places like Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia was created by the conquest of the Arabian Peninsula after 1900 by tribes loyal to an extreme form of Wahhabi fanatic Islam based on the Hanbali school of Sunni Islam as reinforced by the extremist medieval scholar Ibn Taimmiya.  For him the only good non-Muslims were either slaves or corpses whose women had been taken as booty and distributed among the true Muslims.

The Saudi pseudo state remains largely motivated by the same ideas.  There is no constitution but Sunni Hanbali religious law.  There is no toleration of other than the official cult.  There are Shia Muslims in the Eastern Province, but they are in constant danger from the regime.

The Al-Saud family (thousands great and small) run the place as their private holding.  Any talk of Saudi citizenship is a bad joke.  In SA there are The Family, their toadies and flunkies, the Wahhabi Ulema, foreign guest workers and tribal, rural Arabs some of them migratory and others small town people.  This mélange is held together by an effective police state that is restricted in power only by the royal prerogative.

Modernization? Hah! MBS has confessed to the brutal murder of Kashoggi.  The native masses, to the extent that they exist, have been intensively and exclusively conditioned with Ibn Taimmiya’s views on the inherent enmity between the Faithful Wahhabi Sunni and the Kuffar (infidels, i.e. us).  The number of Saudi subjects of the king who are not horrified and disgusted by the West is trivially small.

The US has maintained a relationship with this conglomeration since 1944 when FDR met aboard a US cruiser in the Gulf with the creator of The Kingdom.  This symbiosis used to be justifiable on the basis of containment of the USSR and the oil of Arabia.  Neither of those necessities exist any longer.

Donald Trump is driven by desire to sweeten the balance sheet of the US as well as a deluded belief in whatever it is that he thinks Israel stands for.   Israel seeks to manipulate the medieval barbarism of Saudi Arabia to further its fantasy of regional hegemony.  They should “wise up.”

The Saudi who killed three people at Pensacola is representative of the breed.

It is time for a basic re-appraisal of our relationships in the ME.  pl

This entry was posted in As The Borg Turns, Israel, Middle East, Policy, Saudi Arabia. Bookmark the permalink.

73 Responses to Saudi Arabia – a family holding company, not a friend. Republished 13 October 2022

  1. exiled off mainstreet says:

    This looks like a realistic view of the situation to me. By supporting the barbaric element against the civilized element in the Middle East, the US imperium crossed a red line, destroying rather than bolstering civilization. The destabilization of this area has brought a large number of the less than civilized fleeing from the destabilization into western countries, lowering the level of civilization there.

  2. blue peacock says:

    Col. Lang,
    It seems the Gulf Arab sheikhs and the Al Saud family have been writing big checks to all the movers & shakers in the West, including the political and governmental elites, think tank sinecures, and of course many media personalities.
    Tony Balir became a wealthy man with the money of the sheikhs. In an earlier thread you had posted, we read about the Lebanese man who was a conduit for Gulf arab money going to Hillary’s campaign. Then there was the post-9/11 Republican administration of George Bush who along with the so-called liberal media and most members of Congress from both parties put a complete kibosh on investigating any Saudi role with respect to the 11 out of 15 terrorists of Saudi nationality.
    We can see how Trump is already covering for the Saudis by saying the King was apologetic and will compensate all those killed and injured by the Saudi airman in Pensacola.
    When American and western leaders are so easily purchased by the sheikhs, how can we have a re-appraisal of our relationships in the ME? The few who are calling for such a re-appraisal like Tulsi Gabbard are being smeared as Russian bots.

    • different clue says:

      We don’t have to accept the Russian-bot smearage of Gabbard. We can show our rejection of the smear-masters by supporting Gabbard in the teeth of their smearage.

      She could even turn their smearage into a badge of honor and a recruiting tool.
      ” A woman may be known by her enemies”.

  3. Vegetius says:

    In the best of all possible worlds, what would a new set of relationships look like?

  4. A. Pols says:

    It has been time for a reappraisal for a very long time. They are our central enemy and that makes their protected status rather a bad joke. If we were ever to launch an aggressive war in the ME, it should have been against SA. Unlike Iraq, it would have been easy by comparison. But should have been done long ago, maybe back in the sixties when their population was lower. Why we treat them as an essential ally is a difficult question, for they are no friend of ours and, worse, are inimical to everything we in the West stand for. 9/11 was a Saudi operation. We had Saudis training at Pensacola? YGTBFKM…

    • Mishkilji says:

      Technically, 9/11 was not a “Saudi” operation. UBL selected 17 Saudis of the 19 hijackers hoping to rupture US-Saudi relations. Bush 43 didn’t fall for that, but he did hook, line and sinker for the neocon agenda in Iraq

  5. anon says:

    Re-appraisal indeed.Quite funny given that the USA sold s.Arabia 40 billion dollars worth of arms.I was speaking to my Iranian friend the other day and he says Iran scares the Arabs,like in Yemen, who then run to the USA for arms.Grease for peace.That Saudi was part of the package deal for fighter jets s.arabia purchased.Looks like that part of the deal is going down the drain.Maybe the Saudis will get there training elsewhere from now on.
    If don’t eat your peas you can’t have any pudding.

  6. re silc says:

    Your expertise in this area and this particular posting is one of your all time best. Much better than domestic politics.

  7. turcopolier says:

    re silc
    As a Democrat you don’t like what I write. Understandable but of no interest to me. I will keep trying to educate you politically.

  8. turcopolier says:

    We should withdraw our forces frm the region and stop taking sides in what are really internecine struggles for power. If the regional powers want to fight it out among themselves, so be it. IMO they will learn to live with each other. If not “tant pis pour eux.”

    • Mishkilji says:

      If the US does as you suggest, I can hear the AIPAC crowd clutching their chests and crying “but Iran and the nuclear weapons”.

      The race is on– who uses nucs first, the Israelis or Putin?

  9. TI says:

    I wonder how much the relationship is conditioned by fear that the Saudi royal family could be replaced by something even worse, overthrown by an ISIS-like rebellion. Given the huge stocks of weapons Saudi-Arabia has hoarded (even if they often don’t know how to properly use them), that seems like a nightmare scenario to me. Are such concerns brought up as arguments for propping up the present system in Saudi-Arabia, bad as it is, or is it just all due to Israeli/Saudi lobbying and bribery, plus an obsession with Iran?

    • JamesT says:


      I don’t think there is much difference between ISIS and Saudi Arabia – and I am curious to know why you think there is any difference.

      • Pat Lang says:

        I agree.

      • cobo says:

        I once saw an article discussing Prince Bandar’s new toy, a new army. It stated that the army had been created and was looking to expand its training area, perhaps in Egypt of Pakistan. Then, out of the blue, a brand new army appears on the scene with rows of shiny new technicals, well equipped troops, a top notch website and ISIS was on the attack. ??

        • Pat Lang says:

          I do not remember that. The Saudis employed abt 20k Pakistani officers and men when I lived there. They were all seconded by their government and the Saudis thought of them as servants and acted accordingly. The Saudis also employed around five hundred Taiwan AF people in Yemen to maintain the F-5s that the Saudis had bought for North Yemen.

  10. turcopolier says:

    I have never heard the argument made for supporting the Sauds on the basis of what might come later might be worse. What would a jihadi rabble in charge do with the stockpile of weapons? the same people would still be in Saudi Arabia after the coup.

    • Mishkilji says:

      It’s not the weapons that becomes key.

      It’s the swirling cusinart of death the Middle East becomes once possession of Mecca and Medina is in play.

  11. Babak Makkinejad says:

    That is all fine but then why tell them to continue fighting in Yemen when they wanted to quit?

  12. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Without a reappraisal of their love affair with ancient and modern Israel, among Protestant Churches in US, nothing could change.

  13. Babak Makkinejad says:

    No, Arabs dislike Iran, although they may be scared of Iran as well.

  14. turcopolier says:

    as you know that wa a by-product of US anti-Iranian policy. What is the “why” question about? i have advocated total dis-engagement from the region. Pay attention.

  15. oldman22 says:

    Col Lang, you taught at West Point.
    So I am wondering if you have a view of Tim Bakken’s new book:
    The Cost of Loyalty: Dishonesty, Hubris, and Failure in the U.S. Military
    I am not trying to argue here, I have only been at West Point as an athlete competing against it.
    Bakken book reviewed here:

  16. vig says:

    you would want to differ elementarily on Philip Giraldi’s first lines or paragraph?
    Headline: Obama on Mount Rushmore: Move Over Guys, Room for One More Con Artist
    I am on the emailing lists of both the Republican and Democratic Parties because I like to know what the enemies of the American people are up to.

  17. Mathias Alexander says:

    If the USA withdraws support from the Saudis then the Saudis might stop pricing their oil only in dollars. What effect would this have on the value of the dollar? Then again how much oil is left in Saudi Arabia? The ARAMCO shares sell off doesn’t seem to be doing great buisness, maybe the market understands the situation better.

    • elkern says:

      If KSA dumps (all?) it’s Dollars, it would likely cause the worst inflation in US history (especially if China dumps $ too).

      I’m not really a Monetarist, but I appreciate their insight that “Money” can/should be viewed as a Commodity: changes in supply affect its value (relative to other commodities). Increasing the supply of money decreases its [relative] value – which means that everything else gets more expensive.

  18. turcopolier says:

    you may not have noticed that my friend Geraldi and I are not the same [erson. We are not required to have identical views . you are a trouble making troll.

  19. turcopolier says:

    Have not read it. what is his argument?

  20. srw says:

    Excellent analysis from someone with a lot of experience with the Saudis. I copied it off and sent it to many of my friends and relations.

  21. Dabbler says:

    Telling that the government’s position on Pensacola seems to be that it’s too early to label the event a terrorist attack. Usually, that label is rapidly affixed to incidents where the attacker has ME background. Sounds a bit like USG is the dog that didn’t bark.
    The label may be quietly applied in a few days or weeks when the news cycle has spun several times and attention has been directed elsewhere.

  22. d74 says:

    View from the outside and it’s free….
    If you break up with Saudi Arabia, you will have no friends left in the Middle East. You will have some protected clients but no friends at the level that matters.
    And it’s embarrassing. First, you will lose a large part of your freedom of action, but above all others will settle in this place. In global geopolitics, controlling the Middle East even without oil is vital.
    This region is a religious powder keg practising overbidding and blackmail. The level of latent violence is extremely high and always ready to be exported.
    You have to be there and watch these explosions. Your burden. But instead of injecting weapons that will rot in a corner of the desert, you should spread a touch of rationalism and find a way to intellectually disarm local fanatics. That’s a big job for you, with a lot of disabilities, starting with the current Israel.

  23. HK Leo Strauss says:

    Col Lang,
    Would you have been in a position at the time to know if there there were any Carter Doctrine contrarians within the FP/IC/DoD establishment in the late 70’s? Curious how extensive the debate over deeper ME engagement was at the time, or if it was all just a knee-jerk reaction to Revolutionary Iran.

  24. turcopolier says:

    HK Leo Strauss
    I was teaching sat WP when the Iranian Revolution happened and went from there directly to being DATT in Sanaa. No idea.

  25. turcopolier says:

    No. The idea that we are trapped in the ME is untrue. We can manage what interests we have there by remote control using you french and the Russians as proxies.

  26. turcopolier says:

    Elora Danan
    I never worked in counterintelligence.

  27. Vegetius says:

    I think this is probably true, which is why I hope that 90% of currently sitting Republicans are replaced by some sort of America First populist-nationalists.

  28. oldman22 says:

    Way off topic, so please do not post if not appropriate.
    Helmer writes that Skripals were/are held at USA base in UK.
    Perhaps by now they have been secretly taken to USA.

  29. JamesT says:

    Based on the courses taught by Dr. Stephen Ressler, Professor Emeritus from West Point, that I have purchased from, I suspect that the quality of teaching at West Point is superb.

  30. John Merryman says:

    As Deep Throat said, “If you want to understand what’s going on, follow the money.”
    I think, once civilization has been totally pushed to the wall, those not completely in thrall to either God or Mammon, will put some effort into better understanding reality, because the underlaying logic governing the world is seriously due for updating.
    For instance, a spiritual absolute would be the essence of sentience, from which we rise, not an ideal of wisdom and judgement from which we fell. That no one can appreciate the serious difference between the ideal and the absolute boggles my mind.
    In practical terms, we treat good and bad as some cosmic dual between the forces of righteousness and evil, but they are the basic biological binary of beneficial and detrimental. The 1/0 of life. Even bacteria sense the attraction/repulsion.
    All the higher order evolved senses, emotions and cultural touchstones, like honor, love, responsibility, respect, humility, etc etc, arise from this basis. Yet when we treat them as the ideal, all conflict becomes a race to the bottom, of us versus them, good versus bad, black versus white. Rather than being able to assume the other side will hold to evolved standards of civilized behaviors and constructs, using such conflicts as opportunities to explore further evolution of society, instead of everything being this zero sum game.
    We really are still fairly primitive. Hopefully this is more the end of the beginning, than the beginning of the end. It is a small planet and it will take awhile to recreate sufficient energy sources to propel life back up this far.

  31. VietnamVet says:

    The world has reverted back to the 19th century Robber Barons, above the law and incalculably rich. They take what they want. Carolina Armored National Guard units have seized control of Syria’s oil fields. The House of Saud never changed except it now needs 14,000 American troops to prop it up. When the Balkan expatriates managed a successful coup in Kiev, Russia faced another Western take over. They fought back allied with China and Iran. The regime change campaign against Syria was halted. Japan, South Korea and the world’s economy are dependent on Middle East oil. Israel wants to expand. The USA itself does not need Middle East oil. It will get by great as long as oil remains fungible.
    What has changed this century is one mistake and the nuclear war will destroy the world. Sea level rise will also ultimately make the whole point moot. The Iranians and its proxies have non-nuclear mutually assured destruction with Israel and Saudi Arabia. The Cons don’t seem to believe this. Migration caused by war, economic hardship and climate change are tearing at the Five Eyes nations. An Iranian War will be an Empire destroyer. What is desperately needed is a negotiated peace.

  32. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think if US decamps from the Middle East, she immediately gains leverage as well as free her resources for other places.

  33. Babak Makkinejad says:

    France failed to instill Cartesian Rationality on the Algerians during 130 of her rule there. And when France left Algeria, Liberty left with her too, never ever to return.

  34. blue peacock says:

    This petrodollar myth persists especially among those that have very little clue on trade finance. I began my career on an oil trading desk and the currency that a contract is priced in had very little impact on trading decisions except for incorporating currency risk.

  35. turcopolier says:

    Elora Danan
    I never worked in counter-terrorism either. Sort yourselves out and correct your records.

  36. turcopolier says:

    James T Never hear of him. What did he teach? I may be an exception.

    • JamesT says:


      My apologies – I somehow missed this this back in 2019. My understanding is that he taught civil engineering at West Point. A link to his bio:

      • Pat Lang says:

        I do not know him. He was a full professor at WP. This instantly carries the rank of full colonel in the Regular Army even if selected from civil life and an Army funded Ph.D if you don’t have one. In retirement you get the rank of BG if you have not blotted your copybook somehow.

        I was offered a Permanent Associate Professorship with a non-competitive colonelcy when my year group was in the primary zone and an Army funded doctorate. I would have had the chance to compete for a full professorship if one came available. Two in each department usually and a few admin ones like, the Librarian, head of admissions, etc.

        We chose to leave.

  37. turcopolier says:

    I obviously agree.

  38. Mathias Alexander says:

    It may have no impact on the trading decisions but what impact would it have on the currency?

  39. d74 says:

    Your comments would require extensive development in response. I can’t do it, except:
    1- Woahala (Franco-African onomatopoeia, like the Greek’Eureka!’):
    The Russians will do that very well. They’ve already started. And it seems to be working. Very good stealth technique, velvet glove on steel hand. Question: What’s in it for us?
    2- It is surprising, but Algeria, its ruling elites, have their eyes fixed on France and its organizational culture. They have the same flaws as us, that is to say. It is true that they look elsewhere too.
    “And when France left Algeria, Liberty left with her too…”: are you sure, really affirmative? Surprising to read this in your pen.

  40. turcopolier says:

    Elora Danan
    I was in “intelligence,” not “counter-intelligence.”

  41. Christy Anderson says:

    “…It is time for a basic re-appraisal of our relationships in the ME”
    I thought ‘this’ already happened when all the Saudi princes were rounded up and held at the Ritz(?) directly following the Las Vegas ‘terra’ attack at the Mandolin Bay hotel?

  42. prawnik says:

    What on earth makes you think that the Saudi tyrants are our “friends”?


    Russians are dealing with Seljuk Muslims, fortified by the Shia Republic. Algeria is not a Seljuk country.
    To your number 2, I am aware of that they want to emulate France; so did Mexico and Spain. They will fail as they have failed since independence.
    Where is Liberty East of the Diocletian Line – out side of the Western Christian countries of Western Europe, North America and the two outpost of the English in the Pacific?


    France can sell them weapons and such.


    What did that attack in 2017 have to do with Saudi Arabia?

  46. d74 says:

    Well taken and understood.
    Don’t put too much hope on France. You could be bitterly disappointed.
    Our diplomacy has been dead for a long time. Smoky dreams have replaced the will to face reality. They are not even able to defend our interests, not even European interests, so yours….. Even if you kick their asses, they won’t realize anything positive, but endless bullshit. It’s not that they wouldn’t want to. It has long been a French problem: the will does not cling to action.
    There remains Russia and some troublemakers.Really, a good deal?

  47. Any comments on these brief videos of DJT at a Saudi sword dance?
    Or thoughts on the signficance of the sword dance ritual?
    My only thought: I can’t believe the Secret Service let the president get so close to those swords.
    Sure seems to me to be an unquantifiable risk.

  48. d74 says:

    You’re right, it’s an abuse. Diplomacy knows no friends, only interests. The USA is so eager to sell its hardware and do what this customer likes, and for so long, that abuse is venial.
    Do you know the expression’Bandar Bush’? More than a friend, an honorary member of the family.

  49. turcopolier says:

    I mentioned France because you are supposedly French. There are many candidates for roles great or small as proxies. We would have embassies in the ME from which to monitor developments.

  50. turcopolier says:

    In the end he can just tell the SS to f—k off. I would.

  51. Fred says:

    It doesn’t, but it sure seems a campaign of narrative crafting is going on around that shooting. A gambler with a drug problem and a girlfriend as aware of her surroundings as Omar Mateen’s wife shoots a country music concert crowd killing 58 and two years later the FBI tells us “no clear motive”.
    And just like James Hodgkinson, it is off to the memory-hole/conspiracy threory land. The idea proposed by Christy, which I’ve seen elsewhere, is less believable than political anger or even terrorism, but it is new with even more circumstantial evidence than the idea country music fans are Republicans, so it must have been political, which is an idea I’ve also seen floated.

  52. blue peacock says:

    None. Just as when all those who forecasted doom for the USD & Treasury bonds if the Chinese ever sold their dollar reserves. Well, they did, to the tune of hundreds of billions and the result – dollar rising and the Treasury bond market unperturbed. And what is not so well understood, is that Chinese did not draw down USD reserves because they wanted to but because they had to.
    What those who don’t understand trade finance don’t get is that any product or commodity can be priced in any convertible currency and can be converted at will. Among convertible currencies none matches the dollars liquidity and depth. There’s no other currency that even comes close. And there’s no other market that finances trade anywhere close to the scale of the offshore eurodollar market. Why do you think the Fed has to open up swap lines every time there’s a hiccup in the global financial system?

  53. J says:

    Speaking of ‘not a friend’, it appears there are Israeli intelligence connections to the Dem candidate Buttigieg through the law firm he used to work for. They have an office in Israel, and they appear to have brokered the sale of a U.S. sex club that was owned by a Damon Lawner who sold it to a private group called Circle which is probably an Israeli intelligence storefront. They’re slated to have a big party in Miami this month, where all will be most likely recorded audio and visual by the Israeli intelligence apparatus in Miami, setting up more U.S. politicos for their Israeli intelligence blackmail operation.
    One wonders if Mr. Buttigieg will be attending the Miami gala along with other Democratic party big wigs. Hmmm……

  54. Amir says:

    Apparently, one of wives of Clown Prince Muhammad Bone Saw, is Sahar Al Shamrani family. Likely she is related to the Pensacola Killer or at least comes from the same influential tribe. An average Saudi would never be trusted enough to be given “specialized” training by the Americans, for the fear of turning against the Al Saud clan. I don’t know enough about the country to comment more but hope that someone, with current knowledge about the internal Saudi tribal politics, can enlighten us about this “elite killer”.

  55. J says:

    Trump will be signing an Executive Order defining Judaism as a race/nationality not just a religion on Wednesday.
    Last week Trump told Sheldon Adelson’s Israeli American Council that “we have to” get Americans to “love Israel.”

  56. turcopolier says:

    This is a sad day. Perhaps Catholics could be declared an ethnic group as well.

  57. J says:

    Adam Schiff the Dem Chair of the House Intel Committee, on June 18, 2017 father’s day did a say cheeze moment. The picture showed Schiff with his father, his brother, and what caught my eye was Schiff’s son wearing a Mossad t-shirt. Which makes me wonder, if Schiff is a Mossad asset.

  58. Amir says:

    They can be declared a religious minority but it would be difficult to market them as an ethnic group.

  59. John_Frank says:

    With respect, the New York Times report is wrong.
    How Trump’s executive order on antisemitism originated in Harry Reid’s office
    A first look at the language of Trump’s executive order on antisemitism
    Trump’s Redefinition of Jewish Identity That Wasn’t

  60. Mina says:

    What is primitive is to allow the leaders of so-called democratic governments use politics in their speech and action, as those monkeys at the WH. They set an example for the rest of the world (because of their mighty army) and therefore it is impossible to stop the Messianic ME Bro spread their plague.
    This is not to say that normal people cannot feel a need for religion and practice it, but it should not be allowed any publicity in the political sphere, and at least in the international political sphere, because it goes against the very principle of non-discrimination.

  61. J says:

    If the Sharia patrol types aren’t real careful they’ll have more than just one Brooklyn gang to contend with.
    Brooklyn ‘Muslim Community Patrol’ confronted by infamous Bloods gang

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