Saudi offers Russia deal to scale back Assad support – TTG


(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has offered Russia economic incentives including a major arms deal and a pledge not to challenge Russian gas sales if Moscow scales back support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Middle East sources and Western diplomats said on Wednesday. The proposed deal between two of the leading power brokers in Syria's devastating civil war was set out by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week, they said.

Russia has supported Assad with arms and diplomatic cover throughout the war and any change in Moscow's stance would remove a major obstacle to action on Syria by the United Nations Security Council.

Syrian opposition sources close to Saudi Arabia said Prince Bandar offered to buy up to $15 billion of Russian weapons as well as ensuring that Gulf gas would not threaten Russia's position as a main gas supplier to Europe. In return, Saudi Arabia wanted Moscow to ease its strong support of Assad and agree not to block any future Security Council Resolution on Syria, they said.


Well, you have to admire Prince Bandar's straightforwardness. No false platitudes about self-determination or freedom. Just a simple bribe attempt between nations… the bastards! Let's face it.  Saudi money is at the root of a great deal of the problems we face. A lot of dangerous Salafist movements would be nothing more than angry men in a mosque without Saudi money. I wouldn't be at all saddened by a massive hack of Saudi financial networks that reduces their spending cash. Don't collapse the economy, just take away their ability for discretionary spending. It could be the Iranians, Hezbollah, or even our CYBERCOM and NSA. Just do it and be quiet about it.

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51 Responses to Saudi offers Russia deal to scale back Assad support – TTG

  1. asubbotin says:

    I wonder if the other, unspoken, arm of that offer was a threat of Salafist terror attacks in Russia. A number of Chechens are fighting in Syria, rerouting them to Russia should not be difficult.

  2. TTG,
    A relevant question then becomes how significant the religious dimension in current Russian policy is. From an interesting piece published on 26 July by Dmitri Trenin, a former Soviet officer who is now director of the Carnegie Moscow Center:
    ‘Last Thursday in the Kremlin, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin hosted senior leaders of all 15 national Christian Orthodox Churches. The occasion was the 1,025th anniversary of the baptism of Rus. The Russian president hailed the adoption of Christianity as the civilizational choice of Russia, and called it the spiritual pillar of the Russian people.
    ‘That the Kremlin’s domestic policy has moved toward traditional values is a salient feature of Putin’s current presidency. Profession of universal values or common European norms and principles has stopped. In lieu of the Council of Europe, the Moscow Patriarchate is now the principal norm-setter. Other traditional religions: Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism are also welcome as partners of the State.
    ‘The state-supported comeback of traditional religious faith in Russia has a foreign policy dimension. Both Putin and Patriarch Kirill spoke about the plight of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, in particular in Syria. According to the head of the Russian Church, the very presence of Christianity in the Middle East, its historical birthplace, is in danger. Should “physical destruction” or “pushing out” of Christianity happen, it will be a “civilizational catastrophe.”’
    (See )

  3. turcopolier says:

    This is typical Saudi Arabia. All money, and nothing much else. As I have written, the have long term plans for all of the Levant. I wonder what they would do with all that modern equipment. They don’t have enough people in the population to adequately man their ground forces now. Do they plan to replace American equipment with Russian? pl

  4. Fred says:

    They have already been attacked that way, which is amongst the reasons why the Russians opposed replacing Assad with a Salafist government. When has paying extortion to such groups ever proved to be in the long term interests of one’s people?

  5. confusedponderer says:

    The Saudis probably have enough money to just buy it and then let it rust in the desert. 15 billion? I’d like to have that. To the Saudis, that’s not exactly small change, but nothing that can be said to cost them dearly.
    What would put me off about that offer is the way it is being made, even more so now that it is public. The Russians would be idiots to accept, since it would show they are for sale, cheaply.
    Given that, are the Saudis so coarse as to not see that? I always thought them patient, subtle and sophisticated players, judging by the way they play the US, but then, perhaps Bibi is just being realistic when he says the US is easily played.

  6. Abu Sinan says:

    They dont call him “Mr 20%” for nothing. Amoungst the reswha (bribe) mad princes in the Saudi government, he is notorious.
    My ex’s family was friendly with his family here in DC for years. The stories of graft, corruption and other vice are legion. This is a given.
    Question is….will the Russians go for it, and at this point, would it matter greatly considering the facts on the ground as they stand?

  7. seydlitz89 says:

    Col. Lang & TTG-
    Gentlemen, could it be that the Saudis are panicking due to the momentum of the Syrian war having shifted to Assad? Making such a blatant offer is typical of a merchant’s mentality which is what the Saudis are essentially as Col. Lang has mentioned before. But they couldn’t actually expect the Russians to fold so easily. Is it perhaps more a signal to Assad that his Russian support isn’t as certain as he may think?

  8. Fred says:

    It sounds like the plot of a bad ‘50s noir film. They could at least have taken the money and then reneged on the ‘deal’. Putin certainly has a few people he could afford to fire. $15 Billion would settle the selected fall-guy’s costs with plenty to spare.

  9. Matthew says:

    CD: Besides the religious issue that DH discussed above, imagine the damage the Russians would suffer in prestige–and seriousness–if they accepted this offer. Saudi Arabia is asking Russia to “sell” its ally. Would Saudi ever dare ask the US to “sell” Israel? I doubt it.
    Furthermore, the Saudis must hope the Russians have forgotten that Saudi money contributed to Russia’s defeat/strategic withdrawal/mission accomplished in Afghanistan.

  10. b says:

    That the offer has been made public means that Russia has rejected it.
    Bander was really stupid to even try bribing Putin.
    The Saudis could again produce as much of their oil as possible and shredder oil prices which would severely hurt Russia’s oil exports. But since the protest wave in the Middle East Saudi Arabia had to increase its payments to its population and can no longer afford any longer period of lower oil prices.
    It has therefor nothing left with which it could influence Russia.

  11. FB Ali says:

    Bandar was Saudi ambassador in Washington for 22 years. Before that he would have spent some years studying in the US.
    That’s where he must have lost the ability to be “patient, subtle and sophisticated”.

  12. FB Ali says:

    I share your sentiments re the Saudis, especially the royals. In my view they are the scum of the earth.

  13. eakens says:

    We’re already doing as we are slowly becoming a huge exporter of oil. The culmination of massive Saudi and US supplies and an economic slowdown will torpedo their revenues.

  14. F.B. Ali
    I have long suspected that the history of the relations between the Saudis and a significant section of the British elite is one of a catastropic process of mutual corruption.

  15. seydlitz89,
    I do not think that Russian support for Assad ever has been ‘certain’. Another recent piece by Dmitri Trenin, which, interestingly, appeared in the Tablet, describes what has I think been the consistent Russian position:
    ‘Last May, Putin appeared ready to deal with the United States on bringing the war in Syria to a close. For the Russian leader, however, it was never acceptable to be simply a U.S. accomplice in easing Assad out of power. His own terms of possible engagement were clear: Moscow and Washington act jointly and as equals; they bring the Syrian government and the opposition groups to the peace conference and keep them there; they let the Syrians decide the future of their country and the composition of its transitional government; they ratify the agreement reached and oversee its implementation. The United States looked at Putin’s terms and did not much like them. Putin, for his part, was not buying what the United States had to offer. Not surprisingly, Geneva 2 is not going to happen, at least not soon.’
    (See )
    It has never been clear to me, as an ignoramus about Syria and the Middle East in general, whether there was any possible basis for a negotiated agreement between the different parties in the civil war, even had Russia and the United States agreed to work in tandem. However, insofar as Putin is committed to Assad, this seems to be not so much through any positive enthusiasm as because Western policy has given him no option.

  16. confusedponderer says:

    “That the offer has been made public means that Russia has rejected it.”
    Doh. I hadn’t thought of it that way, and it makes sense.

  17. Matthew says:

    FB Ali: “scum”?
    Unlike the Saudi royals, scum actually has utility. See

  18. Matthew says:

    Eakins: what is more important (a) to export oil; or (b) protect the petro-dollar? The two are not the same thing.

  19. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There never was; the diplomacy was meant to facilitate the crushing of one side by the other.
    This is worse than Spanish Civil War – communities have been forced to chose sides on basis of physical probability of survival.

  20. turcopolier says:

    FB Ali
    Having been Defatt in SA and later forced to associate with Bandar, I have the lowest possible opinion of them. Their standard technique is to reduce one and all to “zilim” (flunkies) with money. in particular the way they have treated the Pakistan military is shameful. pl

  21. Matthew,
    ‘Scum’ is quite a difficult term.
    In the last election for the mayor of London, the Tory candidate was Boris Johnson and the Labour candidate Ken Livingstone.
    As an Oxford student, Johnson was a member of the Bullingdon Club — like David Cameron and George Osborne. They made a habit of getting blind drunk, trashing places, and then flashing their parents’ money around. In their view, apparently, money could make everything good.
    Not quite John Henry Newman’s idea of a gentleman.
    As for Livingstone, he came out of the ‘New Left’ in the Eighties Labour Party. Specifically, he was a product of ‘Red Ted’ Knight’s Lambeth Council. And that was seriously corrupt.
    So one might say the election for mayor pitted the ‘scum’ of the British political class versus the ‘dregs’.

  22. Matthew says:

    Thanks, DH. But I think we can agree that after you scraped off the scum, and drained the dregs, anything left over still has more utility than a Saudi royal.

  23. CK says:

    Israel is currently an ally of the Sauds ( against Syria, Iran, Iraq and the rest of the Shia sectarians; so they are not a currently available sellout option.
    Maybe after Iran is neutralized, Syria is “democratized”, and Hezbulah beheaded then it will be time to try to put a wedge between the Saud’s current friends.

  24. VietnamVet says:

    I agree 100%.
    The USA is the flunky #1. We have never been able to get out of the Saudi’s embrace; even after, their clansmen with the help of a few Egyptians took down the Twin Towers.
    America lived with the Assad regime for 42 years. Why not now? The Saudi’s hug.

  25. Medicine Man says:

    I am emphatically in agreement with you, TTG. It has long been a cherished wish of mine to see some of that egregious “War on Terror” mojo turned on the primary state sponsors of international terror, hopefully with the deftness and precision you describe.

  26. Kerim says:

    That’s how they’re seen in the rest of the Arab world. Not to be trusted and not worthy of respect. The other sultanates and emirates in the region enjoy a similar reputation.
    And hat’s why the Nasser’s, Khomeinis, Saddams enjoyed such popularity. They had big cojones, hair on their chests and stood-up to the western world. A bit simplistic maybe, but that was the perception on the Arab street.
    On the other hand, the pirate crowd on the peninsula are seen for what they are: a bunch of lazy and arrogant libidinous buggers, who drink whisky, f… around and bankroll bloodthirsty religious lunatics.

  27. seydlitz89 says:

    Hi David-
    At this point in time I think it is fairly certain, but that based on my assumption that the Russians are quite clear here as to their interests. Still what you describe makes a lot of sense and would have been a far more pragmatic route for the US to have taken. Little chance of that though given the current US Weltanschauung . . .

  28. seydlitz89 says:

    Interesting analogy. Agree.

  29. FB Ali says:

    Wasn’t there a big scandal about Bandar receiving a huge payoff from BAE for an arms deal? Which was then hushed up by the British govt?
    Re your query about the possibility of a Syrian peace deal under US-Russian auspices. In my view the only way this could have happened was if the Russians were prepared to strong-arm Assad while the US did the same to the Arab countries backing the rebels. The Russians may have been ready to do that, but the US had neither the will nor the means.
    I don’t think that possibility exists now.

  30. FB Ali says:

    Col Lang,
    All the Saudi royals have is money and some low cunning. And, of course, US backing. Without the latter, instead of bossing around the other Arab countries (and other clients) they would be hiding in their plush holes.

  31. Tony says:

    I, by no means, try to defend the Saudis, but in the world that revolves around money, do you blame them to just try buying whatever they want..…just like a rich spoiled kid. And what they need is a hard slap in the face to behave.

  32. Norbert M. Salamon says:

    the USA still the world’s largest importer of oil, the export presently is mostly with Canada, to balance the supply between East and West -the west exports to USA,,,,
    The Bakken and Eagle Ford are too expensive to sell on the market, they are the famous marginal producers of approx. $80-90 cost and rising.
    Check your beliefs against the data supplied by the North Dakota Government — it will greatly enlighten you.
    The only way USA will ever be an exporter is if the econmy collapses to the point that citizens can not afford to drive.

  33. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Saudi Arabia is untouchable in the United States, UK and an number of other such places.
    Unfortunately, the removal of the Al Saud will very likely plunge Arabia into a state of civil war.
    This is because the other tribes will then go to war against one another to gain and maintain control of the oil fields; which also happen to be inhabited by the despised Shia Arabs.
    Like Libya, there is no cohesion in that state and the removal of the autocrats will not be followed by anything better than what it would replace – Libya writ large.

  34. elkern says:

    I doubt we (USA) will be a net exporter of oil in my lifetime. The Fracking boom is generating gas, not oil. Sure, we’ve been driving & flying less since Wall Street blew up our economy, but nowhere near enough to balance our imports. We may be a net exporter of Refined Petroleum products, but most of the raw material is still imported.
    If/when we invade Canada, we might become a net oil exported.
    (no, I’m NOT advocating the invasion of Canada)

  35. blowback says:

    Given all the talk about Russia being a Mafia state, among other things, in the western MSM, I wonder if Putin was tempted to have Prince Bandar bin Sultan ground up into sausages and freighted back to Riyadh?
    Note to the NSA, CIA, GCHQ, MI6, etc.: I’m only joking so don’t waste your time or the taxpayers’ money!

  36. turcopolier says:

    I don’t think there is any chance that Russia will accept the Saudi’s offensive offer. pl

  37. Basilisk says:

    I’m sure you’re right, but whoever found the image for this post hit a home run. Little Mother Russia beset by the sleaze merchants, how far we have come!

  38. The Twisted Genius says:

    Not only will Russia not accept this offensive offer, but its offensiveness may spark the very response I suggested at the hands of Russian hackers. Not the legion of webpage defacers and script kiddies, but the old school, quiet professionals of the hacker world that no one ever hears from. I lived virtually among these types for almost a decade. They could have done the Stuxnet attack with much better OPSEC. It won’t happen right away. They will take months and months to plan, reconnoiter and prepare. One day, Bandar will discover that he and the rest of his cronies have been “pwned” and he won’t have a clue by who or why.

  39. The Twisted Genius says:

    Glad you liked it. I thought it was the most appropriate image from a simple google image search for bribery.

  40. Norbert M. Salamon says:

    Invasion of Canada will not help the USA oil demand — the energy gain on tar sands is very low, and the required investment is extremely high. True old producers [whose original investment is written off], can produce at lower prices, but the newer ones have to get the investment depreciated before they can survive on prices below 80-90] The cheap oil supplies of Canada have also decreased as in the USA, so marginal production price is still very high – fracking [somewhat cheaper then the USA, but further from the market], note the problems of transport no one wants to build one from Bakken, many oppose transshipment of tar sand products, be it by rail or pipeline, etc.
    Finally get the right data, and you will see that the major suppliers of USA, Canada, Venezuela, Mexico have all declined export capacity to the USA or elsewhere.

  41. Al Arabist says:

    It’s been said before; the Saudi social arrangement and foreign policy will change when these chickens come home to roost. The non-royals are locked and loaded with critical thinking and no amount of money will shut them up, believe me.

  42. The Virginian says:

    In case nobody raised it, Saudi Arabia has little in terms of gas reserves (Qatar is the gas behemoth in the region), and would have limited ability to impact Russia’s role as a gas supplier into Europe. For Russia the nightmare would be a fall in oil / gas prices that would undermine Moscow’s treasury – the Saudis can impact that space to some degree, but the broader variables of supply / demand will be key here.

  43. confusedponderer says:

    Hey, there nothing against drinking whisky, particularly scotch … per se.
    Now, in Islam “drinking alcohol is a major sin, for wine is the mother of all evils.”
    So the bigotry is hard to miss when you see the Saudis as proponents of their austere Islam. What do the Saudis do with boozers? Public lashing apparently – a treatment not fit for royals.

  44. confusedponderer says:

    the problem right now (and it was like that under Bush 43 before) in DC is that when the US makes a particularly idiotic offer, usually an ultimatum in one form or another, which the US choose to call ‘diplomacy’, they meet predictable rejection – and ascribe that to the oppositions so demonstrated ill will and nasty character, and not some misconception on their part.
    That, or it wasn’t in good faith anyway and designed to fail, in order ‘to go through the motions’, to get the talking points about the oppositions ill will and nasty character.
    Perhaps as a result of an over abundance of power, it has apparently been unlearned that dictionaries defines negotiation as: “to arrange for or bring about through conference, discussion, and compromise [negotiate a treaty]”.
    “We don’t negotiate with evil; we defeat it”. No hope for change there.
    Curiously, few leaders react favourably to American invitations to suicide. In US diplomatic speak “negotiate” indeed often means “surrender or die”. But that’s what regime change as a foreign policy prescription gets you – dysfunction, but with ‘moral clarity’.
    I find it peculiar that, for all the critical thinking skills presumably taught at US universities, US foreign policy, once established, generally is so remarkably persistent if not outright doctrinaire. ‘Doesn’t work’ is nothing that can’t be fixed with more of he same.
    For instance, in America it is so much easier to impose sanctions than to lift them. One would have thought that 50 years Cuba policy would have demonstrated the consistent failure of that approach, but … alas – the US motto in these matters is “Vorwärts immer, rückwärts nimmer!” Amusing.
    Likewise, the Saudi Royals, by an over abundance of money, have grown used to that enabling to buy anything, resulting in something like this offer to Russia.

  45. F.B. Ali,
    The Saudis, I suspect, bring with them a certain style of court politics. Involved with this is an acute sense on the part of a certain kind of operator, such as Wafic Said, of the weak spots which make people vulnerable to manipulation.
    Mrs Thatcher had two children. Her daughter, Carol, is by all accounts a nice lady, who has never attempt to exploit her mother’s position. Her son, Mark, is a lower form of life, who was all too happy to exploit that position for material advantage. Unfortunately, in his mother’s eyes he could do no wrong. It is credibly reported he made £12m. from the Al Yamamah deal.
    (See )
    Unfortunately, the scandal has been almost universally treated in the British media as simply a case of commercial corruption. The 2006 biography of Bandar by William Simpson – who clearly had very good access to its subject – suggests that it was specifically structured to facilitate the funding both of covert arms purchases and covert operations.
    In 1985, when the contract was signed, a prime purpose was clearly to fund the Afghan mujahedin. What such monies may have been used for in subsequent years is an interesting question.
    A further interesting effect is how far the toxic combination of corruption and covert operations may have locked elements in the British elite – not least MI6 – into a close relationship with the Saudis which may well no longer make any very good strategic sense. And the imperatives to maintain cover-ups can have very distorting effects on institutions – you may end up with a situation where only those judged likely to be happily complicit can be recruited.

  46. seydlitz89,
    I think one relevant fact is that there is very deep hostility and anxiety on the part of the Russian leadership to the whole ‘regime change’ agenda, in part because they are afraid that might themselves be a target of it.
    What seems to me a plausible account of the role of these concerns in shaping Putin’s thinking is given in Dmitri Trenin’s article in the Tablet, to which I linked above.
    In my view, it did not further American interests to appoint as ambassador to Russia a self-described ‘specialist on democracy, anti-dictator movements, revolutions.’
    (See )

  47. Charles says:

    And isn’t Prince Andrew one of Britain’s most notoriou, er, productive arms and business lobbyists, a bit o Saudi grease already staining his royal cloak?
    WikiLeaks cables: Prince Andrew demanded special BAE briefing
    SFO sources confirmed that BAE case handlers at the time thought the request from the Duke of York was ‘well out of order’

  48. confusedponderer says:

    “… deep hostility and anxiety on the part of the Russian leadership to the whole ‘regime change’ agenda, in part because they are afraid that might themselves be a target of it.”
    The US have given them no reason to think otherwise, quite the contrary. It didn’t need McFaul to persuade them. That peculiar series of branded revolutions on their front lawn and in their backyard spoke for itself.
    I have no idea whether that was a CIA or state department operation with outlets like NED as a proxy, or if the likes of NED are acting on their own, guided only by the Washington consensus. For the Russians that is probably an academic distinction without a difference.
    And indeed, it doesn’t contribute to a ‘productive working relationship’ with Russia when the US ambassador is a guy whose profile will be read by distrustful Russian eyes as that of someone one sent to Moscow to scheme for Putin’s demise.
    And after the US screwing Russia over Libya and on many other occasions, why on earth should the Russians trust in anything the US says or promises?
    Trustworthy the US is not, a liability IMO, and a national security risk in it own right.
    I do not doubt that the US was unhappy with Putin ever since he came to power, and my impression is that Russia is on America’s to-do list for countries that need to be regime-changed.

  49. seydlitz89 says:

    Ok, what do you think is behind their actions, this “US”, this “governing elite” (which would supposedly include political influence outside the govt), if we can call it that?
    Their operating principles? Three basic assumptions: First, US/Western exceptionalism, the “fight for freedom” as GWB proclaimed it. Second, the US, as in economic/social entity, as simply “too big to fail”. The sources of power are essentially limitless, it is mostly a question of desire, then will, and then control; after that it’s only staying on track. Third, violence/force as the main means of achieving political ends . . .

  50. confusedponderer says:

    “behind their actions” – IMO a desire to expand American influence, just they are being hare brained and holier-than-thou about how to achieve it. That’s even true for the “We don’t negotiate with evil; we defeat it” crowd.
    They all share a blind spot in that they accept the idea of American Exceptionalism as a given. It is the core dogma at the root of it.
    I believe Chalmers Johnson pointed into the right direction when he quoted Theodore Roosevelt: “There’s not an imperialist in the country. Expansionism, of course, it’s in our blood.”
    With America expanded into, the rest of the world is the last frontier * – and there was a time when this “US”, this “governing elite” quite happily accepted the laurels of a global (benevolent, of course) hegemon. It has only become unfashionable to say so. The idea IMO still persists.
    * This is only partly a pun: What could the US have achieved it the moneys spent for the wars since 9/11 had been spent on space research? What a waste. The opportunity costs of these wars is monumental.

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