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US stabs Saudi ‘ally’ in the back – again – with terror scapegoating

Finian Cunningham
Finian Cunningham
is an award-winning journalist. For over 25 years, he worked as a sub-editor and writer for The Mirror, Irish Times, Irish Independent and Britain's Independent, among others.
is an award-winning journalist. For over 25 years, he worked as a sub-editor and writer for The Mirror, Irish Times, Irish Independent and Britain's Independent, among others.
US stabs Saudi ‘ally’ in the back – again – with terror scapegoating
For months now, US-Saudi relations have become increasingly strained. The latest American aggravation is blaming its Arab ally for turning Kosovo into an “extremist breeding ground”.

In an article by the New York Times’ editorial board last week, entitled 'The World Reaps What the Saudis Sow', the leading US publication castigated the Saudi rulers for “promoting Wahhabism, the radical form of Sunni Islam that inspired the 9/11 hijackers and that now inflames the Islamic State.”

It was an astounding broadside of condemnation, articulated with palpable contempt towards the Saudi rulers. “Saudi Arabia has frustrated American policy makers for years,” the editorial bitterly lamented.

In particular, the august US “newspaper of record”, which can be taken as a barometer of official Washington thinking, accused Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf monarchies of turning the Balkan country of Kosovo into a failed state.

This was because the Saudis have sponsored “extremist clerics” who are “fostering violent jihad”, thereby making it a “fertile ground for recruitment to radical ideology”.

That Kosovo has become a hotbed of Islamic radicalism and a source of young militants going to Syria and Iraq to join the ranks of the Islamic State and other terrorist groups is not in dispute.

Nor is it in dispute that the Saudis and other Gulf Arab states have pumped millions of dollars into the Balkan territory to promote their version of Islamic fundamentalism – Wahhabism – which is correlated with extremist groups.

All that is true. But it’s a bit rich for elite US opinion to lump all the blame for Kosovo’s tribulations at the feet of Arab allies.

After all, it was Washington that created the failed state of Kosovo in the first place when it agitated for its secession from Serbia in 2008. Russia and several other governments, including some members of the European Union, have never recognized the self-proclaimed Kosovo republic, arguing that the mainly Muslim Albanian province’s secession from Serbia was not based on a democratic mandate.

Illogically, Washington and the EU claim that the secession of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 – though based on a popular referendum – is not legal under international law, even though these powers applied much less criteria to recognize Kosovo as a sovereign state.

In any case, the failed status of Kosovo was sadly predictable from the outset owing to the fact that “liberation” movement comprising the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was a creation of the US and NATO as a proxy with which to dismember Serbia. Under President Bill Clinton, the US and NATO launched an illegal bombing campaign on Serbia in 1999 under the pretext of “preventing oppression” of Kosovo by Belgrade.

The real agenda was that Washington wanted to carve out a pro-American state in the strategically important Balkans, right on Russia’s doorstep. It achieved that with the breakaway of Kosovo in 2008 and the setting up on the territory Camp Bondsteel, the biggest American military base in the Balkans.

However, the artificial province-cum-state was inherently unstable. The KLA, lionized by Clinton and his Secretary of State Madeline Albright, is notorious for links to terrorism and organized crime, from drug smuggling to arms dealing. Its former leader, Hashim Thaci, who is now the territory’s president, is accused of being a warlord and overseeing such criminal activities as organ trafficking. Kosovo has since gained the ignominious moniker of “Mafia State”.

Funneling jihadi money from Saudi Arabia and other Arab states into Kosovo has certainly spawned extremism in Kosovo over the past decade. But for Washington to cast all the blame for Kosovo’s chaos and criminality on to the Saudis and others is an audacious whitewashing of American culpability.

This is especially so because several jihadists from Kosovo who are active in Syria and Iraq are known to have passed through the US army’s Camp Bondsteel. One such figure is Lavdrim Muhaxheri who came to notoriety as an IS leader in Iraq after a video showed him beheading a victim.

Dishing the dirt on the Saudis over Kosovo is but one aspect of a larger emerging narrative in Washington. One which seeks to offload responsibility for international terrorism, instability and conflict on to America’s Arab allies.

US President Barack Obama riled the already-irked Saudi rulers when he referred to them as “free riders” in a high-profile interview published in April, suggesting that the oil-rich kingdom was overly reliant on American military power. In the same interview, Obama also blamed Saudi Arabia for destabilizing Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

The Saudis reacted furiously to Obama’s claims. The White House then tried to back-pedal on the president’s criticisms, but it was noticeable that when Obama flew to Saudi Arabia for a summit with Persian Gulf leaders later that month, he received a chilly reception.

Since then, relations have only become even more frigid. The passage of a bill through Congress which would permit American citizens to sue the Saudi state over alleged terrorism damages from the 9/11 events has provoked the Saudi rulers to warn that they will retaliate by selling off US Treasury holdings.

Then there are strident calls by US politicians and media pundits for the declassification of 28 pages in a 2002 congressional report into 9/11, which reputedly indicate Saudi state involvement in financially supporting the alleged hijackers of the civilian airliners that crashed into public buildings in September 2001.

President Obama has said that he will veto the controversial legislation and publication of classified information. Nevertheless, the Saudi rulers are incensed by the moves, which they see as treacherous backstabbing by their American ally. An alliance that stretches back seven decades, stemming from FDR and the first Saudi king Ibn Saud.

As American writer Paul Craig Roberts has pointed out, the latest twists in the 9/11 controversy appear to be efforts by the US “deep state” to make the Saudis a convenient fall guy.

The same goes for Obama accusing Saudi Arabia for destabilizing Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Yes, sure, the Saudis are involved in fomenting violence and sectarianism in these countries and elsewhere. But, again, the bigger culprit is Washington for authoring the overarching agenda of regime change in the Middle East.

As for claims that the Saudis and other Persian Gulf states are sponsoring Islamic extremism, this conveniently obscures US covert policy since the 1970s and 80s in Afghanistan, when American planners like Zbigniew Brzezinski conceived of al Qaeda terrorist proxies to fight against the Soviet Union.

Blaming the Saudis over the failed state of Kosovo is but the latest in a long list of scapegoating by Washington. No wonder the Saudis are livid at this American maneuver to dish the dirt. Washington is setting the Saudi rulers up to take the rap for a myriad of evils that arguably it has much more responsibility for.

The question is: how much can the strategic alliance between the US and its Saudi partner bear – before a straw breaks the camel’s back?

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.