Carrier Cruiser'>King Salman Doubles Down on the Aircraft Carrier Cruiser

Friday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman came to DC to meet with Obama, renting out the entire Four Seasons hotel in a lavish display of extravagance as our joint policies in the Middle East foster a refugee crisis in Europe.

In a joint appearance on Friday, King Salman likened this meeting to the 1945 meeting on an aircraft carrier cruiser with FDR that laid the foundation for the oil-dollar-anti-Communist axis that has dominated post-war power.

I intended to make my first official visit to the United States as a symbol of the deep and strong relationship that we have with the United States that’s indeed historical relations that go back to the day when King Abd alAziz met with President Roosevelt in 1945.

Our relationship is beneficial not only to our two countries, but to the entire world and to our region. And this is significant, and we must always affirm that and deepen such relations.

Obama was more circumspect in his comments (I’ve put the transcript below as I didn’t find it posted on the White House site), speaking of specific things he’d like to accomplish in partnership with Saudi Arabia, several of which KSA has been only lukewarm at best in supporting. The official statement was even crazier, promising that KSA and the US would work on climate change together!

The one item with which KSA surely agreed was that the US would continue to help it to “counteract[] Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region,” which is actually code for the US continuing to help KSA to extend its influence at the expense of Iran, even in spite of the fact that KSA is a more destabilizing influence in the Middle East.

So amidst a showy meeting at which the US promised to continue to side with KSA against Iran, all while paying mere lip service to fixing the humanitarian disasters that result (most urgently in Yemen), Salman pitched the meeting in geostrategic terms: the KSA would continue to exert outsized influence on world affairs because of its special relationship with the US (which of course would be impossible if the two were to work toward any positive response to climate change).

Meanwhile, al-Arabiya emphasized something else: an ambitious plan to expand commercial partnerships between the countries, masterminded in part by intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.

Saudi Arabia on Friday unveiled a giant raft of investment and partnership potential opportunities in sectors including oil and gas, civil infrastructure, and banking as part of a 21st century vision of the cooperation between the two long-term allies, sources told Al Arabiya News on Saturday.


With the Saudi government ramping up investment in free zones, roads, and communication networks, the kingdom will soon “aim to employ and rely completely on U.S. construction companies,” sources told Al Arabiya News.

The proposals were based on studies conducted by leading business and technology consultants, including Booz Allen Hamilton and BCG.

I’m interested in this because of the way in which joint economic partnership have formed the core of relations between KSA and the US — which was based on, and largely replaced, a similar partnership with Iran. It’s partly a vehicle for laundering petrodollars. It always pretended to be about bringing development to KSA. But it also seems to be about ensuring US bodies were present and exposed in the region, in case anything goes haywire.

As I’ve noted, back in 2013, the US prematurely extended the current version of that agreement when Mohammed bin Nayef came to welcome in Obama’s second-term cabinet. State was coy about releasing the terms of the agreement (underlying documents of which may show curious reporting structures for Americans in KSA), but eventually they did release what I suspect is a now-outdated agreement that nevertheless extends for 10 years (to 2023).

None of this is surprising. To placate the Saudis specifically, and the Gulf states generally, Obama is at least claiming he will sustain the preferential relationship with them, ignoring the damage that results. He is reassuring the Saudis they’ll continue to be our favored petro-weapon — we won’t pull a switcheroo like we did to the Iranians in 1976. And in response, Salman will bless the Iranian agreement (all while heating up the arms war in the Middle East that will expand instability).

But it is worth noting how Salman wants this to be perceived: as a continuation of KSA’s ability to demand idiotic interventions from the US at its behest.

Update: Corrected cruiser for carrier, per b.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it’s a great pleasure to welcome His Majesty, King Salman, to the Oval Office. This is the latest of several meetings that I’ve had with His Majesty. And the fact that he has chosen to take this first visit to the United States is indicative of the longstanding friendship between the United States and Saudi Arabia.

This is obviously a challenging time in world affairs, particularly in the Middle East, and so we expect this to be a substantive conversation across a wide range of issues. We share a concern about Yemen and the need to restore a functioning government that is inclusive and that can relieve the humanitarian situation there.

We share concerns about the crisis in Syria, and we’ll have the opportunity to discuss how we can arrive at a political transition process within Syria that can finally end the horrific conflict there.

We continue to cooperate extremely closely in countering terrorist activity in the region and around the world, including our battle against ISIL. And we’ll discuss the importance of effectively implementing the deal to ensure that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon, while counteracting its destabilizing activities in the region.

We’ll also have an opportunity to discuss the world economy and energy issues. And I look forward to continuing to deepen our cooperation on issues like education and clean energy and science and climate change because His Majesty is interested, obviously, ultimately in making sure that his people, particularly young people, have prosperity and opportunity into the future. And we share those hopes and those dreams for those young people, and I look forward to hearing his ideas on how we can be helpful.

So, Your Majesty, welcome, and let me once again reaffirm not only our personal friendship but the deep and abiding friendship between our two peoples.

HIS MAJESTY KING SALMAN: (As interpreted.) Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you for allowing us to enjoy your hospitality. I intended to make my first official visit to the United States as a symbol of the deep and strong relationship that we have with the United States that’s indeed historical relations that go back to the day when King Abd alAziz met with President Roosevelt in 1945.

Our relationship is beneficial not only to our two countries, but to the entire world and to our region. And this is significant, and we must always affirm that and deepen such relations. We always emphasize that we want to deepen our relations and further our cooperation in all fields.

As you know, Mr. President, our economy is a free economy, and therefore we must allow opportunities for businesspeople to exchange opportunities, because if people see that there are common interests, they will further themselves the relations between them. And our relationship must be beneficial to both of us, not only on the economic field but on the political and military and defense field, as well.

Once again, Mr. President, I’m happy to come to a friendly country to meet a friend. And we want to work together for world peace. Our region must achieve stability, which is essential for the prosperity of its people. And in our country, thank God we are prosperous, but we want prosperity for the entire region. And we are willing to cooperate with you in order to achieve that.

Thank you, Mr. President, for your hospitality. And I look forward to seeing you in Riyadh and seeing American officials coming to see us in Riyadh, and also Saudi officials coming to the United States.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much, everybody.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

16 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    “… The official statement was even crazier, promising that KSA and the US would work on climate change together!…”

    ho ho ho. saudi oil has already changed the climate.

    • emptywheel says:

      Thanks. In my imagination I keep transforming it to carrier (I’ve made this mistake before), but I suppose I’m just buying into Salman’s hype.

      • orionATL says:

        it’s ok. you’re pretty close to right; just got a little mixed up on the p’s.

        king salman bought an aircraft carrier and president obama agreed to meet him on it. **

        ** pres g.w. bush would have flown a navy jet in there. just shows the difference between a republican war hero and a democrat draft dodger.

  2. Don Bacon says:

    The flip side is that Iran will benefit from this cozy US-KSA relationship, enhancing its relations with Russia and China, as well as with non-aligned nations which reject US ‘world leadership’ and its destabilizing policies.
    We are experiencing a trend toward a bi-polar world, to simplify: US/KSA/France against all the rest, and Iran is the champion of the anti-US faction as a result of defying the US and winning. KSA? Loser. Iran’s defiance has created a model behavior for other countries. If the US rejects the nuclear deal, now or in the near future, Iran would gain even more.
    When Salman says “we want to work together for world peace. Our region must achieve stability” one has the feeling this doublespeak was written in Washington, it being exactly how the US speaks, meaning quite the opposite of course. With modern communications, the world knows this is BS. This is why the US State Dept has issued a world-wide travel caution. Americans aren’t safe anywhere, and increasingly more unsafe at home also.
    So that’s the “good” news.

  3. wallace says:

    quote”His Majesty OBAMA: Well, from one King to another… it’s a great pleasure to welcome His Majesty, King Salman, to the Oval Office. This is the latest of several meetings that I’ve had with His Majesty. ”
    HIS MAJESTY KING SALMAN: (As interpreted.) Thank you Your Majesty, and thank you for allowing us to enjoy your hospitality.”unquote

    There. Corrected interpretation.

  4. wallace says:

    ya know, here it is the 21st century and there are still people on this planet that accept the concept of “Kings and Queens”. Unfuckingbelievable. Darwin should be banging his head with pots and pans.

  5. Les says:

    Saudi Arabia and US destabilizing good for US. It denies access to resources for China and Russia, while allowing US-backed rebel governments to rewrite oil laws and reallocate oil development contracts.

  6. wayoutwest says:

    I agree with much of EW’s post but the statement ‘ KSA’s ability to demand idiotic interventions from the US’ doesn’t jibe with recent developments unless I’m misreading that statement. Obama avoided direct intervention against Assad which the Saudis desired, with help form Russia. The Saudis have driven the development of the Joint Arab Military Force and is using it to intervene in Yemen. I think the US wants the Saudis to assume this new intervention role and demands are not necessary.

    I can’t support the Saudis but they do have critical security reasons for stopping the takeover of Yemen by the minority Hezbollah/ Iran backed and aligned Ansar Allah whatever the failings of the legitimate government.

    There is some irony in Salman’s and Obama’s words of love and dedication between the KSA and the US. Not that long ago high level Saudis were in Russia announcing huge Nuke deals and future defense and energy cooperation, it seems the Saudis are hedging their bets.

    The Saudis seem to have little problem with the Iran Nuke deal and I read one Saudi official state that it will be used as a template for the Saudis to develop their Nuke weapons capabilities to mirror the allowed Iranian program.

  7. Tom in AZ says:

    The ‘Iran backed Houthis’ overthrowing Hadi is all we get from the press. Not that he was the US/KSA handpicked guy to replace the guy they were tired of dealing with in Yemen. Then he gets to run against – no one… for a 2 year term in 2012. I don’t recall seeing where they had a now election in 2014, which was when the Houthis ran him out of town and he has been hiding ever since.

    Can someone explain to me how the US/KSA gets away with calling him the legitimate leader when his term expired? Other than that is the story the stenographers of the press take down from ‘senior US officials? And why no one asks why bombing every civilian piece of infrastructure in that country is ‘fighting the terrorists’ and not a blatant war crime? You know, that whole collective punishment we were so proud to make illegal at Nuremberg. I’m just curious.

    • wayoutwest says:

      You may be correct about Hadi but he is not the Government of Yemen just the Glorious Leader. That Govt. is recognized by the world including Iran even if it didn’t function very well and abused the Zaidi Shia minority.

      Ansar Allah represents many but not all of that Zaidi minority and none of the majority Sunnis but it does represent the legitimate grievances of the Zaidi minority. The Zaidis have the right to equal treatment in Yemen and possibly even the right to fight for that equality but they have no right to rule over the majority of their countrymen.

      Ansar Allah made a decision after taking Sana’a to reject the Yemeni Government’s offer of power sharing and moved to conquer the cities of Southern Yemen and in doing so opened themselves up to destruction by the Saudi led Loyalist forces.

      • Tom in AZ says:

        So, in essence you are telling me that because they refused to ‘go along to get along’, they brought this on themselves. We and the GCC then proceed to destroys the food warehouses serving the entire country, blow up the hospitals and power plants and anything else used by all the citizens of Yemen? The rest of the population has it coming also I suppose, because they didn’t shoot their neighbors for resisting? And if AQ and ISIS get to take over half the country because of our interference, well, that’s what they get? And it is truly nice to see us defending the ‘legitimate’ government, no matter what they have done to bring about a civil war. Sort of like in Syria. Oh. Wait…

  8. Don Bacon says:

    Obama to King: We are providing you precise targeting information that enables your US-supplied aircraft to put US-supplied bombs on Houthi targets in Yemen. You would like that to continue?
    King to Obama: I catch your drift. I support the Iran deal.

    • orionATL says:

      “… We are providing you precise targeting information …”

      more-or-less, sort of, mostly, as best we can, precise … :)

Comments are closed.