THE AMERICAN HOUSE OF SAUD: The Secret Petrodollar Connection by Steven Emerson

THE AMERICAN HOUSE OF SAUD: The Secret Petrodollar Connection

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The various ways--secret and not-so-secret--that Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil-producing countries, along with ""a broad coalition of influential and powerful American supporters,"" have sought to influence US foreign policy: i.e., to advance Arab interests at the expense (in the main) of Israeli interests. Emerson has been a Senate subcommittee aide, and while his book (expanded from a 1982 series in The New Republic) is a typical murky, sensationalized expos‚--loaded language, unidentified government sources, shady big-wheel operatives, pages of conspiracy-minutiae--there is some plausible evidence of governmental/congressional duplicity. Did the subcommittee suppress a report on technical problems in the Saudi Arabian off fields? (""Was the Carter administration afraid that public exposure of the Saudis' true oil Imitations would undercut the public relations representation of Saudi Arabia as America's best friend in the Middle East?"") Did the State Department rig a report on Saudi Arabia--remove references to instability and corruption--to get the AWACs sale through Congress? Emerson also makes a couple of larger points of some substance: 1) whereas pro-Israeli sentiment has operated largely through Congress (based, to Emerson, on public sympathy), pro-Arab sentiment has operated chiefly through the Executive, and out of sight if not covertly; 2) the Arab nations, unlike other foreign countries lobbying for their interests in the US, treat politics and trade as one--from the well-known blacklisting of firms doing business with Israel to the Death of a Princess furor, when Birmingham companies with lucrative Saudi connections not only succeeded in keeping the program off Alabama public TV, but ran ads protesting its PBS showing altogether. (Allowing for Emerson's over-reactions, the Birmingham situation--a bevy of subsidized ""bicultural"" programs--is instructive. So are the examples throughout of American firms publicizing their support for Arab positions.) And apart from Washington policy-maneuverings--did this or that ex-government-official exert pressure on behalf of this or that Arab client?--and the Arab-interest organizations funded by Aramco and other corporations (for legitimate or purely mercenary purposes), there are some clear-cut cases of strings-attached grants rejected by colleges and universities. But it will take an alert, knowing reader to distinguish between allegations and proven wrongdoing, between ordinary lobbying practices and extraordinary pressures, and between giving the Arab world its due (in attention and respect) and damaging the Israeli cause.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1985
Publisher: Watts