Understanding the Power-Contest Between Aristocracies

Eric Zuesse

At the core of global power stands the conflict between the Sauds and their Sunni clergy, versus the Iranians and their Shiite clergy.

One can’t understand U.S.-Russian relations, nor much else of what is happening in the world, without knowing the relevant historical background; and the origins and nature of the Sunni war against Shia are arguably the most essential part of that. Just how the United States came to back the Sunnis, and how Russia came to back the Shiites, in this war, will be discussed in subsequent articles.

This great intra-Islamic conflict, little understood outside the Middle East, came into clearer-than-ever focus on 2 August 2013 when Sami Kleib at al-Monitor headlined “Saudi Arabia Tries to Cut a Deal With Russia Regarding Syria”, and he reported about Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud’s trip to Moscow, as the Director of Saudi Intelligence. It was an extraordinary private meeting, because the Sauds and the Russians have been enemies ever since the Sauds allied themselves with the Americans against the atheistic Soviet Union in 1945. Kleib wrote that: 

Like all Saudi Arabian leaders, Bandar wants to deal a blow to Hezbollah and weaken Iran. And they will do anything to accomplish that, including hitting President Assad’s regime.

But why did Saudi Arabia change its mind and decide to send Prince Bandar to a country that “supports the genocide in Syria”?

To find the answer, first look for Iran.

Then, Kleib noted the central point:

Saudi Arabia faced a choice: to reach an understanding with either Iran or Russia.

Saudi Prince Bandar — sometimes called “Bandar Bush” because he was virtually accepted as a member of the Bush family — had been forced into a position of choosing between Russia and Iran as an ally to join with the Sauds’ war to dislodge Assad from Syria; and he chose Russia to become an ally with the Sauds, instead of choosing the Sauds’ ‘fellow’-Muslims, Shiite  Iran.

Why did the Sauds choose Russia, over Islamic Iran, to join them?

Russia, to the Sauds, represents (even today), as Kleib put it, “the ‘capital of communist atheism’.” (After all: Putin had once been a communist, though he was now a follower of the Russian Orthodox Church.) Iran, by contrast, represents the leadership of what to the Sunni Sauds is their real competition:  Shiite Islam.

The Thirty Years War in Europe was fought between Catholics and Protestants, two competing wings of Christendom. It was a vicious and deadly war. Both sides of it were killing for the same God — just different clergies and their respective aristocracies.

The civil war in Iraq after Bush invaded Iraq in 2003 was between Shiites and Sunnis; and they too were killing each other for the same God — just different clergies, and their respective aristocracies.

Before the Sauds-Salafists (Wahhabists) can defeat atheists and former atheists (Russia), and also defeat non-Islamic religionists (such as the vast majority of Europeans and Americans), they must first settle their scores against the Shiites — above all, against Iran.

Furthermore: the fundamentalist Salafist-Wahhabist Saud family, in 1945, allied with the Christian-majority nation of America, against the atheistic Soviet Union; and, today, Russia is (reverted to its being) an overwhelmingly Christian-majority nation; so, some of the Sauds’ sheer animus against Russians has, indeed, subsided a bit. However, by contrast, Iran has become (after the 1979 ousting of the American stooge Shah) assertively Shiite, which is, perhaps, to the Sauds, even more infuriating than is atheism.

However, it actually goes much deeper back than that: It goes back to the deal in the year 1744, that the fanatical anti-Shia cleric Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab and the ambitious gang-leader Muhammad ibn Saud (the founder of Saudi Arabia) made, which established simultaneously the Saudi-Wahhabist nation and the Wahhabist sect of Islam, both of which are joined-at-the-head with Saud’s descendants, so as to constitute the existing nation of, actually, Saudi-Wahhabist Arabia. (It’s actually not only Saudi. The Sauds fulfill their contract, because, if they didn’t, the Wahhabist clergy would support a revolution to overthrow them.) This deal was the most clearly and succinctly described in the 1992 U.S.-Library-of-Congress-published book by Helen Chapin Metz, Saudi Arabia: A Country Study (and the highlighting of a sentence in it here is by me, not by Metz):

Lacking political support in Huraymila [where he lived], Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab returned to Uyaynah [the town of his birth] where he won over some local leaders. Uyaynah, however, was close to Al Hufuf, one of the Twelver Shia centers in eastern Arabia, and its leaders were understandably alarmed at the anti-Shia tone of the Wahhabi message. Partly as a result of their influence, Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab was obliged to leave Uyaynah, and headed for Ad Diriyah. He had earlier made contact with [and won over to his hatred of Shiia] Muhammad ibn Saud, the leader in Ad Diriyah at the time, and two of  [Saud’s] brothers had accompanied  [Saud] when he [in accord with Wahhab’s hate-Shiia teachings] destroyed tomb shrines [which were holy to Shiia] around Uyaynah.

Accordingly, when Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab arrived in Ad Diriyah, the Al Saud was ready to support him. In 1744 Muhammad ibn Saud and Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab swore a traditional Muslim oath in which they promised to work together to establish a state run according to Islamic principles. Until that time the Al Saud had been accepted as conventional tribal leaders whose rule was based on longstanding but vaguely defined authority.

Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab offered the Al Saud a clearly defined religious mission to which to contribute their leadership and upon which they might base their political authority. This sense of religious purpose remained evident in the political ideology of Saudi Arabia in the 1990s.

Muhammad ibn Saud began by leading armies into Najdi towns and villages to eradicate various popular and Shia practices. The movement helped to rally the towns and tribes of Najd to the Al Saud-Wahhabi standard. By 1765 Muhammad ibn Saud’s forces had established Wahhabism — and with it the Al Saud political authority — over most of Najd. 

So: Saudi Arabia was founded upon hatred of Shia Muslims, and it was founded upon a deal that was made in 1744 between a Shiia-hating fundamentalist Sunni cleric Wahhab, and a ruthless gang-leader Saud, in which deal the clergy would grant the Sauds holy legitimacy from the Quran, and the Sauds would finance the spread of Wahhab’s fanatical anti-Shiia sect.

The Sauds are thus obsessed with Iran, and with its foreign Shiite allies, such as Assad in Syria, Houthis in Yemen, and Hezbollah in Lebanon — and want them all dead, if those Shiites won’t become subservient to Sunni clerics.

The United States is (and since 1945 has been) allied with the Sauds. But the U.S. was now reaching out to Iran, for a deal on nuclear inspections. This antagonized the Sauds. So: the Sauds were considering the possibility of becoming allied instead with Russia against both Assad and Iran. This despite the fact that America’s aristocracy (such as the Bushes*) is obsessed to overthrow or else cripple Russia, so as to give the U.S. aristocracy virtually a power-monopoly over the entire world.

That meeting between Bandar and Putin on 2 August 2013 was for the big-power stakes; it was for really history-shaping stakes. If Bandar had succeeded, then the post-World-War-II era (the U.S.-Saudi alliance especially) would have definitively ended; and, going forward, a Russia-Saud alliance, including the other Sunni-controlled nations — Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Turkey, etc. — would be at war to defeat Syria and other Shiite nations, especially their leader: Iran.

The U.S. would have become odd-man-out: desperately trying to get Sunni Pakistan’s military (Pakistan’s aristocracy) to ally with the U.S. instead of with the Sauds. If Pakistan were to go with Saudi Arabia (such as, for example, the Wahhabist Taliban would hope), then Iran would be at war against not only the Arabic aristocracies to the west, but against the Pakistani aristocracy to the east. (Pakistan’s aristocracy mainly run the military, and so in order for Pakistan to go with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan’s aristocracy would be joining with, and would no longer resist, the Taliban and other Wahhabists in Pakistan. Pakistan would become a Saudi satellite state.) Also, the Afghan aristocracy, being Sunni, would be a part of the Saudi alliance (as they already largely have been, since at least 1979; Afghanistan is a Saudi satellite). Virtually the entire Islamic world would be united behind the Sauds.

The U.S. would lose its influence in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The EU would be the site of enormous conflicts between the old Christian majority and the flood of new Muslim refugees, most of whom would be Sunnis who would feel torn between their loyalties to Mecca versus to their new Christian-majority home-nation.

The big losers, in other words, would be not only the clergy and aristocracy in Iran, but also the clergies and aristocracies in Europe and the U.S.

Bandar Bush was actually angling for the defeat of the U.S., and not only of Iran. (He had been a major donor to Al Qaeda. George W. Bush’s Saudi buddy had contributed to financing the 9/11 attacks.)

Putin said no. He refused Prince Bandar’s offer.

The U.S. aristocracy continues trying to overthrow Putin and any nation’s leaders who cooperate with him. Previously, it was Gaddafi in Lybia, then Yanukovych in Ukraine. Now it’s Assad in Syria. Side-coups had also been attempted but failed in Venezuela, Ecuador, and possibly a few other countries.

After the 13 November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, the major world leaders met at the G-20 talks; and, in conclusion of the conference, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov summed up on November 17th by saying that:

Analysis of the strikes delivered by the United States and its coalition at terrorist positions [in Syria] over the past year drives us to a conclusion that these were selective, I would say sparing, strikes and in the majority of cases spared those Islamic State groups that were capable of pressing the Syrian army. It looks like a cat that wants to eat a fish but doesn’t want to wet its feet. They want the Islamic State to weaken Assad as soon as possible to force him to step down this or that way, but they don’t want to see Islamic State strong enough to take power.

In other words: even at the G-20 conference right after the Paris attacks, the U.S. remained more anti-Russian than anti-jihadist. Whereas the American public were vastly more anti-jihadist than anti-Russian, U.S. President Barack Obama was committed to the same policy that he had pretended — both to Russian leaders and to the American public — to be opposed to when he was running against Mitt Romney in 2012; and, as Romney put it: “This [Russia] is without question our number one geopolitical foe.” In America’s dictatorship, Obama’s repudiation of Romney’s statement turned out to have been a lie from Obama — Americans ‘elected’ there Romney merely in blackface.

*          In a previous article, “How America Double-Crossed Russia and Shamed the West,” I quoted the detailed account by Mary Louise Sarotte, about George H.W. Bush’s having double-crossed Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 by having Bush’s agents tell Gorbachev that the U.S. had no aim of conquering Russia and that if Gorbachev would peacefully let the Berlin Wall fall and East Germany become absorbed into West Germany, then “NATO will not expand itself to the East.” However, when German Chancellor Helmut Kohl tried then to proceed that way to the end of the Soviet Union, Bush brought Kohl to Camp David and told him in private there, “To hell with that! We prevailed, they didn’t.” Kohl from that moment on worked as part of the American aristocracy’s continuing sub-rosa war to take over Russia — and NATO now virtually surrounds the eastern half of Russia. Kohl’s protégé Angela Merkel continues this.

Bush’s successor Bill Clinton followed through on the senior Bush’s double-cross by bringing into NATO Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic. Bush’s son then brought in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Obama brought in Albania and Croatia, and he’s still trying to bring in Ukraine, after his coup there in February 2014, whose aim was largely to get that big one into NATO — plus to cut off Russia’s gas-supplies into Europe, which pass through Ukraine. And then, too, Obama worked with the Sauds to supply weapons (via Turkey) to jihadists in Syria to overthrow and replace the Arabic world’s only non-sectarian government, the Ba’athist government headed by the Russia-allied secular Shiite, Bashar al-Assad, by a U.S.-Saudi-allied fundamentalist-Sunni Sharia-law regime.

Anyone who would deny that the U.S. aristocracy aren’t rabid to take over Russia is ignoring a lot of recent history, especially the most important parts.

As regards the Saudi obsession to defeat Iran: The billionaire Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal was reported on 2 July 2015 to have said in Saudi Arabia’s newspaper Okaz (with highlighting here by myself, to indicate what I see as the most important parts):

All my Muslim brothers and sisters must understand that it became a moral imperative for all inhabitants of war-torn Middle-East, namely Arabs, to desist their absurd hostility toward Jewish people. My sovereign, King Salman has instructed me to open a direct dialogue with Israel’s intellectuals building amicable ties with our Israeli neighbors.

The same English-language site then reported on 27 October 2015 that he said in Kuwait’s newspaper Al Qabas:

I will side with the Jewish nation and its democratic aspirations in case of outbreak of a Palestinian Intifada (uprising) and I shall exert all my influence to break any ominous Arab initiatives set to condemn Tel Aviv, because I deem the Arab-Israeli entente and future friendship necessary to impede the Iranian dangerous encroachment. … The whole Middle-East dispute is tantamount to life and death for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from my vantage point, and I know that Iranians seek to unseat the Saudi regime by playing the Palestinian card, hence to foil their plots Saudi Arabia and Israel must bolster their relations and form a united front to stymie Tehran’s ambitious agenda.

I have been unable to find in English any record of a repudiation by Saudi King Salman of either of those comments. Talal’s statements came at a time when the U.S., Obama Administration, had negotiated an agreement with Iran about nuclear issues. A re-alignment of the key global aristocracies might result from this situation. The U.S. is willing to negotiate with Iran but refuses even to work together with Russia to defeat jihadists in Syria. (Or at least refused prior to the 13 November 2015 ISIS terrorism in Paris.) America’s attitude toward Russia has been unremittingly hostile, as if Russia had done anything that threatened the United States (except to respond to America’s/NATO’s aggressive moves against Russia, such as its overthrow of Ukraine’s government, next door). Clearly, America’s aristocracy have played their public as suckers; but a big debate in American politics these days is whether the U.S. should temporarily reduce its anti-Russian focus in order to increase its anti-jihadist focus after the November 13th Paris terrorist attacks.

In order for the U.S. to end its war against Russia, a basic re-alignment of aristocracies would occur. The U.S., like Russia, would be aligned with Iran. Israel doesn’t want that to happen. Israel is aligned with the Sauds. Does Israel control U.S.? Will the American public continue to favor America’s being controlled by Israel? Will even American Jews continue to support America’s being controlled by Israel? America’s aristocratic Jews do, but will the vast majority, the others, or will they instead repudiate their aristocracies, not only American but Israeli? Or, instead, will America abandon Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni aristocracies, and Israel’s aristocracy; and, so, abandon the fundamentalist-Jewish apartheid state, and re-assert its own democracy?

These are not only questions about America’s ideology — whether to be democratic, or instead aristocratic (as it has been since at least 1981). These questions are about America’s military and economic position in the world.

The United States remains a part of the Saudi-Israeli-U.S. alliance; it remains fundamentally inimical to democracy. It remains as an aristocratically controlled nation, which accepts control of the public by a theocratic-aristocratic alliance via the state, and rejects control of both the aristocracy and the clergy by the public via the state. It sides especially with the aristocracy against democracy.

However, even secular-democratic nations, such as Russia and a few others in Europe, are constantly under both aristocratic and theocratic threats. Much of Russia’s aristocracy crave to return to the Yeltsin years when the U.S. aristocracy controlled there. And Russia’s alliance with Iran is with a theocratic Shiite state, no authentic democracy.

The key decision is for the U.S. aristocracy: whether to continue as dictators there, or, instead, abandon both the Sauds who control Arabia, and the Orthodox Jews who have come to control Israel. Barring that, there is no way in which the current soaring ‘defense’ budgets will head down again: ‘defense’ stocks will continue to rise, and services to the public will continue to erode. The world is headed for an increase in wars.

The last U.S. President before 1981, Jimmy Carter, said recently that the United States is “just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or being elected president.” Changing this will be difficult if not impossible. The global aristocracies might not ‘win,’ but dislodging them from power is extremely unlikely. Their wars will continue to be our wars.

The world’s 80 wealthiest individuals own half of the world’s wealth, and the way that this was calculated ignored the very wealthiest people entirely, including the wealthiest of all, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, whose actual wealth is certainly well in excess of a trillion dollars. So, the true number there wouldn’t be 80 individuals, but perhaps more like only 40, many of whose personal fortunes aren’t even calculated by Forbes, etc. But regardless of whether it’s instead as large as, say, 70, the wealthiest people need to grab wealth from some of the other wealthiest people in order to raise their respective rank, as studies indicate to be the main motivation for the super-rich — rank instead of money per se. For example, “the richest 8.6% own $224.5T (trillion), while the poorest 91.4% own only $38.7T.” So, stealing from even a large number of individuals in the poorest 91.4% won’t likely increase the rank of a person who is in the top 100 worldwide — they’ve got to steal from each other, in order to raise their rank. Wars are the way that’s done. It’s an essential business for the global aristocracy, especially at the global top; and, so, as the world’s wealth becomes more and more concentrated, more and more weapons will be sold. There’s just no other way for it to happen. Whether any of them are willing to go so far as nuclear war is another question. Bluffing is one thing; willingness to follow through with it, is something very different.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.