Get ready for another major headline-grabbing divorce, and this time around it’s not going to be an Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt breakup.
No, this time the split will be between the overly cozy United States and Saudi Arabia.
The rocky marriage of convenience between Washington and Riyadh has a long and sorted history.
Back in 1945, just as the Second World War was coming to a close, then-U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Saudi King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud met on a U.S. warship anchored in the Suez Canal and pledged their diplomatic nuptial vows.
The resulting matrimony would later give birth to a coterie that would transform the sandy nomad kingdom into the world’s biggest oil exporter and allow the United States to open military bases on Saudi soil.
But by the time that Faisal Ibn Abdul Aziz ascended the throne in 1964, the honeymoon was over, and Washington was soon flirting with new potential political mistresses in the region.
A jilted Saudi Arabia responded by threatening to cut off oil to the West in 1973 in retaliation for its support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War.
There was a flurry of diplomatic mediations by then-U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, which resulted in the drafting of the U.S.-Saudi Arabia Petrodollar Agreement.
Under the terms of that agreement, which went into effect in 1974, the United States promised to protect the Saud dynasty in exchange for Riyadh accepting only U.S. currency for its petroleum sales.
The unholy pact worked for a while, with both countries benefiting from the exclusivity clauses that it entailed, and, for a while, the marriage seemed to be back on track.
Riyadh was happy to have the military backing of the world’s biggest superpower to ensure that the House of Saud would remain in power, and Washington was equally thrilled to have the most powerful nation in the Middle East as its bosom buddy.
But when word began to leak out that Saudi Arabia had helped finance the 9/11 bombings of the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and was secretly channeling money to extremist Sunni jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria, the romance once again took a deleterious nosedive.
The final straw came on Sept. 28, when the U.S. Senate voted to override President Barack Obama’s veto of the Justice against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JUSTA), allowing the families of the 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for its role in the heinous attacks.
Now, Riyadh is again contemplating breaking off the conjugal partnership with Washington, and it seems that no diplomatic marriage counseling is going to save the spousal union at this stage.
Stay tuned for the latest in the on-going divorce proceedings.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at [email protected].