By Paul Schreyer
Global Research
September 03, 2013

A little known conflict between the United States and Saudi Arabia in summer 2001 sheds new light on 9/11. What role did the tensions back then play? And why did the attacks occur actually in early September?

Until today it is largely unknown that the Saudi government planned a radical course change in summer 2001. Via official diplomatic channels the U.S. government was informed that the Saudis intended to stop coordinating their policy with the United States. The attacks of 9/11 destroyed these plans to separate and gain more independence only weeks later.

The intimate relationship between Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador in the United States from 1983 till 2005, and U.S. President George W. Bush is legendary. Yet, the bond between the two former fighter jet pilots included more than just personal sympathy. The close friendship of Bandar and Bush represented also the special business relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States, dating as far back as to the first half of the 20th century. Its simple core: the Saudis are selling their oil and then promptly reinvest the received U.S. Dollars back in the United States – for weapons and large infrastructure projects. Thus in the end most of the American money is floating back to U.S. corporations.

This so-called “Petrodollar recycling” is crucial not only for the American economy but also for the U.S. currency itself. If the Arab nations, led by the Saudis, would ever decide to sell their oil for Euros instead for Dollars – like the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had declared some time before the invasion of his country – then the global need for Dollars would be reduced so dramatically that U.S. monetary supremacy would seriously be at risk.

So America and the Saudis are bound together in a close economic symbiosis. This leads also to a close political alliance – which tends to be fragile because of the extreme differences in the political systems of both countries. People in Saudi Arabia are living in one of the most anachronistic dictatorships in the world. The almighty rulers there allow political reforms towards more democratic participation only reluctantly. A further constant factor of instability in Saudi domestic policy is the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

When the hawkish Ex-General Ariel Sharon became Israeli president in early 2001, and when Arab satellite TV stations started to bring more and more pictures of the Israeli occupation in Palestine directly into Saudi living rooms, then the pressure on the own leadership became urgent. Normal Saudi citizens clearly understood that Israel acted with permission of the United States who at the same time were the closest ally of the own unpopular ruling class. The Saudi people got more and more upset by this.

In March 2001, when President Bush was just two months in office, Bandar appeared at the White House. He brought a message from the Saudi Crown Prince, the de-facto ruler of the country. Progress in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians would be crucial for building a coalition of moderate Arabs, also to pressure Saddam Hussein. (1)

The U.S. government on the other hand was under pressure from the Israel lobby, which had a great, historically grown influence on American politics. The Sharon administration however had little interest in making diplomatic concessions to the Palestinians but preferred a policy of military strength and supremacy instead. A characteristic example was Sharon´s later decision to build a wall between Israel and the West Bank.

The conflict in summer 2001

The Saudis were severely irritated by the American passivity in the conflict. They decided to send a signal. In May Crown Prince Abdullah publicly turned down an invitation into the White House. He justified this by declaring the United States would ignore the suffering of the Palestinians.

Early in June 2001 Bandar was invited to a dinner with Bush. Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleeca Rice were also present. The Saudi ambassador spoke very intensely for several hours. The situation in the Middle East was getting worse, Bandar said. He added:

“This continuous deterioration will give an opportunity for extremists on both sides to grow and they will be the only winners. The United States and the moderate Arabs will pay a very high price. There is no doubt that the moderate Arab countries, as well as the United States, have lost the media war and the Arab public opinion. What the average Arab person sees every day is painful and very disturbing. Women, children, elderly are being killed, tortured by the Israelis.” (2)

Bandar pointed out that more and more the Arab world ´s impression would be that the United States backed Israel completely. This would seriously damage the American interests in the region. The ambassador made clear that the United States had to find a way to separate the actions of the Israeli government and its own interests in the region. He also admitted that for the first time in 30 years there would be serious problems with the internal situation in Saudi Arabia – a real threat for the stability of the administration. (3)

In summer 2001 the conflict in the Middle East got more tense. Several cease-fires between Israel and Palestine were broken. The United States still remained passive. On August 27, Bandar again visited Bush. He began:

“Mr. President, this is the most difficult message I have had to convey to you that I have ever conveyed between the two governments since I started working here in Washington in 1982.”

Again he stressed the close relationship of both countries and the growing problems of the Middle East conflict. Apparently Bush had allowed Sharon to “determine everything in the Middle East”, he said. Yet, the Israeli occupation policy would have to fail. Bandar compared it with British policy in the American colonies in the 18th century and with the Soviet policy in Afghanistan. (4)

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