There is a play coming together on the world stage to which no one has a program, except the cast. It is a mystery, a horror and a thriller all in one. It is being performed behind the elaborately constructed properties and scenes of an as yet unknown screen writer, and it stretches from Islamabad, through Riyadh and Tel Aviv, down to Tehran and across the ocean to Washington, with cameo appearances by London, Paris, Ankara and Moscow, to name a few.
This story is part of a larger tale and it has many threads; some beginning long before the present, some apparent and some not so. Yet as the story unfolds and the threads combine, a single protagonist begins to emerge, its identity slowly becoming evident.
It is 1969 and Pakistan, torn by civil unrest and a war with India over Kashmir has received aid from London in developing a nuclear fuel re-processor, capable of producing weapons grade plutonium from its Canadian reactor, constructed between 1966 and 1972 (begun with equipment, money and technology donated by Washington in 1955). By 1971 Pakistan is alienated by many of the world powers, having lost her battle with India and the newly split country of Bangladesh and now Islamabad is fretting over India’s rapidly growing nuclear program, which tested its first weapon in 1974.
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan then spends the next seventeen years upgrading its ‘peaceful’ civilian nuclear power program, secretly carving out underground facilities and developing a nuclear weapons program with funds and technical assistance from oil-rich Arab states, notably Saudi Arabia and possibly China. Then, in 1998, after India had again conducted a nuclear test, all of the hard work and dollars spent by Pakistan were revealed to the world when she conducted six underground weapons tests, the sixth being that of a plutonium bomb. In return for this assistance, Saudi Arabia was to receive nuclear weapons from Pakistan in the event that Riyadh felt threatened by regional enemies.
It is 1979 and Tehran is embroiled in revolution against western colonialism and control over their resources and finances by the ‘puppet’ Pahlavi Dynasty, placed on the throne of Persia by London, Washington and the Seven Sisters during the 19Th and early 20Th centuries. As the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to power, Washington whisked the fallen Shah out of Iran, much to the dismay and anger of Tehran who wanted the Shah on trial in their own courts. In response Tehran captured 52 American diplomats, holding them as collateral for 444-days and causing Washington to freeze 12-Billion dollars in Iranian assets, gold, currency and property. There is also great speculation that during this political unrest, Bagdad, under the direction of and with the assistance of western powers and their proxy armies attacked Iran the following year, starting the Iran-Iraq war which raged between September 1980 and August of 1988. Despite increased sanctions imposed by Washington in 1981 in an effort to aid Iraq, Tehran easily repelled the surprise attack and by 1982, with the help of Damascus and many smaller Islamic forces had turned the tables on Saddam Hussein, not only retaking lost territory but advancing into Iraq using weapons and technology supplied to the deposed Shah of Iran by Washington only a few years before.
One must look backwards in time to discern the causes of our current events and one such historical point of interest is 1930’s Riyadh where King Ibn Saud and his Wahhabi band of Islam warriors have been isolated (again) from all other Arab states except Egypt, surviving with the assistance of London, Paris and their allies. For more than twenty years Ibn Saud has been walking a fine line of hypocrisy; promising London his undying loyalty and begging their assistance in overcoming the Hashemite states (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, etc.) and the non-aligned Bedouins to whom he has been feigning affection. This is not a new tactic for the al Saud and it was just this kind of two-sided relationship with the Ottoman Empire less than 100-years before which paved the way for Abdul Aziz al Saud to build the family reputation and finances after his triumphant return to the area around Riyadh in 1902 from exile in Kuwait; an exile brought about by the Ottomans who had tired of his double dealing in 1891.
Not one to miss an opportunity, by the onset of World War1 he was already receiving military and financial aid from London and Paris who were themselves funding proxy wars against the Ottomans, supporting not only al Saud but also his long time enemy, al Rashid. Yet unlike Ibn Saud, al Rashid had big plans to create a Pan-Arabian nation once the Ottomans were out of the picture and this did not fit into the plans of London or her allies.
By the outbreak of WW2, Ibn Saud had made it clear to the British that independent Hashemite states threatened his security more than any other matter relevant to Arab policy, including the Palestinian question. As British diplomat G.W. Rendel wrote of him at this time;
“As a Moslem and an Arab, his sympathies naturally lay with the Arabs of Palestine. He has suppressed these feelings out of sympathy to his Majesty’s Government and he could always suppress his feelings in the interest of policy…but he stood alone, and he had to think of his position in a world where many of his co-religionists would not even admit that he was a Moslem.”
As the British Mandate in Palestine was coming to an end and plans to import thousands of Jews from around the world into Palestine were being played out, it was Ibn Saud who promised London that he would keep the Palestinians from revolting against what was to come. Yet as he was writing of his fealty to the west, his desires to maintain a strong, Arabic position in front of the other Arabic states, friend and foe alike, lead him to feign support for the Palestinians and protest of the Jewish settlement plans; plans fulfilled without his involvement as Palestine was lost to Israel during al-Nakba in 1949.
By the end of the Arab-Israeli war, Ibn Saud’s lack of participation was not lost on those Arab states which had sacrificed and lost to Israel and his attempts to publicize his support of the Palestinian cause were wearing thin. Although today’s Saudi history books declare their great political and material support to Palestine, the truth is that only a handful of poorly equipped, ill-trained troops, mostly volunteers, were sent by Ibn Saud to Egypt not in an effort to hold off Israel but to prevent other Arab tribes from gaining Saudi territory during the unrest of the Arab Israeli war. Apparently through his almost fanatical fear of other Arab states gaining power over him, Ibn Saud had let his reliance on British and recent American oil money turn him into a quasi-ally of Israel. However, as this history unfolds it becomes evident that the Israeli/Saudi alliance goes much further back than the last couple of generations…stay tuned for the next installment of Modern History – A Work In Progress