international

The Brownnose in the Middle East

The relationship between the U.S. and the Middle East has been turbulent at best. Many Arab nations reject western ways and blame westerners for part of the instability in the Middle East. Within the international arena the U.S. and Saudi Arabian relationship is of interest. One might think that due to the 9/11 attacks that the relationship between these two countries might have become strained (due to 15 of the 19 terrorists being of Saudi decent), however each country is committed to a strong diplomatic relationship.

According to the U.S. Department of State website the U.S. and Saudi Arabia ‘share common concerns and consult closely on wide range of regional and global issues’ and have done so since the 1940’s. One of the main factors of this ‘strong’ relationship is the oil exports out of Saudi Arabia. These two countries have both supported major offensive action against al-Qaeda terrorist cells in Yemen and also supplied arms to Syria. In recent events the Saudi government is pushing the U.S. to intervene in the Syrian war, as Arab intervention has so far failed to ascertain positive results.

The activities of the U.S. in relation to Saudi Arabia is very, for lack of a better term, ‘kiss-arse’. In the past decade the U.S has bowed down to Saudi social and political discrepancies. For example, President Bush and top congressional leaders in 1990 visited the American troops stationed in Saudi Arabia during Thanksgiving. President Bush intended to say grace before a Thanksgiving dinner, however the Saudi’s objected (as there is only one religion in Saudi Arabia: Islam) and Bush and his party instead celebrated on the U.S.S Durham, which was sitting in international waters. A further example of just how far the U.S. is willing to go to accommodate the Saudi international guests was evident during 2002, when Crown Prince Abdallah travelled across America to visit President Bush. The Crown Prince demanded that at the airport there should be no females on the ramp, no female cabin crew and no female air traffic controllers, however the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the State Department both deny that such a request was made. While both these examples have been subjected to the media’s scrutiny, they do illuminate the measures that the American government is willing to take in order to maintain their relationship with Saudi Arabia.

In recent events the Saudi government has had cause for concern. In the past both governments have had diverse views on numerous issues within the Middle East, however recent disagreement over Iran and Syria have caused Saudi Arabia to become weary of the U.S. and a possible ‘hidden’ agenda. Fearing that Washington is preparing a ‘bargain’ with Iran in relation to the nuclear program and that the U.S. intervention into Syria is taking too long, relations between the two countries have become somewhat structurally unstable.

However despite these issues and tensions the relationship between these two countries is likely to continue as it is due to neither having a better alternative partner.

 

U.S./Saudi relationship in a nutshell

(While there are many more examples and case studies that I could have included, the main notion that I wanted to express it that these two countries have a symbiotic relationship and as such the issue of the 9/11 Saudi terrorists has been swept under the rug in place of larger economic relations. The U.S. seems to do little to upset Saudi Arabia and is willing to cater to their every need.)

Lebanon is no ‘Laughing grass’ matter

Security forces destroying hashish crops.

In a country that is prone to civil wars, assassinations of political figures and political subterfuge, it is of no surprise to discover that Lebanon is fast becoming the Middle East’s main hashish exporter. In the Bekka Valley, which stretches 75miles long and nearly the length of Lebanon itself, the cannabis trade is booming. In the last year vast quantities of land in the valley has been used to cultivate the cannabis. Hashish was banned in 1926 under the French mandate, yet it is still grown by the local farmers for want of a better produce.

As the cultivation of such a plant is illegal, the government every year orders its security forces to uproot the crops, causing the farmers to lose profit. According to the farmers in the valley, they are more than willing to grow another crop, however the government has not offered them an alternative solution, and so they continue to grow hashish as it thrives in the valley’s environment and needs little in terms of care. The issues has caused the farmers to strike out at the security forces and on various occasions both sides have engaged in conflict with the other.

Another reason why hashish is still grown is due to the collapse of the state. With no central authority overseeing such a large territory and conflict, drug cartels have ‘taken over’ the cultivation of the crops. Crooked politicians have ensured that these cartels are kept running due to the money that the cannabis brings in.

According to a farmer, an acre of hashish can be cultivated for US$100 and sold for US$4000, where as a crop of potatoes the same size is cultivated for $400 and makes a profit of only $100. It is evident as to why the farmers continue with the cultivation of hashish.

Hezbollah also has an issue with the drug trade and they have tried to persuade the government to destroy the crops. A member of Hezbollah was interviewed and insisted that Hezbollah did not use money made from the drug trade as it is against Sharia Law, and the group only uses drugs as a tool for security purposes and bribes.

In this instance, the perpetrator is not clear, if it is the farmers, the security forces, or Hezbollah for their inability to stop the trade. Either way it is a dominant issue within domestic and international politics and the government needs to address this issue, or perhaps an independent organisation needs to intervene and prevent further grievances.