To Mitchell Bard, the U.S. government and U.S. corporations are engaged in a long-standing toxic relationship with the Arab lobby that corrupts American domestic and foreign policy, education and national security. He documents his allegations in his new book, "The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America's Interests in the Middle East," recently published by Harper. Among his findings: that Saudi Arabia has recruited more than two dozen U.S. firms as foreign agents in the past decade and has spent nearly $100 million on American lobbyists, consultants and public relation firms; that the Saudis and other Arab states have invested more than $300 million in U.S. colleges and in resources used in kindergarten through high school education; and that 125 Middle East studies programs exist at American universities. Here, Bard outlines the unseen influence of the Arab lobby.
By Mitchell Bard
Policy debates in Washington are marked by lobbying by competing interests. U.S. Middle East policy, however, has long been portrayed as influenced, if not controlled, by supporters of Israel. Oddly, the proponents of this view routinely deny that an Arab lobby exists to counterbalance the Israeli lobby or to advance other interests.
In fact, a powerful Arab lobby does exist and often acts to undermine U.S. values and interests and threaten American security. This lobby is not solely interested in Arab-Israeli issues.
Arab and Muslim Americans, Christian anti-Zionists and Arabists – former and current government officials who argue that the Palestinian issue must be resolved for the sake of U.S.-Arab relations – do focus on the Palestinian issue; however, the more influential part of the lobby is based on oil, is pro-Saudi, and is represented primarily by representatives of that government, corporations with commercial interests in the kingdom, including defense contractors, and Arabists who believe it is necessary to placate the Saudis out of fear oil supplies will otherwise be endangered.
The Saudi-led component of the lobby is the most insidious. The Saudis put their own interests first even if these interests are in direct conflict with America's national interests. Their overriding concern is the survival of the monarchy.
As owners of the largest oil reserves in the world and possessors of vast financial resources, it is easy to understand why the Saudis have enjoyed political clout. Remarkably, however, U.S. policymakers began kowtowing to the Saudis from the time of the discovery of oil in the kingdom in 1938 before they had any wealth or the United States imported a barrel of their oil.
The bargain that America struck with the Saudis was to keep the royal heads on the shoulders of the Saud family in exchange for access to their oil. To prevent America from changing its mind, the Saudis have sought to keep us addicted to their oil by ensuring the price is high enough to make a profit but low enough to discourage large-scale investments in alternative energy sources.
The Saudis also undermine our interest in Middle East peace and stability by funding terrorist groups and obstructing peace initiatives. Thus, for example, the Saudis supported Hamas and weakened the more moderate Fatah leadership cultivated by U.S. diplomats.
The Saudis opposed the Israel-Egypt peace treaty and, when President Obama asked King Abdullah to make gestures toward Israel to show that peace with the Palestinians could lead to normalization of ties with the Arab world, Abdullah refused.
The Saudis also undermine American values by their serial abuse of human rights. In addition to denying their citizens freedom of speech, press, or religion and oppressing women, the Saudis have also discriminated against American citizens.
Most seriously, the Saudis threaten American security by sponsoring terrorism and spreading extremist Islamic teachings around the world through schools and mosques.
The Arab lobby has been allowed to operate behind the scenes, beyond public scrutiny, to guide American policy in directions counter to the views of the public and to the nation's detriment for too long. It is time to shake off the influence of the Arab lobby and to bolster ties with countries that share our values and interests.