Monday, May 04, 2015

The architect behind the secret U.S.-Saudi-Israeli relationship by Wayne Madsen

The architect behind the secret U.S.-Saudi-Israeli relationship

The recent internal Saudi palace "coup" that saw King Salman replace his brother Muqrin Bin Abdulaziz as Crown Prince with Salman's nephew, Prince Mohammed bin Nayaf, is an indication that the decades-long but highly secret U.S.-Israeli-Saudi special alliance is undergoing a dramatic transformation.

Since the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979, U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia's defense needs has had the quiet support of successive Israeli governments that saw the Saudis as a critical bulwark against Iran and any Shi'a-led revolutions in the Persian Gulf and on the Arabian peninsula. The effective Zaidi Houthi takeover of Yemen has resulted in even closer relations between Riyadh and Jerusalem. The Zaidis, a sect close to the Shi'as, are pro-Iranian. However, the American component of the tripartite alliance is no longer guaranteed as Washington seeks a nuclear deal with Iran and closer relations with Tehran  in other arenas.

Salman also replaced other Cabinet ministers, including the long-serving foreign minister Saud al-Faisal. Saud has been replaced by the long-serving Saudi ambassador to the United States, the non-royal Adel al-Jubeir, a favorite of the Israelis and Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan, the former CIA station chief in Riyadh and a known Saudophile.

Salman's ambitious son, Mohammed Bin Salman, was named the new deputy Crown Prince. Salman's changes were seen by observers as bolstering the most anti-Iranian members of the Saudi regime, which, of course, is very welcomed by the Israeli government, which, under Binyamin Netanyahu's fourth term as prime minister, is the most right-wing and internationally aggressive in Israel's history.

The intellectual architect of the Riyadh-Jerusalem-Washington alliance was an Egyptian-Jewish Zionist and paid CIA consultant at Harvard University named Nadav Safran. In 1946, Safran, born Nadav Za’farani, moved from Cairo to a kibbutz in Palestine and fought as a commando against the British and Arabs in Israel's independence war, served as the director of Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Although Safran died in 2003, his work on U.S.-Saudi relations, which on its face seems odd for an Israeli-American, laid the basis for the secret cooperation between the three countries, particularly with regard to Iran. In 1985, Safran published a book, Saudi Arabia: The Ceaseless Quest for Security, which closely examined Saudi security concerns and served as a virtual blueprint for future U.S. military aid to Saudi Arabia. The book was written pursuant to a secret CIA grant to Safran for $107,430. The Boston Globe published a copy of Safran's contract, dated April 13, 1982, with the CIA. Although Harvard University Press published the book, the university claimed it was unaware of the CIA contract with Safran.

In 1986, Safran resigned from the Center for Middle East Studies over his connections with the CIA. Safran's other books that significantly influenced U.S. Middle Eastern policy included, Israel: The Embattled Ally, published in 1978 during the Camp David negotiations, and Egypt in Search of Political Community, published the same year that President Anwar Sadat was assassinated.

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The brains behind the not-so-secret U.S.-Saudi-Israeli alliance was Israeli-American Nadav Safran, a CIA-paid academic who likely influenced the thinking of current CIA director John O. Brennan.

Harvard's Center for International Studies had a long association with the CIA. Furthermore, Harvard was well aware that in 1985, Safran received an additional $50,000 from the CIA to organize two seminars, one on Islamic fundamentalism and the other on the Persian Gulf. The CIA laundered much of the money through the RAND Corporation. Safran was a close colleague of another pro-Israeli ex-Harvard academic on the U.S. government's payroll, Richard Pipes, who, in the 1980s, taught at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Safran remained with Harvard's Department of Government until 1990 where he continued to maintain a relationship with the U.S. government in the months prior to the start of Operation Desert Storm against Iraq.

U.S. policymakers in the Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama administrations would use Safran's book to shape their own attitudes toward the Saudi regime. However, as the Obama administration seeks a breakthrough on U.S.-Iranian relations, the Safran book has lost much of its importance in the current environment.

Safran also served as a CIA conduit to the press and his conflict-of-interest would serve as a template for future academics and journalists who claimed independence while accepting covert payments from the U.S. intelligence and defense communities. In 1990, Safran penned an op-ed for The New York Times that called on the Bush 41 administration to reject any peace feelers from Saddam Hussein. Safran was pushing the Israeli and Saudi line that Saddam should be dealt with harshly after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

One of Safran's colleagues at Harvard, Laurie Mylroie, became one of the chief purveyors of the bogus meme that Iraq was behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Mylroie's 2000 book, Study of Revenge; Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America, was cited by former CIA director James Woolsey as "brilliant and brave." The book would later be cited as one of the reasons why the U.S. had to invade and occupy Iraq after 9/11.