The real role of the Windsors part two: Counter-Revolution in Arabia

Betty and Andrew Windsor with the King of Bahrain at the 2019 Windsor Horse Show

Originally published in Counterpunch magazine, 2021

The first article in this series looked at the ‘domestic’ role of the British monarchy, suggesting that they served as a ‘counter-revolutionary backstop’, a feudal remnant kept artificially alive in order to prop up bourgeois rule through the bypassing of parliament and the establishment of rule by decree in the event of serious popular unrest and revolt. In a nation as deeply saturated with colonial wealth and outlook as Britain, however, this is more of an ‘insurance policy’ than an active and ongoing role. In the realm of foreign policy, however – where the revolutionary overthrow of Britain’s colonial proxies is a real and ever-present danger – their role is much more active and visible. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Arab world. 

Following the taxonomy deployed by the legendary Ghanaian revolutionary, Kwame Nkrumah, the Arab states can be divided into two main camps: those which are under the effective control of the former colonial powers and their allies (which he termed ‘neocolonial’ states), and those which are not. In the former camp are states such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and the UAE, all of them creations of the British empire and to this day still controlled by the ruling families handpicked by Britain at the height of empire. The consolidation and reinforcement of the relationships between Britain and these families, and the shoring up of their power, is a core part of the role of the British royal family, and much of their time is taken up with hosting and visiting these families. This is especially important at times when their rule is under threat, providing an expression of solidarity at the highest level, an assurance that the British state will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with whatever repression is deemed necessary to hold onto power. 

Whilst this symbolic royal solidarity is offered to leaders of Britain’s neocolonial proxy states the world over, it is the relationships with the ruling families of the Arab world specifically that are considered to be paramount. To understand why this is so, it is essential to appreciate the fundamental importance of Arabia both to the neocolonial system – the channelling of wealth generated in the global South to the western states – in general, and to British economic and political power in particular. 

The Gulf region’s importance to the neocolonial world system derives primarily from its strategic location and its energy resources. Even before the discovery of oil, the region was particularly coveted by the British state due to its proximity to India. Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 sent British officials scurrying for control of the Arabian peninsula in order to close the Gulf to the French navy; to this end, the first Anglo-Arabian treaty was signed that year, with the Sultan of Muscat. Others followed soon after, such that the British were virtual hegemons in the region by the middle of the nineteenth century. The thrust of these treaties was always the same – British security guarantees for the ruling families in exchange for British control of their foreign policy, with securing the trade and military route to India the fundamental objective. Urgency was added to this aim in 1911, when Winston Churchill decreed that the navy would switch from coal to oil, meaning that not only British economic strength, but British naval power too, was now dependent on imports from the East (which, since the opening of the Suez canal in 1882, could now make their journey to Europe purely by way of cargo ship through the Red Sea). 

This geostrategic imperative for British control of the Gulf region remains operational today. Three of the world’s eight ‘transit chokepoints’ – narrow waterways through which a large proportion of global trade passes daily – surround the Arabian peninsula – the Suez canal to the Northwest, the Strait of Hormuz to the east, between Arabia and Iran, and the Bab el-Mandab Strait to the west, linking Yemen, Eritrea and Djibouti. Control of these chokepoints is considered crucial, therefore, not so much to British energy security (as the Gulf region supplies less than 4% of Britain’s oil and only 13% of its gas), but to Anglo-America’s ability to control the flow of energy to other countries – in other words, to the leverage provided by such control. The ability to cut off energy supply to whoever it chooses is a key element of western global power. As Bush advisor Zalmay Khalilzad put it back in 1995, “the US position in the Gulf…helps the United States to prevent the rise of another global rival. And should one arise, Washington’s position in the Gulf would be a great advantage.” With East Asia, in particular, increasingly dependent on energy imports from the Middle East, it is easy to see how control of these chokepoints could be used as another weapon in the West’s escalating economic war against China.  

Yet the strategic location of the Arab world is only part of the story. The other key element is oil, and in particular, the link between oil, currency and global power. In his book The City, Tony Norfield identifies the international status of a country’s currency as one of four factors essential to global power, with the status of sterling thus crucial to Britain’s continued imperial role. And the value of sterling fundamentally depends on Gulf oil wealth. 

This was already true in the immediate postwar era when “maintaining the strength of the pound sterling was an absolute strategic priority for British policymakers… and Britain’s interests in Gulf oil were crucial to London’s success in this regard.” (David Wearing, paraphrasing Steven Galpern.) Back then, taxes paid by British-owned oil companies like BP and Shell in Iran and Kuwait helped finance the government’s domestic spending, whilst the foreign currency they earnt allowed Britain to finance imports without building up a trade deficit, as well as building up reserves which could be used to defend the pound when necessary. They also, of course, allowed Britain to import oil without using up precious foreign reserves; all of which helped keep sterling’s value from collapse. 

Following the oil crisis of 1973, when oil producing states turned to western banks to house their newly acquired petrodollars, however, a new role began to emerge for Gulf wealth. Says Wearing, “As well as direct investment in the British economy and investment opportunities for British industry in the Gulf, Whitehall sought a wider influx of surplus oil revenues into the financial system, whereby recycled petrodollars would play a similar stabilising function to the recently expired Bretton Woods system of managed exchange rates.” By the end of the decade, those banks were the repositories for $154billion of petrodollars. This new source of capital allowed for a fundamental transformation in the structure of the British economy, and a new type of imperialism – neoliberalism. Whereas the imperialism of Lenin’s day had been predicated on the export of capital by imperial states based on a manufacturing economy, this new type came to rely on the import of capital, in turn facilitating the ‘offshoring’ of production to the global South. 

In an excellent article on the blog, neoliberalism is described as an economic model that is predicated on a shift “from production to finance” and “based on consumption not accompanied by an adequate level of production…The resulting shortfall in income needed to sustain consumption is then replaced with debt, and the trade deficits are paid for by attracting capital into the City.” Imperialism has always been parasitic, but neoliberalism, based on the influx of consumer goods without any corresponding production of exports, is openly and brazenly so – and Arab wealth is essential to the financing of this parasitism. Whilst the capital imports which finance the debt on which neoliberal consumerism is based comes from all over the world, a significant amount comes from the Gulf. In 2012, UK Foreign Office minister Lord Howell claimed that the (Qatari owned) Shard was “the tip…of a very large iceberg” with “ a significant proportion” of GCC capital inflows “channeled into financial assets.” Kuwait and Saudi Arabia each have around £100billion invested through the City of London, with another £30billion from Qatar. It recently emerged that Gulf wealth is considered so important for Britain’s financial health that the UK government had established a secret Whitehall unit – Project Falcon – to attract investment from the UAE alone. Tony Blair was a lobbyist for the group. Says David Wearing, “on the status of the pound sterling, it is clear that Gulf capital inflows make an important indirect contribution by helping to maintain the strength of the pound, and thus its attractiveness as an international currency. This is because, on the balance of payments, the GCC region plays a very significant role indeed… on these key measures, the Gulf region is not merely important to the UK compared to other leading economies (such as the BRICS) but important even compared to major economies in the global North.” Put simply, Gulf capital shores up the pound enough to offset the potentially destabilising impact of ever growing mountains of household debt. Keeping Gulf wealth flowing into the counting houses of the City of London, then, is an essential prop for Britain’s ailing imperial economy. It is also a key mechanism by which the wealth and labour of the global South continues to be extorted by the West, both through the horrifically exploited and abused South Asian migrant workforce on which all the Gulf economies depend, and through the money paid for Gulf oil from the world’s – and particularly Asia’s – heavily import-dependent energy infrastructure. In other words, the US and Britain’s ability to consume more than they produce is dependent on the threefold process of, firstly, the super-exploitation of Asian migrant labour in the Gulf economies; secondly, the channelling of global South wealth into the Gulf states through oil sales in western denominated currencies; and thirdly, the investment of the income thus gathered into US and British banks. 

Ensuring this wealth continues to flow depends on two things: firstly, ensuring that the ruling families of the Gulf states continue to direct their Sovereign Wealth Funds to invest in the US and Britain, and, secondly, and more fundamentally, ensuring that those families are not overthrown. These two tasks are linked, for, alongside the economic incentives for Gulf investment in London (the Treasury and Bank of England’s commitment to guaranteeing ever rising asset prices through QE and house price manipulation) are the political incentives: bolstering the political and military alliance with the UK to ensure regime survival. And when the economic incentives are waning, as they seem to be daily, it becomes ever more imperative for the UK to ensure that those political incentives – securing the family dictatorships – are made very clear. This is where the Windsors come in. 

One of the problems of the neocolonial era is that those charged with securing British interests abroad – the rulers of comprador global South states – must become masters at decoding the contradictory diktats of the western powers. One day, these gentlemen will proclaim themselves champions of liberal freedoms, willing to slaughter millions of people and burn trillions of dollars at its altar; the next, they will declare themselves as standing shoulder-to-shoulder against terrorism with the most illiberal states the mind can concievably imagine. How is an Arab ruler to know, the next time he feels the need to crush an emerging dissident movement, whether to expect a shower of hellfire missiles for his troubles, or a hearty slap on the back? 

This is when a red carpet at Windsor Palace can be very reassuring, and it is no coincidence that the most frenetic hosting of high level state visits seems to occur at precisely those moments when Gulf autocracies are facing the most resistance from their own people. Over the past ten years, for example, when the Arab monarchies have confronted perhaps the biggest popular threat to their rule since the height of Arab nationalism in the 1950s and 60s (when British-created monarchs were overthrown in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and Libya), they have met with leading members of the British royal family over two hundred times, with Charles alone undertaking ninety-five such visits. Bahrain, home to the most important British and US naval bases in the region, is a case in point. 

The al-Khalifas, the ruling clan in Bahrain for the past 200 years, originally hailed from Iraq, but were expelled by the Ottomans due to the disruption to trade caused by their frequent banditry. They briefly seized control of Bahrain in 1783 as Persian control began to crumble, but their falling out with the Wahhabi sect, on whom their power had relied, ended their rule twenty years later. It was only the treaty they signed with the British in 1820 – in which Britain guaranteed the family’s reign in return for their obedience to imperial designs – which restored them to power, and has kept them there – latterly with the addition of US support – until this day. Only gaining formal independence from Britain in 1971, the director-general of its state security directorate was a Brit – Ian Henderson, a former colonial official in Kenya – right up until 1998. Like the other Gulf states, their military and security apparatuses remain utterly dependent on US and British support. 

Yet the al-Khalifas’ position has been permanently unstable, due to both their obvious role as a facilitator of subordination to foreign domination and their persecution of the majority Shia population. A major workers’ revolt was crushed by the British in 1965, whilst the newly-elected national assembly was closed down by the Emir after just two years in operation in 1975 due to its demands for women’s votes, the nationalisation of oil resources, and the expulsion of foreign bases. “Since then”, says the author of a recent academic piece on the country, “the rule of the Khalifa family has become increasingly authoritarian.” This growing anti-democratic trend has coincided with an increase in the visible support of the British royal family. In 1979, there was particular anxiety in Britain that the revolutionary wave sweeping Iran would extend to the Gulf Arab states. Thus, within weeks of the Shah’s departure, the Queen was duly dispatched on her first official tour of the region in a clear expression of British solidarity with the Gulf rulers against their people. Bahrain was a particular concern, but the schedule of cosy engagements with the Emir, including horse racing, a banquet at the palace, and a return dinner on the royal Yacht Britannia, would have done much to reassure the Emir that British support for his “increasingly authoritarian” regime was unwavering. In 1984, a “glittering banquet” was organised by the Lord Mayor of the City of London in honour of the Emir of Bahrain, attended by the Duke and Duchess of Kent on the Queen’s behalf; whilst Prince Charles and his wife visited Bahrain two years later to attend a banquet in the Emir’s royal palace in Manama. Here they presented the Emir with the Order of St Michael and St George, the highest honour that can be bestowed for services to British imperialism, neatly symbolised by its insignia of a white child standing on the head of a prostrate Black man. 

But it was in 2011, when mass protests against the Khalifa dictatorship threatened to overwhelm the regime, that British royal support really went into overdrive. The mass movement that had been bubbling away since the mid-eighties broke out onto the streets in an unprecedented show of strength, involving at its height an estimated one third of the population, demanding the most basic political freedoms. The Khalifas brutally crushed the demonstrations, their weakness demonstrated by their dependence on Saudi armed forces to do so. The British government’s response was not only to step up the arms exports needed to shore up the regime, and to invite the country’s interior minister to the British foreign office to gather “lessons learnt from our experience in Northern Ireland,” but also to use the royal family to consolidate the Anglo-Bahraini alliance. In May 2012, King Hamad was a guest of honour at the Queen’s jubilee dinner at Windsor castle, and institutional links between the two families have been cemented by the Windsor and Khalifas’ joint sponsorship of the Windsor Horse Show. This event has become an occasion for an annual hobnobbing between the two heads of state, sharing the royal box and jointly hosting the awards ceremony. Commented the human rights group Reprieve during the 2017 event, shortly after the Khalifas began executing dissidents following a six-month hiatus, “Make no mistake, visits like [the Windsor Horse Show] gift the Bahraini government a royal cloak of acceptability, while the Kingdom mercilessly executes political prisoners and uses torture to extract ‘confessions.” It is a gift which is intentional, and clearly appreciated by the Khalifas; indeed, Hamad skipped a meeting with US President Obama in order to attend the show in 2015. In 2016, Hamad was given the most prestigious seat possible at the Queen’s ninetieth birthday dinner, right by her side. Yet even with the full might of British and US imperialism behind them, the Khalifas have still not been able to stop the Bahrainis’ courageous struggle.   

Bahrain is not an exception; the wheeling out of the royals to bolster British-sponsored regimes threatened by popular movements has a long history. In 1952, as the ousting of the British-imposed King Farouk by Colonel Nasser in Egypt ignited republican sentiment across the region, King Faisal of Iraq was invited to Balmoral, the Queen’s private estate in Scotland, in a demonstration that Britain would stand shoulder to shoulder against these anti-monarchical currents wherever they emerged. It wasn’t enough to shore up Faisal’s rule, however; he too was ousted six years later. 1987 saw the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada, the biggest uprising in the West Bank and Gaza since they were first occupied thirty years earlier, lasting until 1993. The Israelis responded with massive violence, including a policy of breaking the bones of child protesters; the royals showed their support for the repression with an official state visit for the Israeli President Chaim Herzog that same year. In 2007, when the Saudi criminal justice system was under unprecedented international scrutiny following the sentencing of two gang rape victims to imprisonment and 90 lashes the previous year, British approval for the regime was signalled by the King Abdullah’s invitation to a state banquet with the queen. “Contacts between our two families have been regular and close,” noted Elizabeth Windsor in her speech welcoming the king, adding that “Many British people have benefited from Saudi hospitality over the years as traders, experts and advisors,” a reference to the British military officers, arms traders, oil men and bureaucrats with whom the Saudi state is riddled. As the Arab Spring began to get under way in late 2010 – and with it, Britain’s twofold policy of using the protests as cover to launch wars against the region’s republican socialist states (Libya and Syria) whilst drowning in blood the peninsula’s anti-monarchical movements, all the region’s Arab collaborators were treated to the royal red carpet treatment: the Al Thanis of Qatar at Windsor castle in October 2010; the Queen in Abu Dhabi the following month; the Emir of Kuwait at Windsor castle in November 2012 and of the Emirates the following year, to name just the visits made by the Queen herself. The relationship with the al-Sauds was and is especially important given the Saudis leading role in facilitating Britain’s genocidal war against the Yemeni revolution

What I am not saying here, it should be made clear, is that the British royals are somehow sullying themselves by association with these Arab ‘dictators.’ This is all-too-often the implicit line of the British colonial left when, for example, it protests such visits as those outlined above. If anything, the criticism is the other way round – that the real crime of the al-Khalifas, the al-Thanis and the Al-Sauds is their willingness to prostitute themselves and their countrymen to the diktat of the genocidal British state, to do the dirty work of empire.  As for the British royal family, they are no different from their counterparts in the Gulf: an artificial creation of the imperialist bourgeoisie, made up of reactionary feudal remnants on life support whose role is the suppression of democratic freedoms wherever the masses threaten property relations. And yet, as the Yemenis, Bahrainis and Palestinians are proving daily, and as the Iraqis, Egyptians, Libyans and Iranians have long since shown, their days are numbered, all of them, and these childish institutional fantasies will soon reveal themselves as but castles in the sand. Godspeed the day.


Turkey and Qatar are being punished for refusing to do Washington’s bidding on Iran


Turkey and Iran reject 13 demands to Qatar | Vestnik Kavkaza

For years, Turkey and Qatar were at the vanguard of the western imperial project in the Middle East. Having had their fingers burnt in Syria, however, they are now refusing to facilitate Washington’s Iran plans – and paying the price.

Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May last year – his first foreign trip as President – was significant for two main reasons: first, the $110 billion arms deal it produced, and secondly, the regional blockade of Qatar it heralded – widely seen as having been greenlighted by Trump during his visit. The impact of the blockade – implemented by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – was, however, immediately mitigated by increased trade with Iran and Turkey in particular, limiting its overall impact.


This month’s attack on the Turkish economy, however, has had far more devastating results. Trump’s tweet on Friday August 10th – announcing a doubling of steel and aluminium tariffs on an economy already hit hard by his trade war – sent the Turkish currency into freefall. By the end of the day’s trading, it had lost 16% of its value, reaching a nadir of 7.2 to the dollar two days later; before his tweet, it had never fallen below 6 to the dollar. Trump’s move came on the back of Federal Reserve policies that were already threatening to provoke financial crises in over-indebted emerging markets such as Turkey. These are harsh punishments for countries long considered prime US allies in the region.


A NATO member since 1952 (following Turkish involvement in the Korean war on the side of the US), Turkey has hosted a major US airbase at Incirlik since 1954, essential to US operations in the region, and even housed the US nuclear missiles which triggered the Cuban missile crisis. Incirlik was crucial to the US-UK terror bombing of Iraq in 1991, and, although the Turkish parliament narrowly prevented its use for the 2003 redux, Turkey has been the launchpad for subsequent US strikes both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.


Qatar, meanwhile, is, to this day, run by the family – the al-Thanis – appointed as Britain’s proxies in the nineteenth century. Granted formal independence only in 1971, the country has remained deeply tied into western foreign policy since then. Both its ‘post-independence’ rulers were educated at the UK’s Sandhurst military academy, and it, like Turkey, hosts a major US base, whilst it’s ruling family, like those of the other Gulf monarchies, are dependent on western arms transfers to maintain their power. In 2011, Qatar played a major role in NATO’s Libya operation, providing airstrikes, military training, $400million of funding to insurgent groups, and even ground forces – not to mention the major propaganda role played by the Qatari-owned network Al Jazeera.


Then, in mid-2011, both countries threw themselves headlong into the war to overthrow the Syrian government. Turkish president Erdogan had previously enjoyed relatively warm relations with his Southern neighbour, but at some stage decided that the western-backed rebellion was going to win, and he wanted in on it. Turkey’s collaboration was crucial for the London-Washington Syria project, not only to give it a semblance of regional legitimacy, but more importantly because its 800km border with the country was to be the conduit for the tens of thousands of armed fighters on which the insurgency would depend.


Unwilling – and, following the decimation of their armies in Iraq and Afghanistan, probably unable – to provide the ground forces necessary to destroy the Syrian Arab Army themselves, the ‘regime-change regimes’ of the west relied on states like Qatar and Turkey to act as intermediaries – to facilitate weapons transfers, provide finance and smooth the passage of foreign fighters. Both states, heady with the prospects of the economic and geopolitical rewards that would follow Assad’s removal, and believing their own networks’ fantasies about an imminent collapse, were more than happy to act as accomplices. Over the years that followed, the resources they committed – and the devastation that resulted – were immense. In the case of Turkey, in particular, the spillover would prove disastrous.


Less than three years into the war, the International Crisis Group estimated that Turkey had spent $3billion on the war on Syria. Yet this figure, high as it is, represents a fraction of the true costs involved. A detailed report in Newsweek in 2015 noted the huge increase in military spending following the start of the Syria war, rising from $17 billion per year in 2010, to $22.6 billion in 2014, an increase of 25%. Furthermore, Turkey has been the first port of call for millions of Syrians fleeing the war. This alone had cost the country an estimated $8billion by 2015. Added to this, the report says, are the ‘collateral costs’ resulting from the deterioration of relations with Russia following Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet in 2015, which it estimated could be as high as $3.7 billion due to lost Russian tourism, investment and trade. Trade with Syria, of course, also slumped by “70 percent as a direct effect from the Syrian war,” from $1.8billion worth of exports in 2010 to $497 million two years later. In place of this legitimate trade – much of it in energy resources – however, came a flourishing new illicit trade. This new trade imposed “an additional cost to the Turkish economy: a growing, untaxed, hard-to-control black market economy. To combat its effect on government revenue, Turkey’s Energy Market Regulatory Agency declared an increase in inspections and control mechanisms in Turkey.” Ultimately, however, the government opted to facilitate, rather than attempt to control, this burgeoning black market, issuing in April 2015 “new border regulations that enabled Turkey to open its borders to uncontrolled cash inflow and remittances. According to the new law, travelers no longer had to declare transported currency or profit amounts at the customs booth.” This policy would, noted former governor of Turkey’s central bank Durmus Yilmaz, “attract black money to flow into Turkey.”


“In sum”, concluded the report, “as Turkey incrementally left its prior foreign policy agenda of “Zero Problems with Neighbors” and moved towards an Assad-centric policy, the costs imposed on its economy multiplied. This can be observed directly from the refugee costs, military spending, border security costs and the changing composition of trade volume and quality of liquidity flows in the economy.” Furthermore,The data suggest…that the more aggressive Turkey gets in its Syria policy in terms of military involvement, the more aggressively these costs rise.” Erdogan’s enthusiastic collaboration with the regime-changers in Washington and London had crippled his country’s economy – not to mention spawning a new era of sectarian militancy in the form of ISIS, which would launch multiple terror attacks within Turkey itself.


Being far removed from the conflict, the Syrian war’s impact on Qatar was not nearly as severe. Nevertheless, Qatar, too, pumped billions into the insurgency: noted the Financial Times in 2013, “The gas-rich state of Qatar has spent as much as $3bn over the past two years supporting the rebellion in Syria, far exceeding any other government”  It added that “Qatar has sent the most weapons deliveries to Syria, with more than 70 military cargo flights into neighbouring Turkey between April 2012 and March this year,” showing clearly the division of labour between Qatari finance and Turkish logistics.


Turkey and Qatar have thus put themselves right at the forefront of western efforts to overthrow the Syrian state. To date, however – other than an ever-growing pile of burnt Syrian corpses and a huge hole in their own finances – they have nothing to show for it.


In hindsight, the Turkish downing of a Russian jet in November 2015 can be seen as a last-ditch attempt to test the resolve, not of Russia, but of the west. Erdogan wanted to know whether or not the US was going to put their money where their mouth was and put some decisive muscle into the conflict. In the escalation that followed the attack, Turkey immediately put forward plans for a ‘no fly zone’ – euphemism for the sort of all-out aerial bombardment that befell Libya. But nothing came of it. That was the moment Turkey realised the west were not about to commit anything like the resources necessary to actually bring about victory. Assad was here to stay. Turkey would have to deal with that. And that meant dealing with Russia. The slow realignment of Turkish foreign policy had begun. And earlier this year, with tails no doubt firmly between their legs, even Qatar re-established relations with the Syrian government.


So when Trump came knocking for buyers for the west’s next brilliant idea – war on Iran, beginning with a brutal economic siege  – neither Turkey nor Qatar were exactly chomping at the bit to sign up. The suggestion was even less appealing than the disastrous Syria gambit, targeting an even more important trading partner, and with even less chance of influence over some mythical future government. Qatar shares a major gas field – South Pars – with Iran, and is dependent on Iran for accessing eastern energy markets, whilst Iran is the major source of Turkish energy imports. Following Syria, neither country has much nose left to cut off, even if they had wanted to spite their own face. Trump’s merciless attack on their economies is yet another sign of the increasing US inability to bend once-pliable clients to its will. For all his bluster, it is a clear admission of weakness and failure.

This piece was originally published on


The Qatar blockade, the petro-yuan, and the coming war on Iran


trump salman

Trump with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Sultan

Trump’s speech to the assembled Gulf leaders in Saudi Arabia on May 21st is worth reading in full. It is deeply disturbing.

Having praised himself for his $110billion arms deal with the Saudis, he goes on to talk about the threat posed by terrorism, and what a wonderful job the US and the Gulfis – that is, the leading state sponsor of the region’s supremacist death squads, and its assembled proxies – are doing in combating it. He then goes on to claim that at the root of the region’s terrorism lurks – guess who? The power leading the regional pushback against ISIS and Al Qaeda – Iran.


“Starving terrorists of their territory, their funding, and the false allure of their craven ideology, will be the basis for defeating them” he says, “But no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three—safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment”. This is pretty much exactly how Joe Biden – in his own attempt to whitewash US involvement – described Trump’s Saudi hosts three years earlier. But Trump is not talking about IS’s Saudi backers; he is talking about Iran – the same Iran responsible, with its Syrian and Russian allies, for that fact that the IS flag is NOT today flying over Damascus.


It gets worse. Look at the following passage, just after he calls on “all nations of conscience to work together to isolate Iran”:

“Will we be indifferent in the presence of evil? Will we protect our citizens from its violent ideology? Will we let its venom spread through our societies? Will we let it destroy the most holy sites on earth? If we do not confront this deadly terror, we know what the future will bring—more suffering and despair. But if we act—if we leave this magnificent room unified and determined to do what it takes to destroy the terror that threatens the world—then there is no limit to the great future our citizens will have.

The birthplace of civilization is waiting to begin a new renaissance. Just imagine what tomorrow could bring. Glorious wonders of science, art, medicine and commerce to inspire humankind. Great cities built on the ruins of shattered towns. New jobs and industries that will lift up millions of people.”

This is the language of genocide. Heroism and genocide have always gone hand-in-hand in the settler-colonial ideology internalised by the likes of Trump, for which ‘building great cities on the ruins of shattered towns’, be they native American, Palestinian, or, it seems, Iranian, has always been the highest accolade. Some have accused Trump of making novice blunders during his first lumbering foray into the Middle Eastern maelstrom. But I think he knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows very well that the loosely-defined ‘ideology’ he speaks of as ‘spreading venom’ will be much more readily interpreted by his hosts as Shi’ism – the creed to which Iran actually subscribes – than as Wahhabi’ism, the sectarian ideology behind ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Saudi state. And just to make clear what he is demanding be done to this ill-defined – but, nudge-wink, understood – enemy, he spells it out: “The nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children.

It is a choice between two futures — and it is a choice America CANNOT make for you.

A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive. Them. Out.

DRIVE THEM OUT of your places of worship.

DRIVE THEM OUT of your communities.

DRIVE THEM OUT of your holy land, and



Doesn’t this sound horribly like Trump giving the green light to an all-out war of eradication against the region’s Shia – that is, a war very similar to the one actually being waged, in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, by Trump’s government, his hosts, and their proxies?


At the same time, having found it harder than expected to rip up the Iran deal, Trump is instead hoping to render it null and void by simply blackmailing individual nations into not dealing with Iran, ensuring the formal lifting of sanctions is replaced by an informal blockade.


This is where Qatar comes in. Qatar  has clearly not been playing ball with the US-approved, Saudi-led ‘isolate Iran’ programme. This is partly because, ever since the current Emir toppled his pro-Saudi father in 1995, the country has made independence from Saudi Arabia a hallmark of its foreign policy. But it is mostly because Qatar and Iran share the world’s largest natural gas field – known in Qatar as North Field and in Iran as South Pars.


In fact, the two countries have had decent relations for some time: in May 2010, for example, in stark contrast to the hardline attitude of his Gulf neighbours, the Qatari Emir Al-Thani joined forces with President Assad of Syria, no less, to support Turkey’s diplomatic proposals over Iran’s nuclear programme. Then, in 2014, in a ‘dry run’ of today’s crisis, the Saudis, UAE and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha following a Qatari proposal to help Iran develop its side of the North Field/ South Pars gas field. But what’s taking place now is much more serious. And that is largely because of the likely earth-shattering impact of the decisions surely now being considered by the two powers over where their gas will go, how it will get there – and in what currency it will be sold.


In April of this year, a self-imposed 12-year moratorium on the development of Qatar’s share of North Field came to an end, potentially opening up a flood of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) onto the market in the years to come. But where will it go? Qatar had originally been hoping to build an LNG pipeline to the Mediterranean via Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey; indeed, many have speculated that Assad’s blocking of this proposal in favour of an Iran-Iraq-Syria route was a major reason for Qatar’s support of the anti-government insurgency there. The failure of this insurgency, however, has spelled the death of this proposal, leaving Qatar bound to look East to Asia – already their biggest customers – for their LNG markets. But most of the existing Eastbound LNG pipeline infrastructure is controlled by Iran. For Qatar, then, cutting its Iran links would be cutting off its nose to spite its face. This is why the Saudis aim to demonstrate that the alternative is having their entire face cut off.


For the US, the stakes couldn’t be higher. In 2012, Iran began to accept yuan for its oil and gas payments, followed by Russia in 2015. If this takes off, this could literally spell the beginning of the end of US global power. The dollar is the world’s leading reserve currency, in the main, only because oil is currently traded in dollars. Countries seeking foreign exchange reserves as insurance against crises within their own currencies tend to look to the dollar precisely because it is effectively ‘convertible’ into oil, the world’s number one commodity. This global thirst for dollars is what allows the US to print endless amounts of them, virtually for free, which it can then exchange for real goods and services with other countries. This is what is known as ‘seignorage privileges’; that is, the ability to absorb ever-increasing amounts of goods and services from other countries without having to provide anything of equivalent value in return. In turn, it is this privilege which helps to finance the staggering costs of the US military machine, now running at over $600 billion per year.


Yet, this whole system falls apart once other countries stop using the dollar as their prime reserve currency. And they stop doing this once oil stops being traded in dollars. This is one reason why the US were do keen for Saddam Hussein to go after he began trading Iraqi oil in Euros.


And, slowly but surely, this change is already occurring. In 2012, the People’s Bank of China announced it would no longer be increasing its holdings of US dollars, and two years later, Nigeria increased its holdings of yuan from 2% to 7% of its total foreign exchange reserves. Many other countries are moving in the same direction.


At the same time, China has been on a gold-buying spree, setting up its own twice-daily  pricing of gold in yuan in 2012 as part of what the chair of the Shanghai Gold Exchange called the “internationalisation of renminbi”, ultimately aiming towards making yuan fully convertible to gold. Once this happens, the choice for oil-producing countries between trading oil for ever-more-worthless paper dollars, or trading it for convertible-to-gold renminbi will be a no-brainer. For Qatar, the pull may already be irresistible.


Hence the urgency to pre-emptively punish Qatar for its likely move towards a joint venture with Iran to supply Asia with LNG priced in yuan. The aim is to demonstrate that, however economically suicidal it may be in the long term to snub Iran and continue trading in the dollar, it will be politically suicidal in the immediate term to do anything else. Just how far Trump and his Arab friends are prepared to take this remains to be seen. But Trump has repeatedly suggested that the whole point of having a military is to use it.

This article originally appeared on RT.