Big Lie: U.S. Allies with Saudis ‘Because We’re Addicted to Their Oil’

Eric Zuesse

In Syria and elsewhere, the U.S. allies with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni nations that back or even install ISIS and Al Qaeda Islamic jihadists, even while the U.S. wages war against those jihadists. This has puzzled some people, because the U.S. propaganda-line about the matter doesn’t make much sense.

For example, the “Billionaire Scion Tom Friedman” wrote in his NYT  column, on September 2nd:

It is not an accident that several thousand Saudis have joined the Islamic State or that Arab Gulf charities have sent ISIS donations. It is because all these Sunni jihadist groups — ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Nusra Front — are the ideological offspring of the Wahhabism injected by Saudi Arabia into mosques and madrasas from Morocco to Pakistan to Indonesia. And we, America, have never called them on that — because we’re addicted to their oil [emphasis mine].

Is America allied with the chief financial backers of Islamic jihad because we need to buy oil from them? Hardly.

It’s not “because we’re addicted to their oil.” That reason ended long ago, but the popular belief that we’re allied with hardline Islamic Arab states, Sunni-run nations in the Middle East, because of the oil-issue — that they have oil, and we need their oil — continues on as popular lore, long after the reality ended, because it’s constantly being pumped by the U.S. aristocracy’s ‘news’ media and the journalists they hire.

Some historical background of America’s evolving relationship with the Saudi royal family is necessary in order to understand in a truthful way, U.S.-Saudi (and broader U.S-Arabic) relations. (On the Saudi side, incidentally, that refers to relations between the U.S. Government and the King of Saudi Arabia, because the King is  the Government of Saudi Arabia: he’s an absolute dictator there, and he owns not just the Government, but much of the economy. For example, ever since 1980, the Saudi Government, the King, has owned 100% of Aramco, the world’s largest oil company. Aramco’s reserves are more than 250 billion barrels, which at $40/barrel are, alone, worth $1 trillion, but Forbes  and Bloomberg refuse to calculate the fortunes of royalty and other heads-of-state; so, the fiction is spread, by those business-publishers and others, that the world’s richest person is instead Bill Gates, at a mere $79.2 billion (according to Forbes), which is far less than a tenth of King Salman’s fortune. The Saudi King owns the Saudi Government, and the Saudi Government owns Aramco and lots more — a fortune that’s probably several trillion dollars. The U.S. is allied with the Saudi King. But it’s no longer because of all the oil he has.)

At the beginning of the relationship, the U.S.-Saudi alliance was indeed based upon oil. As Thomas W. Lippman headlined at The Link in April 2005, about “The Day FDR Met Saudi Arabia’s Ibn Saud”:

It was February 14, 1945. The end of World War II was finally in sight as Allied forces advanced on Berlin and fought their way toward the Japanese heartland. With victory assured, Roosevelt was looking toward the future and envisioning new security and economic arrangements for the nation he had led through twelve tumultuous years. …

In 1941, Roosevelt rejected State Department advice to provide financial assistance to Saudi Arabia under the Lend-Lease program with the comment, “This is a little far afield for us!” The war changed all that almost overnight. Roosevelt’s military and economic advisers, alarmed by the rate at which the war was consuming U.S. domestic petroleum, began to see the potential long-term value of the Saudi fields, the only ones in the Middle East where an American company [Chevron, or SOCal, the affiliate which got renamed Aramco] held exclusive production rights. At the same time the U.S. Armed Forces, fighting a global war, wanted an air base someplace in the Middle East that was not under British or French control. And Roosevelt, looking past the combat, nursed the hope that Abdul Aziz [King Ibn Saud], who despite his lack of formal education and his country’s backwardness was a hero in the Arab world, would somehow be helpful in solving a daunting problem that the president knew was coming: the future of Palestine and the resettlement of Europe’s surviving Jews. The Nazi death camp at Auschwitz had been liberated a month before the president left Washington en route to Yalta, and the full scope of the Holocaust was being revealed to the world. The Jews had a claim on the world’s conscience, and on Roosevelt’s.

Before 1942, there had been no U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia. But now there was an Embassy in the kingdom. And Chevron:

increasingly urged Washington to provide assistance lest the king revoke the concession and give it to the British, who were providing him with financial assistance. British interests had opposed American oil companies’ entry into Iran, Kuwait, Iraq, and Bahrain; the British lost out on Saudi Arabia when King Abdul Aziz chose the American firm, but the king could reverse himself at any time. Busy as he was with more urgent issues, Roosevelt was still flexible and perceptive enough to include Saudi Arabia in his long-term thinking. The entreaties of the oil company paid off in February 1943. At the urging of Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior and wartime oil administrator, Roosevelt declared Saudi Arabia vital to the defense of the United States and therefore eligible for financial aid. As the British journalist David Holden wrote in his history of Saudi Arabia, “The great American takeover had begun.” Official contacts between the United States and Saudi Arabia now multiplied quickly, at steadily higher levels.

The U.S. was allied with the UK, but FDR opposed all empires, including the UK’s, and the USSR’s; and his goal was that control of the post-WWII world would be by a non-imperialistic America, and by no other country, no country which had an empire. He wanted no empires at all, but instead a gradually emerging democratic world government to rule over international relations, for which purpose the U.N. would be formed, as being only a transitional step toward such a democratic global federal government. (Then, in FDR’s vision, not even the U.S. would be in control after that global democracy would be established; the U.S. would instead be the local federal governmental unit, the U.S. Government, over this land, under the global nation, the world government, the global democratic federal republic, encompassing all nations.)

The President’s briefing book to  prepare him for his meeting with the King on 14 February 1945, described the King at length, as a person from an alien culture, including:

Any relaxation of his steadfast opposition to Zionist aims in Palestine would violate his principles. … According to Arab and Moslem custom, the women of his family are strictly secluded and, of course, should not be mentioned. … To a visitor of ministerial rank, he often makes a facetious offer of an Arab wife, in addition to any wife the visitor may already have.

The Link  added an important postscript to Lippman’s article:

Following the death of President Roosevelt, his successor Harry Truman met with the U.S. ministers to Egypt, Lebanon and Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the consul-general to mandated Palestine. Informed of his predecessor’s agreement with the Saudi king on the question of Palestine, Truman reportedly said: “I’m sorry, gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism; I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents.” The sole source for this candid, and oftcited political assessment is Col. William Eddy’s 1954 book “F.D.R. Meets Ibn Saud,” the same book on which much of this Link article is based. 

But, then, the Cold War began; and the story became even more interesting:

While the Cold War was on, there was much posturing by America’s aristocracy saying that they didn’t want to conquer the Soviet bloc, but only to free those nations from communism. Well, communism collapsed on its own, in around 1990 (as an inevitable result from the rot within Marx’s economics, such as his labor theory of value); and the Warsaw Pact ended, but NATO didn’t end. It turns out that America’s aristocracy were set upon conquest, after all — conquest ultimately of Russia (and maybe of China too, but that’s not yet clear). And so we’ve had “Obama’s Secret Deals with Saudi Arabia and Qatar.” This isn’t really an oil-and-gas play, such as Tom Friedman pretends; it’s a conquest play, to strangle the Russian economy, by replacing Russia’s oil and gas that’s being pipelined via Ukraine into the EU (the world’s largest energy-market), by instead piping Saudi and Qatari oil-and-gas into the EU, through Syria (which is why they want Assad overthrown). That’s why Saudi King Salman agreed with U.S. Secreatary of State John Kerry in Ryadh on 11 September 2014 to flood the global market with oil — to strangle Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and other BRICS (and pro-BRICS) countries — and it’s why the Saudi-funded Al Qaeda and Qatari-funded Muslim Brotherhood are being backed to overthrow Russia’s ally Bashar al-Assad in Syria. There is no more communism — it’s just raw greed and power-politics, which have now grown like a cancer to obliterate other priorities of the U.S. Government in international relations. And that’s what’s behind the current refugee-crisis, and so much else.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin wants Russia to be accepted as an ally of the United States, but America’s aristocrats (and their agent Obama) refuse. Russia’s strategy under Putin, against Islamic jihadists, has been remarkably successful, while America’s strategy under both Bush and Obama has caused Islamic jihad to blossom (thus producing the current refugee-crisis in Europe), but the United States has consistently spurned Putin’s urgings to American Presidents for Russia to be accepted by America as an ally — for the Cold War finally to end on America’s side, as it did on Russia’s.

Furthermore, unlike back in 1945, when FDR and the Saudi King came to their historic agreement, the U.S. is no longer even nearly so dependent upon Saudi oil as before. Moreover, if the U.S. accepted Putin’s offer (like the similar offer from the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev) for Russia to ally with the U.S., then the U.S. could also buy Russia’s oil and gas, thus reducing even further any need for Saudi product. The chief economic competitor of the Arabic oil potentates is Russia, but U.S. Presidents aren’t supposed to be serving those people, who are the main financiers of Islamic jihad.

However, the entire idea that a nation has to be allied with  a given other nation in order to buy from it — oil or any other commodity — is itself ludicrous, except if the two nations are at war with one-another, in which case, the hostilities themselves are causing the problem, not caused by  the problem. The United States Government doesn’t want to trade with Russia. America’s aristocracy instead want to conquer Russia. They want to grab Russia’s oil etc., not to buy it. Similarly, but more successfully, in 1953, they wanted to and did grab Iran’s oil, not buy it — and that’s the reason why the Iranian people hated Americans when overthrowing in 1979 the U.S.-imposed dictator.

The American aristocracy, including its agents such as Tom Friedman, know better than to keep up the ancient excuse that America’s alliance with the Sauds is still “about oil.” But they pretend otherwise. Communism is dead, and the USSR is gone, but today’s U.S. Government is no longer like FDR’s; it’s no longer representing the U.S. public; it’s no longer democratic; it now represents instead the U.S. aristocracy itself. The idea that the “U.S. Allies with Saudis ‘Because We’re Addicted to Their Oil’” is just another part of the big lie, that the U.S. is still what it was under FDR — that it’s still a real democracy, and that it’s still concerned about human welfare, instead of about sheer conquest, and empire. This is about stealing oil (and everything), not about buying it. It’s raw psychopathy.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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  • Brockland A.T.

    Good article, but it doesn’t state the point clearly enough where the United States gets its oil to make the argument, which is accurate.

    The most U.S. oil is domestically produced at 38.8% (2014 figures).

    Latin America comes in second at 19.6%; of this, 7.5% comes from Mexico, and 5.9% Venezuela.

    Imported oil from Canada is at 15.1%.

    Persian Gulf ranks third at fourth regionally at 12.9%, with Saudi Arabia accounting for 8.1%.

    Africa accounts for 10.3%; half of this 10.3% is Nigerian oil at 5.2%.

    Other sources account for 3.1%.

    • tom

      I think the point of the article (although it’s not clearly made, IMHO) is in agreement with your comment. It seems to be saying that it’s entirely false to suggest that the USA needs Saudi Arabia’s oil. Instead, the alliance is all about political and military power – perhaps excluding other nations from getting the oil they need.

      • cettel

        Tom, you understand my article correctly as being in agreement with Brockland’s point. You summarized that point in my article well (though missing that the article is really about America’s corrupt press and resulting terminated democracy — something that readers generally seem to miss, no matter how many articles I write about it). I always try to write clearly, but whenever I read reader-comments to my own and other writers’ articles, I find that most of the reader-comments are either irrelevant to the given article or misinterpret it. Apparently, nothing can be done about that.

        • Brockland A.T.

          Actually, I agreed with the article generally and did not miss the point, only delivered the vital information that would properly reinforce the key supporting argument. The title leads:

          “Big Lie: U.S. Allies with Saudis ‘Because We’re Addicted to Their Oil’”

          The data provided should have wrapped the title immediately after paragraphs 4 and 5, allowing a smoother transition to the main theme, why the myth persists and why its important. In fact, citing something like the NPR article would only emphasize the peculiar cluelessness of the popular media which can’t keep its own propaganda points straight.

          Instead, the overt premise, that the U.S. is independent of Saudi/ME oil, is left hanging unsubstantiated, as if people already know the details. Yet, the article is premised on people not knowing those details and the Big Lie is to be explained.

          The main problem of this article, is that the author knows too much and cannot complete the points of a core theme, running off in tangents that may or may not be relevant. If the author was a university prof somewhere, doubtless a meandering style would be OK for a class lecture. Also doubtless if a student turned in a paper written like this, such a prof would grade appropriately for clarity issues.

  • Sarastro92

    “while America’s strategy under both Bush and Obama has
    caused Islamic jihad to blossom (thus producing the current
    refugee-crisis in Europe)”

    You still don’t get this right: You’re assuming this is a sign of incompetence… wrong… Chaos is a deliberate policy of using jihadists to enact region wide regime change.

    • cettel

      But my article says nothing to disagree with your saying “Chaos is a deliberate policy …” Nowhere do I assert nor suggest that “this is a sign of incompetence.” That’s in your own imagination; it’s in nothing that I’ve ever written.

      • Sarastro92

        Ok. Apologies. There has always been a trend among critical observers that US policy is conducted by well-meaning — if not idealist — bumblers. You correctly demolished that thought, certainly as it pertains to Russia. I thought you sort of veered in the same direction vis-a-vis ties with the Saudis… but I may have read too much into your comments.

        Are you saying the US is allied with the Saudis to bankrupt the Russians? How does all the regime change in the ME fit in? I think the article could have been stronger if you showed how the US pivot to KSA played into the bigger picture.

        My own expansive reading is that the US geo-politicians indeed want to target Russia to seize decisive control of the Eurasian “world island”. Gaining unfettered access to the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf extends that control to Africa as well,… sort of an update of Mackinder’s concepts aggrandized to the “Afro-Eurasian world island”. Hence, the US oligarchy’s drive to appropriate the Israeli “Operation Clean Break” strategy of regime change across the Middle East, for their own purposes. KSA’s role fits into that picture.

  • tom

    “[FDR’s] goal was that control of the post-WWII world would be by a non-imperialistic America, and by no other country, no country which had an empire”.

    So – let me see if I’ve got this straight – FDR wanted the world to BE CONTROLLED by the USA, so that there would be no EMPIRE?

    That is either very very funny, or very very sad. Maybe even both.

    • OMGLOL

      I think the word you are looking for is “hypocrisy.”

  • MCB

    What a poorly written and muddled op-ed piece as usual replete with Zuesse’s typical and glaring omissions of history. Google:

    “The Eisenhower Doctrine”

    And read some real scholarly work on our foreign affairs and geopolitics from Chomsky and George Washington here himself.

    • cettel

      Here I have written an article explaining the reason why the perpetrators and their servants (here Tom Friedman) pump the idea that it’s about natural resources, when it’s really about conquest, it’s about power, it’s about the U.S. aristocracy’s determination to conquer every other nation’s aristocracy. And MCB cites against it articles that support Tom Friedman’s view while they ignore the deeper context, which is really behind this, which I was documenting to be the actual case. So: MCB has been duped, as his sources were, to think that “U.S. Allies with Saudis ‘Because We’re Addicted to Their Oil’.” I’ve documented in this article that it’s a lie, this is about power-hierarchy even more than it’s about greed, but MCB prefers to believe the lie (that it’s only greed), and not the reality (which is even darker in its motivation, which is destruction of all opponents).

      • MCB

        OIl is power. Maybe you should read Frank Herbert’s seminal work…

        Ever heard of “The Four Horseman” or did your Karl Marx public education fail you that badly? I think that that the answer is “both.”

        The only dupe here is you – the useful idiot who believes in politics AND Bernie Sanders.

        “Democracy, too, is a religion. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses.” – H. L. Mencken

      • MCB

        Where did I say it was about “greed?” Straw Man…