Published for the Times of Israel (Aid is Measured in Carats)
The White House announced a new humanitarian aid package for Syria worth $195m, bringing the total aid to over $1b since the start of the Syrian peaceful uprising, now a full-blown civil war. Britain also announced today its biggest donation so far of £175m.
While many Syrians and Syrian-Americans are thankful for the generosity of the American and the British public, many believe both Governments should not subjugate their citizens to such a financial burden when rich Gulf countries have much to lose in losing Syria to full occupation by Iran.
In particular, Saudi Arabia has not kept pace with the US in its aid to Syria or with its aid to the Syrian refugees as compared to Iran’s aid to Assad.
In December of 2012, KSA pledged $100m worth of humanitarian aid to the refugees, and then eight months later, the leadership in al-Saud pledged another $72m. Most of the funds were earmarked to purchase food supplies, provide shelter and clean water facilities to about 120,000 refugees in neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. According to the UN, Syrian refugees have exceeded 1.8m in total numbers across many countries.
However, it remains a mystery what happened to the $300m King Abdullah pledged in a UN conference held in January 2013 to raise funds for Syria. One month later, the UN complained publicly that many from the pledging nation pool skipped town with their pledges.
In addition to the humanitarian aid, Saudi Arabia has equipped the Syrian rebels with light weapons purchased from Eastern Europe. It is inconceivable for Saudi Arabia to have spent more than $100m, in my estimation, to purchase these weapons on the account that Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, and Bahrain also participated in funding their purchase.
Compare this abject generosity by Saudi Arabia, not only to the West, but also to Iran’s own commitment, which recently extended the Assad Regime a $3.6b line of credit. This comes on top of thousands of IRGC troops, planeloads of military supplies, hundreds of missiles, and even seasoned Hezbollah fighters Iran ordered to fight and die for Assad.
To add insult to injury, Saudi Arabia transferred almost immediately – not a pledge – $5b to Egypt after Morsi’s ouster. UAE transferred $3b.
However, the real tragedy is in the details.
Iran’s sovereign fund is valued at $52b while Saudi Arabia’s is valued at $532.8b, which is ten times larger. In other words, Iran’s one-time aid of $3.6b represents almost 7% of Iran’s reserved wealth while Saudi Arabia’s last aid package of $72m represents 0.00013%, or a little over one hundredth of 1%. In real value, Iran’s aid to the Assad regime is 510 times larger than Saudi Arabia’s aid to the Syrian people based on each country’s financial reserves.
Is it fair to say the Syrian people are worth 510 times less to Saudi Arabia than Assad is worth to Iran? Or that Saudi Arabia values Syria 510 times less than Iran does?
Who, in your opinion, would bet on Saudi Arabia defeating Iran in Syria when its mission drives a commitment worth 510 times less than its competitor does?
Ask a Saudi Arabian to describe his King in three words, and the word “stingy” inevitably tops his list. After the Arab Spring split Tunisia apart, fear struck King Abdullah and he reluctantly opened the Government coffers to the tune of tens of billions of Dollars in the form of higher salaries and more benefits for his people. He actually got ill after paying all that money. No joke.
Aid is like a wedding diamond ring. Its size determines one country’s commitment to another.
We think Mr. Obama should ask King Abdullah, or his dauphin Nayef, to commit more aid to Syria and to provide a steady financial aid package to Jordan equal to the one provided to Egypt instead of the US taxpayers always footing the bill and waiting for their Ambassadors to be killed as a “thank you” note. Jordan has suffered the most next to Syria from the barbarism of Assad.
Pity the Saudi intelligence probably screaming for more resources when their King asks the agency to read tea leaves to fight Iran.