Oil and Camels
Fear That American Concessions in Arabia
Will Be Canceled Entirely Unfounded
An Egyptian newspaper recently published the following
item: Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia told Abdullah of Transjordan that he loved
his sons and Palestine more than royalties from oil, and that the oil
concessions to the Americans may be canceled if the United States should
demand sanctions against the Arab aggressors in Palestine.
Although this is a rumor received third hand, let us deal
with it as thougyht it states what was actually said by Ibn Saud when
Abdullah came to him complaining that the king of the desert supports
the Palestinian invasion neither with arms nor with money. Many promises,
sincere and insincere, are made when two Arabs, who are no friends, meet.
Some indirect pressure, of course, may have been applied
on American oil interests in Saudi Arabia, but it has not been done with
any real intention of canceling the oil concessions. To Ibn Saud the oil
and the dinars (dollars), that pour out for him as they do only in the
tales of the Arabian Nights, are dearer to him than Abdullah, the British,
and their intrigue in Palestine.
As for his sons, they do no fighting in Palestine. One thing
is certain in the shifting sands of Arabia: Ibn Saud will not cancel the
American oil concessions even if the sun should rise in the west.
* * *
In order to understand this, one must recall what Saudi
Arabia was only a short time ago. The entire meager revenue of the country
came from the export of camels to those few places where there is a demand
for them. The United States does not import camels except for its zoological
Philip K. Hitti, professor at Princeton and the chief mouthpiece
of the Arabs in the United States, wrote in his book, History of
Arabs, 11 years ago: The camel is the nomads nourisher,
his vehicle of transportation, and his medium of exchange. . . He drinks
its milk instead of water (which he spares for the cattle); he feasts
on its flesh, he covers himself with its skin, he makes his tent of its
hair; its dung he uses as fuel, and its urine as hair tonic and medicine.
To quote the striking phrase of Sprenger, the Bedouin
is the parasite of the camel. Since the country has today
no special mineral wealth, with the exception of salt in certain spots
and the pearl fisheries of Uman and the Persian Gulf regions, the camel
industry is one of the great sources of income.
* * *
At present Aramco (Arabian-American Oil Company) extracts
300,000 barrels of oil a day from its fields in Saudi Arabia. For this
is pays 21 cents per barrel in royalties to Ibn Saud. There is no representative
government in Saudi Arabia; the money goes directly into the private treasury
of Ibn Saud.
It amounts to $63,000 a day and it will grow in the future.
To this add Aramco investments in installations and in wages paid to the
subjects of Ibn Saud, and also the lend-lease of $99,000,000
given to Ibn Saud by the Government of the United States on the suggestion
* * *
Can Ibn Saud, who struck a fabulous fortune, return to the
milk and meat of the camels as his private and national income? Certainly
not. Is he interested in the aggrandizement of Abdullah, whom he chased
from Mecca together with the whole Hashimite family? No, indeed.
Therefore, when Ibn Saud weighs love for his sons against
oil, it means nothing. He will not cancel his concessions. Can he exploit
the concessions himself? No, he cannot. His kingdom is very primitive.
Saudi Arabia did not even have a national anthem until a short while ago
to say nothing of technical facilities.
When, in 1945, the Saudi Arabia delegation arrived at San
Francisco for the organizing conference of the United Nations, they discovered
that their country had no national anthem. According to New York papers,
they hurriedly ordered the composition of an anthem by a Hollywood composer.
* * *
Would Ibn Saud give his concessions to the Russians? Only
in a nightmare may it occur to him. To the British?
They would like take the concessions from the Americans
and much of their work in promoting Abdullah is designed in a vain effort
to bring him back to Arabia and to the oil, but before the British achieve
this, they will have to make war with the United States.
That this would happen is as likely as the Waldorf-Astoria
Towers, where Prince Feisal, favorite son of Ibn Saud and his Foreign
Minister, lives when in New York, flying on a magic carpet over the ocean.
* * *
It is much more comfortable at the Waldorf than in a camel-skin
tent, and as Feisal flies in an elevator some forty floors up to his suite,
he must feel some respect for American technical genius. He has probably
written his father a wonderful description of America.
He could have mentioned that in New York there are more
than two million Jews, and not even one molested him or any other Arab,
and that therefore a Jewish State in Palestine may, after all, be a good
idea, especially since the Koran expressly says that the Holy Land is
given by the Lord to the Jews for their dominion.