Joel Mowbray

  After a long and “distinguished” career in the Foreign Service, Walter Cutler took the reins at the Meridian International Center. He had served as ambassador to Zaire and Tunisia, and twice in Saudi Arabia, and he stayed close to the Saudis after leaving State. Cutler told the Washington Post that the Saudis had been “very supportive of the center.”

  The Middle East Policy Council, which also receives significant Saudi funding, counts among its ranks former ambassadors—career Foreign Service members all—Charles Freeman, Frank Carlucci, and Hermann Eilts.

  The Middle East Institute, officially on the Saudi payroll, receives some $200,000 of its annual $1.5 million budget from the Saudi government, and an unknown amount from Saudi individuals—often a meaningless distinction since most of the “individuals” with money to donate are members of the royal family, which constitutes the government. MEI’s chairman is Wyche Fowler, who was ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1996–2001, and its president is Ned Walker, who has served as both deputy chief of Mission in Riyadh and ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Also at MEI: David Mack, former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and deputy assistant secretary for NEA; Richard Parker, former ambassador to Algeria, Lebanon, and Morocco; William Eagleton, former ambassador to Syria; Joseph C. Wilson, career FSO and former deputy chief of Mission in Baghdad; David Ransom, former ambassador to Bahrain and former deputy chief of Mission in Yemen, UAE, and Syria; and Michael Sterner, former ambassador to UAE and deputy assistant secretary of NEA.

  The money, the favors, and State’s affinity for Saudi elites over the decades have all helped contribute to the “special relationship” between State and the House of Saud. Notes Hudson Institute senior fellow Laurent Murawiec, “This is a relationship that has been cemented by forty years of money, power, and political favors that goes much deeper than most people realize.”

This column is adapted from the book “Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America’s Security.”

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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