Tag Archives: Saudi Arabia

The ‘America Last’ Express Hurtles On: Saudi Arabia, INF, Ukraine, by James George Jatras

Donald Trump has adopted the America Last foreign policy for which he criticized his predecessors. From James George Jatras at strategic-culture.org:

As the façade of 2016 Candidate Donald Trump’s promised “America First” continues to crumble away, the baked-into-the-cake pathologies of the foreign and security policy “experts” who monopolize President Trump’s administration plunge forward along their predetermined paths. Any realistic notion of American national interests comes last after the priorities of – well, pretty much everyone else with leverage in Washington.

Case in point, let’s start with Saudi Arabia and all the breast-beating over whether Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) really is guilty of ordering the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. (Spoiler Alert: You betcha!)

American and western media were all a-twitter last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s high five to Crown Pariah MbS at the G20. Amid the faux outrage – come on, does anyone really think MbS was the only killer in that room? – the gesture received America’s highest media tribute: a parody on “Saturday Night Live.”

What a circus. Apart from Putin’s greeting, the assembled hypocrites went out of their way to shun the leprous MbS, even shunting him to the margins of the group picture – as though the killing of one dodgy journalist outweighed their abetting MbS’s business-as-usual slaughter in Yemen. Really! I barely know the guy. We were never actually friends

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What Foreign Threats? by Philip Giraldi

A lot of countries would like the US to fight their wars for them. From Philip Giraldi at unz.com:

The biggest threats to America come from its “friends”

One of the local Washington television stations was doing a typical early morning honoring our soldiers schtick just before Thanksgiving. In it soldiers stationed far from home were treated to videolinks so they could talk to their families and everyone could nod happily and wish themselves a wonderful holiday. Not really listening, I became interested when I half heard that the soldier being interviewed was spending his Thanksgiving in Ukraine.

It occurred to me that the soldier just might have committed a security faux pas by revealing where he was, but I also recalled that there have been joint military maneuvers as well as some kind of training mission going on in the country, teaching the Ukrainian Army how to use the shiny new sophisticated weapons that the United States was providing it with to defend against “Russian aggression.”

Ukraine is only one part of the world where the Trump Administration has expanded the mission of democracy promotion, only in Kiev the reality is more like faux democracy promotion since Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is clearly exploiting a situation that he himself provoked. He envisions setting himself up as a victim of Moscow to aid in his attempts to establish his own power through a security relationship with Washington. That in turn will help his bid for reelection in March 2019 elections, in which his poll numbers are currently running embarrassingly low largely due to the widescale corruption in his government. Poroshenko has already done much to silence the press in his county while the developing crisis with Russia has enabled him to declare martial law in the eastern parts of the country where he is most poorly regarded. If it all works out, he hopes to win the election and subsequently, it is widely believed, he will move to expand his own executive authority.

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The Khashoggi Effect: Erdogan Inverts the Paradigm, whilst Gulf & Allies Sink in Quagmire, by Alastair Crooke

Turkish leader Erdogan is capitalizing on Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. From Alastair Crooke at strategic-culture.org:

It seems that the quartet (US, Israel, UAE and MbS himself, naturally), acting in the cause of ‘exonerating MbS’, think they have got their ‘coup’ with Trump’s “maybe he did, but maybe he didn’t”, exculpation. They are probably quite pleased with themselves. MbS may stay for now, and embarrass everyone at the G20, by ostentatiously trying to shake hands with leaders, in front a phalanx of photographers, as leaders try to dodge the tainted hand. But if MbS does weather the crisis, what it shows more than anything else is how well MbS has succeeded in destroying the al-Saud family as a joint leadership ‘enterprise’, and in undercutting Saudi Arabia’s Islamic credentials. President Trump and Jared Kushner – quite oblivious – colluded in this outcome.

And the outcome: Yes, as Pepe Escobar, lately was being told in Istanbul: “The Erdogan machine has sensed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity [i.e. l’affaire Khashoggi], to simultaneously bury the House of Saud’s shaky Islamic credibility, while solidifying Turkish neo-Ottomanism, but with an Ikhwan [i.e. with a Muslim Brotherhood – style] framework”. This is heady stuff – maybe the Arab world is not so anxious to welcome back, with open arms, either the Ottomans or the Muslim Brotherhood. But nonetheless, with the Gulf so discredited in terms of its legitimacy, Erdogan is probably right to think that he is pushing at an ‘open door’.

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Khashoggi Media Sensation, MBS, and Yemen Silence, by Peter Crowley

A Washington Post columnist is murdered and America’s politicos and media finally notice that Saudi Arabia isn’t a peaceful libertarian paradise. From Peter Crowley at antiwar.com:

Jamal Khashoggi’s death has captured the American news cycle for nearly two months. During this time, we have seen Saudi Arabia try to unsuccessfully try to bury the story, conduct their own “investigation” and, ultimately, determine that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) had nothing to do with it. President Donald Trump buys the Saudi government’s narrative, or at least wants to, in so far as any other conclusion would damage the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Other elements in the American political establishment, including the relatively new Trump faithful Lindsey Graham, would like to mildly punish the Saudi government and have become leery of MBS.

On the intelligence front, the CIA has come to view MBS as a liability and, not unrelatedly, considers him the mastermind of the Khashoggi killing, which there’s little doubt he is. Bin Salman’s status as a liability is due to his rash behavior in kidnapping and extorting money from members of the Saudi elite last year, kidnapping the Lebanese prime minister, igniting tensions with Qatar and now this. MBS may be virulently anti-Iran and pro-Israel, but what does that matter if he causes social instability and then the House of Saud goes under? Then Christmas will not come for American arms dealers and the politicians whose campaigns they helped finance.

Khashoggi worked for an American newspaper, The Washington Post. The fact that he’s associated with an American organization seems to be the main reason why the story has stuck around for two months. Other Saudi killings of dissidents have hardly raise eyebrows, including Saudi state prosecutors’ seeking the death penalty for women human rights activists and the Saudi government’s killing of the nonviolent Shia leader Nimr al-Nimr in early January 2016.

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Dangers to Dissidents, by Rand Paul

Senator Rand Paul breaks with Trump on Saudi Arabia. From Paul at townhall.com:

The brutal murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi has opened a window into the world of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and reminded us that there are many places in the world where disagreeing with your government is a death sentence.

I break with the administration on their response to this killing for many reasons.  If Saudi Arabia is not held accountable for the barbaric murder of Khashoggi, what will it mean for the fate of other dissidents held in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere who are being held without trial?  What message does it send to kingdoms and dictatorships around the region and the world that America considers its defense sales paramount to its stand for human rights?

What will it mean for Ali al-Nimr, the nephew of Nimr al-Nimr, the Shia sheik executed by the Saudis in 2016?

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Senate Votes in Favor of Resolution to End US Support for Saudi-Led War in Yemen, by Middle East Eye

Well what do you know? For once the Senate did the right thing. From Middle East Eye at theantimedia.org:

Despite pressure from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to maintain Washington’s steadfast support for the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, the US Senate has voted in favour of advancing a resolution that would end US involvement in the devastating conflict.

US Senators voted 63-37 on Wednesday afternoon to move forward with a resolution to end Washington’s support for the Saudi-led coalition.

While procedural, the successful vote discharges the resolution from the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and clears the way for a Senate-wide debate on its contents, which is expected to take place next week.

US Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the resolution’s co-sponsors, said US lawmakers should send a message to the Saudi government “that [they] will not continue to support a catastrophic war led by a despotic regime that has a dangerous, destructive and irresponsible military policy”.

“No more. Enough death, enough killing, enough destruction,” Sanders said in the Senate ahead of the vote.

The result of the vote signals a deepening rift between US lawmakers and US President Donald Trump, who has pledged his administration’s unwavering support for Riyadh despite the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Fourteen Senators from the president’s political party voted in favour of the resolution. Among those includes Lindsey Graham, who has repeatedly voiced his outrage over Khashoggi’s murder.

Every member in the Democratic Party voted to adanced the resolution.

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Our Man in Riyadh, by Andrew J. Bacevich

What they have been calling the Long War is becoming the Forever War. From Andrew Bacevich at tomdispatch.com:

What does President Trump’s recent nomination of retired Army General John Abizaid to become the next U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia signify? Next to nothing — and arguably quite a lot.

Abizaid’s proposed appointment is both a non-event and an opportunity not to be wasted. It means next to nothing in this sense: while once upon a time, American diplomats abroad wielded real clout — Benjamin Franklin and John Quincy Adams offer prominent examples — that time is long past. Should he receive Senate confirmation, Ambassador Abizaid will not actually shape U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia. At most, he will convey policy, while keeping officials back in Washington apprised regarding conditions in the Kingdom. “Conditions” in this context will mean the opinions, attitudes, whims, and mood of one particular individual: Mohammed bin Salman. MBS, as he is known, is the Saudi crown prince and the Kingdom’s de facto absolute ruler. By no means incidentally, he is also that country’s assassin-in-chief as well as the perpetrator of atrocities in a vicious war that he launched in neighboring Yemen in 2015.

Implicit in Abizaid’s job description will be a requirement to cozy up to MBS. “Cozy up” in this context implies finding ways to befriend, influence, and seduce; that is, seeking to replicate in Riyadh the achievements in Washington of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who from 1983 to 2005 served as Saudi ambassador to the United States.

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