The Saudis Are Not Our Friends

The Saudis Are Not Our Friends


Leonard Zwelling

It’s now official. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia green lit the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018. As if there was ever a doubt that such an event could occur in a Saudi Embassy without his knowledge. And President Biden’s response to this latest, non-surprising information is—nothing! (see attached) So let’s make sure we all understand this. A foreign leader sent out a hit team on a journalist working for an American newspaper (The Washington Post) and all the current leader of the free world can do is turn away? Hmmm. Trump was better than that. At least you knew Trump was reprehensible and he never pretended to be otherwise, Biden casts himself as a paragon of virtue but is ready to do business with the Saudis. I’ll bet Israel is as well.

The Biden Administration did impose some travel restrictions and sanctions on some Saudis, but not on the one person who called the shots—MBS. What troubles me is that this bodes poorly for the future of American foreign policy if one of our residents can be murdered and dismembered on foreign soil at the behest of a supposed ally and the ally gets to keep being an ally.

We seem to be getting mixed up about who are enemies and friends really are. Here’s a clue. China, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia are not our friends. They do not share our values. They do not value the rights of the individual. They are autocratic regimes bent on killing us. The Saudis may not want to kill all of us, just those who tell the truth about the Saudi government, if you can call it that.

We may have to deal with these people, but we don’t have to like it and we don’t have to give them any advantages like free passage to the States. MBS should be banned from ever coming to the U.S. and particularly from any audiences with the leaders in the White House. Just because he was Jared Kushner’s BFF, doesn’t mean he should be allowed to fly into Dulles and limo over to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Mr. Biden was right to demand to speak only with MBS’s father the king and I hope he said that the U.S. will not be supportive of MBS as the monarch of the country that would still be in the dark ages were it not for oil money. As the world moves albeit slowly away from fossil fuel and as the U.S. regains its leadership role in fossil fuel production anyway, the Saudis should be brought to heel with regard to human rights issues and the use of hit squads to kill journalists and jail women.

And the same thing is true with Iran. If Iran does not want to stop its progress toward nuclear weaponry on its own, then perhaps it needs some encouragement. Tighten the sanctions even more. I understand that the Iranian people pay the price but it is those people that installed the theocracy in its leadership role in 1979, so tough. We also need to make it more painful when Iran does its regional mischief in the Middle East. Besides, once Iran gets close to building an atomic weapon, you can bet the Israelis will find it and blow it up. Let’s avoid that mess and make it clear to the Iranians that if they want to be a member of the global community, no nuclear weapons, no mischief in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere and if they do not comply, turn the screws.

The one thing that Mr. Trump did that I approved of was come down on China and North Korea while getting creative in the Middle East. Mr. Biden needs to think this through carefully and have an ethical and effective foreign policy that exports American values while exemplifying them at home.

When the Saudis sign a peace treaty with Israel and truly open full diplomatic relationships with the Jewish state, it ought to be with the understanding that to benefit from such an arrangement, they will be expected to behave like a real ally. Killing journalists is not such behavior. Mr. Biden should do everything within his power to prevent MBS from assuming the throne of Saudi Arabia. Everything.

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