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US Should Balance Iran and Saudi Arabia

July 31, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

When running for president, Donald Trump was no less critical of
the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia than he was of America’s dependent
Asian and European allies. It looked like bilateral relations would
change.

But now President Trump appears to be working for the Saudi
monarchy. He recently said he expects the Iranians to call him to
make a deal, but we should hope not, lest the administration
enshrine Saudi hegemony in the Middle East.

The kingdom deserved candidate Trump’s scorn. It is a corrupt
totalitarian state, long tied financially to terrorists, yet it
treats U.S. soldiers as the royals’ personal bodyguard.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates recalled meeting King
Abdullah: “He wanted a full-scale attack on Iranian military
targets, not just the nuclear sites.” This supposed friend of
America “was asking the United States to send its sons and
daughters into a war with Iran in order to protect the Saudi
position in the Gulf and the region, as if we were
mercenaries.”

There’s no need for
Washington to take sides between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

When President Trump was elected it looked like the Saudis’ free
ride might be over. However, the president’s first trip was to
Riyadh, where he partied the night away while doing the “sword
dance.” Then he peered into the orb, the curious symbol of Saudi
Arabia’s new anti-radicalism center.

Given the president’s reaction, some observers speculated that
the Saudis had acquired the infamous Eye of Sauron after the
destruction of Mordor. President Trump subsequently appeared to
have fallen completely under Riyadh’s spell.

Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia is a totalitarian state. There is no
political or religious liberty, far less than in its infamous rival
Iran.

Only recently has the crown prince relaxed some social controls.
While simultaneously cracking down on critics of the monarchy,
including women who campaigned against some of the policies he
initiated. Politically, Saudi Arabia is now less free.

While claiming to combat corruption Mohammad bin Salman has
spent lavishly on a yacht and chateau, and apparently art as well.
Presumably short on cash, he arrested hundreds of the kingdom’s
elite and he initiated an extraordinary shakedown, demanding that
those arrested sign over substantial assets to win their
freedom.

What Riyadh does overseas should be of even greater concern to
Washington, however. Over the years Saudi Arabia has spent some
$100 billion to promote the extremist Wahhabist variant of Islam
around the world, including in the U.S.

Saudi money and personnel long infused terrorist movements, most
notably al-Qaida. Saudi Arabia had little concern when only
Westerners seemed to be at risk. Now the kingdom purports to be a
crusader against terrorism, criticizing Qatar because the latter
underwrites …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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