Donald Trump’s first overseas trip as president was to Saudi Arabia. It was the first, but by no means the last time he toadied to the kingdom’s dictator, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).
His one-way love affair with the Saudis and MBS was a constant of Trump’s presidency. He did not waver even when MBS directed the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Trump’s justification for condoning this butchery was that the Saudis were going to pay American firms billions of dollars in return for armaments. That those weapons were used to rain death on thousands of innocent Yemenis was no deterrent to Trump’s shameful veneration of the kingdom.
It was thought that, once the U.S. achieved energy independence in the 2010s, 65 years of being the Saudis’ doormat would end. Despite no longer needing to rely on Saudi oil for the U.S. economy to function, Donald Trump enthusiastically prostrated himself and allowed MBS to walk all over him.
Thus, it was with great relief that, with Trump gone, it appeared that our relationship with this repressive regime that murders its citizens and enslaves its female population would finally be rebalanced. On assuming office, the Biden administration announced that it would only sell defensive weapons to Saudi Arabia. While even this modest policy retrenchment was insufficient, at least it was a modest step toward terminating America’s Saudi servility.
Not so fast.
President Biden has just approved a $650 million sale of arguably offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia. There is absolutely no justification for the U.S. to continue Trump’s misbegotten policy of fawning over this corrupt, homicidal regime that continues to wreak havoc on both its own population and Yemen, and makes a mockery of human rights.
The counter-argument from the State Department’s Arabists who have apparently captured Biden is that Saudi Arabia is the offset to Iran’s regional aspirations. The implication of this is that, absent U.S. military support, the Saudis would be unable to counter Iran. That is ludicrous. The Saudi military is brimming with both offensive and defensive weaponry that is more than adequate to give Iran pause.
It is now up to Congress to stop this misguided missile sale. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has filed a “joint resolution of disapproval.” I don’t find myself typically agreeing with this radical anti-Semite on any issue. This time, however, she is absolutely right.
Unfortunately, prospects for stopping the sale are poor. Even if the measure receives congressional approval, Biden is likely to veto it.
So here we go again, continuing to knuckle under to Saudi demands for more arms, weapons they could easily deploy in Yemen despite their assurances to the contrary. Someone please inform Biden that the balance of oil intimidation that governed U.S.-Saudi relations ever since President Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz Ibn-Saud met in Egypt in 1945 and signed the pact that kept the oil spigot open to the West, has changed in our favor.
November 19, 2021