“The Senate on Monday did not override President Trump’s vetoes of three measures to block arms deals benefiting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, an expected but nonetheless serious setback for those who had hoped Congress would punish Saudi leaders for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” The Washington Post reported on July 29, 2019.
(August 6, 2019 / Newsmax)
Contrary to the tone of The Washington Post article, this is a good thing.
There is no question that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a “bad” nation. They have done what they have been accused of. The Saudis have invaded Yemen, admittedly to support its’ legitimate president and government, and sometimes indiscriminately bomb its’ cities. And the Saudi leadership almost undoubtedly had Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, killed in a particularly brutal manner.
There is also no question that the Saudis are deplorable in other ways as well.
They have a horrendous human rights record at home. In Saudi Arabia, it is illegal for non-Muslims to be citizens, women have few rights, and the Shia Muslim minority is discriminated against religiously, in the areas of education, the administration of justice, and employment. Saudi clerics have sometimes even sanctioned the killing of Shia Saudi citizens. Saudi Arabia has the third highest rate of executions in the world behind China and Iran, according to Amnesty International. The death penalty is even used for non-crimes, such as practicing witchcraft. Children can be put to death; a boy was beheaded for simply protesting the government. Other protestors have been killed by crucifixion or by having their head impaled on a spike. Stoning remains a punishment for women accused of adultery.
And Saudi Arabia has been a malignant force throughout the world when it comes to spreading Wahhabism, or radical Sunni Islam. Wahhabism’s explosive growth began in the 1970s when Saudi charities started funding Wahhabi schools and mosques worldwide. Among those educated by Saudi propaganda was Osama Bin Laden. Granted, the Saudis have gotten a little better, recently. But they still spend millions, if not hundreds of millions, to educate people in a dangerous and anti-U.S., anti-Israel, and anti-West ideology.
But with all this said, President Trump is quite right to continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia. Because it is not all about Saudi Arabia; any national interest calculus by the U.S. must also address the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The fact is the Saudis are only in Yemen because of Iran. The Shia Islamist Iranian regime has been sending advanced weapons and military advisers to supply and train Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement. The Houthis control about half of the population of that nation, and a large chunk of that land, including the former capitol of Sana’a. Under Iranian tutelage — and sometimes under direct orders — the Houthis have attacked plenty of Saudi targets, and more concerning for the U.S., oil shipping in the area through the Bab al-Mandab strait and in the Red Sea. An estimated 4.8 million b/d of crude oil and refined petroleum products flowed through this waterway in 2016. The Houthis have even gone so far as to attack a U.S. ship.
What is worse, the Iranian regime is also in Yemen in the hopes that it can threaten Saudi Arabia, a huge world producer of oil. Yemen has always been the soft underbelly of Saudi Arabia. In the 60’s, Egypt’s then-dictator Gamal Abdul Nasser invaded Yemen, threatening the Saudis, and prompting them to support the Yemeni forces arrayed against Egypt. Eventually, Egyptian forces were forced out. Today, Iran hopes to succeed where Egypt failed. In particular, it hopes to inspire and support the Shia Muslim majority population in the Eastern Province of the Saudi kingdom to rise up against the Saudi King. This area of Saudi Arabia is especially valuable, as it has most of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s oil, and is directly adjacent to the Persian Gulf.
Needless to say, although the U.S. no longer relies on oil from the Middle East, the U.S. still has a national interest in preventing the Iranian regime from disrupting the oil flow throughout the world and creating economic chaos.
And that is not all.
Iran is at war with the U.S. Over the years, the Iranian regime has seized hostages from our Embassy in Tehran, sponsored and directed the attacks that murdered and maimed hundreds of Americans by foreign designated terror group Hezbollah, and supplied and trained Iraqi rebel terror groups who killed over 600 U.S. soldiers in Iraq. For that matter, the Houthis are no friends to the U.S. Not only have the Houthis fired on a U.S. ship, but they are also known for their chant, “Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory to Islam!”
And although the Saudis can be a dangerous sponsor of terrorism, the Iranian regime is the premier state sponsor of terrorism, worldwide. It has long been a menace to its neighbors in the Middle East, including the U.S.’s strongest ally, Israel, and also to the European nations, including those that continue to support the Iran deal. Recently, while the Iranian president was touring Europe to drum up support for more European aid to Iran, his regime was plotting to bomb an anti-Iranian regime rally near Paris, which would have killed and wounded probably hundreds of innocent Europeans (and some Americans). Like Saudi Arabia, the Iranian regime also promotes radical Islam; the only difference is that Iran promotes radical Shia Islam instead of the Sunni version.
Finally, the U.S. also has an interest in selling weapons and supplies to Saudi Arabia to boost the U.S. economy.
Even the moral argument is basically a wash. The Houthis and the Iranians have human rights records that are similar, if not worse, than the Saudis. In Iran, gays are hung on cranes, Baha’is are eradicated, and political prisoners are tortured and killed by the regime. The Houthis are no better. They have the distinction of having recruited more than 30,000 child soldiers since war broke out, far more than the Saudis. And, like the Saudis, they are also quite willing to bomb and starve their own people.
As Winston Churchill once memorably said, “If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.” The same sentiment applies here. Saudi Arabia is not a “good” nation, but it is much better for the U.S. national interest that the Saudis win in Yemen, rather than the Iranians. The U.S. should act accordingly.