Trump and Saudi Arabia-- Partners in Dishonesty, Terrorrism, Repression and War-Mongering
Trump’s ties to Saudi Arabia run deep. During the campaign, even as Trump blamed the Saudi royal family for the 9/11 attacks, he registered eight companies connected to hotel interests in the kingdom. Once Trump was inaugurated, the Saudis returned the favor, paying for rooms at his Washington, D.C., hotel through Qorvis MSLGroup, a Beltway lobbying firm.
The rooms were reserved for a group of veterans flown into town by Qorvis to lobby against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) congressional legislation that would allow the bereaved family members of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi government for its alleged role in the attacks. Many of the veterans had no idea they were acting on behalf of Saudi Arabia, and some, like Tim Cord, staged an open revolt when they realized they had been deceived. “We’re sitting in a room full of retired generals, colonels, men who gave 25 years of their life to this country and they’re being lied to by a bunch of young punks who are using the vet angle to make themselves sympathetic. Why do you think a 60-year-old general would want anything to do with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?” Cord, a veteran of the Iraq war, complained to the website 28pages.com. “I mean, that’s a pretty heavy thing to assume we’re all going to be cool with.”
Throughout his chaotic tenure, Saudi Arabia has proven to be Trump’s most durable foreign ally, even providing him with political cover after the fallout from his Muslim travel ban. Following a White House meeting this March with Trump and his national security team, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman hailed the president as “a true friend of Muslims who will serve the Muslim World in an unimaginable manner, opposite to the negative portrait of his Excellency that some have tried to promote.”
Ahead of the White House meeting, the Saudis hired a D.C.-based consulting group, Booz Allen Hamilton, to compose a special presentation for the president. Prince Salman walked Trump through the Powerpoint slideshow the firm prepared, outlining a plan to invest at least $200 billion in American infrastructure and open up new business opportunities for U.S. companies inside the kingdom. In exchange, Trump was asked to ink the largest weapons deal in history, forking over the advanced missile defense systems and heavy weapons the Obama had administration had refused to sell. The weapons would then be used to pulverize Yemen. (snip)
During the Arab Spring, the Saudi military directly intervened to crush a citizen uprising in Bahrain. Thanks to the kingdom’s critical assistance, the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet was able to hold on to the base that represented the most important American military asset in the Persian Gulf. Next, the Saudis shelled out millions to prop up Abdel Fatah el-Sisi’s military junta in Egypt, crushing the country’s first democratically elected government and putting the January 25 revolution to bed once and for all.
Across the region, meanwhile, the Gulf monarchy cranked up its private media megaphone and activated Wahhabi religious proxies to drown out the cosmopolitan, reformist politics of the Arab Spring’s youth activists with regressive, sectarian messaging.
In Syria, Saudi Arabia has reverted to the role it played in Afghanistan, partnering with Washington to propel a proxy war aimed at weakening a Russian ally. Thanks to the flow of arms from Western and Gulf powers, Al Qaeda’s local affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, has taken control of large swaths of territory and appeared on the battlefield with sophisticated American weaponry. The Syrian rebel group that has received the bulk of Saudi support, Jaysh al-Islam (the Army of Islam), currently controls the city of East Ghouta, where it has paraded captive Alawite soldiers and their wives in cages, using them as human shields. In a video message to his supporters, the group’s late leader, Zahran Alloush—the son of a Saudi cleric—pledged to ethnically cleanse Syria of religious minorities: “Oh, you enemies of Islam… we will step on your heads,” he rumbled into a camera.
In Yemen, the special relationship between Washington and Riyadh has helped generate perhaps the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Thanks to the extensive assistance provided to the Saudi military by both the Obama and Trump administrations, Yemen now faces a rapidly spreading cholera epidemic while child malnutrition is at an “all time high,” according to the UN. By reducing the country to a failed state, the U.S. and its Gulf allies have provided a critical shot in the arm to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
In a report published this February, the International Crisis Group concluded, “The Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda (AQ) is stronger than it has ever been. As the country’s civil war has escalated and become regionalized,” the international conflict resolution group found, “its local franchise, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is thriving in an environment of state collapse, growing sectarianism, shifting alliances, security vacuums and a burgeoning war economy.”
As in the past, American foreign policy in the Middle East has sacrificed national security and human rights for the dubious pursuit of empire. The leading edge of its cynical project is Saudi Arabia, the Arab Spring's destroyer, one of the world’s leading exporters of extremism and the top importer of American arms. Trump and the Islamophobes he has empowered might be seen as the enemy of Muslims back home, but in Riyadh, they are received as natural partners in a geopolitical death dance that grooves to the drums of war.
I don't agree with everything Blumenthal writes here, but he makes a key point high-lighted at the end. Bottom line is that Saudi Arabia is about as evil as a country gets-- the same pro-war dirty-energy death cult capitalist policies as the worst of the US, but with a far worse record on human rights.