Saudi Arabia: Six Questions the United States Must Ask
On Iran, the Middle East and terrorism, it does not behoove the United States to play an understudy to Saudi Arabia.
April 23, 2016
The Saudi royal family faces unprecedented challenges. President Obama’s visit to Riyadh was designed to alleviate these strains and to reinvigorate the supposed alliance.
Obama may follow up his visit with a proposal for some sort of security understanding between NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
What is amazing is that Washington, rather than asking tough and urgent questions of the Saudis, is hell-bent on placating the new leadership of the semi-senile King Salman and the ruthless, power hungry Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed.
As the continuing debate over releasing the “Saudi pages” from the Report of the 9/11 Commission underscores, it does not behoove the United States to play an understudy to Saudi Arabia.
Instead, Washington should zero in on the following set of questions in order to regain its proper balance:
1. Why does it serve United States’ interests to adopt the Saudi line that Iran is an implacably hostile force that sows instability throughout the Middle East and with whom any form of normalization is dangerous?
2. Why does it serve U.S. interests to act in a manner that strongly suggests that we have chosen the Sunni side in Islam’s sectarian confrontation?
3. Why does it serve U.S. interests to participate in the bloody Saudi-led assault on Yemen that has led to a vast strengthening of the al-Qaeda branch, which Washington long has judged to be the most menacing?
4. Why do we tolerate the Saudi-led forces fighting side-by-side with al-Qaeda units?
5. Why should we assiduously avoid even raising the issue of Saudi and friends’ backing of ISIL and their promotion of al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Shem in Syria – against the backdrop of aggressive projection of their anti-Western Wahhabist creed across the Islamic world?
6. Should we really give priority to removing Assad when his downfall will bring to power violent Salafist groups of the most extreme kind, whom the Saudis now see as shock troops in their war against Iranian led Shi’ism?
Some answers, please?
There are no answers given to the questions asked above. They are not even really posed in political circles. They are ignored by most media, and Washington’s official commentariat only rarely raises its timid hand.
If there is a coherent justification for what we are doing, and not doing, it is high time that we heard it. Preferably, before the current President – or his successor — digs us an even deeper hole in Riyadh.
Unfortunately, there is no indication whatsoever that a course reversal has been either presented as an option or debated – much less accepted within the Obama administration.
The United States cannot afford to play Saudi Arabia's understudy in Mideast affairs.
Why does the US accept Saudi Arabia's insistence that Iran is implacable and inherently dangerous?
Why does it serve US interests to participate in the bloody Saudi-led assault on Yemen?
Why does the United States tolerate the Saudi-led forces fighting side-by-side with al-Qaeda units?
Michael J. Brenner
Professor Emeritus of International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh [Texas, United States] Michael Brenner is Professor Emeritus of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh and a Fellow of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS/Johns Hopkins. He was the Director of the International Relations & Global Studies Program at the University of Texas. Brenner is […]