No More American Support for the Saudis in Yemen. What Does It Mean?
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No More American Support for the Saudis in Yemen. What Does It Mean?


USA – March 14, 2019

No matter how different the political systems of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have always been, and no matter how far these countries are located from each other, their mutual relations have always been pretty warm. Saudi Arabia has become one of the brightest examples of how Americans close their democratic eyes to authoritarian regimes all over the world, if these regimes are loyal and friendly to them.

The modern era of the US–Saudi relationship began in 1945. The United States has been willing to overlook many of the kingdom's more controversial aspects as long as it kept the oil (as well as other natural resources) flowing and supported U.S. national security policies. The values of “freedom” that America “defends” within the borders of foreign sovereign states are only applied if these countries don’t provide the States with what their resources.

Since World War II, the two countries have been allied in so-called “opposition to Communism,” as well as in support of stable oil prices, stability in the oil fields, and oil shipping of the Persian Gulf, and stability in the economies of Western countries where Saudis have invested. Both countries, for example, were allies against the Soviet Union during its war in Afghanistan and in the expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait in 1991. Saudis (just like Americans) thought Saddam was “pure evil,” simply because he didn’t cooperate with them.

Yet, some issues have been controversial. The two countries have been in disagreement with regard to the state of Israel, as well as the embargo of the U.S. and its allies by Saudi Arabia and other Middle East oil exporters during the 1973 oil crisis (which eventually raised oil prices considerably), the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq (which Saudi Arabia opposed due to some strange inner reasons), and, of course, the aspects of the "War on Terror" (it was hard not to blame the Saudis for their support of global terrorism at times), and what many in the U.S. see as the pernicious influence of Saudi Arabia after the September 11 attacks. Some experts even wonder how the U.S. kept on trading with the Saudis after the attacks, stating how immoral that was.

In recent years, particularly during the Obama administration, the relationship between the two countries became strained and witnessed a major decline though. However, the relationship was strengthened by President Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia in May 2017, which was his first overseas trip as President. Yet, many things have changed over the last two years, and what was seen as Trump’s international success at that time might nowadays work like one the key failures of his administration’s foreign policy approach.

One of the most recent scandals in the mutual relations was inflamed in October when the Jamal Khashoggi case put the US into a difficult situation as Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, share a strong personal and official bond with Mohammad bin Salman. During an interview, Trump vowed to get to the bottom of the case and that there would be "severe punishment" if the Saudi kingdom is found to be involved in the disappearance or assassination of the journalist.

The reply that immediately came from the Saudi Foreign Ministry was a vexed one. It stated that Saudi Arabia if "receives any action, it will respond with greater action," citing the oil-rich kingdom's "influential and vital role in the global economy." According to Turki Aldakhil, Saudi-owned news channel Al-Arabiya's general manager, this clash between the two countries would have a direct effect on the world economy. "If US sanctions are imposed on Saudi Arabia, we will be facing an economic disaster that would rock the entire world," Aldakhil said.

Khashoggi’s case was probably one of the key reasons why the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved a resolution to suspend sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia and impose sanctions on people obstructing humanitarian access in Yemen on December 12. Yet, we can’t know for sure since both countries’ political systems are pretty closed and nobody knows for sure what is hidden within the “black boxes.”

And just yesterday, the U.S. Senate officially passed the resolution to end US support of Saudi Arabia in Yemen, 54-46. The main apologists for this measure were Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent from Vermont, and Senator Mike Lee, Republican from Utah. The measure actually marked the first time in U.S. history when the lawmakers have invoked the decades-old War Powers Resolution to halt American military involvement in a foreign conflict. This really was a historic decision!

President Trump’s support for Saudi Arabia, which he has always expressed, has also led to tensions with Congress with the formal reason being the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year. Interestingly, the lawmakers from both Republican and Democratic parties have called for a reappraisal of the U.S.-Saudi relationship and accused Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Khashoggi’s murder, even as Trump has stood by him. This is a serious problem for Mr. President.

What is also known is that hours ahead of the vote, the White House statement threatening a veto argued that U.S. support for the Saudis does not constitute engaging in “hostilities” and that the resolution could undermine the fight against violent extremism. The Yemen resolution “seeks to override the President’s determination as Commander in Chief,” the statement said, and “would harm bilateral relationships in the region.” Interesting, how Americans hadn’t bothered the Saudis for years for what they had been doing in Yemen. Why did the Americans decide to punish the Saudis just a couple of months ago? This is a true mystery.

As the Senate was almost divided though, some senators stood for the Saudis just like Trump did though. One, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, was especially nervous. The resolution would alienate allies, McConnell said, as the U.S. faces, “real threats from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. We need cooperation from Yemen, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia to defeat these terrorists.” Good point, Mr. McConnell, if only you close your eyes to the number of cases when the Saudis actually sponsored terrorism.

Another prominent senator, Republican Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, said regarding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi that, “This sends a global message that just because you’re an ally of the United States, you can’t kill with impunity. The relationship with Saudi Arabia is not working for America. It is more of a burden than an asset.”

Well, this sounds good, and this measure is great, yet it still seems to be pretty populist so the U.S. should probably take a look at the “dirty deeds” other allies have been engaged into, especially while suppressing the values of freedom of speech and self-expression.

 Will this eventually be done? Only time will tell.

Author: USA Really