President Trump and his good friends the Saudis (White House photo)
The president’s enthusiasm for the Saudis is just as embarrassing and misguided as ever. In a recent statement, he said this:
We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran [bold mine-DL].
Perhaps Trump thinks that if he keeps repeating the lie that Saudi Arabia has been a “great ally” to the U.S. that it will magically become true. The odd thing about Trump’s attachment to the Saudis is that the kingdom is not an especially important trading partner and it isn’t a very effective security partner, either. There is almost no other foreign government that consistently receives so much unwarranted praise from Trump. Saudi Arabia isn’t an ally, great or otherwise, and everything it has done over the last few years has backfired and worked to the benefit of Iran. If I were as obsessively hostile to Iran as the president seems to be, I would consider the Saudis to be worse than useless, but that doesn’t stop him from defending the relationship as often as he can. It may be that Trump is such a destructive wrecking ball in his own conduct of foreign policy that he thinks that similar recklessness from the Saudis is a good thing. Then again, Iran hawks have an exceptionally poor understanding of the region, so Trump may just be reciting the talking points he is given by Bolton and others.
The president also said that the “United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region,” but there is no reason to think that having the U.S. as a “steadfast partner” to the Saudis serves the interests of any of these countries. Unconditional support for the Saudis has encouraged them to act as a regional menace, and on numerous occasions they have acted directly against U.S. interests and the interests of other clients in the region. Partnering with Riyadh’s inept and cruel war criminals hasn’t made the U.S. the least bit more secure, but it has implicated the U.S. in their crimes against the civilian population of Yemen. Being aligned with one of the cruelest and most despotic regimes on earth isn’t doing any other states in the region any favors, either.