US President Donald Trump’s cozy relationship with Saudi Arabia makes little sense in its recent historical context, given this is the same Trump who once accused Saudi Arabia of committing the 9/11 attacks. This is also the same Trump who rose to the presidential throne on an anti-Muslim platform, which is intriguing because Saudi Arabia is of course not only the birth place of Islam, but also a country which exports radical Islam as though it were a commodity.
However, if there is one thing Trump hates more than dark-skinned refugees, it’s Iran, and this is the crux of the newfound Trump-Saudi alliance. Of course, the Barack Obama administration and its predecessors all had cozy relationships with Saudi Arabia too. However, Trump’s ties with Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), seem to have reached the next level.
MBS prefaced his trip to the US with a profoundly biased interview on CBS’ 60 Minutes, in which he openly referred to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khameini, as the “new Hitler”.
“He wants to create his own project in the Middle East, very much like Hitler who wanted to expand at the time,” MBS said in the interview. “Many countries around the world and in Europe did not realise how dangerous Hitler was until what happened, happened. I don’t want to see the same events happening in the Middle East.”
Never mind that out of the two regional rivals, it is actually Saudi Arabia that has launched a deadly invasion in Yemen, routinely targeting civilian infrastructure with American made and supplied bombs. To date, Saudi Arabia has struck well over 100 hospitals, as well as wedding parties, refugee camps, food trucks, factories, transport routes, agricultural land, residential areas, and schools.
On the other hand, Iran’s presence in Yemen has been completely over-exaggerated, and still remains dubious at best. While Iran has troops on the ground in Syria, it is important to note they are there under the sanction of the Syrian government, which is how international law works. The UN has never authorised Saudi Arabia’s onslaught of Yemen. Moreover, Yemen’s leader, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, had already been overthrown before he requested Saudi-led assistance. It then remains unclear on what basis an overthrown president can request a coalition to come to his rescue, plunging his country into chaos in the process.
If you’re having a problem with this scenario, just ask yourself if the UN would recognise Bashar al Assad in Syria, and provide him with military assistance, in the instance of US-backed rebels successfully unseating him. The answer to this should be quite clear, given the US and its allies have already dubbed Assad illegitimate, even while he retains office.
Despite the above, in his interview with 60 Minutes, MBS laid the entire blame for what has unfolded in Yemen squarely on Iran’s shoulders.
“Unfortunately, Iran is playing a harmful role. The Iranian regime is based on pure ideology. Many of the al Qaeda operatives are protected in Iran and it refuses to surrender them to justice, and continues to refuse to extradite them to the United States.”
This is an unusual accusation to come out of Saudi Arabia; the country which not only aided in the founding of al Qaeda, but continues to support al Qaeda to this day.
In the age of Trump, MBS is allowed to lie through his teeth throughout the interview, without receiving any meaningful scrutiny at all. However, the most overlooked part of his interview, which went completely unchallenged, is the revelation that MBS would indeed seek a nuclear bomb to counter Iran.
While MBS assured Saudi Arabia would only seek a bomb if Iran acquired one first, it seems a bit late to add a disclaimer to his goal to acquire nukes, given reports emerged last month that a US-Saudi nuclear agreement is already in the works. The fact that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists vehemently warned against such a move is enough for me to think this proposal is nothing short of an impending catastrophe.
But make no mistake, what the Saudi regime wants, it more than likely is going to get. Or is it a mere coincidence that just this week, Congress voted to continue America’s support for the war in Yemen, killing any opportunity for democratic oversight of any of the US’ misadventures abroad.
It also pays to remind ourselves that MBS himself wanted out of the war he started in Yemen, according to leaked emails obtained by Middle East Eye. At the end of the day, money talks and bloodshed walks, and the images of Trump holding up school-grade posters of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, to brandish as some sort of major achievement, tell us all we need to know about what this relationship is really about.