In the aftermath of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the question has been raised whether the U.S.-Saudi alliance can or should be saved. It is based on false premises: there is no such alliance. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is neither a friend nor an ally of America. It is an enemy of civilization, a malevolent aberration. A Saudi-free world would be a better, safer world.
Contrary voices, some of them probably encouraged by Saudi largesse, are swiftly merging into a chorus of “reason” and “pragmatism.” “The U.S. and its allies cannot simply disengage,” writes The Hill. “Like it or not, Saudi Arabia and its partners need one another.” “Saudi Arabia is simply too crusial to U.S. interests to allow the death of one man to affect the relationship,” according to MarketWatch.com. Significantly, it points out that “the Saudis’ new best friend” may throw them a lifeline: “As Iran has become the biggest threat to Israel, the Jewish state has made common cause with the Saudis. Former Saudi bashers such as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s confidant Dore Gold now meet with the kingdom’s officials.”
Indeed, the Saudi cause has been embraced with gusto by assorted neoconservative pundits who see the emerging Jerusalem-Riyadh axis as the permanent foundation of our policy in the Middle East. In Israel itself, the affair has caused alarm. “The Khashoggi Murder is a Disaster for Israel,” Daniel B. Shapiro warned in the Haaretz on October 17: “In Jerusalem and D.C., they’re mourning their whole strategic concept for the Mideast—not least, for countering Iran.” Diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon argued in The Jerusalem Post that Saudi leaders were of pivotal importance in pushing the Trump administration to make its policy on Iran amenable to Israel’s interests: “Netanyahu led the rhetorical charge in Washington to get Trump to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal earlier this year, but the Saudis—and other Persian Gulf states—were equally involved behind closed doors lobbying heavily against it,” he wrote. If Saudi Arabia finds that its political capital is dwindling, Israel’s proxy lobby groups in Washington “may actually go to Capitol Hill, as they have done in the past, and discreetly lobby for the Saudis, something that could paradoxically bring the two countries even closer together,” Keinon concluded.
The problem for the Israeli government and its lobbyists in Washington is that the Saudi regime is utterly devoid of any redeeming features, even if the damage could be controlled on this occasion. In kowtowing to Saudi royals, the Trump administration has encouraged Mohammed bin Salman (MbS to friends and admirers, such as Thomas Friedman of The New York Times) to believe that he can get away with murder, quite literally so. Donald Trump’s strange infatuation with the desert kingdom and its crown prince started with the President’s state visit in May of last year, when he said he was “honored to be received by such gracious hosts” and pleased to announce a “historic agreement” on $400 billion in military and other sales. Furthermore, Trump went on, “we will make history with the opening of a new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology—located right here, in this central part of the Islamic World.”
This was nonsense of course, on par with opening a global center to combat anti-Semitism in Munich ca. 1938. Such posture was in sharp contrast to candidate Trump, who accurately described the Saudis in 2016 as “bullies, cowards” who were “paying ISIS” and imagined that they could “control our US politicians.” Back then, furthermore, Trump demanded release of the missing 28 pages redacted from the 9/11 Congressional report, hinting that the Saudi rulers had helped the hijackers (“it’s sort of nice to know who your friends are, and perhaps who your enemies are”).
Now is the time to remind President Trump that Saudi Arabia is the true “Global Center” of promoting and financing Islamic extremism, and that no partnership with it is possible for as long as the nature of its regime remains unchanged. He has been blinded from this realization by his obsession with Iran, which in reality poses no threat to the United States and has no viable nuclear program. By contrast, Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s legacy is alive and well, and continues to pose a threat to Dar al-Harb, the world of “infidels.” The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the most intolerant Islamic regime in the world and one of the most oppressive ones in general. While it continues to build mosques all over the world, tens of thousands of Christians among the millions of foreign workers must worship in secret, if at all, or risk arrest, lashing or deportation.
Khashoggi’s grisly demise is in the headlines, but it is not widely reported that hundreds of Saudis and others are routinely subjected to executions by beheading, stoning, or firing squad every year. Political detainees are held incommunicado in special prisons for months, without access to lawyers, and tried in camera by Shari’a rules. The only expanding Saudi industry is that of Islamic obscurantism, and the rulings of the ullema have been the only internal check on the ruling family. Five Islamic universities produce thousands of clerics, many more than will ever be hired in the country’s mosques. Thousands end up spreading and promoting Wahhabism abroad.
It is to be hoped that Khashoggi’s death will prompt a reassessment of U.S. policy. For starters, all high-level political contacts should be suspended. It is time to end the ongoing Saudi war in Yemen, which has killed tens of thousands of civilians directly or through blockade-induced starvation. In addition, the decades-long Beltway conspiracy of silence on Saudi Arabia’s role in abetting Islamic terrorism must not be allowed to continue. Its “charities” that finance terrorists must not be allowed to go on filling jihadist coffers. Last but not least, the full facts about the Kingdom’s true role in the 9-11 attacks finally must be made public.
In the aftermath of Khashoggi’s murder, significant segments of the Swamp will do their utmost to continue treating Saudi Arabia as a valuable ally. They must not succeed: an opportunity now exists for America to set herself free from the need to pander to Saudi whims, including the “right” of its government to bankroll thousands of mosques and Islamic centers around the world that preach Wahhabist intolerance and provide the logistic infrastructure to terrorists. Decades of support for Islamic movements and regimes whenever they were deemed useful to U.S. short-term foreign policy and financial objectives have been an unmitigated disaster. Operationally, this policy still requires not only overlooking the nefarious activities of the supposedly friendly Muslim states—such as Saudi Arabia’s crucial early support for ISIS in 2013-2014—but also a consistent American bias in favor of the Muslim party in virtually every conflict with Christians, and for the Sunni side against the Shiites. That is worse than a crime, it is a mistake.
The Saudi “alliance” needs to be corrected in the light of the U.S.’s pragmatically defined strategic and economic interests. Those interests may include selling arms to the highest bidder, but continued arms sales do not require treating MbS as a friend and ally. The crown prince’s recklessness in ordering the murder of Khashoggi has demonstrated that he is just a standard despot, a Mafia don with oil presiding over an extended cleptocracy of inbred parasites. The KSA will not be reformed because it is structurally not capable of reform. The regime in Riyadh which stops being a playground of great wealth, protected by a large investment in theocratic excess, would not be “Saudi” any longer. Saudia delenda est.
Dr. Srdja Trifkovic, Foreign Affairs Editor of Chronicles, is the author of The Sword of the Prophet and Defeating Jihad.