Foreign Policy

Mixed Messages for Saudi Arabia and Yemen

Congress is muddling an alliance with its vote to undermine American foreign policy.

Harold Hutchison · Dec. 17, 2018

There has been a push in Congress to halt America’s involvement in Yemen, and to somehow “hold Saudi Arabia accountable” because Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the gruesome murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was also a cheerleader for Hamas and supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. While the extra-judicial killing of Khashoggi was deplorable, America needs an ally in the Muslim world, and the Saudis are still arguably one of the least bad options.

Cutting off support for Saudi Arabia’s anti-Iranian operations in Yemen would just be another in a pattern of America abandoning allies. Should senators like Chris Murphy, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul get their way, the Saudis would join the Hmong and Montagnard tribes who fought alongside American special forces in Southeast Asia, the Shah of Iran (which got us the present genocidal Islamist regime in Tehran), Carlos Castano (who helped take down Pablo Escobar), and the Kurds as American allies who had the rug pulled out from under them (this list is not exclusive, but you get the idea).

But either Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or Iran will be the primary Muslim power in the Middle East. Two decades ago, it would have been little problem to just balance between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. But Erdogan has changed that calculus, as Turkey has trended away from respecting human rights and democracy. He’s no good guy and America has needed to thus reevaluate the relationship. Cutting off F-35 deliveries was also a smart call. By contrast, the crown prince at least is spearheading some reforms in Saudi Arabia — and that country, while no exemplar of religious freedom, freedom of speech, or equal rights for women, is trending in the right direction.

What about Iran? The track record of the theocratic regime, which has routinely sponsored terrorism and which routinely calls for Israel to be wiped off the map, should dispel any notions that it would be in America’s interest to allow it to become the primary Muslim power in the Middle East. This was tried before, and Iran only continued its bad behavior.

Furthermore, in Yemen, the Saudis are fighting Iranian stooges in the Houthi. Which brings us to another important note long forgotten by our media: The Houthi fired missiles at one of our ships on multiple occasions. Thankfully, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) wasn’t hit, but it’s in the interests of our overstretched Navy to ensure that taking potshots at our ships is seen as being very hazardous to one’s existence.

Yes, what is going on in Yemen is horrible, and yes, civilians are caught in the middle of the conflict — as has been the case in just about all the world’s wars throughout history. But, dude, the Houthi fired missiles at one of our ships on multiple occasions. If Iran’s allies get Yemen, then we will see more potshots at our ships, and the outcome may not be as good as what happened with USS Mason.

The fact is, right now, Congress is on the verge of pulling off a very dubious feat. Not only could they give Iran a foothold in Yemen, but they could also screw up America’s relationship with a crucial ally.

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