Indulging Reckless Clients Get the U.S. Nothing But Grief
The Saudis have shown once again that their interests and those of the U.S. continue to diverge:
Saudi Arabia joined Turkey and China in a move to block a U.S.-led attempt this week to place Pakistan on an international terror-financing watch list, according to officials involved in the process, in a rare disagreement between Riyadh and the Trump administration.
Saudi Arabia’s move on behalf of Pakistan came just days after Islamabad said it would send more than 1,000 troops to the Gulf kingdom, which has expanded its military posture in the region since its 2015 intervention in Yemen’s civil war.
This latest move by the Saudis shows us how uninterested they are in helping the U.S. when it matters, and it underscores how unjustified and hypocritical their treatment of Qatar has been. If Saudi and Emirati complaints about Qatar and terrorism financing were genuine, Riyadh would not be covering for Pakistan here. Of course, it has been plain ever since the crisis with Qatar began that those complaints were just a pretext for punishing Qatar for its independent foreign policy.
This story makes it even harder to take seriously that the U.S.-Saudi relationship is useful to us. The Trump administration has to be particularly embarrassed by Saudi opposition in this case. Trump has touted his 2017 Riyadh visit as a great triumph in obtaining more cooperation from regional clients in combating terrorism, and he has given the Saudis practically everything they wanted over the last year. U.S. support for the atrocious war on Yemen has increased, and the few restrictions that the Obama administration imposed on arms supplies have been lifted. Trump has consistently endorsed Saudi actions, even when it contradicted statements from his Cabinet members, and frequently praised Salman and his son. He has sucked up to Saudi royals as abjectly and disgracefully as any president ever has. Even so, on an issue specifically related to the financing of terrorism, they rebuff the U.S.
Indulging bad clients doesn’t make them more helpful to the U.S., and the U.S. has few clients as bad as the Saudis. All of this reminds us how unreliable Saudi Arabia is and how undesirable it is to continue having the close, noxious relationship with them that Washington has.