There are lots of things wrong with Mike Pompeo’s op-ed in defense of the Trump administration’s reflexive support for Saudi Arabia, but this line may be the most ridiculous:
The kingdom is a powerful force for stability in the Middle East.
There may have been some point when this claim was true, but it hasn’t applied in many years. A government that backed the coup in Egypt, supported a brutal crackdown in Bahrain, attacked and starved Yemen for more than three and a half years, blockaded Qatar, and kidnapped the Lebanese prime minister may be many things, but a force for stability isn’t one of them. The U.S.-Saudi relationship has become a bad one for the U.S. and the region because the Saudi government has become a destabilizing, reckless menace to its neighbors.
Pompeo must think he is making a clever point when he writes this:
Is it any coincidence that the people using the Khashoggi murder as a cudgel against President Trump’s Saudi Arabia policy are the same people who supported Barack Obama’s rapprochement with Iran…?
Pompeo is exaggerating the degree to which Obama actually sought rapprochement with Iran, and he is ignoring the fact that there are many critics of Trump’s fealty to Saudi Arabia that didn’t support the nuclear deal. Nonetheless, it’s fair to say that many of the same Americans that reject this administration’s mindless hostility towards Iran and its equally thoughtless embrace of Saudi Arabia also thought that Obama’s willingness to negotiate with Iran was a much better approach. It isn’t a coincidence that supporters of a modest policy of engagement with Iran are opposed to a despicable policy of collective punishment, and it also isn’t a coincidence that the same people that hated Obama’s support for the Saudi coalition war on Yemen also hate Trump’s even stronger support for it. Likewise, it is no coincidence that an ignorant opponent of the JCPOA such as Mike Pompeo would be entirely on board with Trump’s appalling policies.
The Secretary of State seems to be auditioning to be the next Saudi foreign minister:
One of Mohammed bin Salman’s first acts as Saudi crown prince was an effort to root out Iran’s destabilizing influence in Yemen, where the Tehran-backed Houthi rebels seized power in 2015. Tehran is establishing a Hezbollah-like entity on the Arabian Peninsula: a militant group with political power that can hold Saudi population centers hostage, as Hezbollah’s missiles in southern Lebanon threaten Israel.
Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for initiating the disastrous intervention in Yemen, but that is the only thing about this passage that isn’t false or wildly misleading. The Houthis seized Sanaa in 2014 against the advice of the Iranian government, and the missile attacks that they have used to threaten Saudi Arabia are the direct result of the Saudi coalition’s bombardment of Yemen’s cities. Iran’s “destabilizing influence” is as nothing when compared to the catastrophic upheaval that the Saudi coalition has caused and the massive humanitarian crisis they have created, and the Saudis and their allies have done far more harm to regional security with their war than Iran could have ever done. Whining about Iran to cover for the Saudi coalition’s far greater crimes in Yemen has become a standard Trump administration diversionary tactic, but it is deeply dishonest and cynical.
Pompeo complains that “Tehran has shown no genuine interest in a diplomatic solution to the Yemen conflict,” but since they have almost nothing to do with it their interest or lack thereof is not very important. Meanwhile the U.S. has been aiding and abetting the Saudi coalition in the destruction of Yemen, Secretary Pompeo has lied to Congress on their behalf, and the Trump administration just blocked a new Security Council resolution because it displeased the war criminals in Riyadh. Pompeo’s latest apologia on behalf of Saudi Arabia is a desperate effort by the Secretary of State to discourage senators from voting for S.J.Res. 54 later this week, and it should be dismissed as the mendacious piece of propaganda that it clearly is.
Pompeo tells some more falsehoods:
The Trump administration has taken many steps to mitigate Yemen’s suffering from war, disease and famine.
This is simply untrue. The administration has done very little, and what little it has done to mitigate the suffering of the population has been greatly outweighed by its contribution to and cover for the Saudi coalition war effort. The heads of five major humanitarian organizations said as much earlier this week:
The United States is one of the most generous donors of humanitarian assistance in Yemen, but these contributions pale in comparison to the harm caused by U.S. military support and diplomatic cover to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. While the Administration has said that reaching a political settlement and relieving the humanitarian crisis in Yemen are top national security objectives, U.S. policies tell a different story. By providing such extensive military and diplomatic support for one side of the conflict, the United States is deepening and prolonging a crisis that has immediate and severe consequences for Yemen, and civilians are paying the price.
Pompeo has virtually nothing to say about Yemen’s staggering humanitarian crisis in his op-ed, and that is consistent with the administration’s indifference to the extraordinary misery that their policy of supporting the Saudi coalition has caused. He is interested in talking about the plight of Yemen’s civilian population only insofar as it lets him take cheap shots at Iran, which didn’t create the crisis and isn’t responsible for it. The Senate should ignore what Pompeo says and vote for S.J.Res. 54 to cut off all U.S. support for the Saudi coalition.