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Spinning the Saudi Menace

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shakes hands with then- Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, May 20, 2017, at the Royal Court Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo Shealah Craighead)

James Stavridis wrote a predictably hawkish column calling for U.S.-Israeli cooperation against Iran, but I was most struck by this sentence about the Saudis:

With a dynamic young leader in Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the kingdom is assertively acting in Yemen and Syria, exerting influence in Lebanon, and generally confronting Iran from the Arabian Gulf to the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Saudis could hardly ask for more obsequious and dishonest spin than this. Instead of accurately describing the crown prince as the bungling incompetent that he has proven himself to be in foreign policy, he is praised as “dynamic” despite failing to achieve any of his goals abroad. Stavridis whitewashes the destabilizing and destructive role the Saudis have had in both Yemen and Syria, fails to mention that they are “exerting influence in Lebanon” by detaining its prime minister in an inept, unsuccessful bid to manipulate the country’s politics, and even renames the Persian Gulf to cater to their preferences. Needless to say, if Iran were causing the worst famine in decades and creating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, Stavridis would not be lauding them for “assertively acting” in the country affected by their disastrous policies. He does so for the Saudis without any qualification. It is telling that leading Iran hawks cannot honestly describe what the Saudis are doing in the region. If they did, they would not be able to justify those actions or the close U.S. relationship with Riyadh that helps make their menacing behavior possible.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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