Trump’s “Standing with Saudi Arabia” statement earlier today combined most of what is wrong with the president’s conduct of foreign policy and some of the biggest flaws of U.S. foreign policy in general. It was a mish-mash of discredited pro-Saudi talking points that Trump and other administration officials have been using for the last two years, and it suffered from the extreme distorting effects of this administration’s Iran obsession. Trump’s statement put the president’s ignorance and dishonesty fully on display, and it continued his disreputable habit of echoing the propaganda lines of an ugly, abusive regime that he values primarily because it has flattered him in the past and because he thinks it has paid or will pay the U.S. lots of money.
In one of the more disgusting sections, the president dredged up claims used to smear the murdered Jamal Khashoggi, and then played dumb as to who was responsible for the murder. Referring to Mohammed bin Salman’s culpability, Trump pretended not to know: “Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.” Unfortunately, the real message from the president was that it made no difference to Trump if the crown prince was guilty or not. Just as the crown prince’s war crimes in Yemen haven’t mattered to Trump, the brutal assassination of a U.S. resident on the crown prince’s orders also doesn’t matter to him. Just show him the money and he will be satisfied.
This is hardly the first time that the president’s hostility to Iran has defined U.S. policies in the region, but the statement emphasized that hostility by putting it right at the beginning so that no one could miss it. The implication of Trump’s words was that the threat from Iran is so grave and significant that any and all Saudi crimes will be overlooked or forgiven, and furthermore Iran is to blame for everything that goes wrong anywhere in the region. Like pretty much everything else in the statement, none of this is true. The statement showed the extent to which Trump’s Persophobia and Saudi First instincts have driven him to become little more than a mouthpiece for the kingdom. The only question left is whether he is being paid for his work or offers his services for free.
There are no good reasons for the U.S. to “stand” with Saudi Arabia when that means offering them unconditional, mindless support as Trump does, and doing so certainly has nothing to do with putting American interests first.