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The Reckless Saudis Want to Start Another War

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman believed to have ordered Khashoggi murder (Al Arabiya screenshot)

Bruce Riedel reports that the Saudi government is agitating for a U.S. attack on Iran, and the crown prince is the leading supporter of a new war:

Saudi Arabia is eager for the United States to take military action against Iran in the expectation that it will lead to regime change in Tehran. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is the leading hawk, has a disastrous track record in military affairs. The Saudis have called for an Arab summit in Mecca on May 30 to rally support against Iran.

The Saudi government-controlled and -directed press is openly pushing for “surgical strikes” by the United States against targets in Iran.

Mohammed bin Salman has appalling judgment and a terrible track record, so it comes as no surprise that he thinks having the U.S. start a war with Iran is a good idea. Bogged down in a disastrous war of his own making in Yemen, he would have the U.S. set the entire region aflame with more reckless military intervention. The Trump administration should obviously ignore Saudi calls for war, but given the president’s history of doing Riyadh’s bidding there is no guarantee that a concerted push from regional clients won’t have the desired effect. Saudi support for attacking Iran is the latest example of their government’s destructive and destabilizing role in the region, and it is another reminder that the crown prince is reckless and incapable of learning any of the right lessons from his previous failures. With any luck, the anti-Iranian summit later this month will be as much of a flop as the Trump administration’s failed gathering in Warsaw.

If the Saudi government really thinks that attacking Iran will trigger regime change, their leaders are even more clueless than we thought. Governments are not brought down by a few “surgical strikes.” Even when there is a significant internal rebellion against a government, it takes a sustained air campaign to inflict enough damage to collapse the existing regime. Iran’s government withstood eight years of grinding warfare against Iraq in the 1980s, and a foreign attack would be just the thing that this regime needs to revive itself. In the meantime, Iran and its allies wouldn’t simply sit back and absorb attacks, but would respond in kind. The Saudi government’s heedless foreign policy has already exposed their country to attacks from Yemen in retaliation for the ongoing indiscriminate bombing campaign that has killed thousands of civilians, and they are putting their country at even greater risk by trying to goad the U.S. into starting a war with Iran.

Riedel goes on to say that the crown prince wants the war in the hopes of distracting attention from the disaster in Yemen and his other crimes:

The prince wants public and congressional attention to focus on Iran instead.

The U.S. made a horrible mistake when it sided with the Saudi coalition in Yemen four years ago, and it would be another horrible mistake to let the Saudis use Iran to distract us from the consequences of their monstrous war. The U.S. has enabled Saudi war crimes for years, and now their leaders want to get us to fight another one of their wars for them. This is just one more reason why the U.S. should cut off all military assistance and support for the Saudis and their allies, and it is why the U.S. should be distancing itself from the Saudis as quickly as 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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