Home/Daniel Larison/The Saudis Are a Liability to the U.S.

The Saudis Are a Liability to the U.S.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis meets with Saudi Arabia’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz at the Pentagon in Washington D.C., 2018. (DoD photo by Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kathryn E. Holm)

Outgoing U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley unwittingly summed up the stupidity of the Trump administration’s embrace of Saudi Arabia in a recent interview:

What I can tell you that’s so important is that the Saudis have been our partner in defeating and dealing with Iran. And that has been hugely important.

While Haley is certain that it is important, there is no evidence that what she claims is true. The Saudis have not been “our partner in defeating and dealing with Iran.” The Saudis have been very effective in playing into the hands of Iran, driving other countries closer to Iran, and generally making a mess of everything they have tried to do. Haley is simply reciting talking points as always, but it is striking how vapid those talking points still are after all this time. If “defeating and dealing with Iran” is so important to you, you should be livid with the incompetence and ineffectiveness of the Saudi government. The fact that the Trump administration keeps making excuses for the Saudis and covers for their crimes just shows how inept and hopelessly out of their depth they are as well.

Iran hawks have an uncanny ability to support policies that end up strengthening Iranian influence in the region in misguided attempts to hurt them. We all know they backed the invasion of Iraq, which was by far the greatest boon to the Iranian government that anyone has done in a long time, but they have also consistently endorsed confrontational and hard-line policies that end up backfiring and helping Iran from Lebanon to Yemen to Qatar. Iran has gained more thanks to the stupidity and arrogance of its self-professed enemies than it could have ever achieved on its own. Mohammed bin Salman and his government have been worse than useless when it comes to “defeating and dealing with Iran,” but Iran hawks couldn’t be more pleased with both the crown prince and the Saudi government. The Trump administration is still mindlessly devoted to a Saudi relationship that doesn’t even live up to its supposed importance as a “bulwark” against Iran, and it seems that nothing is going to change their position.

All of this is a timely reminder that the U.S.-Saudi relationship is not nearly as important or valuable to the U.S. as its apologists claim, and the Saudi government is little more than a liability.

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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