Home/Daniel Larison/Trump’s ‘Saudi First’ Foreign Policy

Trump’s ‘Saudi First’ Foreign Policy

Donald Trump and King Salman sign statement in Riyadh (Ninian Reed/Flickr)

Andrew Bacevich finds fault with the administration’s close relationship with the Saudis, and argues for a more balanced policy in the region:

Yet restoring even a modicum of equanimity to the Persian Gulf will be impossible if the United States consigns Iran to the status of permanent pariah. That seems to be precisely what Trump wanted to do when he reversed a tentative opening initiated by his predecessor.

For the Trump administration to join an anti-Iran cabal may find favor with MBS, not to mention the current government of Israel. Doing so will no doubt please the U.S. military-industrial complex. But it will not serve the long-term interests of the United States.

It would be far better for the U.S. to have no favorites in this part of the world. Whenever the U.S. identifies so closely with its clients and takes their side in regional rivalries, American interests are always the first to be cast aside. If the U.S. has to have an active role in the region, it should be one of balancing various states against one another and refusing to support the aggressive ambitions of any of them. Instead of doing that, the U.S. has reliably gone all in with its clients and accepted their antagonism with Iran as our own. That not only locks the U.S. into noxious and useless relationships with bad clients, but it prevents Washington from pursuing common interests with Iran when the opportunity arises.

Trump’s decisions to take the Saudi and Emirati side in regional disputes again and again over the last year and his determination to pick fights with Iran on every issue drives home just how little his foreign policy has in common with anything resembling realism or restraint. On the contrary, backing one set of rivals to the hilt against their enemies guarantees that the U.S. will continue to be mired in endless conflicts that have nothing to do with American security.

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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