With Allies Like These, Who Needs Enemies?
Saudi Arabia and Israel violate international law, endanger Americans, and have links to Al-Qaeda. So why are they American allies?
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In Solidarity — Joe
One of the most important lessons a young person can learn is that there is a difference between “friends” and “drinking buddies.” Friends are the people who generally care about you and will act in your best interest. Drinking buddies are people who share your social circle, and though they’re fun to go bar-hopping with, that’s as deep as the relationship will ever go. It’s fine to have drinking buddies, but you shouldn’t mistake them for friends. If you do, when the time comes when you need a real friend to help you out, you’ll be left high and dry.
The same goes for a nation and its allies.
The word “ally” has strong connotations in the United States, as it invokes the memory of the coalition that defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II. Today the term is used to describe nations that cooperate with American foreign policy goals, usually the North Atlantic-European nations of Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, and the Middle Eastern nations of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and Israel.
Much like it’s important to recognize which members of your social circle you can turn to in a time of need, the United States needs to identify which of these geopolitical relationships are actual allies — the countries that will benefit the American public — and which are not. Unfortunately, America’s bipartisan foreign policy establishment clings to decade-old beliefs about which nations are our “allies,” ignoring the drastic harm these nations do to Americans and non-Americans alike. This blind loyalty is most harmful when it comes to America’s two most controversial allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Back in September, I laid out the case for Saudi Arabia’s likely responsibility in the 9/11 attacks. I encourage you to read it to understand the full argument, but the gist of it is that FBI investigators found established links between the hijackers and the Saudi government, only for the investigations to be squashed by presidents of both parties.
“The circumstantial evidence (of Saudi involvement in 9/11) has mounted. Given the lapse of time, I don’t know any reason why the truth should be kept from the American people.” — Richard Lambert, lead FBI investigator into the September 11th attacks
But even if we ignore their role in 9/11, there are plenty of other actions taken by the Saudi government that warrant a severing of American support. For over eight years Saudi Arabia has waged war in Yemen against the Houthi rebels. While the Yemen Civil War began before the Saudis entered in 2015, the Kingdom has escalated the violence with its state-of-the-art air power, supplied by the United States and the United Kingdom. According to the Yemen Data Project, the Saudi-led Coalition has launched over 25,054 aerial bombardments in Yemen, of which only 32% were against identified military targets. At least 28% of the targets were “clearly identified as civilian locations,” and the remainder could not be identified. Over 377,000 people have died due to the conflict, but less than half the casualties were from actual combat. The vast majority of lost life has come from the famine caused largely by Saudi Arabia’s blockade of Yemen and the bombing of agricultural regions and water purification sites.
This state of affairs (in Yemen) is not an arbitrary consequence of war. It is the direct result of how the conflict has been prosecuted by warring parties: with utter disregard for international law and humanitarian norms. — Mwatana for Human Rights.
In addition to their large-scale atrocities, the Saudi Kingdom has committed more controlled offenses against the United States, such as the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Under orders from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Khashoggi was lured to the Saudi embassy in Istanbul where a Saudi death squad killed and dismembered him. These are only a few examples of Saudi Arabia’s detestable behavior, the rest of which would take a book to detail.
Then, of course, there is Israel. As “America’s closest ally in the Middle East,” Israel has enjoyed generations of unwavering support from the United States, despite its atrocious human rights record and partnership with vile groups. While Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians is well known, what is less discussed is how Israel has aided Al-Nusrah Front, the Al-Qaeda affiliate that aims to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Asad. (The group also has links to ISIS, which claims credit for its founding.) Al-Nusrah’s stated goal of toppling al-Asad creates unlikely bedfellows between it and Israel, as Israel has illegally occupied Syria’s Golan Heights since 1967. Though there is technically a ceasefire between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights, their militaries repeatedly clash in the contested area.