After 9/11, US officials urged Riyadh to implement reforms to root out extremism. The strange irony is that 20 years later, American policymakers have more than they asked for, with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman leading the Kingdom through a series of visibly significant and successful economic, religious and social reforms. And yet, the White House is nonetheless haranguing a strategically crucial ally in the Middle East, President Joe Biden threatening to reevaluate US-Saudi relations. “I’m not going to get into what I would consider and what I have in mind,” Biden said. “But there will be consequences.”
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It’s true that the White House was counting on Riyadh to pump oil to help hide the disastrous results of Biden’s climate agenda, which has pushed inflation to historic highs. And without that coverage, Democrats are in trouble heading into next month’s midterms. But the recent US-Saudi clash is a symptom of a much larger problem that has nothing to do with energy or even the Saudi monarchy. The party Biden leads no longer has a foreign policy. Rather, it projects its internal quarrels abroad and confronts those it sees as foreign proxies for its internal rivals.
When the progressive wing of the Democratic Party looks at Saudis, it sees Republicans, from the Bush dynasty and its advisers like Texas oil lawyer and former Secretary of State James Baker, to Donald Trump. It is in this context, and not in the past contexts of American national interests and even reformist realpolitik, that Biden’s statements and actions begin to make sense: if you do not help us against our national enemies by maintaining oil flow, then you re an enemy. Worse, says Biden, it means the longtime US ally has sided with Russia, which, due to the US spy agency’s false narrative in the media, amounts to siding with Donald Trump. .
In real terms, Biden’s accusation that Riyadh is aligned with Moscow is absurd. It was former Biden boss Barack Obama who effectively partnered with Russia during the Syrian war in the face of bitter opposition from the Gulf. The Obama-Biden team told Saudi diplomats and others who wanted Russian forces to stop bombing schools and hospitals in Syria to speak with Vladimir Putin himself. This is because Bashar al-Assad’s protection and Hezbollah’s supply lines across the Lebanese border advanced the nuclear deal with Iran, to which the Saudis, the other Gulf states and Israel have agreed. opposites. When the Syrian dictator crossed Obama’s red line and used chemical weapons, Putin stepped in to save face for the US president and take custody of Assad’s unconventional arsenal, while stepping up the bombardment of areas. Syrian civilians. So who is comfortable with Russia?
Indeed, it is clarifying to see the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) through the prism of the progressives’ war against their domestic adversaries. The goal of the deal to legalize Iran’s nuclear weapons program was to realign US interests with those of the Islamic Republic. But equally important, from the perspective of Obama-led progressives, is the fact that the JCPOA has weakened the domestic rivals that project American political power through their relationship with the states most threatened by Iran: Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia (Bush’s Republicans, and later Trump) and Israel (centrists or Clinton Democrats, as well as Republicans).
When Trump came to power, he set out to restore the traditional US-led, Sunni-power-led regional order by making Riyadh his first official foreign visit. In Trump’s version of global politics, strong relations with Saudi Arabia meant investment and therefore good jobs and a strong US economy. In other words, US-Saudi relations were good because they benefited American workers and businesses.
The strategic goal of the Trump administration’s Abraham Accords was to counter Obama’s Iran-centric project for the Middle East by harnessing the Sunni powers to Israel’s side. Obama progressives hit back: A network of Democratic operatives, intelligence officials and media outlets targeted Saudi Arabia as Trump’s proxy.
It should be noted that the same confederation of operatives, spies and progressive media that targeted the Kingdom also fabricated the story that Trump owed his presidency to Putin’s interference in the 2016 election. former framework of American foreign policy centered on the national interest, it would be almost incomprehensible that an American statesman could both destabilize the American government and risk angering a resentful Eurasian nuclear power by inserting its leader into the amid toxic domestic politics. CONTESTATION.
And yet senior Obama officials, including then-Vice President Joe Biden, pushed the Trump-Putin collusion narrative, knowing from the start that the evidence behind it had been made on order by their own agents. Because all that mattered was stopping a Republican President, they never imagined that their instruments of domestic political warfare would have consequences on the world stage.
The Biden administration’s Ukraine policy is also the product of the new parochial progressivism. There is no doubt that Russia, especially as part of a rising bloc that includes China and Iran, poses a real and direct threat to US interests. But if Biden had seriously deterred Putin, he wouldn’t have lifted sanctions on Nord Stream 2, which effectively informed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Nor would he be eager to fill Putin’s war chest with the $10 billion that will go to Russia as Iran’s nuclear boss if the US rejoins the JCPOA. Thus, it is hard to escape the perception of deep confusion at the heart of American policy-making – or the conclusion that in progressive circles much of the justification for arming Ukraine is to support the fiction that Russia is equal to Trump.
Failing to understand that the progressive faction in American politics views foreign policy primarily through the prism of domestic political warfare comes at a high cost, which has recently been paid for by America’s other major strategic partner in the Middle East. , Israel.
Israel’s current leaders have shown themselves keen to distance themselves not just from their predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, but also from Trump, whom they see as poisoning Washington’s once-familiar pro-Israel “bipartisan consensus.” So the Israeli establishment, or the part of it that rejects Netanyahu, has been eager to forge closer ties with American progressives, even if that means alienating Republican supporters. As former Israeli political adviser Shimrit Meier said, “Israel cannot be the Middle Eastern branch of the Republican Party as it has been for the past few years.” As a result, Israel has allowed itself to be drawn into a Biden-sponsored maritime border deal with Lebanon that unnecessarily raises the prestige of an Iranian-backed terrorist organization plotting its demise, Hezbollah.
According to the progressive faction of the Democratic Party, the alternatives for regional allies of the United States are clear: Either prove your loyalty to us by taking actions we deem wise, even if they are detrimental to your national interests; or defy us, which means siding with our enemies at home.
Clearly, the equation of treating foreign partners as domestic allies, or else as proxies for domestic political opponents, is toxic to sound policymaking and to traditional formulations of the American national interest. And U.S. partners who prefer to ignore this dynamic do so at their peril.
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