Tag: Saudi Arabia

Donald Trump Created His Own Deep State

James Sweet III | @jsweetIII

Shortly before his election, President Donald J. Trump promised that he would “drain the swamp”, and he quickly went to work on that promise when he took office. Government officials from previous administrations became victims of slander. Many became forced to prove their loyalty. A conspiracy movement arose from the “threat” of the deep state, with supporters receiving promises of military tribunals and mass incarcerations. When it was time for the President to determine who would be in his inner circle, he made the wrong choices. Instead of surrounding himself with the best, Donald Trump decided to surround himself with the silent mosquitoes of the swamp who have waited for a moment like this. Most namely, he has let men like Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller take the helm of a sinking ship.

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The U.S. Should Send Nuclear Energy to Saudi Arabia

Griffen Smith | United States

The Trump administration released a statement in mid-February expressing interest in sending nuclear energy plants across the world to the Arabian Peninsula nation, Saudi Arabia. The house immediately released a 24-page document calling the pending deal a potential nuclear arms race. Many in Washington are labeling this an indirect way of giving Saudi Arabia Nuclear weapons. Some also argue we ought to cut ties to Saudi Arabia altogether. However, there are some benefits to the world from giving Saudi Arabia technology for nuclear energy.

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The Senate Strikes Back

The Senate strikes back at the Trump Administration passing a resolution requiring the withdrawal of United States troops from Yemen in the next 30 days, making an exception for those fighting ISIS. The measure passed, after failing a prior attempt in March, by a vote of 56-41 motivated by President Trump’s tepid response to the tragic killing of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The brutal assassination of the U.S.-based journalist occurred at the Saudi embassy in Turkey and was allegedly ordered by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salmon.

While we wait to see if the House will approve the measure, which will not happen till the next session, we can marinate on the importance of this move to the long-running Congressional policy of political surrender. Congress has the power, according to the War Powers Act of 1973, to remove troops from foreign theaters of conflict when those troops haven’t been deployed due to a Congressional Declaration of War.

Honestly, the War Powers Act is unnecessary as Congress has the Constitutional authority of war declaration, not the President. However, Congress often opts to delegate its authority to the President rather than take the responsibility that comes with exercising it. Why? Winning elections is harder to do when you are being held accountable for screwing up a difficult and unpopular decision. Why not just allow Presidents, who typically are more narcissistic and willing to stand alone, to endure that hostility while Congress hides in the bunker.

The Senate’s move raises three intriguing questions concerning the balance of power in Washington. Perhaps Congress is ready to re-assert its equal role in war powers. Congress has been gun-shy since getting burned in the second Iraq War under President George W Bush and has abdicated its role as a check on executive power when it comes military decisions.

First question: Does this move signal the end of U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in its proxy war with Iran in Yemen?

This catastrophic conflict has left tens of thousands of dead and the region reeling with disease and on the brink of famine. In other words, as with most of our international interventions, a humanitarian crisis is unfolding with dire consequences for the region that will require more resources to salve. Most of our citizens are unaware of the ongoing human tragedy in Yemen. Maybe this moves helps us become more aware so that public sentiment can turn enough to get us out of this conflict.

Second question: Will Congress finally exhibit the imperative backbone to stand up to the President when it comes to how our military is used globally?

Our Constitution didn’t leave Congress powerless in matters of international conflict, but Congress has surrendered that authority and allowed the unbalance in D.C. that has led to an endless state of military conflict. Whether it was President Bush’s interventions that left a power vacuum in Iraq that led to ISIS or President Barack Obama drone-bombing weddings, Congress has sat on the sidelines in refusal to check this unmitigated war power that is a major contributor to our growing national debt. Most polls show Congressional approval around 10% and Congress exhibits minimal desire to chance that elevated standing with the voters. Especially when action could re-engage on military issues that could wind up unpopular or even wrong.

I believe that we’re witnessing is a limited political shot across the bow on the Saudi issue. President Trump’s style of governance has in many cases divested Congress of any say on matters of international importance. Many members of Congress, including some on the Republican side, have called for sanctions against Saudi Arabia. President Trump is opposing them, citing a pending weapons deal as the basis for his refusal to punish the Kingdom for Kashoggi’s murder.

This isn’t the first time that President Trump has been obstinate in the face of Congressional sanctions. Following the revelations concerning Russian tampering in the 2016 Election, Congress imposed sanctions on Russia. President Trump dragged his feet and refused to impose them in the timing and manner that many in Congress wanted. The Senate appears to have decided to use this issue as a rebuke of President Trump and a warning that he needs to stop ignoring Congressional opinion when it comes to international sanctions.

Third question: Will Congressional Republicans see this as an initial salvo in their effort to rescue the GOP from the hands of President Trump and his base?

Many in the GOP still see President Trump as an interloper and temporary threat to the future of the party. Several retired from the body rather than run again in the Trump-era in 2018. As of this point, they’ve been practically impotent in exerting any power against Trumpian policies they oppose. However, will the losses in Congress by the GOP in 2018 begin an erosion of unconditional support for the President among his own party? While I think this is a single-issue battle, some may be galvanized in their resolve to resist backing less popular portions of President Trump’s agenda.

In the next few months, we will watch how this narrative develops. The House will not vote on this measure until the new Congress is seated. With Democrats looking to strike an early blow of power assertion against the President, I believe it will pass. If President Trump vetoes, as he has indicated, Congress will again be left in the same spot it once was in overriding President Richard Nixon’s veto to pass the War Powers Act.

Then we will see if Congressional Republicans have re-discovered the rigidity with which they opposed President Obama and are ready to fight to balance power in DC, or if they will scurry back to their cubbyholes and acquiesce their Constitutional authority to the will of President Trump.


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It’s Time the United States End its Saudi Arabian Alliance

Shiam Kannan | United States

The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is only one more entry in a long list of human rights abuses by the Saudi Arabian Government, which also includes their suppression of religious freedom, sponsorship of terrorism, and complicity in the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen. However, Khashoggi’s murder is significant because it has brought mass attention to Saudi Arabia’s actions, and has given the United States a window through which to exit its relationship with them. Now is the time to utilize this window and end our partnership with the Saudis. Due to the Saudi Government’s involvement in some of the most abhorrent human rights violations present in the modern era, it is imperative that the United States terminate its friendship with Saudi Arabia if it wants to remain a nation looked up to by the rest of the free world.

Unfortunately, President Trump has refused to censure the Saudi government for its actions and has seemingly taken it for its word that the Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, had nothing to do with the assassination, despite the fact that the CIA has concluded that Salman had indeed ordered the killing. Essentially, Trump’s utilitarian view on foreign affairs has led to his favoring a foreign regime over our own intelligence agencies. President Trump’s cozying up to Saudi Royalty merely punctuates his view of foreign relations as business deals, rather than interactions with moral implications.

However, regardless of the Khashoggi assassination, there are many, many, other reasons why America ought to terminate its alliance with the Saudis, not least of which is the Yemeni Civil War. Over half of all the civilian deaths in Yemen have been due to Saudi airstrikes, and a recent UN report has concluded that the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has been responsible for recruiting child soldiers, some as young as 8 years old, and even raping civilians. Saudi Arabia indiscriminately conducts bombings throughout Yemen, which have hit targets such as hospitals, funerals, and even refugee camps. And worst of all, Yemen is on its way to experiencing the “world’s worst famine in 100 years” if the Civil War continues. Saudi Arabia, in coordination with the US, is engaging in a blockade of food and supplies to Yemeni civilians. Approximately 12 to 13 million people are at risk of famine in Yemen right now, which could begin as soon as 2 to 3 months from now if the war does not end.

The airstrikes in Yemen are, for the most part, conducted using weapons purchased from the United States. Indeed, Saudi Arabia is America’s number one arms customer, as they give the US billions of dollars in exchange for laser-guided missiles and other destructive technologies. American-made bombs utilized by the Saudis have led to the deaths of many innocent people in Yemen, such as the 40 students on a school bus in Yemen which was bombed by the Saudis earlier this year. Essentially, this means that by selling the Saudis the weapons they want, which they subsequently use to murder Yemeni civilians, the US is just as complicit in their slaughter as the Saudi pilots dropping the armaments. The blood is not merely on Mohammed Bin Salman’s hands, but America’s as well unless it stops providing the Saudi Government with the tools they seek to massacre civilians in Yemen.

Despite all this, then, why is Trump so ardently supportive of the Saudis? One claim he frequently makes is that arms sales to Saudi Arabia boost American jobs in the defense industry. However the American private defense industry, which only accounts for 0.5% of the American labor force, does not rely on Saudi money; rather, its main client is the American military. Only approximately 8,000 workers in the United States make bombs, including the ones sold to Saudi Arabia, and it does not seem like their jobs are dependent on Saudi sales. Nonetheless, even if arms sales to Saudi Arabia are economically beneficial, the benefits are not worth the lives of innocent women and children on America’s conscience.

Another explanation for Trump’s warm relationship with Mohammed Bin Salman is merely the reason why America has been a Saudi ally for over 80 years: oil. Saudi Arabia has a great influence on global oil prices and thus is of great significance to American foreign policy and the US economy. But our addiction to foreign oil has clouded our moral judgment. Khashoggi’s murder should spark a moment of self-reflection at the very least: we should ask ourselves if cheaper gasoline is truly worth the betrayal of every single one of the values we seemingly espouse. We should ask ourselves if cheaper gasoline is worth the assassination of a journalist for exercising his right to a free press. We should ask ourselves if cheaper gasoline is worth the 7,000 civilians killed in Yemen since 2015. And if we reflect deeply enough, we should all be able to realize that the answer is “no.”

America has been regarded as the leader of the free world for the last century for only one reason: our values of liberty, equality, and democracy make us uniquely morally qualified to lead. We cannot maintain this moral authority so long as we remain allies with a government which openly and brazenly shows contempt for the very ideals we stand for. America’s soul should not be sold in exchange for cheap oil. Our ideals are worth more than the extra dollar at the pump, or the extra workers employed at Lockheed Martin. It’s time that we sent a loud-and-clear message to the Saudi Government that its egregious assaults on human rights, dignity, and equality will not be tolerated by the United States. Khashoggi’s murder has given us the perfect opportunity to end this relationship. It is now up to the President and Congress to do it. Let us all hope they make the moral choice.


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US Senators: ‘No Doubt’ Crown Prince Involved in Khashoggi Killing

Eric Villarreal | United States

On Tuesday, in a closed-door meeting between the Central Intelligence Agency and top United States Senators, CIA Director Gina Haspel revealed new information that confirms the view of many US politicians who have long held that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been a close ally of President Trump, stated: “I went into the briefing believing it was virtually impossible for an operation like this to be carried out without the crown prince’s knowledge, I left the briefing with high confidence that my initial assessment of the situation was correct.” Graham further went on to say “Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally and the relationship is worth saving, but not at all costs”.

Graham then went on to say that the US would do more damage to its standing in the world and national security by ignoring the crown prince than by dealing with him. Graham added that he believes that the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia is at risk if Mohammed bin Salman remains as the heir apparent, implying that if there is not a shake-up in the Saudi government the alliance between the House of Saud and the United States could be coming to an end. Graham would not specify what evidence was presented but he did state that  “You can be assured it was thorough and the evidence is overwhelming.”

Senator Bob Corker who has been an outspoken Republican critic of the President echoed the statements from Graham stating there is no doubt that the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered, monitored, and planned the killing later adding “If he was in front of a jury he would be convicted in 30 minutes. “

All of these statements stand in stark contrast to the briefing last week from Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in which they stated that none of the intelligence suggested a direct connection between the Saudi Crown Prince and the order to kill Jamal Khashoggi. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have long criticized President Trump for his ambivalence towards information from the CIA. Trump has stated that he believes the strategic relationship and weapons sales between the two countries are too valuable to put into jeopardy.

Senators Lindsey Graham(R-SC) and Bob Menendez(D-NJ) are the co-authors of a bill which would halt all weapons sales to Saudi Arabia as well as impose economic sanctions. It remains a possibility that this bill could be attached to the so-called the Yemen Resolution put forward by Bernie Sanders(I-VT) and Mike Lee(R-UT) which would end US support for the Saudi led fight against Houthi Rebels in Yemen. Members of Congress seem to have high hopes but with such a short time left in this session, it’s uncertain if they will be able to gain the support necessary to pass the resolution.


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