Trump enables arms sales to Saudi dictatorship while saber-rattling against Iran

Trump and Saudi Crown Prince
Peter Bolton

The last few months have seen US aggression toward Iran creep dangerously close to war. Washington’s propaganda line is generally that Iran is the major aggressor in the Middle East. But amid this saber-rattling, Donald Trump has just given the latest in a long line of free passes to what is perhaps the region’s biggest villain.

Free pass to Saudi Arabia, yet again

On 24 July, Trump announced a veto over resolutions passed in the Senate to block weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. He said:

This resolution would weaken America’s global competitiveness and damage the important relationships we share with our allies and partners

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This is revealing on several levels. He is essentially admitting that Washington’s relationship with Saudi Arabia – and by extension that with all other countries – is predicated on advancing US economic interests, rather than the reasons it gives for its hostility toward Iran and other enemies on the world stage. After all, pretty much all of these factors apply just as much – if not more so – to Saudi Arabia.

In short, Trump yet again revealed the hypocrisy of US posturing on human rights.

Who are the real ‘terrorists’?

For instance, the Trump administration claims that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. The ‘terrorist’ status of some of the groups Iran supports, however, is itself highly dubious. Hezbollah, for instance, is a political party that is part of a coalition that makes up the Lebanese government. And many of its armed activities against Israel in the past have been a defensive resistance to Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanese territory.

Washington’s list of allies, meanwhile, reads like a who’s who of terrorism. And the Saudi dictatorship has itself fuelled and engaged in numerous acts of terrorism. As part of its brutal war on Yemen, for example, it has on multiple occasions attacked civilian targets. In August 2018, for example, Saudi-led forces dropped a bomb on a school bus, killing 40 children and 11 adults. During the same month, another attack killed at least 20 people who were attending a wedding.

Not only has the Trump administration never issued any punitive measure or even condemned the Saudi leadership for these atrocities, but it has actually been providing Saudi Arabia with generous funding and selling its military weapons – as did the Obama administration before it. And this latest measure passed by congress that Trump just vetoed is exactly the kind of measure that would have prevented US arms getting into the hands of the Saudi military – possibly preventing such massacres in the future.

The true motivation for US hostility

For the Trump administration – like those that came before it – the sole criteria for how to treat a country is the extent to which it serves US economic interests. Trump actually spelled this out himself last year when he said:

The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.

He then added:

last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money… Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors.

Being the capitalist shyster that he is, this is naturally what Trump values. Things like concern for human wellbeing or even basic evenhandedness in public policy clearly don’t even feature into the equation.

Hypocritical aggression towards Iran

When it comes to countries that don’t serve US economic interests, however, such sentiments about human rights are cynically invoked as justification to single them out for aggression and regime change. At present, for example, we hear to no end about how terrible Iran is. And indeed, the Iranian government is no role model for any progressive. But as Noam Chomsky previously pointed out:

In comparison with Saudi Arabia, Iran looks like a civil rights paradise.

And whereas Saudi Arabia and fellow US allies Israel and Turkey seemingly never stop attacking neighboring states, as Richard Falk and Juan Cole have consistently pointed out, Iran has never launched a war of aggression in its modern history.

While Trump portrayed himself as an isolationist and opponent of senseless war during his campaign for the presidency, he has proven himself to be every bit as committed to traditional US foreign policy stances – and the cynical, hypocritical posturing used to sell them to the public – as any of his predecessors.

Featured image via screenshot

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