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"Statement from President Donald J Trump on Standing with Saudi Arabia" - the title of the White House release leaves little doubt about where he comes down on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
With the US Central Intelligence Agency reportedly poised to conclude that senior members of the Saudi Arabian government were responsible for Khashoggi's death, Mr Trump's move could be viewed as an attempt to pre-empt that finding and clearly indicate that a strong US-Saudi alliance will continue undeterred.
Each section of the exclamation-point-filled presidential statement (full transcript at foot of page) merits closer inspection.
The world is a very dangerous place!
Say what you want, the president knows how to write a good opening. In two lines, he offers a distillation of his foreign policy priorities - contrasting the supremacy of American interests with a dismal view of the rest of the world, where bad things often happen beyond US control.
Iran states openly, and with great force, "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel!" Iran is considered "the world's leading sponsor of terror".
Mr Trump very quickly pivots in his statement to talking about Iran and the destabilising role he says the nation plays in the region. They are the ones who denounce the US in the harshest of terms; they are the ones who have killed "many Americans and other innocent people"; they are the ones who have supported Syria's Bashar Assad kill his own citizens.
All this is the president's initial effort to set up a stark contrast with Saudi Arabia and put the death of one man - Khashoggi - up against the deaths of thousands.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance.
The Saudis have come under intense criticism for their involvement in the Yemeni civil war, including aerial bombardment that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians. After condemning Iran, Mr Trump absolves the Saudis of responsibility for the humanitarian crisis that has ensued.
After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States.
One of the central tenets of Mr Trump's "America first" foreign policy is that the US has paid an economic price by having been taken advantage of by the rest of the world. In this next paragraph, the president gets to the nuts and bolts of why he views close relations with the Saudis not just as an issue of national security but of domestic prosperity, as well.
The numbers he offers, however, don't hold up.
While Mr Trump has cited the $450bn in total investment in the past but has never provided an accounting of where it comes from - and, in fact, there was no mention of that number during his May 2017 trip to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis did agree to $110bn in military spending, although that's a combination of $14.5bn in previously announced purchases and promises of future orders that have yet to materialise.
The Saudis could turn to China or Russia instead, but phantom purchases to either of them are worth as much as they are to the US.
Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an "enemy of the state" and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that - this is an unacceptable and horrible crime.
After contrasting Iran's malevolence with Saudi Arabia's noble intentions, and laying out what he sees as the economic and security benefits of US-Saudi relations, Mr Trump finally turns to the details of Khashoggi's murder, which he describes as a "terrible" and "horrible" crime.
He says 17 Saudis are known to have been responsible, and they have been sanctioned, but after that he draws the line.
In a remarkable passage, he notes that the Saudis viewed Khashoggi as an "enemy of the state" and (erroneously) as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. While he says that didn't influence his decision, he also doesn't refute them - and the mere mention of these accusations directed against a permanent resident of the US by the president lends them some credence.
Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event - maybe he did and maybe he didn't!
Here we get to the heart of Mr Trump's statement supporting Saudi Arabia. Maybe Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder, maybe he didn't. Despite what Americans may hear in the coming days from the CIA, we may never know all the facts!
It is, needless to say, extremely rare for a president to undercut his own intelligence community in such a dramatic way. Of course, Mr Trump has now done so on a number of occasions.
In the end, he says, the US relationship with Saudi Arabia has to remain strong. The needs of the nation, in effect, outweigh the consequences of a crime against one man, however horrible.
Such a view has prompted a fierce response from some in the US.
Fred Ryan, publisher of the Washington Post, which employed Khashoggi as a columnist, called the statement "a betrayal of long-established American values of respect for human rights and the expectation of trust and honesty in our strategic relationships".
I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America.
Mr Trump closes with what can be called the Trump Doctrine - that in a dangerous world, perceived humanitarian concerns must take a back seat to US economic and military security.
Congress, he says, may want to go "in a different direction" - much as it did by imposing additional sanctions on Russia against the president's wishes in 2017. Mr Trump, however, sets very clear parameters for the kinds of measures he will "consider".
The idea of prioritising pragmatic national interests - realpolitik, in the term coined by Ludwig von Rochau - is nothing new in US foreign policy, of course. From Richard Nixon's China diplomacy to George HW Bush's Gulf War, international relations is frequently an exercise in hard, often unpleasant choices.
Rarely, however, are the cold calculations laid out as bluntly as Mr Trump has done time and time again with his "America First" foreign policy.
Part of this may be a reaction to the rhetoric of idealism employed by two of his recent predecessors, George W Bush and Barack Obama. It may also be a reflection of the directness of Mr Trump the man.
Whatever the explanation, the cloak of idealism and morality has been cast aside.
Here is the White House statement in full.
The world is a very dangerous place!
The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq's fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel!" Iran is considered "the world's leading sponsor of terror."
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism.
After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. 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. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries - and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!
The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone. Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder. After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.
Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an "enemy of the state" and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that - this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event - maybe he did and maybe he didn't!
That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. 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. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!
I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction - and they are free to do so. I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America. After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels - so important for the world. As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First! https://www.bbc.com/news/46283695
Gilbert Achcar dialogues with Stephen R. Shalom in Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy (2007) discuss Saudi and American duplicity. Achcar declares that in the case of Islamic fundamentalism, by any criterion one want to use, it's obvious that by far the most fundamentalist Islamic state on earth is the Saudi Kingdom. And yet, the country that the United States vilifies as fanatically religious is Iran, whereas the Saudi dynasty are “our friends.” And courted friends, at that.
Shalom asks, “What are the origins of Saudi fundamentalism?” Achcar replies that Saudi fundamentalism is an outgrowth of the alliance between an eighteenth-century Islamic preacher, Muhammad bin Abdel-Wahhab (a very fundamentalist preacher, whose name is used to label the Saudi brand of Islamic fundamentalism, “Whahhabism”), and Muhammad bin Saud, the head of a tribe that became the Saudi ruling dynasty.
This Saudi tribe conquered the major chunk of the Arabian Peninsula that was turned into the Saudi kingdom in the early 1930s. Since then, the Saudi kingdom has been based on a compromise between the ruling dynasty—to an important part of which one could apply what Noam Chomsky said about people like Bill Clinton, namely the skepticism about the sincerity of any religious belief they pretend to have—and the religious “Whahhabi” establishment.
The Saudi kingdom has always rested on these two pillars. And the United States has very consciously fostered and supported this combination as an excellent formula for the stability of this very, very important piece of real estate for the United States.
One cannot exaggerate the degree of supervision and control that the United States exerts on the Saudi kingdom. Washington wants the Saudi family to enforce only cosmetic changes, socially and educationally, simply in order to save face after having come under assault because the contradiction between its tight links with the Saudis and it pretension that it is democratizing the Middle East—a pretension that has become the main ideological pretext of its war drive in the region, after the collapse of the “weapons of mass destruction” fable.
The Saudi kingdom is a fairly backward society that has ossified into a tribal structure and is subject to very obscurantist religious fundamentalist control. That's something that the United States would not like to change, really, because doing so would introduce intolerable uncertainty or unpredictability regarding the future of that country.
Progressive Forces Within the Saudi Kingdom
9/11 had to do with progressive forces within the Saudi kingdom. Achcar explains that when you suppress all kinds of ideological expressions but one, then nature abhorring a vacuum, this one will be used as the main channel. The irony is that the phenomenon that led to Islamic fundamentalism becoming the main channel for popular resentment in the Middle East over the last few decades applies even to the Saudi kingdom, where resentment against the monarch has taken the form of Islamic fundamentalism.
Anti-House of Saud fundamentalists, like bin Laden himself, condemn the ruling dynasty for being hypocrites, allied with morally corrupt state, an enemy of Islam: the United States. The two major rebellions against the Saudi monarchy in recent history have been the 1979 insurrection in Mecca, which was led by a fundamentalist, and then al-Qaeda.
Class and Caste in Saudi Arabia
Achcar posits that the Saudi bourgeoisie is very much under state control and very much intermingled with the dynasty for the sake of its business. You have there thousands of princes and princesses of the ruling family, and a big business layer associated with them and making such huge profits out of the exploitation of the oil income that it is definitely not interested in taking the risk of removing the monarchy—if ever that were possible in any case Osama bin Laden's family is a good case in point, [as were those imprisoned in the hotel under order from MBS in 2018].
But al-Qaeda rank and file in the Saudi kingdom are certainly not bin Ladens in that they are definitely not the sons of wealthy families. Most of them are people from relatively downtrodden segments of Saudi society. And here we have the same phenomenon at play as elsewhere: there is a massive, socially rooted resentment against the monarch and against the sponsor of the monarchy—that is, the United States.
And it takes the form of Islamic fundamentalism as the only kind of ideological channel that is open to these people—even culturally speaking: Their education system is so heavily religious that, except for wealthy people who pay for their kids to get a different kind of education by sending them abroad, or those selected by the system to get a scholarship for pursuing their studies abroad (a few thousand altogether), all the rest are prisoners of that ideological framework.
The Kingdom of Totalitarianism
In the Saudi Kingdom, people risk their lives or physical integrity for things that you would consider as trivial. It's a country where you have special police whipping people found in the street at the time of prayer. It's a society under total control; it's difficult to imagine worse than that. And that is a major ally of the United States and the single Muslim state that is counted by all the Western states, because of its oil wealth.
The United States knows that this very oppressive structure is the only guarantee that exists for the stability of the Saudi kingdom, and it also guarantees that the kingdom needs U.S. Protection. The United States is the Lord Protector, the overlord of the Saudi kingdom, which in turn is a “protected kingdom,” as in medieval history, and has been so from its inception in the sense that it built relations with the United States almost from the start, to counter Britain and then the Soviet Union, or whichever threat it faced. And Achcar thinks that Western public opinion, U.S. Public opinion in particular, remains in a state of ignorance about that.
People don't realize who the staunchest ally of the United States in the Middle East really is and what it means. And whenever there is some critical attention being paid to the Saudis, it is for a rather dubious agenda, as is the case with the criticism by some of the neocons another supporters of Israel, as part of the Saudi-Israel competition in the United States, [soon canceled with the partnership between Sheldon Adelson and Donald J. Trump].
AMERICAN RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM
White Protestant Evangelicals support Trump, as they had George W. Bush because they are preparing for His Parousia, the Second Coming of Christ. There is an insidious relationship between White Evangelical Zionists and Israeli leadership in that they are supporting Palestinian ethnic cleansing and well as Jewish erasure which is part-and-parcel of the premise of Armageddon.
My post is not antisemitism, but historical truth. Noam Chomsky and Gilbert Achcar can attest to this in Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy (2007). American neoconservative/Zionists convinced Prime Minister Netanyahu that he need not respect any Land for Peace deal offered from Washington; all he and they had to do is wait for a Darius, Bush in 2000, and now Trump in 2017, in the White House who would issue orders to “flatten” Israel's enemies: Lebanon, Libya, Syria, and Iran.
James Moore and Wayne Slater in The Architect: Karl Rove and The Master Plan For Absolute Power (2006) state that the Bush II administration was packed with “Israel-firsters.” Moore and Slater declare that before he had even launched George W. Bush's first Texas gubernatorial campaign, Karl Rove was determined to change the political dynamics of Jewish voters and donors. Historically, they'd been a Democratic Party resource, and both theology and progressive politics had been at odds with the Christian and conservative Republican Party.
When Bush had let slip his awkward comment as Texas governor that Jews were not going to heaven, he had expressed a belief deeply had by fundamentalist Christians, and they were drawn to Bush's political potential and his faith. Whether Bush's analysis of Judaism and the hereafter was by design or a stumble of his famously awkward tongue, it had served to gain the notice of the GOP Christian base, which had been un-enthused about his father's presidency.
Karl Rove, along with Ralph Reed quietly began to repair damage to Bush within the Jewish community. As improbable as the political alliance might be between Jews and fundamentalist Christians, Rove appears to have been intimately involved in engineering its creation and has consequently given it great influence.
Rove had Bush send letters to American Jewish leadership, conduct meetings and phone calls, and deliver the consistent message that Israel would have no better friend than George W. Bush. This pre-presidential campaign rose to broader public awareness when Bush took a trip to Israel as governor and visited a number of holy sites.
George Bush kept his promise to Israel, and Jews in the United States responded with an increase in votes and Republican campaign contributions. Private White House dinners with Karl Rove and about twenty of the country's prominent Jewish leaders prior to the reelection campaign secured a deep commitment to Israel by Bush.
The president had already filled his administration with appointees whose political convictions regarding Israel were so strong that they were, at a minimum, accused of having “dual loyalties” and, in the worst case were described as “Israel-firsters.”
These “firsters,” including Cheney himself were selected from the roll-call of the Project For A New American Century (PNAC) headed by William Kristol and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). As each Neocon faded or was banished from political life, he was folded into the warm embrace of the AEI as “scholars.”
The most influential of the Bush choices were Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and Douglas Feith, while Vice President Dick Cheney turned to I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, John Hannah, and David Wurmser, all of whom had exhibited a predisposition to favor Israel in policy and decision making processes, [thereby ignoring any Palestinian interests].
Wurmser, who became Mideast adviser to the vice president as the war was unfolding in 2003, might be the most ideologically aggressive in the group [of Neocons]. Along with his wife, Meyrav, and Perle and Faith, Wurmser had coauthored a 1996 paper for [then] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
[War 2003 eventually led to an almost two decade unwinnable war in Afghanistan because the US military was transferred to the Invasion of Iraq—and fighting was left to Afghan War Lords recommended by Iran.]
“A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” called upon Israel to attack Syria and Lebanon and overthrow Saddam Hussein as critical steps for redrawing the political power structure of the Mideast. The document appears to have served as a kind of template for the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and, in almost every aspect, seems to inform Bush administration Middle East policy.
With Donald J. Trump in office, who's swore allegiance to Sheldon Adelson that he too will be the “best friend Israel every had,” two of the Mideast states are down: Lebanon and Libya; and two to go: Syria, under attack, and the Iran Deal vanquished by Trump's ignorant foreign policy. However, the scheme seemed stymied until Trump took office and “kept” his promised to Adelson to be “the best friend Israel every had,” while at the same time fighting his personal war against Barack Obama.