Should the United States Support Saudi Arabia Despite the Murder of Mr. Kahoggi?



By Jim Sullivan

Saudi Arabia’s murder of Mr. Kashoggi is a repugnant crime, and I wish something could be done to punish Prince bin Salman.  However, realpolitik dictates continued U.S. support of Saudi Arabia for the following reasons:

  1.  First and most generally, Middle East (ME) peace and stability are in the national interest of the U.S.: 
  1. Despite decreased dependence on ME oil through increased U.S. production of oil, increased energy efficiency and expanded use of U.S.-produced natural gas, the U.S. still has a strong interest in ME peace and stability because some U.S. allies (as well as other countries) use ME oil, and we don’t want to hurt their economies as a result of supply interruptions and therefore price increase of the oil they import from the ME.  Economic problems in non-ME countries can easily become political problems which could haunt the U.S.      
  1. Jihadi groups emanating from the ME could destabilize other parts of the globe, perhaps affecting America’s allies and interests.  Al Qaeda came from Saudi Arabia, and Iran backs Hezbollah and Hamas. The U.S. needs to help contain these terrorist groups.      
  1. If the U.S. leaves the ME, and lets Iran expand its influence in the region, nuclear proliferators such as Iran will continue and perhaps increase.
  1.  Iran foments instability in the ME As follows:
  1. Iran threatens Israel via Hezbollah and Hamas.  Iran boasts of their determination to destroy Israel, an important U.S. ally.      
  1. In Iraq, Iran supports anti-American groups which threaten to destabilize the country.      
  1. In Yemen, Iran backs the Houthi rebels against the Saudi-backed Yemeni government.      
  1. Iran has backed Assad’s massacre of Syrian citizens, adding to instability in the ME.  If Assad wins the war in Syria, do not think for one minute that Syrians will forget the terrible massacre Assad has visited on them in the interest of maintaining the Assad family’s hold on power.  These are the seeds of future conflict in Syria.      
  1. In Lebanon, Iran backs Hezbollah, a terrorist organization.
  1. Iran appears to be interested in becoming a (if not the) hegemonic power in the ME.  Do we want an autocratic government like Iran, which hates the U.S. (admittedly due to U.S. foreign policy actions) as hegemon in the ME?  If the U.S. does not back both Israel and Saudi Arabia in their efforts to contain Iran, stability in the ME will continue and undoubtedly grow worse.
  1. While there are some moderate political influences in Iran, and the Iranian economy is in trouble (partly due to American economic sanctions, thus creating unrest among its citizens) the theocratic government has shown no signs of weakening its hold on power.  

The bottom line is that the ME is, as President Obama so eloquently put it, is a “shit show,”  and the killing of Mr. Kashoggi  is a serious crime.  But stability in the ME is very much in the interest of the United States.  Saudi Arabia plays an important part in maintaining that stability and so, for better or worse, the U.S. needs to support the Saudi Kingdom.

Realpolitik can sometimes be distasteful, but we work on the important problems we can have some effect on, using the tools at our disposal.


Jim Sullivan is a Citizen Journalist and retired  businessman with graduate degrees in political science and business.  He lives in Ventura with his wife Juliette and two family cats.

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