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Doyle McManus: The U.S. has a problem in Saudi Arabia, and it's still not being fixed

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Doyle McManus: The U.S. has a problem in Saudi Arabia, and it's still not being fixed

Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times on Mar 23, 2019
 
 
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WASHINGTON -- Almost six months after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered, the man believed to have ordered the killing has cemented his position as President Donald Trump's closest ally in the Arab world.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, has weathered the initial storm over the Oct. 2 killing in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Trump and his aides have made clear that they consider the prince an essential U.S. partner in the Middle East.

If they were thinking long-term about American interests, they'd see that he's also one of their biggest problems.

MBS, as he's widely known, is an autocrat, a hothead and a disruptor. He's a younger, Saudi version of Trump -- only with fewer checks and balances.

The 33-year-old prince hasn't done much to stabilize the Middle East. Instead, he's made the area even less stable -- not only by ordering a savage crackdown against dissidents like Khashoggi, but also by bullying other princes, kidnapping Lebanon's prime minister, imposing an economic blockade on one neighbor, Qatar, and launching a disastrous war against another, Yemen.

When Trump talks about Saudi Arabia under MBS, he extols the kingdom as a buyer of U.S.-manufactured weapons, pointing to deals he claims (with characteristic exaggeration) could reach $110 billion. "I don't want to lose an order like that," he said last year.

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo describes the Saudis in more strategic terms, as important allies in counter-terrorism and the U.S.-led campaign to pressure Iran.

"It's a mean, nasty world out there, the Middle East in particular," Pompeo said. "There are important American interests. ... Saudi Arabia (is) an important partner."

Both make it sound as if the United States faces a single, all-or-nothing choice: stand by MBS, or walk away from the relationship entirely. "I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good," Trump said.

But there's a third alternative, of course -- one the United States has often used when leaders of client states acted against U.S. interests. Call it "tough love."

 

more at

https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-trump-saudi-khashoggi-20190324-story.html

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