Donald Trump set off a backlash by saying US will not stop supplying Riyadh with weapons over the alleged murder of an opposition journalist. But ignoring Saudi sins to preserve the alliance is a feature of American presidencies.
When asked this week about potential sanctions over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, an exiled Saudi journalist and US resident, who walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week, and hasn’t been seen since, Trump played the realpolitik card – suggesting that Russia and China would step in and replace American economic partners, if Washington pulled out.
We don’t like [the Khashoggi situation] even a little bit,” Trump told journalists in the White House. “But as to whether or not we should stop $110 billion dollars from being spent in this country, knowing Saudi Arabia have four or five alternatives, two very good alternatives, that would not be acceptable to me.”
As RT’s Caleb Maupin says, Trump is merely removing the “smoke and mirrors” from the US relationship with the Gulf, which has always been about money and retaining a strategic ally in the region.
Previous leaders Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama literally bowed to Saudi royals throughout their terms, while praising their permanent drive for “modernization”, even as the Saudi state continued to execute hundreds of citizens each year and sponsor radical Islam and terrorism worldwide.
But with this brazen attitude, is Trump’s White House pushing new boundaries of cynicism, perhaps fueled partly but Riyadh's and Washington's shared enmity towards Iran, or is it merely acknowledging the status quo that has barely changed in half a century?
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