Let’s Not Grant Saudi Arabia a Blank Check for American Support

In 2005, a British journalist venturing into literary criticism released a best-seller called The Seven Basic Plots. The gist was that all Western literature was a variation on a small number of basic stories. It turns out that this isn’t true of just fiction. Foreign-policy discourse tends to recycle just a few basic narratives, suitably embellished for the moment. One of these tales, dating from the Cold War world and the immediate aftermath of the Iranian Revolution over 40 years ago, has just been retold around the campfire by Fareed Zakaria in The Washington Post as a paradigm for President Biden’s Middle East policy, as a proposal for repairing the strained American relationship with Saudi Arabia.

This allegedly new thinking arrives as the U.S. is embroiled in a European war with a nuclear-armed adversary, while its top officials speculate about regime change; as relations with China are increasingly tense; as the American constitutional order is being challenged from within; as inflation is at its highest since the 1970s; and, according to the IPCC, as the window in which the international community can act to limit global heating is about to close.

As explained by Zakaria, the idea would be to fix the Saudi relationship via an audacious offer of a long-term U.S. security commitment of a kind that would be more durable than, say, Obama’s signature on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement with Iran, which Trump tore up three years later, but not quite so permanent and absolute as to necessitate Senate approval, as a formal treaty would.

In return for this commitment to wage war against enemies of the Saudi state for decades to come, the Kingdom would agree to: produce an admission by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman regarding his personal responsibility for journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder; halt combat operations in Yemen; pump enough oil to moderate the price; and, most importantly, make peace with Israel.

Read the full article in The American Prospect.

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