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Saudi Arabia



All Reason.com articles with the "Saudi Arabia" tag.



Published: Mon, 11 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2017 01:19:40 -0500

 



Chaos in Africa, Apologias in Alabama, and the Rise of Democratic Socialism

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 13:00:00 -0500

(image) As mentioned in the Morning Links, Zimbabwe is experiencing a bit of a military coup at the moment. Yet that might not rank as the most momentous activity currently taking place on (OK, near) the African continent—the Saudi royal family (with what looks like the blessing of the Trump administration) is engaged in a kind of third-act mafia-film purging spree, and apparently holding the Lebanese prime minister hostage. Steve Bannon is going around talking up our Saudi "allies," and hinting that the Qatar conflict might be the beginnings of a clarifying regional civil war within Islam. All this against the backdrop of the U.S. successfully shrinking the battlefield footprint of ISIS.

So are we perched on the edge of a cataclysm? I will pose that question to Bloomberg View foreign policy columnist Eli Lake today on SiriusXM Insight channel 121's Tell Me Everything With John Fugelsang, where from 2-3:30 p.m. ET I'll be guest-hosting. Other guests include The Nation's John Nichols, who will talk up the ballot-box gains made this month by democratic socialists, and Fox News Channel's Kat Timpf, who will talk about conservative apologia for Roy Moore.

Please call in at any time, at 877-974-7487.




Roy Moore Would Make America Saudi Arabia Again

Wed, 04 Oct 2017 17:45:00 -0400

God certainly has a great sense of irony. In the same week that Saudi Arabia, an Islamic theocracy, took a small step out of the 18th Century by easing its ban on female driving, America took a step back into that century by handing a win in the Alabama U.S. Senate Republican primary to Roy Moore, a vehement proponent of a Christian theocracy on U.S. soil. Sadly, it seems, faith in American-style liberalism is dimming in America just as it is penetrating the remaining bastions of illiberalism in the world. Moore calls Islam a "fake religion" while spreading the fake news that unnamed Christian communities in Illinois and Indiana are being forced to live under Islamic law or sharia. But why he would find sharia all that troubling is unclear given that his Christianity is its spiritual twin. He has twice been defrocked as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, first in 2004 for insisting on displaying a massive plaque of the 10 Commandments in his court in defiance of the First Amendment's establishment clause, and then in 2016 for refusing to hand marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. Far from showing regret, he regards these as justified acts of civil disobedience because, like Islamic fundamentalists, he believes that God's law supersedes man's law. Indeed, he considers God to be "the only source of our law, liberty and government" and made the restoration of Christian "virtue and morality" the cornerstone of his campaign. Nor is there much daylight between his idea of Christian virtue and the Islamic strictures that he demonizes. Moore would ban not just reproductive choice for women but also homosexuality which he has condemned as "abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature's God." In fact, he has repeatedly refused to rule out the death penalty against gays. He considers 9-11 God's retribution against America for "legitimizing sodomy." This means that as far as he is concerned, the 9-11 Islamist were really emissaries of God. Yet he penned purple prose opposing Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim ever to be elected to the House in 2006, from taking his oath of office on the Koran rather than the Bible because, you know, America wasn't settled by folks who brought "a Koran on the pilgrim ship, Mayflower." Most chilling, however, is that he is the author of the misnamed 2005 Constitution Restoration Act that would give Congress the power to remove any judge who refuses to recognize God as the source of America's law. The bill also seeks to limit the power of the Supreme Court to overrule or punish any state official or judge acting in the name of God's law and, instead, would impeach the judges who take on such cases. Think of it as the Christian version of Taliban rule with slightly more checks-and-balances and fewer beards. Many explanations have been proffered for Moore's victory including the failure of Congressional Republicans to deliver on their promise to repeal-and-replace Obamacare, the close ties of Moore's primary opponent, Luther Strange with Alabama's disgraced, scandal-plagued governor, and the conservative base's general disgust with the Republican establishment that backed Strange. There is some truth to all of them. But the far more disturbing reality is that the hard-core conservative base has turned inward, seeking "redemption" by returning to a purer past. It has become deeply hostile to the true source of American greatness, its receptiveness to outside influences, whether in the form of ideas, people or products. It has become the enemy of what the British philosopher Karl Popper famously called the "open society" that sees alien influences not as a threat but as a source of progress allowing it to constantly reinvent and improve itself. Indeed, nearly all of Moore's conservative backers—whether ethno-nationalists Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka or nativist rabble rouser Ann Coulter or Christian reconstructionist Mike Huckabee—want to create a For[...]



Roy Moore's Illiberal Vision for America: New at Reason

Wed, 04 Oct 2017 17:45:00 -0400

Last week, Alabama handed victory to Roy Moore, a Christian Reconstructionist with barely disguised plans to plant Christian(image) rule on American soil, in the Senate Republican primary. Ironically, this happened the same week that Saudi Arabia, an Islamic theocracy, lifted its ban on female drivers and started moving away from its strict version of sharia law.

Moore is an implacable foe of Islam and sharia. But the truth of the matter, notes Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia, is that Moore's Christianity has more in common with sharia than American liberal democracy. If he had his druthers, he'd turn back the clock to New England-style puritanism when it comes to gay rights, women's reproductive rights and religious liberty.




Roy Moore Should Get a Female Muslim Uber to Drive Him to Saudi Arabia

Fri, 29 Sep 2017 12:20:00 -0400

If there is a God, s/he certainly has a great sense of irony. In the same week that Saudi Arabia, an Islamic theocracy, eased up on its ban on allowing women to drive, America handed a victory in the Alabama Republican primary to Roy Moore, a man committed to imposing a Christian theocracy on this country.

Moore likes to rail against Islam and Sharia law. But the fact of the matter is that his Christianity has more in common with Sharia than American liberal democracy. He may rave and rant against Islam as a "fake religion" all he wants I note in my column at The Week this morning, but he would curtail the personal freedoms of Americans in much the same way that regressive forms of Sharia would.

Think of his religion as the Christian version of Taliban rule with slightly more checks and balances and fewer beards. But why is it suddenly gaining currency in America?

Go here to find out.




Senate Vote on Saudi Arms Deal Fails, But Momentum Against Saudi Alliance Growing

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 15:10:00 -0400

A vote to advance a resolution of disapproval of a $510 million U.S. deal to send precision guided weapons systems to Saudi Arabia failed in the Senate by a vote of 47-53. The resolution received far more support than a similar resolution last year targeting a $1 billion tank deal with Saudi Arabia blocked by the Obama administration. The vote indicates support is growing to question the foreign policy establishment status quo. This even as President Trump is abandoning the challenges of the underlying assumptions of U.S. foreign policy and the U.S.'s entangling alliances he made during his campaign. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a main sponsor of the resolution, admitted to reporters today the vote was purely symbolic, noting that that the House is unlikely to bring it up and that even if it passed Trump would veto it anyway. "How do we figure out how to have less war?" Paul asked reporters. "That's the big question. I'm not willing to invade Saudi Arabia to tell them what to do, but we don't have to support them." Last year's resolution, sponsored like this one by Paul, Chris Murphy (D-Ct.), and Al Franken (D-Minn.), sought to disapprove the sale of Abrams tanks and other arms to Saudi Arabia. It failed by a vote of 71-27 to table the resolution. Paul called today's vote a "continuation" of the last one. "We had a vote [last year], and we lost the vote, which I think is a good example of losing the vote but changing the policy," Paul told Reason. "We lost the vote, but then Obama said well maybe we shouldn't give them the special guided missiles, and then Trump has brought it back again." Paul predicted beforehand that there would be a lot more support from Democrats and most Democrats supported today's resolution, which disapproved of the sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen. The Obama administration expressed concern over the way Saudi Arabia was conducting its military operations in the Yemen civil war when barring the sale last year. While Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and other supporters of the arms deal argued the precision guided systems would reduce civilian deaths, critics challenged that idea. "Saudi Arabia bombed a funeral procession," Paul said on the Senate floor, referring to an October 2016 incident. "There was no mistake here, there was no cloud cover, there was no growth or tops of trees and they accidentally bombed a funeral procession. They bombed them and killed 125 civilians in a funeral. They wounded 500." Rights groups expressed similar concerns. "Despite increased U.S. support in the form of training and smarter weaponry to lessen civilian casualties, it has become clear that several unaddressed flaws in Saudi Arabia's targeting process, not the precision of the munition or targeting skill, are the principal cause of harm," read a letter signed by Oxfam and 40 other humanitarian groups and sent to every member of the U.S. Senate. "According to analysis released by the American Bar Association, resuming unconditional sales of these weapons to Saudi Arabia violates the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act." That ABA report found that the U.S. could not "continue to rely on Saudi assurances that it will comply with international law and agreements concerning the use of U.S.-origin equipment." Oxfam has warned that Yemen, embroiled in a two-year civil war, is on the verge of famine, with nearly 7 million Yemenis facing starvation. "We need to realize that we are a part of it," Paul said, referring to the ongoing Saudi-led blockade of Yemen, which rights groups say is preventing food and humanitarian supplies from reaching the country. "Am I going to send one of my three sons to fight a war in Yemen?" Paul asked. "I'd have no idea what they were fighting for." As recently as September 2014, President Obama had pointed to U.S. counterterrorism operations in Yemen as a model for the fight against ISIS and other counterterrorism campaigns. Instead, U.S. ac[...]



Rand Paul on Blocking Indefinite Detention and Saudi Arms Sales

Fri, 09 Jun 2017 11:14:00 -0400

When Rand Paul dropped out of the presidential race in February 2016, the self-described "libertarianish" senator from Kentucky vowed: "I will continue to fight for criminal justice reform, for privacy, and your Fourth Amendment rights. I will continue to champion due process over indefinite detention." On Thursday, amid the hullaballoo of former FBI director James Comey's dramatic testimony on Capitol Hill, Paul brought a handful of libertarian reporters inside his Senate office to discuss his recent work on these projects.

Front and center is a new piece of legislation, introduced this week, to once and for all ban indefinite detention. With the working title of "The Sixth Amendment Preservation Act," Paul's bill "prevents any future military force authorization from being used to justify indefinite detention without trial," according to a summary prepared by his office. More from that:

Section 1021 of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act unconstitutionally declares that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force allows our Armed Forces to indefinitely detain citizens, legal residents, and foreign nationals who are alleged to have engaged in hostilities against the United States. This means U.S. citizens apprehended within the boundaries of the U.S. could be held indefinitely without trial.

The Sixth Amendment Preservation Act repeals section 1021 making it clear that no military force resolution can legalize indefinite detention without a trial and seeks to restore our constitutional commitment to individual liberty.

Emphasis in original. "You never know who could be in the White House," Paul explained Thursday. "Could someone be there that would actually take away all of our rights and begin arresting us for who we are, what we are, what we think, what we read? And so I consider this to be one of the most important pieces of legislation that we'll put forward."

Also covered in the discussion: the senator's efforts to vote down the recent blockbuster arms sale to Saudi Arabia ("winning a battle like this would send a huge message out there"), the Trump administration's tough-on-crime posture ("I think there's very little of this attorney general, this Department of Justice, doing anything favorable towards criminal justice or towards civil liberties"), criticism of Paul's vote to confirm Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and his reaction to the Comey hearing, which we teased out yesterday.

Produced and edited by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Krainin and Mark McDaniel.

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Rand Paul on Blocking Indefinite Detention and Saudi Arms Sales

Fri, 09 Jun 2017 10:55:00 -0400

(image) When Rand Paul dropped out of the presidential race in February 2016, the self-described "libertarianish" senator from Kentucky vowed: "I will continue to fight for criminal justice reform, for privacy, and your Fourth Amendment rights. I will continue to champion due process over indefinite detention." On Thursday, amid the hullaballoo of former FBI director James Comey's dramatic testimony on Capitol Hill, Paul brought a handful of libertarian reporters inside his Senate office to discuss his recent work on these projects.

Front and center is a new piece of legislation, introduced this week, to once and for all ban indefinite detention. With the working title of "The Sixth Amendment Preservation Act," Paul's bill "prevents any future military force authorization from being used to justify indefinite detention without trial," according to a summary prepared by his office. More from that:

Section 1021 of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act unconstitutionally declares that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force allows our Armed Forces to indefinitely detain citizens, legal residents, and foreign nationals who are alleged to have engaged in hostilities against the United States. This means U.S. citizens apprehended within the boundaries of the U.S. could be held indefinitely without trial.

The Sixth Amendment Preservation Act repeals section 1021 making it clear that no military force resolution can legalize indefinite detention without a trial and seeks to restore our constitutional commitment to individual liberty.

Emphasis in original. "You never know who could be in the White House," Paul explained Thursday. "Could someone be there that would actually take away all of our rights and begin arresting us for who we are, what we are, what we think, what we read? And so I consider this to be one of the most important pieces of legislation that we'll put forward."

Also covered in the discussion: the senator's efforts to vote down the recent blockbuster arms sale to Saudi Arabia ("winning a battle like this would send a huge message out there"), the Trump administration's tough-on-crime posture ("I think there's very little of this attorney general, this Department of Justice, doing anything favorable towards criminal justice or towards civil liberties"), criticism of Paul's vote to confirm Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and his reaction to the Comey hearing, which we teased out yesterday.

Watch an edit of our exchange here:

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZWadlrFil54" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">

Reason on Rand Paul here.




Trump's Saudi Trip Wasn't a Break From Tradition

Mon, 22 May 2017 19:02:00 -0400

Want to see the disconnect between America's actual foreign policy and the way many media professionals imagine it? Check out Anne Applebaum's Washington Post column calling Donald Trump's stop in Saudi Arabia a "bizarre and un-American visit." Applebaum complains that Saudi Arabia, a longstanding beneficiary of U.S. largesse, was a "very strange choice for a first trip abroad" because the last four presidents made their first foreign stops in Mexico or Canada instead. This critique is more about optics than substance, but she's right to see a shift here. The last five presidents, not four—and six of the last seven—had their first foreign excursions in either Canada or Mexico. Ronald Reagan never visited Saudi Arabia. George W. Bush didn't go there until the last year of his presidency. Barack Obama, on the other hand, visited in June 2009, not much later in his presidency than Trump, although he had made nine other foreign trips before then. Obama also visited the kingdom a record four times. (No other president had visited more than twice.) This shift doesn't reflect a specific policy goal of the Trump (or Obama) administration so much as a broader realignment of American priorities. Counterterrorism has taken on an ever more central role in U.S. foreign policy, and Saudi Arabia is America's largest Muslim-majority ally in the Middle East, despite its record of supporting the sort of Islamist extremism that contributes to terrorism. The U.S. has a long history of linking up with murderous dictatorships when it suits America's short-term foreign policy goals, with little regard for potential blowback. The unquestioned alliance with Saudi Arabia is part of that proud tradition. Applebaum complains that Saudi Arabia was Trump's first stop overseas, but what's really troubling is that the president has abandoned his campaign rhetoric questioning such relationships. Applebaum is aware of Saudi support for Islamism; indeed, her second complaint is that Saudi Arabia is a "strange place to speak out against Islamic extremism" because the government there subsidizes certain strains of extremism. True enough, though there really isn't a perfect venue for a speech on Islam. Obama delivered his first-year Islam speech in Cairo, the capital of a secular murderous dictatorship—and also went to Saudi Arabia first to, in his own words, seek the king's counsel on Islam. A similar amnesia afflicts Applebaum when she objects to Trump's participation in the sword dance, a traditional Saudi ritual. "[U]ntil now," she claims, "American presidents made it clear that, while we have to deal with Saudi leaders, we don't endorse their culture. Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and others in the delegation did exactly that, by participating in this sinister all-male dance." There's just one problem with that take: George W. Bush also participated in the sword dance when he visited Saudi Arabia. And U.S. presidents regularly "endorse" Saudi culture by participating in various cultural activities while there. It's U.S. spending, not a sword dance, that underwrites the Saudis' reactionary and repressive regime; it's U.S. spending, not a medal or a bow, that raises thorny questions about how much responsibilty we bear for Riyadh's repression at home or its brutal war in Yemen. But acknowledging that means acknowledging that the U.S.-Saudi relationship is a longstanding, bipartisan project, and not simply the product of a single American president who appears enamored with strongman leaders. After complaining that the Trump administration appeared to embrace repressive Saudi culture, Applebaum also manages to complain about Tillerson denouncing human rights violations in Iran. "Yes, Americans are often hypocritical about where and when they promote human rights," she writes. "But to denounce human rights in Iran while standing in Saudi Arabia, a place[...]



Brickbat: Provocative Clothing

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 04:00:00 -0500

(image) Saudi police have arrested a woman after she tweeted a photo of herself standing on a Riyadh sidewalk without the full-length robe and scarf women are required to wear when in public.




Donald Trump Calls For 'Big, Beautiful Safe Zones' in Syria, Wants Gulf States to Pay For Them

Mon, 19 Dec 2016 14:00:00 -0500

Aleppo — the Syrian city that's been the center of the anti-Assad resistance for more than five years — appears to have finally fallen after a spectacularly brutal onslaught by Syrian government and Russian forces. President-elect Donald Trump responded to the humanitarian disaster, which includes the indiscriminate bombing of civilians and other atrocities, by telling attendees of a Pennsylvania rally last week, "When I look at what's going on in Syria, it's so sad," adding, "we're going to help people." Trump said he wants to build "safe zones" for civilians "so they can have a chance." In 2015, Trump also advocated for safe zones as a potential solution to the refugee crisis. Arguing that large numbers of refugees could "destroy all of Europe," Trump instead proposed building "a big beautiful safe zone and you have whatever it is so people can live, and they'll be happier." Knowing that the creation of such safe zones will require both an enormous financial commitment but also military personnel, Trump called for the oil-rich Sunni Gulf states (presumably including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar), which have been supporting rebel forces, to band their resources together for this vaguely-defined humanitarian project. During the presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton had called for the imposition of "no-fly zones" in Syria, which Trump warned could "lead to World War 3." Indeed, no-fly zones are enforced with the threat of violence and with Russian fighter jets providing cover for Syria's Assad regime, any U.S. efforts to repel them would reasonably be seen as an act of war. One retired naval officer described no-fly zones as "the cocktail party military application of power of choice," but without an actual proposed end-game, they are potentially disastrous. That's why Trump's call for "safe zones," while not in the Clinton mold of humanitarian war-making, should also be met with skepticism. Even if Trump is able to convince a regional power like Saudi Arabia to invest its cash and military in providing "safe" areas for civilians, they will inevitably be forced to face down hostile actors — be they Assad's military forces, Russian forces, or even ISIS. It's hard to imagine the Saudis sticking their necks out for Syrian civilians, especially after more than half a decade of civil war in Syria. Besides, even if the Saudis did intervene at this late stage, they're bogged down with their own war in Yemen, where they've very likely committed war crimes against that country's civilian population backed by both U.S.-provided weapons and even U.S. tactical military support. Trump's foreign policy — nearly always inscrutable during the campaign — is slowly being fleshed out. His opposition to military intervention in Syria won him plaudits from some anti-war libertarians, but "safe zones" are just "no-fly zones" by another name. And even if Trump is able to convince the U.S.' nominal allies in the Gulf to intervene on behalf of civilians, he should remember that they'll inevitably lean on the U.S. for support, and that's the kind of mission creep that inevitably drags a country into a war.[...]



Boris Johnson is Right: Saudi Arabia and Iran Wage Proxy Wars Across the Middle East

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 15:00:00 -0500

(image) U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson identified regional political leaders who were "twisting and abusing different strains of the same religion in order to further their own political objectives" as one of the biggest problems in the Middle East, saying at a conference on Mediterrenean dialogue in Rome this week that it led to puppeteering and proxy wars by countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The comments came on the heels of a visit to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region by Prime Minister Theresa May, The Guardian reported, where she celebrated the century old alliance between the two countries. The government distanced itself from Johnson's remarks, with a spokesperson for 10 Downing Street saying they did not represent the official views of the British government.

Johnson's comments were characterized in the media as a "gaffe," although they were not incorrect. "Most observers of the Middle East would say this is a mostly fair analysis," the Washington Post noted. "But the problem is that Johnson, in his capacity as Britain's foreign secretary, stepped out of line in calling out Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest customers for British weapons." Yet refusals to acknowledge the reality of such situations makes advancing coherent foreign relations more difficult.

It would be important for the U.K., like the United States, to stop selling weapons around the world in order to have healthier international relations. The U.K. is in the top 10 arms exporters in the world—accounting for about 4 percent of international arms sales between 2010 and 2014. The U.S. was responsible for 31 percent. Russia is not far behind, at 27 percent, with China in third place at 5 percent.

While Johnson acknowledged Saudi Arabia's role in destabilizing the Middle East, when he had the chance he did not support a ban on U.K. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, just three months ago, insisting Saudi human rights violations in Yemen had not been proven. Iran has been accused of supporting the other side in the Yemen civil war. Saudi Arabia and western powers insist the government ejected from the capital by Houthi rebels remains the legitimate government in Yemen. Earlier this summer, meanwhile, Hezbollah admitted all of its financial support came from Iran.




Top Hillary Clinton Adviser Thinks U.S. Should Attack Iran To Benefit Saudi Interests In Yemen

Mon, 31 Oct 2016 14:33:00 -0400

One of Hillary Clinton's top national security advisers, Michael Morell (who also happens to be the former acting director of the CIA), told the staunchly pro-Clinton think tank the Center for American Progress that the upcoming U.S. presidential election provides a "great opportunity for the next president of the United States to go to the Middle East and say 'We're back, we're going to lead again.'" And what might the leadership that the Hillary Clinton administration imposes on a region halfway around the world look like? Morell brought up the fact that Iran arms the Houthi rebels who have seized control of Yemen's capital city Sanaa, to the great displeasure of nominal U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, which has spent much of the past two years bombing both military and civilian targets with U.S. support in an all-out effort to defeat the rebels and return to power the Saudi-allied President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Juxtaposing against what he must perceive as a lack of leadership from his former boss, President Barack Obama, Morell said: I would have no problem, from a policy perspective, of having U.S. Navy board those ships and if there's weapons on them for the Houthis, turn those ships around and send those ships back to Iran. I think that's the kind of action, tough action that would get the attention of the Iranians and will get the attention of our friends in the region to say the Americans are now serious about helping us deal with this problem. Make no mistake, what Morell just proposed is an act of war, which Bloomberg's Eli Lake aptly characterized as "something you might hear this month in an alternate reality, from the Rubio-Cheney campaign." And if Clinton supporters think war with Iran is necessary or an exercise in "smart power," that's their right, but they should at least be honest about it. As Reason's Nick Gillespie wrote, "a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for war." While some might still be in denial that Clinton is a staunch hawk even neoconservatives can adore, Morell's comments provide much-desired candor about Clinton's foreign policy ambitions. The Democratic nominee has been able to remain infuriatingly vague on military matters throughout the campaign thanks in part to her opponent's flailing incoherence and her general refusal to give press conferences. But if one of her most senior national security advisers is willing to openly engage in this kind of saber-rattling while smilingly declaring, "We're back," it's fair to expect more and grander military intervention under a President Clinton than we've experienced under President Obama.[...]



U.S. Looking to Escalate War in Yemen?

Thu, 13 Oct 2016 15:22:00 -0400

The USS Mason destroyed three coastal radar sites held by the rebel government in Yemen, the Pentagon announced last night, after the USS Mason was twice within four days the target of missiles launched from rebel-held territory in Yemen. Those missiles all missed and the USS Mason was not damaged. The U.S. action is the first time it has bombed Houthi targets in Yemen since Houthi rebels ousted the U.S.-backed government in Sana'a, which retreated to Aden, in 2014, sparking a civil war in which Saudi Arabia has intervened in support of the exiled government. The Saudi and U.S.-backed president escaped to Saudi Arabia in 2015. "These limited self-defense strikes were conducted to protect our personnel, our ships, and our freedom of navigation in this important maritime passageway," Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook said in a statement. "The United States will respond to any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic, as appropriate, and will continue to maintain our freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandeb, and elsewhere around the world." The Houthi government denied responsibility for the failed missile strikes, saying it had "nothing to do with this act." Instead, Houthi officials suggested the accusation was an attempt to distract from the "heinous" airstrike on a funeral in Yemen over the weekend that killed more than 150 people. Saudi Arabia denied responsibility itself for the air strike on Yemen, and said it would "investigate." Human Rights Watch said remnants of U.S.-made munitions were found at the site. The U.S., for its part, insisted its support for Saudi Arabia did not amount to a "blank check" for Saudi actions in Yemen, with the White House claiming it would conduct an "immediate review" of what a National Security spokesperson described as "significantly reduced support to the Saudi-led Coalition." Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Chris Murphy (D-Ct.) tried last month to block a $1+ billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia but the effort failed in the Senate. Saudi Arabia has been the primary recipient of U.S.-made arms from 2011 to 2015, a period during which the U.S. was responsible for a third of arms exports across the world. While the Pentagon asserted that U.S. commanders "retain the right to defend their ships," it says the strikes on the radar sites in Yemen, which the U.S. insists were in remote coastal areas far from civilians, were authorized by President Obama upon the recommendation of Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Prior to the civil war, the U.S. conducted drone strikes in Yemen against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and other targets, sometimes fed to them by the government now in exile. Unsurprisingly, the airstrikes bred anger at the government and encouraged anti-Americanism. The power vacuums aggravated by Saudi intervention in the current civil war have helped Al-Qaeda resurge in Yemen, with the terrorist group even taking complete control of Mukalla, the third largest port city in the country. Yemen's exiled government has accused the Houthi rebels of being backed by Iran. No one appears to accuse the rebels of being backed by Al-Qaeda. The U.S. could not, then, twist the 2002 authorization for the use of military force against the perpetrators of 9/11 and their "associated forces" for a more direct and more sustained intervention in the Yemen conflict in the way it has used the AUMF to justify interventions in conflicts from West Africa to the Kush.[...]



Congress May Have Transformed US-Saudi Relations While Overriding Obama's Veto

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 12:20:00 -0400

Saudi Arabia has long been a troublesome ally for the United States. Sure, the government has provided space for military bases, but those ended up being Osama bin Laden's top grievance with the United States. And sure, the Saudis have been helpful in cracking down on some violent radical Islamist groups, but they've sponsored and created just as many. And yes, they're a major trading partner in both oil and arms, but they've also been using our military support to indiscriminately kill civilians in Yemen. And of course, they're basically among the worst in the world when it comes to freedom of speech and religion, women's rights, LGBT rights, and human rights in general. But the special relationship between the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States may be forever transformed by Congress handing President Obama an overwhelming veto override yesterday—the first of his administration—on a bill that strips immunity of foreign governments and their officials from lawsuits regarding terrorism on U.S. soil. The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) enjoys its robust support in Congress due to its association with 9/11—and congresspeople don't want to be seen as voting against the interests of 9/11 victims' families in an election year, just weeks after the fifteenth anniversary of the attacks. The bill was spurred by allegations that certain Saudi government officials provided financial support to 9/11 hijackers, which were detailed in the recently-released "28 Pages" of a congressional inquiry into 9/11. But President Obama and the few dissenters of the bill in Congress have argued JASTA is too broadly written and not limited to 9/11 victims' families, and that it could also make U.S. military personnel and officials liable to legal retaliation in foreign courts. White House press secretary Josh Earnest called Congress' override of the president's veto "the single most embarrassing thing the United States Senate has done" in decades, and that by not fully considering the consequences of the bill to diplomatic relations and military servicepeople, "Ultimately these senators are going to have to answer their own conscience and their constituents as they account for their actions today." At least two senators who supported the bill and the veto override—Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.)—have suggested trying to "tighten up" the bill during the upcoming lame duck session of Congress by limiting the legislation only to 9/11. The Washington Post quotes Corker as saying the bill as written could end up "exporting...foreign policy to trial lawyers" and make U.S. personnel liable for lawsuits from anything to drones strikes to support for Israel's military actions. Congressional support for Saudi Arabia was once as good as a rubber stamp, but a number of congresspeople recently made a bipartisan push to restrict a more than $1 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia because of concerns over the Kingdom's bombardment of schools, hospitals, and civilians in Yemen. The resolution almost certainly will not have the support to stop the sale, but the pushback from Congress is new and noteworthy, regardless. There are legitimate concerns about the reciprocal nature of laws pertaining to the liability of foreign officials, but editor emeritus of World Policy Journal David A. Andelman made some pretty weak arguments against the bill in a CNN op-ed. One of his concerns is that the Saudis could clamp down on oil production and thereby contribute to a rise in fuel prices worldwide. A fair if potentially overstated economic concern, but it assumes the Saudis would be more concerned with lawsuits than they[...]



America’s Proxy War in Yemen

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 12:55:00 -0400

(image) The Senate blocked an effort by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Chris Murphy (D-Ct.) to nix a $1.5 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, which is engaged in a war of choice in Yemen, where the U.S.- and Saudi-backed government was overthrown by Iranian-backed rebels in 2014. Al-Monitor described the vote (71-27 to dismiss the measure) as the Senate "in effect casting the first vote on US participation after 18 months of war in Yemen."

Even if Paul's measure had passed both houses of Congress, it's unlikely there would be enough support to override the president's veto. And the Obama administration has completed more than $100 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia so far.

In The Atlantic, Samuel Oakford and Peter Salisbury call Yemen the "graveyard of the Obama doctrine," noting U.S. involvement in the proxy war contradicted rhetoric the president deployed at the United Nations this month, where he bemoaned proxy wars as one of the factors preventing conflict resolution in the Middle East. "No external power is going to be able to force different religious communities or ethnic communities to co-exist for long," the president told a gathering of world leaders at the U.N. this month.

Yemen used to be one of Obama's vaunted success stories. Two short years ago the White House was pointing to it as a model of success in the war on terror. Who knew launching drone strikes based on information fed to the U.S. by a long-time dictator would help destabilize the country and encourage a rebellion that would ultimately be successful?

As Trevor Thrall and John Glaser argued here at Reason earlier this year, U.S. support of Saudi Arabia has enabled Saudi ruthlessness in Yemen. The proxy war, they argued, "compromises both U.S. interests and its moral standing" by expanding a power vacuum that benefits Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the initial impetus for U.S. bombing campaigns in Yemen and which opposes the Houthi rebels. A Dutch attempt to get a United Nations inquiry into human rights violations and other war crimes in Yemen was blocked at the European Union last week by the United Kingdom.