Roughly 1,800 U.S. service members, as well as several dozen fighter jets and other air defense implements, will be sent to Saudi Arabia to help protect the Kingdom amid heightened tensions with Iran, the Pentagon announced Friday. Officials said the U.S. is set to ship two F-15 squadrons, two Patriot missile batteries, one anti-missile defense system known as THADD and other planes. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said he informed Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman earlier Friday about the additional troops “to ensure and enhance the defense of Saudi Arabia.” “Saudi Arabia is a longstanding security partner in the Middle East and has asked for additional support to supplement their own defense and defend the international rules-based order,” Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. The Pentagon’s announcement came just hours after Iranian officials said two missiles from an undetermined source hit one of its oil tankers that was traveling through the Red Sea about 60 miles off the coast of Saudi Arabia. The explosions from the missiles damaged two storerooms aboard the oil tanker – identified as the Sibiti – and caused a brief oil leak into the Red Sea. The leak was later plugged, Iranian state television reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi described the incident as an “attack” carried out by those committing “dangerous adventurism.” He said the incident was under investigation. There has been no word from Saudi Arabia regarding the reported missile strikes. That incident comes amid fraught tensions and charges by the U.S. that Iran has attacked oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf — something denied by Tehran. Right now, there are roughly 250 U.S. troops deployed to Saudi Arabia and more than 60,000 U.S. troops deployed throughout the Middle East, both within various countries and aboard warships. This recent deployment is part of the response to the suspected Iranian missile and drone attack on Saudi oil facilities on Sept. 14.
A retired four-star general is President Donald Trump’s pick to be US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, filling a key diplomatic vacancy at a time when US-Saudi relations are being tested by the slaying of a journalist critical of the Saudi royal family. Trump announced Tuesday that he is nominating John Abizaid, the longest-serving commander of the US Central Command, to lead the US Embassy in Riyadh. It’s a post that has been empty since former ambassador Joseph Westphal left in January 2017. If confirmed by the Senate, Abizaid would become ambassador as the Trump administration is weighing the U.S. response to the killing of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials claim Khashoggi was killed by a 15-member assassination squad sent from Riyadh on orders from the highest levels of the Saudi government. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has revoked the visas of the Saudis implicated in the killing. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said additional measures will be taken. Abizaid, who retired in 2007, served in wars in Grenada, the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. Following the war in Iraq, Abizaid assumed control of CENTCOM, which overseas military operations in 20 nations stretching from northeast Africa to the Middle East to Central and South Asia. Abizaid, of Nevada, currently works as a private consultant and is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Previously, he was the distinguished chair of the Combating Terrorism Center at the US Military Academy at West Point. He also served in various senior positions on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
GEN Abizaid (Ret) is an outstanding choice for Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Left out of this rather lazy AP story is the fact that GEN Abizaid also happens to be of Lebanese decent (his grandparents immigrated to America), which gives him an Arab connection, which the Saudis will probably appreciate. And, the man speaks Arabic. So, as he deals with the Kingdom, that will also come in handy…not the mention the fact that he is a retired Army 4-star General who commanded CENTCOM. The Saudis respect status, and GEN Abizaid has plenty of that. GEN Abizaid is a grad of West Point, and got his Masters from Harvard where he wrote a paper on Saudi Arabia that won him accolades. Little did he know then that’d be considered for this role. Again, an excellent choice to be the next Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. We hope he is confirmed quickly. 🙂
If, as appears increasingly likely, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, then he has joined Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un among the ranks of rogue leaders who assassinate their critics on foreign soil. The only difference is that the Russian president and North Korean leader weren’t reckless and stupid enough to kill their opponents inside their own consulates. The disappearance of Khashoggi, a Post contributing columnist, is a horrific crime. His loss will be felt deeply for those who cherish freedom of expression and believe that all people, including those in the Arab world, deserve to be free. Khashoggi’s disappearance is also a betrayal of President Trump. Upon taking office, Trump made Saudi Arabia his first foreign trip and put his new administration’s reputation and prestige behind the crown prince and his reforms. The crown prince, or MBS, as he is widely known, has possibly repaid those efforts by brutally killing a permanent U.S. resident. His betrayal has now put Trump in an impossible bind. The president must now find a way to reconcile three sets of irreconcilable facts: Fact No. 1: The United States can’t simply ignore or sweep Khashoggi’s death under the table. Even if Trump wants to do so, Congress won’t let him — nor should it. There must be consequences. Fact No. 2: MBS is not going anywhere. Saudi Arabia is a monarchy. He is the son of the king. He has spent the past few years systematically eliminating his rivals and consolidating power. The idea that a new leader is going to emerge to replace him is not realistic. And if, by chance, such a leader did emerge, it would likely be someone who wants to roll back the crown prince’s efforts to rein in the religious establishment, clean up corruption and open up Saudi society. Be careful what you wish for. Fact No. 3: We need Saudi Arabia, less as a source of oil — the fracking revolution has dramatically expanded our energy independence — than as a counterweight to Iran, which is the main strategic menace to U.S. interests in the region. Saudi Arabia is our most important ally in countering that threat. No other country in the Middle East can play that role. A permanent breach with Saudi Arabia is not an acceptable outcome. How does Trump reconcile these three irreconcilable realities? The answer is: He can’t. The result is going to be unpleasant and unsatisfying. Many Democrats taking shots at the president as he tries to figure out a path forward need to check their hypocrisy. As my American Enterprise Institute colleague Danielle Pletka pointed out, “if you can’t restrain yourself from blaming Trump, spare a moment to blame [President Barack] Obama for the war in Syria,” where more than 470,000 men, women and children have died while the United States has stood by and done nothing. If you had a role in Middle East policy in the past eight years, that finger you are pointing at the Trump administration has blood dripping off it. So, what is going to happen? While we do need Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia also needs us. Trump said that he has told King Salman that Saudi Arabia would not last “two weeks” without U.S. military support. He’s right. We saved the Saudis from Saddam Hussein’s aggression and now protect them from Iran’s. Moreover, the United States has other leverage. Trump should make clear that Saudi Arabia’s actions have squandered the once bipartisan support in Congress for the kingdom — and that, unlike Saudi Arabia, the United States is not a monarchy. Congress has a say in our Middle East policy. It can impose costs on Saudi Arabia, by blocking military aid and arms sales. A bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to Trump calling for an investigation under the Magnitsky Act — a U.S. law that mandates sanctions, including travel restrictions and freezing assets, of foreign individuals who have committed gross violations of human rights. Magnitsky sanctions would have real teeth, because members of the royal family love to travel outside the Arabian Peninsula, where they can do things they cannot do at home. If MBS wants to avoid a rupture in relations, then he must accept responsibility and make restitution. He must acknowledge that he understands the gravity of this mistake — that he has made Saudi Arabia an international pariah, and is willing to do what is necessary to dig himself out of that hole through steps such as the release of political prisoners. And he must commit to stopping this kind of brutal behavior. Because his professed desire to modernize Saudi Arabia is incompatible with the medieval horrors that apparently took place in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Agreed, and well said, Marc. Author Marc Thiessen is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
President Trump upon arriving in Saudi Arabia on Saturday did not bow to the Gulf leader as former President Barack Obama appeared to do — a move interpreted as American weakness. In 2009, Obama appeared to bow to then-Saudi leader King Abdullah at a G-20 summit in London. Videos show Obama bending at the waist toward the king. The White House at the time purportedly denied that the president had bowed, with a source saying Obama was taller than the king, so he had to lean. Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia marks the start to his nine-day, overseas tour that will also take him to Israel and Europe. The international trip is Trump’s first since taking office in January. Trump was greeted at the Saudi airport with an elaborate ceremony, punctuated by a military flyover and a handshake from Saudi King Salman. First lady Melania Trump wore a black pantsuit with a golden belt and did not cover her head for the arrival, consistent with custom for foreign dignitaries visiting Saudi Arabia. The 81-year-old King Salman greeted Trump at the airport. The two leaders exchanged pleasantries and Trump said it was “a great honor” to be there. “Two things need to happen,” Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, told Fox News on Saturday about Trump’s trip. “President Trump needs to shore up our alliance with the Sunnis who feel abandon, and that starts with Saudi Arabia. And in the short-term, he needs to create a coalition that will decimate and defeat ISIS.” Obama critics said the former president suggested several times in 2009, just after getting elected, that the United States owed the Arab world an apology. “There have been times when America has shown arrogance … even dismissiveness,” Obama said that year in France. Saudi Arabia offered Trump the elaborate welcome ahead of his two-day stay. Billboards featuring images of Trump and the king dotted the highways of Riyadh, emblazoned with the motto “Together we prevail.” Trump’s luxury hotel was bathed in red, white and blue lights and, at times, an image of the president’s face. Trump and the king met briefly in the airport terminal for a coffee ceremony before the president headed to his hotel before the day’s other meetings.
When Obama went on his “apology tour” in 2009, and bowed before the Saudi king , the Saudi’s saw that as weak…and they didn’t respect it, or him. That set the tone for the Obama White House…which a year later would culminate in Obama foolishly, unilaterally pulling all U.S. troops out of Iraq…which lead to the creation of ISIS/ISIL…which in turn has been a disaster. By extreme contrast we now have a real man (not some limp-wristed, metro-sexual, ankle-grabbing, man-child like Obama) in the White House…and the Saudi’s are thrilled!!…which IS a good thing. They are an instrumental ally in the fight against ISIS and other Islamic terrorists (many funded by Iran) in the region. So, this visit by Trump was a HUGE step in the right direction for our relationship with the Saudi kingdom, and the multi-billion dollar agreement that Trump and the Saudi king signed will result in a LOT of U.S. jobs….which is always a plus Excellent!! 🙂
For many years, I was reluctant to write a memoir of my experience leading the investigation and prosecution of the jihadists against whom we are still at war over 20 years later. For one thing, while an exhilarating experience for a trial lawyer, it was also a very hard time for my family, for obvious reasons. Also, with all the tough judgment calls we had to make, we inevitably made some mistakes — “we” very much including me. A triumphant outcome has a pleasant way of bleaching away any memory of errors; to write honestly about the case would mean revisiting them. Who needed that? And about that triumph: I had, and have, a gnawing sense that we failed. Yes, the conviction of the Blind Sheikh and his henchmen was a great law-enforcement success. Throughout the long trial and in the years that followed, though, I came to appreciate that national security is principally about keeping Americans safe, not winning court cases. Sure, winning in this instance meant justice was done and some terrorists were incarcerated. How safe, though, had we really kept Americans? For all the effort and expense, the number of jihadists neutralized was negligible compared to the overall threat. The attacks kept coming, as one might expect when one side detonates bombs and the other responds with subpoenas. As the years passed, the tally of casualties far outstripped that of convicted terrorists. When 9/11 finally happened, killing nearly 3,000 of our fellow Americans, al-Qaeda credited none other than the Blind Sheikh with issuing the fatwa — the sharia edict — that authorized the attack. We had imprisoned him, but we had not stopped him. That is mainly why I finally wrote the memoir in 2008. I called it Willful Blindness . . . and not just because my infamous defendant was both blind and willful. American counterterrorism, even seven years after 9/11 (and fully 15 years after the jihadists declared war by bombing the World Trade Center), had bored its head ever deeper in the sand. It consciously avoided the central truths driving the terrorist threat against the United States. The most significant of these is that violent jihadism is the inexorable result of the vibrance in Islam of sharia supremacism — a scripturally-rooted summons to Muslims to strive for conquest over infidels until Allah’s law (sharia) is established everywhere on earth. This ideology — also referred to as “Islamism,” “Islamic supremacism,” “radical Islam,” “political Islam,” and other descriptors that endeavor to distinguish it from Islam (and to imply that such a distinction should be drawn) — is not the only way of interpreting Islam. Indeed, it is rejected by millions of Muslims. The conquest for which it strives, moreover, is not necessarily to be achieved by violence. Sharia supremacism is, nevertheless, a mainstream interpretation of Islam. Inevitably, it leads some believers to carry out jihadist violence, and an even greater number of believers to support the jihadists’ objectives, if not their methods. Since 1993, the bipartisan American ruling class, throughout administrations of both parties, has refused to acknowledge, much less grapple with, this central truth of the threat we face. It has insisted, against fact and reason, that Islam is a monolithic “religion of peace,” and therefore that there can be no causal connection between Islamic doctrine and terrorism committed by Muslims. It has fraudulently maintained that jihadist violence is not jihadist at all — after all, we are to understand jihad (notwithstanding its roots as a belligerent concept, as holy war to establish sharia) to be a noble internal struggle to become a better person, to vanquish corruption, and the like. Terrorist attacks must be airbrushed into “violent extremism,” shorn of any ideological component — as if the killing were wanton, not purposeful. The fact that the attacks are so ubiquitously committed by Muslims (who explicitly cite scriptural chapter and verse to justify themselves), is to be ignored — as if all religions and ideologies were equally prone to inspire mass-murder attacks if believed too fervently. This deceit at the core of American counterterrorism efforts has led seamlessly to other frauds. Among the most grievous is this one: Saudi Arabia is a key counterterrorism ally of the United States. This is why it is time — it is long, long past time — for the United States government to come clean with the American people, and with the families of Americans slaughtered on 9/11 by 19 jihadists, 15 of them Saudis. The government must disclose the 28 pages of the 2002 congressional report on the 9/11 attacks that it has shamefully withheld from the public for 14 years. Those pages outline Saudi complicity in the jihad. It is nothing short of disgraceful that the Bush and Obama administrations, relying on the president’s constitutional authority over foreign intelligence and the conduct of foreign affairs, have concealed these materials. It is equally disgraceful that Congress has indulged this decision in the context of its own fact-finding exercise. This has been done under the pretense that the Saudi government is a stalwart counterterrorism ally of the United States — an absurd proposition that passes the laugh test only if one accepts the even more absurd premise that Islam has nothing to do with jihadist terrorism. The Saudis are the world’s chief propagator of sharia supremacism, sharia being the law of the Sunni kingdom. In Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism, a literalist interpretation of Islam rooted in scripture dating back 1,400 years, is the dominant belief system. For decades, the House of Saud has played a double game with the West: 1) feigning moderation while promoting and internally enforcing this repressive fundamentalism, which brutally discriminates against women, non-Muslims, and Muslim minorities; 2) posturing as a staunch counterterrorism ally while exporting their ideology — and, when called on it, rationalizing either that their ideology does not catalyze jihadism, or that, even if it does, exporting it is necessary to ensure that jihadists do not seize control of the kingdom and its oil wealth — an outcome that, we are warned, would be far worse for the West. Several Saudi connections to 9/11, as well as our government’s disturbing appearance of not wanting to know the depth of Saudi culpability, have been reported over the years. Let’s look at some of the main ones.
To see them, and read the rest of this eye-opening op/ed by attorney Andrew C. McCarthy, click on the text above. Kudos to Andrew for saying what needs to be said.
Saudi Arabia is advertising eight new openings for executioner jobs as beheadings in the country are soaring this year. The positions, posted online Monday by Saudi Arabia’s civil service ministry, state that no special qualifications are needed. The jobs also involve performing amputations for those convicted of lesser crimes, Reuters reports. An application form for the jobs classifies the positions as “religious functionaries” and that pay would be at the lower end of the scale. In Saudi Arabia, drug trafficking, rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are all crimes punishable by death, while amputation is a common punishment for theft, according to the AFP. A man beheaded Sunday was the 85th person this year to be executed in Saudi Arabia, compared to 88 executions in all of 2014, Human Rights Watch says. Saudi diplomats have speculated that the uptick in executions is because more judges have been appointed, allowing a backlog of cases to be heard, Reuters reports.
It’s hard to find good help these days!
Saudi Arabia has conducted tests to stand down its air defenses to enable Israeli jets to make a bombing raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities, The Times of London reported Saturday. In the week that the U.N. Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions on Tehran, defense sources in the Gulf say that Riyadh has agreed to allow Israel to use a narrow corridor of its airspace in the north of the country to shorten the distance for a bombing run on Iran. To ensure the Israeli bombers pass without hindrance, Riyadh has carried out tests to make certain its own jets are not scrambled and missile defense systems not activated. Once the Israelis are through, the kingdom’s air defenses will return to full alert. “The Saudis have given their permission for the Israelis to pass over and they will look the other way,” said a U.S. defense source in the area. “They have already done tests to make sure their own jets aren’t scrambled and no one gets shot down. This has all been done with the agreement of the [U.S.] State Department.” Sources in Saudi Arabia say it is common knowledge within defense circles in the kingdom that an arrangement is in place if Israel decides to launch the raid. Despite the tension between the two governments, they share a mutual loathing of the regime in Tehran and a common fear of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “We all know this. We will let them [the Israelis] through and see nothing,” said one. The four main targets for any raid on Iran would be the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Qom, the gas storage development at Isfahan and the heavy-water reactor at Arak. Secondary targets include the lightwater reactor at Bushehr, which could produce weapons-grade plutonium when complete.
Very interesting.. And something to keep an eye on..
Saudi Arabia on Wednesday night launched airstrikes against Iranian-backed Shiite rebel forces in Yemen, responding to distress calls from the U.S.-backed Yemeni president who was fleeing the country in the face of relentless advances by the rebels. The intervention brings the risk that Yemen will become ground zero for a proxy war pitting Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states against Iran, the region’s largest Shiite power, and signals a marked escalation of complexity in the evolving war gripping several nations across the Middle East. Just as Saudi forces began bombing the Shiite rebels, U.S. fighter jets were providing support for Iran-backed Shiite fighters in Iraq’s war against the Sunni extremist Islamic State group. The Saudi ambassador to the United States said his country “will do anything necessary” to protect the people of Yemen and “the legitimate government of Yemen.” In announcing the airstrikes from Washington, Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir said the Houthi rebels “have always chosen the path of violence.” He said the action was taking place in coordination with 10 other nations, most of them apparently other Sunni-dominated Arab states. In a statement released by the Saudi Press Agency, almost all members of the Gulf Cooperation Council said they would get involved on behalf of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who’d requested their help against the Shiite Houthis, whom the GCC called a foreign tool — a clear reference to the Shiite regime in Iran.
And yet, who is Obama, and Sec. of State John Kerry, courting right now? Iran. Another example of why I’ve been saying that Obama is our greatest national security threat. He disses our allies, and gets in bed with our enemies. What a moron..
No king of Saudi Arabia has ascended the throne amid more regional turmoil than King Salman, who was crowned Friday upon the death of his brother King Abdullah. With war raging in Syria and tensions with Iran increasing, Saudi Arabia is threatened by a disintegration of the national government in Yemen across its southern border and by the Islamic State militants who are dominating the Iraqi desert just over its northern border.
Yep. These are our Islamic “friends” in the middle east. Next time you hear someone like Obama, John Kerry, or even John McCain while talking about ISIS, say how “tolerant” and peaceful Islam is, keep THIS in mind. Lets be clear, and cut through bs. There is ZERO tolerance in the Islamic community/world for other faiths/beliefs. It is illegal to even have a Bible in Saudi Arabia!
Anyway, Obama AND John Kerry SHOULD say something to King Abdullah behind closed doors, and push for the release of these Christians being persecuted for their religious beliefs.