On Monday, the Obama Administration announced it had approved a $1.3 billion arms sale to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The White House claimed the weapons package, which included laser-guided bombs, was needed because the Saudis’ inventory had been depleted due to “counterterrorism operations.”
But as anyone following events in the Middle East knows, the last thing the regime in Saudi Arabia is interested in doing is combating terrorism.
In all likelihood, the weapons will actually be used to continue Saudi Arabia’s imperial, brutal, and illegal bombing campaign in Yemen. In the Yemen campaign Saudis have engaged in unrestrained bombing attacks that have hit schools, homes, and hospitals. The bombings have been so merciless that even a US lawmaker, Sen. Patrick Leahy, has raised the issue as to whether the Saudis are committing war crimes in Yemen that violate US as well as international law.
The battle in Yemen is undeniably not about counterterrorism. The war is part of a long-running proxy battle between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran for dominance in the region — though it is not clear that the targets of the Saudis war in Yemen, the Houthis, are necessarily proxies for Iran. In any case, the war in Yemen has nothing to do with terrorism, unless you count what the Saudis are doing as state terrorism.
But what about the kind of terrorism the US is referring to when it refers to counterrorism? The variety practiced by Islamic extremist groups like al-Qaida and ISIS (often referred to by the Arabic acronym Daesh). What is Saudi Arabia’s relationship to that kind of terrorism? See, that’s where things get problematic.
By the U.S. metric, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world. Not only were Saudi citizens and Saudi money instrumental in the creation of al-Qaida and the perpetration of the 9/11 attacks, ISIS is a thoroughly Saudi-backed operation.
The Saudis helped bring ISIS to power in Iraq in hopes of thwarting Iranian influence and even now, after all the killings and cruelty, Saudi money flows to ISIS in hopes of undermining Iranian influence in Iraq and Syria.
And that should not be a surprise because there is no principled difference between ISIS and Saudi Arabia. ISIS adheres to the same sect of Islam, Wahhabisim/Salafism, that the regime in Saudi Arabia endorses and promotes throughout the world. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia could correctly be called, both technically and substantively, the Islamic State in the Arabian Peninsula.
— Tony Roberts (@phat_controller) November 19, 2015
In fact, Saudi Arabia has performed more beheadings this year than ISIS. The Saudis, like ISIS, also perform crucifixions and are set to crucify and behead a man for the crime of peacefully protesting the regime. Saudi citizens who “insult Islam” are imprisoned and tortured.
Given these facts, the U.S. is in no position to credibly say it is combating ISIS or even terrorism as the U.S. defines it. If the U.S. were serious about countering ISIS and al-Qaida, it would strike at the root of the problem, Saudi Arabia.
Of course, if the U.S. government did that then politically-connected U.S. arms dealers could not sell the Saudis billions of dollars of weapons. One must never insult the profits.