Even before anti-American ideologues held public rallies justifying terrorist violence in the name of “decolonization,” Joe Biden sought to hammer out an agreement that could force American soldiers to fight and die for Saudi Arabia. The terms could also give the Saudis, the world’s foremost funders of radical Islam, access to a “civilian” nuclear program and rein in Israel’s response to terrorist attacks.
The Biden administration has sought to build on President Donald Trump’s Abraham Accords by getting Islamic nations such as Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel. But in exchange, the Gulf states hope to receive an “ironclad” mutual defense agreement: If they are attacked, the U.S. will come to their aid. The Saudis also seek increased arms sales and U.S. assistance in developing “peaceful” nuclear technology. Each step would be counterproductive — as would unequally yoking Washington with Riyadh.
Marching to Mecca?
History proves an enlarged U.S. military presence provides a tantalizing target for Muslim terrorists. In a prelude to 9/11, al-Qaeda killed 19 American servicemen by blowing up the Khobar Towers in 1996. Osama bin Laden later said he intended the bombing “to drive out the enemy who has occupied our land … and to rid the land of the two Holy Mosques from their presence.” Increasing the U.S. military footprint would present no less incitement or excitement for the region’s bountiful extremists 25 years later.
America certainly does not need a defense pact with the Saudis because we lack opportunities to intervene in irrelevant or counterproductive foreign wars. According to Tufts University professor Michael Beckley, by 2015 the U.S. had some form of defense pact with 69 nations around the world, requiring the U.S. military to protect two billion people, or one-quarter of the Earth’s population. Yet the pronoun-obsessed U.S. military cannot fight two wars at the same time.
Remember, too, that any U.S. military conflict in the Middle East will be presided over by President Biden, who considers the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan one of his foreign policy successes, who abandoned U.S. civilians in Afghanistan, and who has taken exacting time in rescuing American citizens from war-torn Israel. After miring the military in a fruitless proxy war with Russia in Ukraine that depleted our munitions stockpile, Biden now seeks to open a second front in the Middle East. China may determine it has become an opportune time to open a third front in the South China Sea, possibly punctuated by a North Korean nuclear explosion over the Sea of Japan. This could be followed by the attack of a Hamas sleeper cell in the American heartland.
While a Biden defense pact might fall short of a NATO-style agreement, it could resemble Barack Obama’s plan to confer Major Non-NATO Ally status. Among other things, that would make Muslim states “eligible for consideration to purchase depleted uranium ammunition.”
Revving Up the Mideast Nuclear Arms Race
Biden’s negotiators are more likely to approve the Saudis’ request for help with their nuclear program — purportedly intended to provide nuclear power for a nation that sits atop 259 billion barrels of untapped oil. History should be a guide here, as well. The Saudis could violate the agreement’s strictures to develop nuclear weapons, as North Korea did after Bill Clinton agreed to a 1994 deal hammered out by former President Jimmy Carter giving Pyongyang two light water nuclear reactors. Barack Obama incorporated a similar model into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) for Iran. Now Biden would like to widen the circle by furnishing Saudi Arabia with access to fissile nuclear material, bolstering the Saudis’ nuclear arms race against Iran … and Israel.
‘Can Two Walk Together, Except they be Agreed?’
To sustain such potentially catastrophic risks, this agreement would have to promote significant U.S. interests. Yet it is unclear how enhancing Saudi aims advances U.S. values. No fewer than 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 hailed from Saudi Arabia. While the State Department classifies the kingdom as “a full partner and active participant” in counterterrorism efforts, Saudi Arabia is also the world’s leading funder and exporter of Wahhabi Islam — the fundamentalist Islamic ideology that fueled the terrorism of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and ISIS. Saudi Arabia has reportedly spent $86 billion promoting Wahhabi Islam globally over the last 50 years, funding 24,000 madrassas in Pakistan in 2016 alone.
Although then-candidate Pete Buttigieg branded Islamism as “not unlike Christianity,” wiser analysts understand no president should risk U.S. troops to promote Saudi interests. “Saudi Arabia is actively undermining American interests in the Middle East while the United States continues to provide security for the kingdom,” writes Jon Hoffman of the Cato Institute. “Unwavering U.S. support has emboldened Riyadh to pursue reckless and destabilizing policies because it is comfortable in the assurance that the United States will come to its aid and not hold it responsible for its actions.”
Subverting the Will of the People
No wonder a majority of Americans (58%) say a mutual defense agreement with the Saudis would be a “bad deal for the U.S., and there is no justification for committing U.S. soldiers to defend Saudi Arabia,” according to a Quincy Institute/Harris poll taken last month. Pollsters found “no significant differences on views of this deal among political affiliation.” But then, the will of the American people rarely rules anything, especially foreign policy. Most Americans opposed our undeclared wars and military interventions against Serbia, Kosovo, Libya, and Syria, as well as additional foreign aid to Ukraine. All proceeded apace.
President Biden has already subverted democracy by pursuing a policy 180-degrees away from his 2020 campaign promises. “I would make it very clear we were not going to in fact sell more weapons to” Saudi Arabia, Biden assured Democratic primary voters during a 2019 debate. “We were going to in fact make them pay the price, and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are.” But Biden has since announced that he will not, in fact, do that. Last July, Biden fist-bumped the blood-soaked hand of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who ordered his military to murder Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and dismember him with a bone saw inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey.
The Biden administration seems ready to sideline the American majority once again. When Biden officials signed a similar defense agreement with Bahrain last month, they did not submit it for Senate ratification. The agreement, which an administration official described as “legally binding,” requires the U.S. to “implement appropriate defense and deterrent responses as decided upon by” the two nations. Instead, Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the document, and perhaps its adoption process, as “a framework for additional countries” to follow.
Sapping U.S. Strength for Saudi Success
History, too, should make us realize that needless foreign military interventions degrade America’s power and prestige. On Monday, The Wall Street Journal ran an article titled “How the Israel-Hamas War is Tilting the Global Power Balance in Favor of Russia, China.” It explained the Israeli conflict is already “affecting the global balance of power, stretching American and European resources while relieving pressure on Russia and providing new opportunities to China.” That came before the United States tapped 2,000 U.S. troops for possible deployment to the Middle East — and sent an additional 2,000 members of the Marine Expeditionary Unit moving toward Israel via the Red Sea. The ground forces are poised to join two U.S. aircraft carriers, the USS Ford and the USS Eisenhower, in patrolling the region.
If this is true of a war that had not yet formally embroiled U.S. troops, imagine a war fought alongside a member of BRICS. In August, Saudi Arabia and five other nations asked to join BRICS — the Chinese-led global coalition intended to become a regional counterweight and eventual successor to U.S. global hegemony. The new members will form “BRICS plus six” on January 1, 2024.
A treaty with Saudi Arabia fulfills the typical leftists’ criteria for waging war: It serves no U.S. interests; it pursues Marxist “decolonization”; it advances fundamentalist Islam; and it increases the power of the president and/or international bodies at the expense of constitutional checks-and-balances and American sovereignty, respectively. But, in true progressive fashion, this treaty would go further: It would force U.S. soldiers to actively war against American interests.
A Tool of Left-Wing Foreign Policy
The Left also hopes to use the Saudi defense agreement as an additional locus of pressure against Israel. Two weeks ago, 20 Democratic senators — including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Raphael Warnock, and John Fetterman — signed a letter tentatively opposing the measure. “A high degree of proof would be required to show that a binding defense treaty with Saudi Arabia — an authoritarian regime which regularly undermines U.S. interests in the region, has a deeply concerning human rights record, and has pursued an aggressive and reckless foreign policy agenda — aligns with U.S. interests,” they wrote. But they eventually got around to their real concern: the fear that the Biden administration would be too pro-Israeli. “[T]he agreement should include meaningful, clearly defined and enforceable provisions” aimed at “preserving the option of a two-state solution,” especially “a commitment by Israel not to annex any or all of the West Bank.”
The U.S. has no formal treaty commitment to defend Israel from military attacks. Should we sign such a treaty with Saudi Arabia, U.S. soldiers could one day fight in the Middle East to “defend” Riyadh against Tel Aviv.
The Israeli-Hamas conflict has momentarily scuttled the Saudis’ interest in pursuing the agreement as it stands. MBS kept Blinken “waiting several hours” Sunday night, according to The Washington Post, arriving the next morning. Instead, the Saudis entered talks with Iran. But Biden officials remain optimistic they can foist this pact on the American people. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told “Meet the Press” on Sunday, “There’s not some kind of formal pause” in the talks,” because “the long-term goal” of inking a mutual security defense pact with the Saudi kingdom “remains very much a focus of U.S. foreign policy.”
A U.S. defense pact with Saudi Arabia would be a ludicrous policy under any president, worthy of being invalidated by any Congress. Should Biden’s team approve the pact, Congress should pass legislation annulling it at once. U.S. soldiers should never become the janissaries of the Wahhabi Islamic kingdom.
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.
EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2023 Family Research Council.
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