After Granting Russia a Foothold in the Middle East, the U.S. Wants Saudi Arabia to Stand Its Ground against Putin

Oct. 14 2022

After coming into office determined to make the Saudi crown prince a “pariah,” President Biden—amid pressures on the oil market due to the war in Ukraine—found himself visiting the kingdom to make amends this summer. Now Washington is again angry with Riyadh for its role in the decision of the OPEC+ cartel, which includes Russia, to cut oil production. The White House, already concerned about high inflation and a looming recession, responded by announcing a reevaluation of the longstanding U.S.-Saudi alliance; others have even accused the Saudis of supporting the Kremlin. But Mohammed Khalid Alyahya sees the current situation as the result of years of misguided U.S. policies that began with the decision to allow Russia to prop up its Syrian client Bashar al-Assad:

It was the Obama administration that decided to give Vladimir Putin a foothold in the eastern Mediterranean, which it sold to the American people as a way to “deescalate” the civil war in Syria. As the United States romanced Putin, offering him Crimea and warm water ports in Syria in exchange for pulling Iran’s irons out of the fire over the past decade, U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Israel have had no choice but to cope.

America saddled us with the reality of a neighboring country controlled by Iranian troops and the Russian air force. Worse, as part of its 2015 nuclear deal, the Obama administration sent tens of billions of dollars flowing into Iranian coffers—money that was used to demolish Iraq, crush Syria, create chaos in Lebanon, and threaten Saudi territory from Yemen. Iranian rocket and drone strikes on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia are now routine. In response to the barrage of missiles on Saudi infrastructure last year, the Biden administration withdrew U.S. missile-defense batteries from Saudi territory.

Having watched Russian forces support, or directly commit, atrocities against innocent civilians and facilitate the use of chemical weapons for seven years in Syria, the Saudi government was quick to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Unlike many in the West, who expected a short, parade-ground war, the Saudis understood full well what Putin was capable of. So did the Israelis.

But the unstable situation in the Middle East, which America continues to exacerbate by licensing and funding Iranian terror, does not allow Saudi Arabia such a wide margin of error that it can make decisions that affect the stability of the global energy market for the sake of one party’s success in America’s midterm elections.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Tablet

More about: Barack Obama, Joseph Biden, OPEC, Russia, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy