October 15, 2018

KISS OF DEATH (and not enough tic-tacs):

The Saudis May Not Have Realized How Unpopular They Are Outside the White House (JOSHUA KEATING, OCT 15, 2018, Slate)

Under Trump, congressional criticism over U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen has been growing, and a resolution blocking a sale of precision-guided munitions to the kingdom was narrowly defeated last summer.

Saudi Arabia is not popular with the U.S. public, either. Only 31 percent of Americans had a favorable view of the kingdom, just behind China and just ahead of Russia, according to a Gallup poll from last year. So members of Congress generally feel safe expressing grave concerns about the kingdom. (Trump himself used to refer to the Saudis as "the world's biggest funders of terrorism" back when he was running for president.) Presidents, meanwhile, have generally found the U.S.-Saudi partnership too valuable to cut loose, no doubt on the advice of the Pentagon.

This dynamic is in play once again in the wake of the Khashoggi affair, but the Saudis' critics do appear to have a stronger position this time. Sen. Bob Menendez, ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, who has sided with the administration on Saudi issues in the past, is pausing a proposed sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, and Congress would likely reject any proposed arms deal with the Saudis right now. What's more, 22 senators have triggered a provision in the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to force an investigation to determine whether sanctions should be applied on Saudi officials in response to Khashoggi's probable killing. While the strongest criticism of Saudi Arabia has typically come from liberals as well as libertarian-leaning Republicans like Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee, in the past week Iran hawks like Sens. Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham have spoken out too.

Critics have, fairly, asked how these leaders can be so outraged about one death when Saudi Arabia has killed thousands of people in Yemen. But the death of a journalist and well-known Washington figure has had an impact in the U.S. Capitol that a murky, faraway war, with atrocities committed on both sides, has not.

Posted by at October 15, 2018 5:05 PM