How Saudi Arabia is our ticket to Iran

Saudi Arabia refuses to recognize Israel as a sovereign state. Nevertheless, now is not the time to impose sanctions on Riyadh as a punishment, even if it is in the name of ‘human rights’.

SAUDI ARABIAN Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Gulf Cooperation Council’s 41st Summit in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia, in January.  (photo credit: BANDAR ALGALOUD/REUTERS)
SAUDI ARABIAN Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Gulf Cooperation Council’s 41st Summit in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia, in January.
(photo credit: BANDAR ALGALOUD/REUTERS)
The Saudis (specifically Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS) have been found by US intelligence to be the murderers (or political assassins) of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. After 73 years, Saudi Arabia refuses to recognize Israel as a sovereign state, and will probably not be signing onto the multilateral and ever-growing Abraham Accords anytime soon. Nevertheless, now is not the time to impose sanctions on Riyadh as a punishment, even if it is in the name of ‘human rights’.
Currently, the IDF, and all the more so, the United States military, in the Fertile Crescent (Iraq, Syria, et al.), is under almost constant attack by Iranian proxy militias that most of the time fire rockets from ground vehicles toward Iraqi-US joint bases, (except one mysterious recent attack on an Israeli civilian cargo ship at sea in the Gulf of Oman). While there seems to exist, a relatively nonconformist, by Iranian standards, dovish, diplomatic element within the Islamic Republic that wants to immediately re-sign onto the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear agreement, it cannot and will not be able to control the mendacity of Revolutionary Guard brass, nor the pugnacity of these deadly Shi’ite militias and subgroups.
Two weeks ago, when the US intel report dropped, (the Trump administration withheld the report despite a 2019 law requiring its release), citing MBS as the mastermind for the crime which took place inside the Saudi Consulate in Turkey, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “I would like to see the administration go beyond what it has announced in terms of repercussions to make sure there are repercussions directly to the crown prince. To me it’s discordant... to go after those who followed the orders but not who gave the orders.”
According to CNN’s Josiah Ryan, “shunning” and “banning entry into the United States” are among the possible punishments. So for those who do not want to see President Joe Biden risk foolishly curtailing the supplying of arms to the Saudis in their battle in Yemen against the Houthi rebels, (an issue that was on the table between Iran’s initial attack on a US base in Iraq during the early days of the Biden administration), all the Democrats really have in mind is a mild slap on the wrist. And that, dear readers, is after all, a good and comforting thing.
“I would like to see them do more,” Schiff told Blitzer, “I think that would be consistent with our championing of human rights, and we can do so without bringing about a complete rupture of the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia.”
On March 3, 10 rockets hit an Iraqi base with joint coalition, Iraqi and American troops. Written on the Business Insider website, and gleaned from Twitter, was this: “Col. Wayne Marotto, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the coalition fighting the Islamic State terrorist group in the country, said the rockets targeted the Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq at about 7 a.m. local time.”
Not altogether different from the scale of Hamas rocket and missile attacks on southern Israeli civilian areas, there were no mass damages or casualties to report. The strike Thursday morning could have been a response to a US bombing on Shi’ite Iranian military sites located within Syria that killed one fighter and injured two others, according to the Pentagon.
“That operation was... carried out in retaliation for a deadly rocket attack on a US-led coalition base in Irbil in Kurdish northern Iraq last month, as well as two other attacks,” reads a report on NBCNews.com. It could also have been a response to Pope Francis’s pre-Easter visit to Iraq.

WHETHER OR not he agrees with The New York Times’ Tom Friedman’s insistence that MBS isn’t a murderer at all, that he is a really cool, hip, progressive guy, Biden has his hands full. The troops – and nobody would dare claim they don’t belong stationed as peacekeepers in the Fertile Crescent – are under frequent attack. But Biden and the United States military aren’t alone in this hairy situation. There’s action in the Jewish state as well – same cause, different country, different battlefront.
In response to the (presumably Hezbollah) Iranian proxy attack on the Israeli commercial vessel in the Gulf of Oman, Israel launched missiles into Syria that were intercepted over Damascus.
“Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Israel has routinely carried out raids in Syria, mostly targeting Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces as well as government troops,” reads a sentence lifted from the British website, The New Arab. “The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the strike hit the area of Sayyida Zeinab south of Damascus, where Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Lebanese Hezbollah are present.”
The name of the Israeli vessel was the MV Helios Ray, “a vehicle carrier,” according to the report. “Israel rarely confirms strikes in Syria, but the Jewish state’s army has said it hit about 50 targets [in Syria] in 2020... earlier this month,” continues the news report in the New Arab. “Israeli missile strikes against arms depots near Syria’s capital killed at least nine pro-regime militia fighters.”
The US military currently maintains 12 bases in Iraq. There are six belonging solely to the United States Army. Then there are five joint bases for US and Iraqi troops. Then, importantly, we list the lonely Camp Baharia Marine Corps Base in Fallujah, as well as the one sole naval base: Muharraq Airfield (Adjacent to Bahrain International Airport, Iraq).
In Syria, the United States has only one known remaining outpost: the Al-Tanf US Military Base. There were some 1,500–2,000 US Marine and Special Operations Forces in Syria during the Arab Spring and ensuing civil war, extended across 12 different facilities that were being used as training bases for Kurdish rebels, according to DefenseNews.com. These same US troops withdrew from Syria to western Iraq in October 2019, according to BBC News. This is probably the reason for there being a seeming surplus of US troops in Iraq.
Now, however, they have renewed purpose. With remnants of the Islamic State and even al-Qaeda kept somewhat at bay, Biden ought to fight the Iranian presence in the Fertile Crescent until the last drop of blood. Meanwhile, it is up to Israel to preserve democracy in Lebanon – away from the Iranian influence of Hezbollah – and to continue its naval, air and land blockade and measures against the Gaza Strip, so long as it is a breeding ground for Islamic Republic-bankrolled terrorism.
The writer is a popular blogger and critic of culture and policy.