A sane voice in the political ‘fish market’


The British House of Commons is known for its heated debates, especially during the Prime Minister’s Question Time every Wednesday, when the voices of members, both those of the Opposition and supporters, become louder, to such an extent that the House can be described as a “fish market” or what is known in Saudi Arabia as “Bangala” due to the intensity of the brawling of vendors and brokers!

The US Congress also seems to be a “fish market” of a different kind, with noises increasing as Saudi Arabia is targeted by those members who have conflicting interests along with multiple political designs and ambitions. Their enthusiasm, or let us say their stupidity, has reached such an extent that some of them seek to quarrel with the executive branch of government (the president and his administration) even in the matter of using of its original powers.

When the voices of those who call for imposing sanctions against Saudi Arabia rose after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, President Donald Trump responded that he would not endanger the world economy by punishing the world’s largest oil exporter, which is also the most powerful in influencing oil prices and oil production quotas. He further stated that he had received testimony from Saudi authorities about the investigation of those who are accused by Public Prosecution of committing the crime, and the Kingdom’s intention to punish those who are found guilty in accordance with Saudi laws.

But the opponents of Riyadh are determined to take the initiative. They are the ones who will adopt a legislative decision condemning the Saudi leadership. They will decide on the sanctions that they are going to impose. They are the ones who will decide to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia and stop the support extended by Washington to the Saudi-led coalition to confront the crimes of Iran and its agents as well as to restore legitimacy in Yemen.

There is no doubt that the position of Trump on the Khashoggi issue, in a nutshell, is the position of a statesman who knows the interests of his country and the interests of his allies. Those who have turned Congress into a “fish market” ignore the fact that the US President, in his capacity as the head of the executive branch of government, has the right to veto any law passed by Congress, which is the legislative body.

Similarly, these extremist positions against Saudi Arabia, especially in the Republican-controlled Senate, have in effect resulted in a split among Republicans who want Trump to be elected to a second term. Their position on the Khashoggi case has been attributed to the Republican Party’s poor performance in last month’s midterm elections.

However, it is evident that there are some sensible voices in the American “fish market,” although their voices may not be as easy to hear as those of anti-Saudi propaganda stars such as Lindsey Graham, Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, and others. These voices seem to be having an impact on conservative and rightwing media.

Frank Hawkins, a former US military intelligence officer, and Associated Press foreign correspondent, wrote a long article in the conservative magazine “The American Thinker.” The headline of the article was “Isn’t it time to move past the Khashoggi killing?” In the article, Hawkins dealt with 10 legitimate reasons to move on and put the Khashoggi incident behind us.

At the beginning of the article, he said that Democrats in Congress accuse Trump of associating with Saudi leaders claiming that they are responsible for Khashoggi’s death. “Of course they conveniently ignore the cozy if not supportive relationship former Secretary of State John Kerry and former President Obama had with the murderous mullahs of Iran,” who have committed murder, displacement and torture and caused destruction in the region.

He said in the article that the Congressional resolution would require Trump to withdraw troops that support the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen within 30 days. “It’s unclear what advantage this provides the United States other than creating the illusion that we did something about the killing of Khashoggi,” he added.

Hawkins stressed that there are 10 reasons to go beyond the Khashoggi issue. Saudi adversaries have described the incident as the equivalent of a state-sanctioned killing, he stated and then added: “We have to ask ourselves what we did when we killed Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks?”

Countries routinely act in what they perceive to be their best interests. Consider the ongoing American drone strikes in the Middle East since 9/11, in which hundreds of individuals have been killed without due process.

Hawkins also emphasized that Khashoggi was no friend of Western-style democracy or the United States. Khashoggi was an operative of the Muslim Brotherhood... He dreamed of establishing an Islamic caliphate... So it’s ridiculous and highly misleading to portray Khashoggi as merely a “Washington Post Global Opinions columnist.” But this conveniently gives the anti-Trump media a hook to keep the story alive to embarrass Trump.

The writer added that the pressure, however intensifying, will not succeed in forcing Saudi Arabia to abandon its cause and that it will continue to hold fast to its faith.

Hawkins wondered why the Washington Post was leading the current campaign against the Saudi Crown Prince, despite the newspaper’s recent writing about him as follows: “Saudi youths insist they own the change and are committed to remaking their country. The drive for change in Saudi Arabia is more credible because it is homegrown, not a response to outside pressure.”

Hawkins said that Saudi Arabia is the main counterweight to Iran, which with the help of $150 billion, delivered by former President Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry, has created nuclear weapons that can be delivered with a growing array of medium- and long-range rockets. Iran is the leading supporter of international terrorism and a grave threat to world peace.

He further stated that cancelling the $350 billion military sales agreement to Saudi Arabia, which is one of the demands of the opponents of the Kingdom, would not only cost many thousands of jobs, but also would weaken Saudi Arabia’s ability to counterbalance the evil designs of Iran. Facing what it regards as a mortal threat from Iran, Saudi Arabia would have to turn to Russia for weapons, vastly strengthening Putin’s hand in the Middle East.

Hawkins remarked: “By American standards, the killing of Khashoggi was a horrific crime. But practically speaking, what really can be done about it other than express outrage just as Saudi Arabia did in condemning it. It is in America’s strategic interests to have a working relationship with the Saudis and hence we have no choice but to continue to deal with its Crown Prince. That’s why it’s time to move on from the issue of Khashoggi.”

— The author is a Saudi writer. Follow him on Twitter: @JameelAlTheyabi