With Friends Like These

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Was Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and then his body cut up with a bone saw and flown to Riyadh in Gulfstream jets owned by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman?

So contend the Turks, who have video from the consulate, photos of 15 Saudi agents who flew into Istanbul that day, Oct. 2, and the identity numbers of the planes.

Supporting the thesis of either a murder in the consulate or a “rendition,” a kidnaping gone horribly bad, is a Post story that U.S. intel intercepted Saudi planning, ordered by the prince, to lure Khashoggi from his suburban D.C. home back to Saudi Arabia. And for what beneficent purpose?

If these charges are not refuted by Riyadh, there will likely be, and should be, as John Bolton said in another context, “hell to pay.”

And the collateral diplomatic damage looks to be massive.

Any U.S.-backed “Arab NATO” to face down Iran, with Riyadh as central pillar, would appear dead. Continued U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen would now be in question.

The special relationship the crown prince and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have established could be history.

Congress could cancel U.S. arms sales to the kingdom that keep thousands of U.S. defense workers employed, and impose sanctions on the prince who is heir apparent to the throne of his 82-year-old father, King Salman.

Today, the Saudi prince has become toxic, and his ascension to the Saudi throne seems less inevitable than two weeks ago. Yet, well before Khashoggi’s disappearance in the consulate, Crown Prince Mohammed’s behavior had seemed wildly erratic.

Along with the UAE, he charged Qatar with supporting terrorism, severed relations, and threatened to build a ditch to sever Qatar from the Arabian Peninsula. To protest criticism of his country’s human rights record by Canada’s foreign minister, he cut all ties to Ottawa.

Last year, he summoned Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Riyadh, held him for a week, and forced him to resign his office and blame it on Iranian interference in Lebanon. Released, Hariri returned home to reclaim his office.

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A professed reformer, Crown Prince Mohammed opened movie theaters to women and allowed them to drive, and then jailed the social activists who had called for these reforms.

Three years ago, he initiated the war on the Houthis, after the rebels ousted a pro-Saudi president and took over most of the country.

And, since 2015, the crown prince has conducted a savage air war that has brought Houthi missiles down on his own country and capital.

Yemen has become Saudi Arabia’s Vietnam.

That our principal Arab ally in our confrontation with Iran, which could lead to yet another U.S. war, is a regime headed by so unstable a character should raise serious concerns about where it is we are going in the Middle East.

Have we not wars already?

Do we not have enough enemies in the region — Taliban, al-Qaida, ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria, Iran — to be starting another war?

As for our regional allies, consider.

NATO ally Turkey, which is pressing the case against our Saudi allies, leads the world in the number of journalists jailed. Our Egyptian ally, Gen. al-Sissi, came to power in a military coup, and has imprisoned thousands of dissidents of the Muslim Brotherhood.

While we have proclaimed Iran the “world’s greatest state sponsor of terror,” it is Yemen, where Saudi Arabia intervened in 2015, that is regarded as the world’s great human rights catastrophe.

Moreover, Iran is itself suffering from terrorism.

Last month, a military parade in the city of Ahvaz in the southwest was attacked by gunmen who massacred 25 soldiers and civilians in the deadliest terror attack in Iran in a decade.

And like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, Iran suffers, too, from tribalism, with Arab secessionists in its southwest, Baloch secessionists in its southeast, and Kurd secessionists in its northwest.

The U.S. cannot look aside at a royal Saudi hand in the murder of a U.S.-based journalist in its consulate in Istanbul. But before we separate ourselves from the Riyadh regime, we should ask what is the alternative if the House of Saud should be destabilized or fall?

When Egypt’s King Farouk was overthrown in 1952, we got Nasser.

When young King Faisal was overthrown in Baghdad in 1958, we eventually got Saddam Hussein. When King Idris in Libya was ousted in 1969, we got Qaddafi. When Haile Selassie was overthrown and murdered in Ethiopia in 1974, we got Col. Mengistu and mass murder. When the Shah was overthrown in Iran in 1979, we got the Ayatollah.

As World War I, when four empires fell, testifies, wars are hell on monarchies. And if a new and larger Middle East war, with Iran, should break out in the Gulf, some of the Arab kings, emirs and sultans will likely fall.

And when they do, history shows, it is not usually democrats who rise to replace them.

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Fire Bell in the Night for the Ayatollah

Fire Bell in the Night for the Ayatollah

By Patrick J. Buchanan

As tens of thousands marched in the streets of Tehran on Wednesday in support of the regime, the head of the Revolutionary Guard Corps assured Iranians the “sedition” had been defeated.

Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari is whistling past the graveyard.

The protests that broke out a week ago and spread and became riots are a fire bell in the night for the Islamic Republic.

The protesters denounced President Hassan Rouhani, re-elected last year with 57 percent of the vote, for failing to curb inflation or deliver the benefits he promised when Iran signed the nuclear deal.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, commander in chief and head of state, in power three decades, was also denounced, as were Iran’s interventions in wars in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen.

In 2009, the uprising of millions in Tehran was driven by middle-class rage over an election stolen by the populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This past week’s protests began in the working class, in what might be called Iran’s “fly-over country.”

The protesters were Red State and Tea Party types, demanding their own version of “Come Home, Iran” and “Iran First!”

The charge against Rouhani is that he has failed to deliver the good times promised. Against the ayatollah and the mullahs, the charge is that what they have delivered — power and wealth to the clerics, social repression, foreign wars — are not what the Iranian people want.

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The greater long-term threat of the protests is to the Islamic regime.

For if the protests are about people being denied the freedom and material goods the young enjoy in the West, the protesters are demanding what theocracies do not deliver. How could the ayatollah and the mullahs, who restrict freedom by divine law, accept democratic freedoms without imperiling their own theological dictatorship?

How could the Republican Guard surrender its slice of the Iranian economy and end its foreign interventions without imperiling its reason for being — to protect and promote the Iranian Islamic revolution?

Half of Iran’s population is 31 or younger. This new generation was not even born until a decade after the Revolution that overthrew the Shah.

How does a clerical regime speak to a people, 40 million of whom have smartphones connecting them to an outside world where they can see the freedom and prosperity they seek, but their government cannot or will not deliver?

The protesters are also telling Rouhani’s “reformers,” in power now for five years, that they, too, have failed.

Rouhani’s dilemma? To grow Iran’s economy and improve the quality of life, he needs more foreign investment and more consumer goods. Yet any surge in material prosperity Rouhani delivers is certain to undermine the religious faith undergirding the theocratic regime.

And as any transfer of power to the elected regime has to come at the expense of the clerics and the Guard, Rouhani is not likely to get that power.

Thus, he and his government are likely to continue to fail.

Bottom line: The Islamic Republic of Iran was not established to create a materially prosperous and socially free society, because, in the ayatollah’s theology, such societies, like the USA, are of the devil and corruptive of the people.

Social freedom is irreconcilable with Iranian theocracy.

And Iranian hard-liners, clerical and military, are not going to permit protests demanding Western freedom and material goods, to cause them to commit what they believe would be ideological suicide.

Yet the U.S. and President Trump also face a dilemma.

If as Trump says, we wish the Iranian people well, how do we justify scraping the nuclear deal in which Iranians have placed so much hope, and reimposing the sanctions that will restore the hardships of yesterday?

How does America proclaim herself a friend of the Iranian people, if we are trying to persuade Europeans to abrogate the nuclear accord and reimpose the sanctions that impoverish the Iranian people?

Will we urge the Iranians to rise up and overthrow their regime, as we did the Hungarians in 1956, which resulted in their massacre by Soviet tanks sent into Budapest? Ike’s response: He sent Vice President Nixon to greet the surviving Hungarian patriots fleeing across the Andau Bridge into Austria.

After Desert Storm in 1991, George H.W. Bush urged Iraqis to rise up against Saddam Hussein. When the Shiites did rise up, they, too, were massacred, as our Army from Desert Storm stood by in Kuwait.

If there is an Iranian uprising and it results in a Tiananmen Square slaughter in Tehran, do we really want the U.S., which would not likely intervene to save the patriots, held morally accountable?

The Iranian protests suggest that the Islamic Revolution, after 40 years, is failing the rising generation. It is hard to see how this is not ominous news for the Iranian regime.

As it was not on the side of the Soviets, time is not on the side of the ayatollahs either.

We need not go to war with them. Time will take care of them, too.

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