The United States’ stance reflects the carte blanche we have given the 32-year-old Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to act with impunity on a wide range of issues. The crown prince has been feted and fawned over from Wall Street to Hollywood, where his acolytes hail his economic diversification and social reforms, including granting women the right to drive and young people the freedom to attend selected foreign movies and concerts.
While these steps are welcome, they mask a darker set of domestic and foreign policies that the crown prince is pursuing to the detriment of American interests. He has harshly cracked down on activists, imprisoned royal family members and businessmen without due process on corruption charges and briefly held hostage the prime minister of Lebanon. Alongside the United Arab Emirates, the crown prince has prosecuted a relentless war against the Iranian-backed Houthi in Yemen, where he has used American logistical support and weapons, some provided by the Obama administration, to bomb civilians indiscriminately, reportedly collaborated when convenient with Al Qaeda fighters, and constrained the delivery of desperately needed assistance.
For more than a year, Saudi Arabia has persisted in blockading neighboring Qatar and is now digging a canal to turn it into an island, despite the presence of 10,000 American troops, to punish Qatar for allegedly supporting terrorism and its relationship with Iran. Most dangerously, the crown prince and his regional allies urged the Trump administration to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions, while stoking potential conflict with Iran.
The United States is following, not leading, in our newly unconditional partnership with Saudi Arabia. We consistently acquiesce in the crown prince’s actions, however impulsive or harmful. For reasons that remain unclear, President Trump has signaled to the crown prince (who is likely to lead the kingdom for decades) that America is at his service.
Defenders of this administration’s foreign policy love to tout the much-improved American relationship with Saudi Arabia, several Gulf countries and Israel, drawing a sharp contrast with the Obama era. It’s no wonder these countries love President Trump, because unlike under his predecessors, the United States has rolled over and played dead while they do whatever they please. Not exactly the stuff of leadership.
Susan E. Rice (@AmbassadorRice), the national security adviser from 2013 to 2017 and a former United States ambassador to the United Nations, is a contributing opinion writer.