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By Matthew Rosen

Mason Carteri, one of my fellow Binghamton Review writers, has written an article this week criticizing the alliance between the US and Saudi Arabia, calling for its end. Similar to GOP senators Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, he believes that we should withdraw from our alliance with Saudi Arabia due to their brutal dictatorship, their opposition to freedom, and of course, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. For those of you who don’t know, Khashoggi was supposedly killed in a Saudi consulate in Turkey by 15 men tied to the Saudi government. Khashoggi was a citizen of Saudi Arabia, but a resident of the US who wrote for the Washington Post. Sorry to disagree with you Mason, but despite that, this is a crucial alliance to keep.

As for the brutal dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, I can’t say it’s a reason to withdraw from our alliance. I am not exactly a follower of the George W. Bush way of thinking about dictatorships. President Bush believed in a foreign policy where he wouldn’t negotiate with the “Axis of Evil.” I personally believe that a country’s internal affairs should not influence who we do and don’t negotiate with. Of course I am heavily in favor of democracy and individual liberties, but I also believe in sovereignty. It is not the US’s job to fix dictatorships, and if allying with one is beneficial to the US’s national interest, then I am for it.

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an easy decision. In fact, I believe it is the toughest foreign policy decision that the Trump administration has had to face. With the situation that the Saudis put us in, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. I certainly understand the credibility, and specifically our credibility on human rights, that we will lose if we do nothing. I am not suggesting we do nothing. I would be in favor of a temporary economic sanction on Saudi Arabia until they give explanations, and agree to certain reforms.

This decision is not as easy as the title of my article makes it sound. This is a delicate situation, and if we respond too lightly, we are giving the green light for countries like Saudi Arabia to do whatever they want internationally. If you have read some of my past articles, you would know that I believe credibility is one of the most important aspects of the US foreign policy. So that being said, I am not in favor of giving up credibility to let our ally off of the hook. It seems to me that a condemnation of the behavior and demands for certain reforms under threat of economic sanctions would send the message we need to send, without losing one of our crucial allies.

So why is it that Saudi Arabia is such a crucial ally? While the economic ties are real, I don’t think that is a good enough reason to label their alliance crucial. Well to answer that, we need to focus in on the Middle East and call it for what it is, a Cold War. It’s two big regional powers with opposing ideals battling in proxy wars, but never declaring direct war on each other. On one side of this Cold War, there is a country who hates America, wants to destroy all of our allies in the Middle East (including Israel), wants nuclear weapons, is heavily backed by one of the US’s biggest geopolitical enemies, and is the instigator of these conflicts. That side is Iran, backed by the Shia Crescent and pushed heavily by Russia. On the other side, is the country that internationally works with America, is more status quo, has recognized Israel’s right to exist, and suggested a coalition to check Iran’s power and aggression. That side is Saudi Arabia, backed by the Sunni nations, Palestine, loosely Israel (in the sense that they support Saudi Arabia over Iran), and the US.

Most people don’t tend to think of the struggle in the Middle East as a Cold War, but it really is. Saudi Arabia was the status quo country until Iran started to Export their Revolution to Saudi Arabia. Giving up the alliance with Saudi Arabia can tip the balance towards Iran and its allies, giving them an advantage in their proxy wars. A bipolar system (a system with exactly two powers) is the most stable type of system. Tipping the balance of power towards one side will blow it up, especially in this case where Saudi Arabia would lose its superpower ally, while Iran would keep its world power ally. An action so extreme like pulling out US support for Saudi Arabia will no doubt be disastrous to the balance of power, and therefore disastrous for the region and for US interests.

The ramifications of this could lead to the geographical, or political expansion of Iran, Iranian victory in proxy wars, and possibly even a full scale war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Mason points out that the conflict between these two regional powers will go on even if the US pulls its support of Saudi Arabia. While true, that doesn’t mean the US withdrawing wouldn’t immensely benefit Iran. Loss of this effective stalemate is detrimental to our important allies, to our efforts in lessening Iranian threat against America, and to our informal rivalry against Russia. Russia cannot be allowed to have that much of a sphere of influence in the Middle East.

Of course I agree with Mason’s claims that the Saudi government is immoral and extremely dictatorial, but the fundamental idea of sovereignty is important to uphold. It is not the US’s job to fix dictatorships, especially when it could lead to Iran’s expansion in the Middle East. But from a geopolitical/realist perspective on foreign policy, keeping Saudi Arabia as our ally is crucial. Handing over the opportunity to control the Middle East to Iran, the Shia Crescent, and Russia is way too dangerous to consider. On the other side of the coin, of course their needs to be some response that maintains the US credibility and sends the message that behavior like that isn’t tolerated.

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