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The Saudi predicament requires radical changes in our foreign affairs positions

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Saudi predicament requires radical changes in our foreign affairs positions

The United States is at a foreign affairs crossroads. One of our most important allies in the most important region in the world is being led by a man that U.S. intelligence (and pretty much everybody else) believes ordered the murder of a journalist living in our nation and writing for one of its biggest news outlets. How can we reconcile between what’s right and what’s smart?

Further evidence was leaked today that Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month. The CIA concluded this based on multiple pieces of circumstantial evidence, including phone calls intercepted between Khashoggi and Mohammed’s brother assuring Khashoggi’s safety if he went to the Saudi consulate where was murdered.

CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/cia-concludes-saudi-crown-prince-ordered-jamal-khashoggis-assassination/2018/11/16/98c89fe6-e9b2-11e8-a939-9469f1166f9d_story.html?utm_term=.718b2d26599cThe CIA’s conclusion about Mohammed’s role was also based on the agency’s assessment of the prince as the country’s de facto ruler who oversees even minor affairs in the kingdom. “The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,” said a U.S. official familiar with the CIA’s conclusions.

Among the intelligence assembled by the CIA is an audio recording from a listening device that the Turks placed inside the Saudi consulate, according to the people familiar with the matter. The Turks gave the CIA a copy of that audio, and the agency’s director, Gina Haspel, has listened to it.

This is much more complicated than deciding whether or not to punish Mohammed. The stakes are unfathomably high, including balance of power in the Middle East, a potential oil crisis that could cripple the world economy, and the future of a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians.

Unfortunately, what’s right and what’s smart are diametrically opposed in this situation.

What’s right?

Every ounce of evidence points to the near-certainty that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. He was a permanent residence of the United States who lived in Virginia and worked at the Washington Post. While not a citizen, he lawfully earned the right to fall under our nation’s protections.

The right thing to do is to condemn the Crown Prince, even if that will irreversibly damage our relationship with Saudi Arabia.

What’s smart?

Based on the current geopolitical status quo, Saudi Arabia is our best proxy to keep Iran in check in the Middle East. They are also the reason the dollar is still the world’s reserve currency despite efforts by Russia, China, and other nations to change that. This status allows the dollar to maintain artificial stability. There are many factors in play that could cripple the dollar if Saudi Arabia and OPEC started dealing in other currencies, bur national debt alone would be enough to catastrophically collapse our entire economy if the world had the means to turn its collective back on us.

Saudi Arabia and the so-called “petrodollar” is the force that maintains the illusion of stability.

The arms we sell Saudi Arabia account for a substantial chunk of revenue and jobs in the United States, but more importantly it gives them the technological edge they need over Iran. If the Saudis turn to Russia or China, our influence over the region would diminish greatly.

The smart thing to do is to sweep this under the rug. Throw symbolic punishment at some sacrificial Saudi lambs and move on.

Time for change

There is no way to do what’s right and still do what’s smart, so it would seem the White House has to pick between the two.

Perhaps they don’t. Perhaps there’s a third option.

Even if we do the “right” thing by condemning Saudi Arabia Mohammed, ties will not deteriorate immediately. There will be a wind down during which time the Saudis will be looking for other partners and the Americans will be trying to salvage the relationship.

What if we didn’t? What if we acknowledged for the first time that Saudi Arabia is more than just the country that murdered Khashoggi. Their human rights record is atrocious. They have directly or indirectly harmed the United States for years, including a significant role in terrorist attacks. They spread Wahhabism across the world. If you haven’t heard much about Wahhabism, it’s because the radical Islamic sect that drives the House of Saud is protected from media scrutiny. See Network, which only partially satirizes the influence the Saudis have on U.S. media.

Saudi Arabia is a horrible ally. They’re necessary because we’ve made them necessary, but if we drastically cut budgets and spending, the economic ramifications of a break with them would be mitigated. It’s time to make deals with nations that do not smile at us in public and subvert us in private. Nations that do not like us, including Brazil and Venezuela, could be brought under our wing to replace Saudi Arabia on the oil front. It’s unimaginable now, but we live in fast-moving times.

Also, build the Keystone XL pipeline.

As for stability in the Middle East, it’s time we go all-in with Israel. They are the only true democracy and the one nation in the Middle East we can count on to not stab us in the back. They are capable of being the check against Iran. Abandon all talks of a two-state solution, work with Israel as our primary proxy in the Middle East, and make Saudi Arabia turn to others for support.

All of this sounds dangerous because, well, it is. The dominoes that will fall when we take drastic measures against Saudi Arabia will be painful. But there’s one thing to consider before balking at this. We may be heading in this direction already. The difference is it wouldn’t be us initiating (and therefore prepared for) these changes. Saudi Arabia has been quietly seeking a better deal for decades. They haven’t found it yet, but someday they will. When that happens, they’ll pull the rug out from under us.

We should be the ones pulling the rug. If we’re not, the permanent repercussions will be devastating.

Radical change in our foreign affairs stance is long overdue. Saudi Arabia is the worst kind of ally to rely upon, not just because of Khashoggi but because of everything else they’ve done. None of this seems feasible now, but it may be the only path forward.

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Foreign Affairs

The United Nations only opposes terrorism if it’s not directed towards Israel

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The United Nations only opposes terrorism if its not directed towards Israel

The hypocrisy and lunacy of the United Nations was made crystal clear today. Despite receiving a majority of votes on a resolution to condemn Hamas for their terrorist and military attacks on Israel, the 2/3 threshold was not met. The resolution will not be adopted.

By doing this, the U.N. has officially accepted terrorism as an acceptable means of dealing with the nation of Israel. Most nations do not agree, but as a governing body they have made their choice. More importantly, we are now aware of which nations support Hamas despite their heinous acts against the Jewish state.

The U.S. Mission to the U.N. laid down the stakes just prior to the vote.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley gave a speech that resonated with enough nations to bring about the simple majority. This is an accomplishment even if the resolution ultimately failed.

My Take

This is a good thing for Israel. One can argue it’s even better than had the resolution passed. United Nations resolutions are about as worthless as a press release. But seeing the United Nations being unwilling as a group to condemn the undisputed terrorist and military activities perpetrated by Hamas against Israel helps take away the governing body’s waning credibility.

We know who is more fair than others towards Israel. The European Union, for example, has been outspoken in their condemnation of many of Israel’s actions. But they voted as a unified block to condemn Hamas. This is a sign of hope that alerts Israel and the United States that the anti-Israel bias at the U.N. isn’t absolute. Some are willing to be at least a little more fair than usual.

Hamas is a terrorist organization. Its nature, stated goals, and actions have proven this beyond a shadow of a doubt. The fact the U.N. will not condemn them after condemning everything Israel does is a clear indicator the organization is corrupt.

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Foreign Affairs

China demands Canada release Huawei executive

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China demands Canada release Huawei executive

BEIJING (AP) — China on Thursday demanded Canada release a Huawei Technologies executive who was arrested in a case that adds to technology tensions with Washington and threatens to complicate trade talks.

Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, faces possible extradition to the United States, according to Canadian authorities. The Globe and Mail newspaper, citing law enforcement sources, said she is suspected of trying to evade U.S. trade curbs on Iran.

The timing is awkward following the announcement of a U.S.-Chinese cease-fire in a tariff war over Beijing’s technology policy. Meng was detained in Vancouver on Saturday, the day Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping met in Argentina and announced their deal.

Stock markets tumbled on the news, fearing renewed U.S.-Chinese tensions that threaten global economic growth. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 2.5 percent and the DAX in Germany sank 1.8 percent.

A Chinese government statement said Meng broke no U.S. or Canadian laws and demanded Canada “immediately correct the mistake” and release her.

Beijing asked Washington and Ottawa to explain the reason for Meng’s arrest, said a foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang. He said arresting her without that violated her human rights.

But the Ministry of Commerce signaled Beijing wants to avoid disrupting progress toward settling a dispute with Washington over technology policy that has led them to raise tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s goods.

China is confident they can reach a trade deal during the 90 days that Trump agreed to suspend U.S. tariff hikes, said a ministry spokesman, Gao Feng.

Huawei Technologies Ltd., the biggest global supplier of network gear used by phone and internet companies, has been the target of deepening U.S. security concerns. Under Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama, Washington has pressured European countries and other allies to limit use of its technology.

The United States sees Huawei and smaller Chinese tech suppliers as possible fronts for spying and as commercial competitors. The Trump administration says they benefit from improper subsidies and market barriers.

Trump’s tariff hikes on Chinese imports stemmed from complaints Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. But American officials also worry more broadly that Chinese plans for state-led creation of Chinese champions in robotics, artificial intelligence and other fields might erode U.S. industrial leadership.

“The United States is stepping up containment of China in all respects,” said Zhu Feng, an international relations expert at Nanjing University. He said targeting Huawei, one of its most successful companies, “will trigger anti-U.S. sentiment.”

“The incident could turn out to be a breaking point,” Zhu said.

Last month, New Zealand blocked a mobile phone company from using Huawei equipment, saying it posed a “significant network security risk.” The company was banned in August from working on Australia’s fifth-generation network.

On Wednesday, British phone carrier BT said it was removing Huawei equipment from the core of its mobile phone networks. It said Huawei still is a supplier of other equipment and a “valued innovation partner.”

The Wall Street Journal reported this year U.S. authorities are investigating whether Huawei violated sanctions on Iran. The Chinese government appealed to Washington to avoid any steps that might damage business confidence.

Huawei’s biggest Chinese rival, ZTE Corp., was nearly driven out of business this year when Washington barred it from buying U.S. technology over exports to North Korea and Iran. Trump restored access after ZTE agreed to pay a $1 billion fine, replace its executive team and embed a U.S.-chosen compliance team in the company.

Huawei is regarded as far stronger commercially than ZTE. Based in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, Huawei has the biggest research and development budget of any Chinese company and a vast portfolio of patents, making it less dependent on American suppliers.

Its growing smartphone brand is among the top three global suppliers behind Samsung Electronics and Apple Inc. by number of handsets sold.

Meng was changing flights in Canada when she was detained “on behalf of the United States of America” to face unspecified charges in New York, according to a Huawei statement.

“The company has been provided very little information regarding the charges and is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng,” the statement said.

A U.S. Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

Huawei said it complies with all laws and rules where it operates, including export controls and sanctions of the United Nations, the United States and European Union.

Meng’s arrest also threatened to inflame disagreements over Iran and Trump’s decision to break with other governments and re-impose sanctions over the country’s nuclear development.

Geng, the foreign ministry spokesman, said China objects to unilateral sanctions outside the United Nations. China has said it will continue to do business with Iran despite the possible threat of U.S. penalties.

Meng is a prominent member of China’s business world as deputy chairman of Huawei’s board and the daughter of its founder Ren Zhengfei, a former Chinese military engineer.

Despite that, her arrest is unlikely to derail trade talks, said Willy Lam, a politics specialist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“I think too much is at stake for Xi Jinping. He desperately wants a settlement,” said Lam.

Longer term, however, the case will reinforce official Chinese urgency about developing domestic technology suppliers to reduce reliance on the United States, said Lam.

Trump has “pulled out all the stops” to hamper Chinese ambitions to challenge the United States as a technology leader, Lam said. That includes imposing limits on visas for Chinese students to study science and technology.

“If the Chinese need further convincing, this case would show them beyond doubt Trump’s commitment,” said Lam.

David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said U.S. and Canadian business executives could face reprisals in China.

“That’s something we should be watching out for. It’s a possibility. China plays rough,” Mulroney said. “It’s a prominent member of their society and it’s a company that really embodies China’s quest for global recognition as a technology power.”

___

Gillies reported from Toronto. AP researcher Yu Bing in Beijing contributed.

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Economy

Conservatives opposed Sanders, Schumer on tariffs for a reason

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Conservatives opposed Sanders Schumer on tariffs for a reason

Now that President Trump has made tariffs a good thing in the eyes of most Republicans, many conservatives seem to have forgotten why we adamantly opposed them for years. Many have selective memory regarding their opposition to Senators Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders as they pushed for tariffs on China. The reason fiscal conservatives do not support tariffs is because it’s American consumers and businesses who pay for them, not China.

This is a fact. It’s not contested, though it’s conveniently ignored by those who so desperately want President Trump to win they’re unwilling to speak out when his victories align with fiscally irresponsible Democrats.

In June, Schumer said, “I thought what he did on China is right.” Just before that, Sanders said, “I strongly support imposing stiff penalties on countries like China.” It seems the Republican Party has aligned with the backwards economic policies of the left that increase costs to American businesses and consumers simply because Tariff Man said it was going to work. It won’t.

When Chinese companies are forced to pay a tariff to export to the United States, they don’t just take the hit and roll with it. They raise prices to compensate. That means American companies and their consumers are forced to pay more. This isn’t complicated economic math. Conservatives have always opposed tariffs because we realize the benefits are greatly outweighed by the detriments.

Tariffs are a way for the federal government to essentially tax Americans through the increased money they pay to foreign countries for their imports. They sometimes have the benefit of forcing companies to turn away from imports and pay higher prices to domestic sources, which is one of the goals the President has highlighted. But whether these companies are paying higher prices because of the tariffs or higher prices to domestic sources, the end result is American consumers invariably pay more for their products.

Free trade works in this global economy because it minimizes the costs passed through to consumers. We are a consumer-driven nation. Our economy does not thrive through “fair trade” because we are no longer reliant on exports to drive us fiscally. That’s not to say exports are bad. Generally speaking, they’re no longer our forte. Tariffs worked in the first half of the 20th century because the global economy allowed for it. Today, the global economy has producers and consumers. We fall in the latter category, and that’s not a bad thing. It means we need to produce through innovation and expansion, not reliance on exports to keep our economy afloat.

Democrats have perpetuated the false pretense that tariffs still benefit Americans today because it’s an additional source of revenue drawn from American businesses and consumers that does not need to be classified as a tax. However, tariffs act like a tax that’s filtered through other countries. We charge China. China charges American businesses. American businesses charge consumers. In the end, it’s Americans paying more of their hard-earned money that ends up in the federal government’s coffers.

Conservatives need to remember why a majority of Republicans opposed tariffs until three years ago. We need to remember why Schumer and Sanders so adamantly support them. Just because they’re being pushed by Republicans doesn’t mean they’re right.

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