MNA – Professor Hossein Askari, an expert on Saudi Arabia who also teaches international business at the George Washington University, believes that Trump has to invent something for defending MBS and King Salman to his evangelical base and the millions of other Americans who get their news from Fox.
“National security is a well-proven candidate and it is less debatable because common folks assume that is an area left to the government and people in the know. So he says that the US needs King Salman and MBS for America’s national security,” Hossein Askari, who served as special adviser to Saudi finance minister, tells the Tehran Times
Following is the text of the interview:
What we are increasingly hearing is Trump’s attacks on Iran as he defends MBS and King Salman in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Why do you think Trump is using this tactic?
Trump has to invent something for defending MBS and King Salman to his evangelical base and the millions of other Americans who get their news from Fox. National security is a well-proven candidate and it is less debatable because common folks assume that that is an area left to the government and people in the know. So, he says that the US needs King Salman and MBS for America’s national security. He can’t now repeat what he had said in the past. Namely, how he loves the Saudis because they buy and rent things from him. He has to say that the Saudis are critical for US security. So what is he saying? All lies but here is a partial list: We need Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, yet he forgets that Osama bin Laden was a Saudi and 15 of the terrorists who were responsible for 9/11 were Saudis; and today it is Saudi Arabia that is killing thousands of innocent Yemeni women and children with indiscriminate aerial bombing supported by the US military and with US bombs and planes that Trump so proudly advertises to the world. And atrocities that will only create more enemies for the US in the future. But Trump, and pliant Fox media, say their nonsense that they need Saudi Arabia to fight Iranian terrorism! We need Saudi Arabia to combat religious extremism, yet he forgets that Saudi Arabia with its Salafist religious extremists are universally recognized as preaching a false, harshest and most oppressive interpretation of the Muslim faith. We need Saudi Arabia to oppose Iran from taking over the Middle East, yet he forgets that it was Iran that was invaded by Iraq with US and European support, among others, including Western supplied outlawed chemical weapons that killed thousands of Iranians and today US forces surround Iran with a nuclear armed Israel ready nearby. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that Trump needs a straw man, a scapegoat, to justify his outlandish support for Saudi Arabia and Iran is his best target for his audience in the United States.
Why is the US media not challenging him on his baseless attack on Iran?
The US media has no time to explain why Iran and Iranians feel insecure with all the hostile forces around them. For the vast majority of Americans, news comes in the form of 10 second sound bites. They have no interest or time to understand that Iran has legitimate needs for missiles for its defense given regional realities and recent history. The US and its allies have thousands of sophisticated missiles pointed at Iran, they have overwhelming air power, sophisticated electronic devices and yet they want Iran to have no defense whatsoever. It is a fantasy!
Still it seems that more than ever before the US is supporting Saudi Arabia and attacking Iran. Are there special reasons for this dual track?
Yes, there are some unique reasons. MBS has attached himself to Israel and the Israeli lobby in the US He has figured out that this is one direct channel for more permanent US support. The second is money. Former US officeholders have always happily lobbied for Saudi Arabia in exchange for money but this time they have a lobbyer in chief in the person of the US President and his assistant, his son-in-law Jared Kushner. We must face facts, US foreign policy and support is up for sale as never before. America’s Founding Fathers feared such a practice and they must be turning over in their graves at what they see. The third leg of the stool is that the Iranian economy has been mismanaged and is bad shape; Trump and Netanyahu smell blood and are pushing for regime change. There is a cartoon making the rounds that says it all. I don’t know where it came from but it is accurate. Trump, standing next to Salman, says “If you pay 500 billion, we will say that Khashoggi died outside the consulate, and if you pay 1000 billion, we will accuse Iran of killing him” to which King Salman replies “I will pay 2000 if you add Hezbollah and the Huthis with Iran.” Look Saudi Arabia is a new country. It discovered oil. It has been catapulted to the world stage because of its oil and money. It has used its money as its most important instrument to buy support, both foreign as well as domestic. And it is doing it here. It is doing what it knows best. So you shouldn’t be surprised.
Is there anything Iran can do to combat this unwarranted onslaught on Iran?
Most important, Iran needs better economic management. If Iran is economically strong it makes itself largely immune to US attacks. With a strong economy, other countries are more likely to cooperate with Iran and defy the United States. Iran also needs to cultivate truly close friends in its region, friends that will stand with Iran. The best candidates are Iraq, Qatar, Oman, Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It will take time and effort to develop truly strong relations. Finally, it always helps if Iran can muster a few articulate and charismatic voices to express its views to the rest of the world.
Are we likely to see a change in Saudi and US policies anytime soon?
That’s a tough one. Look the Al-Sauds are all about keeping a tight grip on power and the country’s oil wealth for themselves. Just a few days ago, I saw the following estimate on a major US network, the wealth of the rulers of Saudi rulers is put at 16 times that of the British royal family—$1.4 trillion versus less than $100 billion. It took the British a few centuries and the Saudis about 80 years. How and why? Well they take what they want from the national treasury—oil wealth that belongs to all Saudis of this and future generations, a wealth that is being rapidly depleted to finance their lavish lifestyle and buy superpower support. So do you think that MBS and the Al-Sauds will hand this piggybank over to anyone anytime soon? Of course not! Will former politicians and opportunistic businessmen in the US give up their indirect access to MBS’ piggybank? No, they may distance themselves for a little while to keep up appearances but they will soon go crawling back. If Iran wants less hostile US and Saudi policies, then Iran must become strong economically and militarily and cultivate a few close regional allies. And the faster Iran sets about doing these, the easier it will be.