Lindsey Graham’s push for regime change in Saudi Arabia is a dangerous mistake

· December 7, 2018  
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Lindsey Graham's epic rant
Tom Williams | Getty Images

A coalition of Republican and Democratic senators have introduced a resolution seeking to directly interfere in the internal affairs of a close American ally in the Middle East, in effect endorsing regime change in Saudi Arabia.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and five cosponsors — Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., — have demanded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, should be “held accountable” for the killing of the late Islamist Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi. They join calls by others in the Senate — such as the Iran- and Qatar-friendly Republican Senator Bob Corker — in pressuring Riyadh’s internal hierarchy.

“The crown prince is a wrecking ball. I think he’s complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi to the highest level possible. I think his behavior before the Khashoggi murder was beyond disturbing. And I cannot see him being a reliable partner to the United States,” Graham said after an intelligence briefing this week. “If the Saudi government is going to be in the hands of this man for a long time to come, I find it very difficult to be able to do business because I think he’s crazy, I think he is dangerous, and he has put the relationship at risk.”

The South Carolina senator has explicitly called for regime change in Riyadh. In November, he called on Saudi Arabia to “replace” MBS with “someone who is not crazy.”

“It is not complicated for me. I like Saudi Arabia, but this guy is crazy and he needs to go,” he said in a Fox News interview.

Graham and his cohorts appear once again to have failed to learn the lessons from past mistakes, most notably their previous insistence upon regime change in Libya, Egypt, and Iraq.

In Libya, Graham, Rubio, and others joined the Obama administration in rallying support for the toppling of the Libyan government. It resulted in the empowerment of al Qaeda and ISIS-linked groups and the environment that produced the attack in Benghazi, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

In Egypt, a similar regime change coalition celebrated when the Muslim Brotherhood took over Cairo and proceeded to inflict chaos and violence upon non-Islamists, women, and the Coptic Christian community inside the country.

In his statement on the Saudi Arabia resolution, Graham once again described Crown Prince MBS as a “wrecking ball to the region jeopardizing our national security interests on multiple fronts.”

“It will be up to Saudi Arabia as to how to deal with this matter,” he adds, making it clear that he is pressuring Saudi Arabia to replace MBS in the line of succession.

MBS is a committed partner of the United States and has taken the unprecedented step of fully dedicating his regime to combatting radical Islamists throughout his country and the rest of the Middle East. He is also seeking to reform Saudi Arabia’s internal policies. He has bolstered the individual rights of all citizens, including women, and has dedicated resources toward implementing further economic and social reforms. If MBS is to be replaced, there is no guarantee whatsoever that his successor would implement the same policies. We could see Islamists within Saudi Arabia once again rise to power.

The Saudi Crown Prince retains his legitimacy mostly through internal support in the Saudi monarchy’s power structure. But when senators from the world’s most powerful country (and Saudi Arabia’s most important ally) call for his ouster, it could certainly threaten his international standing and perhaps embolden his many rivals to make a power grab.

The Graham resolution continues seemingly propping up Saudi Arabia’s terrorist and terrorist-supporting foes, while making demands upon Riyadh. For instance, the Senate measure calls on Saudi Arabia “to negotiate directly with representatives of the Houthi movement” on the war in Yemen.

The Houthis are an Iran-backed terrorist group. Their motto, “God Is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam,” really speaks for itself.

The resolution also calls on Saudi Arabia to “negotiate a political solution to its dispute with Qatar expeditiously and in a way that restores diplomatic relations with Qatar.”

Given Qatar’s massive support for terrorist groups around the world, it’s quite odd that the bipartisan group of senators is pressuring Saudi Arabia, and not Qatar, to restore proper diplomatic ties. Perhaps of note, Qatar-backed business enterprises are seeking to invest billions of dollars in Sen. Graham’s South Carolina. In February, Sen. Graham held face-to-face meetings with top-ranking Qatari officials at Boeing’s offices in South Carolina.

The resolution also condemns the murder of the Islamist Jamal Khashoggi and finds the crown prince largely responsible for that situation. Here at Conservative Review, I have pointed out that Khashoggi was a radical ideologue who sought to fan the flames of Islamist revolts throughout the region and called for the destruction of Israel. It’s odd that a Republican senator — or any U.S. senator for that matter — would continue to advance the case of a non-American Islamist. Senator Graham and his colleagues are putting America’s Middle East policy at risk with their attempt to meddle in the internal affairs of a strategic ally.


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Author: Jordan Schachtel

Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for Conservative Review and editor of The Dossier for CRTV. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel.