Sen. Rand Paul: It’s time to rethink America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia — It is not our friend

The fate of Khashoggi might come as a shock to many Americans, but it’s nothing new. A U.N. report reveals that over “3,000 allegations of torture were formally recorded” against Saudi Arabia between 2009 to 2015, according to The Guardian, with the report also noting a lack of a single prosecution of an official for the conduct.

I have been attempting to expose this for many years. Others in the U.S. government know it, but either won’t admit it or attempt to brush it aside. It’s a fact that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest sponsor of radical Islam on the planet, and no other nation is even close.

.. Since the 1980s, over $100 billion has “been spent on exporting” Wahhabism (the brand of Islam that controls Saudi Arabia and is most prevalent in madrassas). According to Foreign Policy Magazine, an “estimated 10 to 15 percent of madrassas are affiliated with extremist religious or political groups,” while the number of madrassas in places like Pakistan and India has increased exponentially – from barely 200 to over 40,000 just in Pakistan.

Even the State Department noted during the Obama administration that Saudi Arabia was the “most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,” and said Qatar and Saudi Arabia were “providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups.”

.. Of course, this isn’t new, as the previously classified 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission report can also tell you.

The Saudis have exported this radical ideology worldwide. They have also committed war crimes in their Yemen war – a war for which American taxpayers are being used as unwitting accomplices.

The Yemen war, fought with American weapons and logistical support, has killed tens of thousands and, according to The Washington Post, left 8 million more “on the brink of famine,” in what it calls “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

.. There is ample evidence of mass incarceration, indefinite detention, torture, and a complete lack of the rule of law and due process within Saudi Arabia. As a matter of understatement, this is antithetical to American ideals.

Will Netanyahu Seize the Chance for Peace?

The product of this sad history is today’s three-way division of the Israeli public. An increasingly fervent right rejects a two-state solution in theory (as a violation of God’s plan for Judea and Samaria) and in practice (as a mortal threat to Israel’s security). An enlarged, more skeptical center accepts it in theory but not in practice. A much-diminished left continues to believe in the two-state solution, in theory and in practice.

In the eyes of most Israelis, events have discredited the left’s noble dreams. If centrist politicians offer no alternative—and most have been reluctant—the right will retain the initiative.

.. Yet if Mr. Netanyahu is serious—and not just playing rope-a-dope until the Trump administration exhausts itself in the Middle East—he will do his utmost to broaden the talks by bringing the Saudis, and the Sunni coalition they lead, into the process.

..  If Mr. Netanyahu is skillful and determined, he will seize on the newly strengthened ties between Washington and Riyadh to engineer a similar invitation from the Saudis to meet face-to-face. To make this happen, the Israeli prime minister would have to utter some encouraging words about the Arab Peace Plan, a 15-year-old Saudi initiative, which he did as recently as 2015.

Two parties in the current coalition— Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu—would leave. The leaders of the Zionist Union, Ms. Livni and Mr. Herzog, almost certainly would be willing to join. There is a potential majority coalition for new and broadened negotiations, which only Mr. Netanyahu has the hard-line credibility to lead.

This would be the moment of truth for Mr. Netanyahu’s leadership. Does he want to use his mastery of coalition tactics to maintain himself in power indefinitely, or does he want to be remembered as a man who gambled on changing the course of history for his country?

President Trump’s Arab Alliance Is a Mirage

the Trump administration says it wants to create a military coalition of Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, to fight Islamist terrorism. It was as if Mr. Trump was trying to break his own alliance, described as an “Arab NATO,” before it had even formed.

.. where Mr. Trump sees an alliance united against extremism, the Saudis see a Sunni coalition that will roll back Iran.

.. Saudi-exported, ultra-conservative Wahhabism, which breeds intolerance around the world, is no less dangerous to Western interests than Iran’s support for radicalism, regional meddling and expansionism.

.. our Arab partners could use the anti-Islamic State coalition to go on the offensive, dragging the United States into new misadventures in the Middle East.

.. while Mr. Trump expects a Middle Eastern coalition to leverage the Arabs to do more, they will want to use it to deepen United States military engagement in the Middle East, while doing as little as possible themselves.

.. NATO itself is more than a coalition of common interests — it’s an alliance of shared values.

.. Mr. Trump seems more at home with Middle Eastern autocrats than he does with European democrats.

.. In their absence, an “Arab NATO” will prove to be a hollow enterprise.

Trump wants to push back against Iran, but Iran is now more powerful than ever

Except that now the United States will be facing down a far stronger Iran, one that has taken advantage of the past six years of turmoil in the Arab world to steadily expand its reach and military capabilities.

 .. “In order to confront Iran or push back more fiercely against it, you may find you’re in a conflict far more far-reaching and more destructive to the global economy than many of our allies or American public are willing to bear,”
.. Iran’s alleged quest to produce a nuclear weapon — which Tehran has always denied — has been curbed by the nuclear accord signed in 2015. But in the meantime it has developed missiles capable of hitting U.S. bases and allies across the Middle East and a network of alliances that have turned it into the most powerful regional player.
.. For the first time in its history, the Institute for the Study of War noted in a report last week, Iran has developed the capacity to project conventional military force for hundreds of miles beyond its borders. “This capability, which very few states in the world have, will fundamentally alter the strategic calculus and balance of power within the Middle East,” the Institute said.
.. America’s Sunni Arab allies, who blame the Obama administration’s hesitancy for Iran’s expanded powers, are relishing the prospect of a more confrontational U.S. approach. Any misgivings they may have had about Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric have been dwarfed by their enthusiasm for an American president they believe will push back against Iran.
.. But those familiar with Iran’s behavior in the region have said that they do not believe it will readily surrender its gains.“Any pushing back, the Iranians won’t take it lying down,”

.. “We look at America as our first enemy, the source of all evil on the Earth,” he said. “American interests in Iraq are within our sights and our fire range. If they act foolishly, their interests will be wiped out . . . and we can target their bases whenever we want.”

.. Russia controls the skies over Syria, and Turkey wields influence over the rebels, but Iran holds sway on the ground, through its extensive network of Shiite militias drawn from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. They have provided the manpower for front lines from the northern countryside of Aleppo, near the Turkish border, to the Golan Heights bordering Israel in the south.

.. Trump’s promises to curb Iranian influence are at odds with his stated desire to pursue closer cooperation with Russia in Syria and also to support Assad, because Iran is allied with both Assad and Russia

.. Alani sees no reason Trump should not easily be able to contain Iranian influence.

“It is a myth that Iran is strong. The only reason Iran is strong is because of U.S. weakness,” he said. “Iran is very thinly stretched. It will not take a lot to contain Iran.”