The ‘America Last’ Express Hurtles On: Saudi Arabia, INF, Ukraine

As the façade of 2016 Candidate Donald Trump’s promised “America First” continues to crumble away, the baked-into-the-cake pathologies of the foreign and security policy “experts” who monopolize President Trump’s administration plunge forward along their predetermined paths. Any realistic notion of American national interests comes last after the priorities of – well, pretty much everyone else with leverage in Washington.

Case in point, let’s start with Saudi Arabia and all the breast-beating over whether Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) really is guilty of ordering the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. (Spoiler Alert: You betcha!)

American and western media were all a-twitter last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s high five to Crown Pariah MbS at the G20. Amid the faux outrage – come on, does anyone really think MbS was the only killer in that room? – the gesture received America’s highest media tribute: a parody on “Saturday Night Live.”

What a circus. Apart from Putin’s greeting, the assembled hypocrites went out of their way to shun the leprous MbS, even shunting him to the margins of the group picture – as though the killing of one dodgy journalist outweighed their abetting MbS’s business-as-usual slaughter in Yemen. Really! I barely know the guy. We were never actually friends...

Khashoggi’s gruesome death is the gift that keeps on giving, exacerbating as it does both international and domestic American fault lines. Let’s keep in mind that his affiliation was with the Muslim Brotherhood (and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan), the CIA, and (almost the same thing) the Washington Post. Internationally these line up with Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi elements currently on the outs with MbS and who would like to send him to join Khashoggi. Domestically in the US these add up to the Deep State and “the Resistance” to President Donald Trump, who are thrilled to be able to hang Khashoggi around his neck like an albatross, which he’s foolishly allowing to happen.

On the other hand, MbS is supported by Israel, which has a lot of clout on Capitol Hill (duh) and virtually owns the Trump administration (also duh). Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has Trump dancing to his tune via Jared Kushner (Trump and Kushner may now in fact be the same person), Ivanka Trump, and Sheldon Adelson, plus his entire foreign policy team, starting with National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Rather than wisely using the Khashoggi imbroglio as an opportunity to take the exit ramp away from US support for the crazed Wahhabist head-choppers in Riyadh of any faction, Team Trump is doggedly defending their the line in the sand in support of MbS personally as the spearhead of their anti-Iran, “Arab NATO” program.

The Resistance side is no less anti-Iran, but beating the Khashoggi drum and even tying it to support for Yemen slaughter (not that they really give a damn about Yemen, except for a few bleeding hearts like Senator Rand Paul and Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who even have the temerity to oppose the CIA’s arming of al-Qaeda in Syria!) is a twofer: to weaken and humiliate Trump, plus hoping at some point to install a replacement to MbS who would be a more reliable tool for their anti-Iran vendetta. The big break, if it comes, will be if Bibi’s foot soldiers around Trump decide they need to dump MbS as counterproductive to their agenda on Iran. Then they’ll stop resisting the Resistance, MbS will be removed (with extreme prejudice), and Trump will have egg on his face for having supported him for so long. For the Resistance, it’s win-win …

… if it happens that way. On the other hand, even exposed as the bloody minded killer he is, it’s not impossible MbS, with Israel backstopping him, can just tough it out. After all, those waiting in the wings in Riyadh are no angels either. At least in the short term MbS may still have the upper hand via squatter’s rights; he’s in power and the guy everybody still has to deal with. He can also still spread a lot of cash around as Khashoggi recedes into the rear view mirror.

If things really look as though they are going south on him, MbS might think to take leaf from the playbook of Georgia’s Mikheil Saakashvili in 2008 and Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko a couple of weeks ago (more below) and provoke an incident with Iran on his own to force Washington back him up. That would be risky, to say the least. It’s unlikely that even Bolton and Pompeo are ready for war – yet. They seem to believe their own propaganda about regime change via sanctions and economic collapse and the supposedly yuge popularity of the “People's Mojahedin” (MEK), our designated replacement waiting to be parachuted into Tehran. They’ll at least want to run the sanctions game a while longer to weaken Iran (and humiliate the Europeans some more) before they go for Plan B if necessary. Also, they’d need a phony pretext along the lines of Iraqi WMDs, Benghazi, Racak, and it’s uncertain MbS is competent give them one all by himself.

If MbS does hazard to strike out on his own before they (Donald Kushner and Boltpeo) are ready, he may end up chewing on his tie like Saakashvili (or whatever the equivalent of that is with a thobe and gutra). At that point he would be universally seen as a liability and removed. Nothing can be ruled out of course, and if MbS thinks are getting really shaky he just might do it, figuring he's got nothing to lose ... but his head.

Shifting gears to the big league between the US and Russia, it’s virtually certain the Trump administration will follow through on its threat to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, originally concluded between the US and the USSR in 1987. Pompeo’s ultimatum to Russia to confess they were cheating and dispose of the offending 9M729 missiles was couched in a laundry list of “admit when you stopped beating your wife” charges: “These violations of the INF treaty cannot be viewed in isolation from the larger pattern of Russian lawlessness on the world stage. The list of Russia’s infamous acts is long: Georgia, Ukraine, Syria, election meddling, Skripal and now the Kerch Strait, to name just a few.”

http://www.ronpaulinstitute.org/arch...a-inf-ukraine/