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Why the U.S. and Saudi Arabia Are Destined to Diverge

From Stratfor
President Donald Trump’s current enthusiasm for Saudi Arabia notwithstanding, the relationship between the United States and perhaps its most important ally in the Middle East is undergoing a significant transformation. U.S. political pressure on Saudi Arabia is rising, led by a growing congressional discomfort over the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen and the circumstances surrounding the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Beneath the surface of the politics of the day, a pair of more significant geopolitical shifts is helping pull the longtime allies apart: the evolution of the global system away from U.S. dominance toward an intensifying, near-peer competition with China, as well as the fundamental reshaping of the global oil and gas markets upon which Saudi Arabia has built its wealth and power. As both countries adjust to these changing dynamics, their shared strategic relationship will evolve away from the foundation of oil, counterterrorism and the mutual desire to contain Iran. It’s likely that, as those changes play out, the countries’ future priorities will not align as they have in past decades.

A Relationship Built on Pragmatism
Despite their obvious differences, Saudi Arabia and the United States have maintained a nearly eight-decade friendship. From the beginning, the U.S.-Saudi relationship has rested on mutual needs, not necessarily shared values. A meeting in the waning weeks of World War II aboard the USS Quincy between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz (better known in the West as Ibn Saud) set the stage for their countries’ close ties. The stark contrast between the lands that they governed could not have been more apparent. Roosevelt, arguably the leader of the world’s most powerful and industrially advanced country, had just attended the Yalta Conference, where he helped decide the postwar future of the globe. King Abdulaziz, on the other hand, came from one of the least developed countries in the Middle East, its oil industry still in its infancy.


The fall of the shah of Iran in 1979 pushed their relationship in a different direction. This time, the United States and Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia found themselves on the same side of the issue — with the Shiite-led Islamic Republic of Iran on the other. The Americans and the Saudis still were fighting communists, as their cooperation against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan evidenced, although once the Soviet Union collapsed, so did the battle against communism as a unifying priority. Just a few years after the Cold War ended, however, another common foe emerged: Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. The Gulf War and subsequent U.S. dual containment policy targeting both Iraq and Iran in the 1990s brought the United States and Saudi Arabia closer together. But other events over the years have also pushed them apart. The Iran-Contra affair complicated the relationship in the 1980s, while the rise of the global jihadist movement emanating from the Wahhabism sect, which is closely identified with Saudi Arabia, added another wrinkle, particularly after 9/11.


Russian Oligarch Sues the U.S. Over Sanctions

Source: New York Times

By Kenneth P. Vogel and Alan Rappeport
March 15, 2019

WASHINGTON — Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin, sued the United States government on Friday, demanding it lift sanctions that he claimed have cost him billions of dollars, made him “radioactive” in international business circles and exposed him to criminal investigation and asset confiscation in Russia.

In a lawsuit filed in United States District Court in Washington, Mr. Deripaska said that the sanctions, leveled in April by the Treasury Department, should be struck down because they deprived him of due process and relied on unproven smears that fell outside the sanctions program.

The lawsuit called Mr. Deripaska “the latest victim of this country’s political infighting and ongoing reaction to Russia’s purported interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections,” and asserted that “the general hysteria surrounding Deripaska prevents him from having a meaningful opportunity to challenge” the sanctions “through the normal channels for doing so.”

The sanctions were imposed in retaliation for “a range of malign activity around the globe” by Russia, including its election interference and its incursions into neighboring Ukraine, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said at the time.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/15/us/politics/oleg-deripaska-russia-sanctions.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur

Bernie Sanders on the Today Show 1981




An advocate for 9/11 families told Hill.TV in an interview that aired Monday on "Rising" that past U.S. administrations have sided more with the Saudi government than the families of victims despite links between Riyadh and the attacks nearly 20 years ago.

"They've all handled it the same," Terry Strada, the national chairwoman of 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, told co-host Krystal Ball last week. "They have sided with the Saudis more than they have sided with the 9/11 families."

"However, President Trump has not done anything to my knowledge that has hurt us. He actually supported the bill that we had to enact, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, right when he was being elected as president," she continued.

"But Democrat, Republican, past administrations, they usually side with the Saudis," she said. "Obama, he vetoed the bill that we needed to pass, and we came back and overrode his veto. Unanimously we passed it out of the Senate, unanimously out of the House, and then we came back with a veto override, his one and only veto override of his entire presidency."


Inside Biden and Warren's Yearslong Feud

He sided with the banks in Congress. She was a crusading law professor on the make. In 2020, are we about to get a rematch?

By THEODORIC MEYER March 12, 2019

February morning in 2005 in a hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Joe Biden confronted Elizabeth Warren over a subject they’d been feuding over for years: the country’s bankruptcy laws. Biden, then a senator from Delaware, was one of the strongest backers of a bill meant to address the skyrocketing rate at which Americans were filing for bankruptcy. Warren, at the time a Harvard law professor, had been fighting to kill the same legislation for seven years. She had castigated Biden, accusing him of trying “to sell out women” by pushing for earlier versions of the bill. Now, with the legislation nearing a vote, Biden publicly grappled with Warren face to face.

Warren, Biden allowed, had made “a very compelling and mildly demagogic argument” about why the bill would hurt people who needed to file for bankruptcy because of medical debt or credit card bills they couldn’t pay. But Biden had what he called a “philosophic question,” according to the Congressional Record’s transcript of the hearing that day: Who was responsible? Were the rising number of people who filed for bankruptcy each year taking advantage of their creditors by trying to escape their debts? Or were credit card companies and other lenders taking advantage of an increasingly squeezed middle class?

Warren blamed the lenders. Many credit card companies charged so much in fees and interest that they weren’t losing money when some of their customers went bankrupt, she said. “That is, they have squeezed enough out of these families in interest and fees and payments that never paid down principal,” Warren said.

Biden parried. “Maybe we should talk about usury rates, then,” he replied. “Maybe that is what we should be talking about, not bankruptcy.”

“Senator, I will be the first. Invite me.”

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