Did Jared just secure his family’s real-estate empire by facilitating a palace coup in Saudi Arabia?

I’ve written previously about the Kushner family’s attempts to shore up their precarious finances by extorting fees from low-income tenants and selling green-cards to Chinese investors. As Bloomberg reported in August, the Kushners are desperately seeking cash to save their heavily-mortgaged Manhattan skyscraper as balloon payments come due over the next two years.

Last week, Kushner took an unannounced trip to KSA:

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner returned home Saturday from an unannounced visit to Saudi Arabia — his third trip to the country this year.

Kushner left Washington, D.C., via commercial airline on Wednesday for the trip, which was not announced to the public, a White House official told POLITICO. He traveled separately from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who led a delegation to Riyadh last week to focus on combating terrorist financing. […]

The White House official would not say who Kushner met with in Saudi Arabia. But he has cultivated a relationship with the crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, who, like Kushner, is in his 30s. — www.politico.com/…

Saudi Arabia has, for the past two years, been waging a brutal bombing campaign against Yemen which has caused thousands of civilian deaths. This war is widely believed to be Mohammed Bin Salman’s [MBS] project, though the war is broadly supported in Saudi Arabia across factions. For example, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal promised to reward Saudi air force pilots with Bentleys when they returned from bombing raids.

Sadly, our government has actively supported the Saudi war in Yemen, providing weapons (including cluster bombs) and operational support. Hundreds of children have been killed by these weapons, thousands have lost limbs. Many of you saw the heart-rending pictures of a young toddler who had lost four of her fingers, staring at the intact hand on her doll.

Then yesterday, the crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, engineered a palace coup, arresting dozens of his own uncles and cousins.

midnight blitz of arrests ordered by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia over the weekend has ensnared dozens of its most influential figures, including 11 of his royal cousins, in what by Sunday appeared to be the most sweeping transformation in the kingdom’s governance for more than eight decades.

The arrests, ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman without formal charges or any legal process, were presented as a crackdown on corruption. They caught both the kingdom’s richest investor, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and the most potent remaining rival to the crown prince’s power: Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, a favored son of the late King Abdullah. — www.nytimes.com/…

Another prince died along with several officials as his helicopter crashed near the Yemeni border.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal had sparred with Trump during and after the election. His Kingdom Holding Company is a major investor in Twitter and Apple. He was one of the people arrested.

“The king and crown prince’s recent public statements regarding the need to build a moderate, peaceful and tolerant region are essential to ensuring a hopeful future for the Saudi people, to curtailing terrorist funding, and to defeating radical ideology — once and for all — so the world can be safe from its evil,” the White House said in the statement.

The White House statement made no mention of the scores of arrests, including that of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire investor who has held stakes in an array of Western companies, including the News Corporation, Citigroup and Twitter. Prince Mohammed, who has already sidelined rivals to the throne, is viewed as the mastermind behind the crackdown.

Prince Alwaleed sparred with Mr. Trump on Twitter during the presidential election, referring to him as a “disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America.” Mr. Trump fired back, also on Twitter, that he was a “dopey prince” trying to “control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money.” — www.nytimes.com/…

If Kushner was in Saudi Arabia to bless the impending palace coup by MBS, then the Trumps and Kushners can expect rich rewards in the years to come. If MBS can ascend to the throne and diminish the competition, he will control a state-owned oil company that is valued at $2 Trillion and about to go public this year. Yes, that’s Trillion with a T.

Even without the money raised from an IPO, Saudi Aramco produced almost 4 billion barrels of crude oil in 2016. At $50 a barrel, that’s $200 billion in sales each year, the vast majority of it profit. Those numbers are staggering. Saudi Aramco’s annual profits exceed the total net worth of the richest person in the world.

Let’s just say that becoming the King of Saudi Arabia makes you an extremely wealthy person. It makes you even wealthier if you can imprison some of your relatives and confiscate their assets in a “anti-corruption drive”.

And when you have consolidated all this power and wealth, you aren’t going to forget the friends who helped you make it happen will you? Friends with last names like Kushner and Trump? What’s a $5 billion loan or a $10 billion construction contract among friends?

So what can you do as the Trump/Kushner kleptocracy tries to milk every dollar it can out of its days in elected office? You can get out and vote. And you can help get out the vote. I’ve been doing that every day this week and have multiple people tell me they are thankful for the reminder because they didn’t know there was an election on Tuesday, November 7.

As Trump ponders a coup in Venezuela, report says 165 military coups since ’70 involved DoD trainees

Calls for a US backed military coup in Venezuela have emanated from the Trump White House. Meanwhile, NPR has given coup advocates a platform to advocate for a coup, positioning it as “humanitarian intervention”.

It’s worth discussing the history of coups the US has been associated with. Last week, new documents revealed that the UK government had repeatedly asked the US to foment a coup in Iran in 1952. This is from the NSArchive project at GWU:

1953 Iran Coup: New U.S. Documents Confirm British Approached U.S. in Late 1952 About Ousting Mosaddeq

State Department Temporarily Declined, in Part Because U.S. Was Still Hoping to Reach Oil Deal with Iranian Prime Minister

Paul Nitze Proposed Targeting Ayatollah Kashani and Tudeh Party as Test before Attempting Full-blown Coup

Just-Declassified Documents Were Withheld from Foreign Relations of the United States Volume on Iran Coup Published in 2017

— nsarchive.gwu.edu/…

Note that the State Department only “temporarily declined” to sponsor a coup. Eventually, the US did participate in the coup against the democratically elected Mossadegh. We delayed because there was a possibility the democratically elected government might sign an oil deal. When they didn’t we initiated a coup.

Now, think how people in the region, who are intimately familiar with this history, might feel about the invasion of Iraq, or any other country. They might be a bit skeptical about our intentions. Worse yet, that invasion was a president (Bush) and vice-president (Cheney) deeply involved in the oil industry (and the war industry). For an American, this should raise alarm. Was our country and our armed forces “captured” and used by a particular industry to further its interests? Is that happening today?

When Trump comes out and says “We should take their oil”, no one in the Middle-East is particularly shocked, because they’ve just assumed (rightly) that this is what we were after all along. Our claims that we are spreading democracy and liberalism are met with justified skepticism. After all, if we are so interested in human rights, why are we Saudi Arabia’s staunchest allies? The KSA is a toxic monarchy that executes and tortures anyone who challenges the ruling kleptocracy. It is waging a war on the poorest nation in the Middle East, Yemen, which has cost the lives of tens of thousands of innocents. And KSA is only the worst example, there are many other repressive, regressive regimes supported by successive US governments.

A lengthy investigation has revealed that foreign officers trained in Dept. of Defense programs go on to engage in coups twice as frequently than those who have not.  Foreign military personnel trained by the US have been involved in 60% of the military coups attempted since 1970.

Caverley and Savage identified 275 military-backed coups that occurred worldwide between 1970 and 2009. In 165 of them, members of that country’s armed forces had received some IMET or CTFP training the year before the coup. If you add up all the years of such instruction for all those countries, it tops out at 3,274 “country years.” In 165 instances, a takeover attempt was carried out the next year. “That’s 5 percent, which is very high, since coups happen rarely,” Caverley told TomDispatch. “The ratio for country-years with no US training is 110 out of 4101, or 2.7 percent.”

While US training didn’t carry the day in The Gambia in 2014 (as it had in 1994 when US military-police-training alumnus Yahya Jammeh seized power), it is nonetheless linked with victorious juntas. “Successful coups are strongly associated with IMET training and spending,” Caverley and Savage noted. According to their findings, American trainees succeeded in overthrowing their governments in 72 of the 165 coup attempts. […]

Indeed, it’s a truism of US military assistance programs that they instill democratic values and respect for international norms. Yet the list of US-trained coup-makers—from Isaac Zida of Burkina Faso, Haiti’s Philippe Biamby, and Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia to Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan, and the IMET-educated leaders of the 2009 coup in Honduras, not to mention Mali’s Amadou Sanogo—suggests an embrace of something other than democratic values and good governance. “We didn’t spend, probably, the requisite time focusing on values, ethics, and military ethos,” then chief of US Africa Command, Carter Ham, said of Sanogo following his coup. “I believe that we focused exclusively on tactical and technical [training].”

— www.thenation.com/…

Our country is in an uproar over the possibility that Russia may have spread propaganda and leaked damaging information to influence an election. Imagine how Gambians or Hondurans or Iranians feel when militia or rogue units trained by the US attempt honest to goodness military coups. The damage and distrust lasts for generations.

As alarming as the frequency of coups is, it gets worse. Personnel trained by the Department of Defense have also been implicated in human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture and murder.

The Defense Department trained at least 17 high-ranking foreigners at some of its top schools who were later convicted or accused of criminal and human rights abuses in their own countries, according to a series of little-noticed, annual State Department reports to Congress.

Those singled out in the disclosures included five foreign generals, an admiral, a senior intelligence official, a foreign police inspector, and other military service members from a total of 13 countries, several of which endured war or coups.

Several officers committed crimes within a few years of their training. Others committed crimes more than a decade later. Many of the officers were described in the reports as leaders or participants in high-profile scandals and conflicts in their countries — including extrajudicial killings in Colombia, torture during Nepal’s conflict against Maoists, and murder during a Bolivian internal conflict, according to the State Department reports. — www.publicintegrity.org/…

The number of trainees implicated in human rights abuses is almost definitely much higher. The Dept. of Defense and State are supposed to report statistics to Congress, but these were not found to be comprehensive.

By law, the programs are meant to teach  “basic issues involving internationally recognized human rights”. However, the Center for Public Integrity’s investigation found very few trainees received such training as separate courses.

@subirgrewal

Progressive Lion: John Conyers Jr. (MI-13)

John Conyers Jr. is Dean of the House of Representatives, he was first elected to Congress in 1965. He is currently in his 26th term, and is one of only seven people to have served over 50 years in Congress.

Conyers was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Rosa Parks served on his staff for over twenty years and he visited Selma to meet with Freedom Riders multiple times in the 1960s. In many ways, his longevity makes him a living link to our past.

Four days after MLK was assassinated, Conyers introduced a bill in Congress to make his birthday a national holiday. It was finally signed into law 15 years later, in 1983. Conyers has been a indefatigable champion for many other progressive causes, chipping away for decades at resistance working to create a breakthrough.

His commitment is exemplified by his determined sponsorship of two bills:

  • H.R. 40 — Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.
  • H.R. 676 —  Medicare For All.

Conyers has re-introduced HR 40 in every Congress since 1989. In the current (115th) congress, it has 30 co-sponsors.Conyers has introduced HR 676 in every Congress since 2003. In the current Congress, it has 113 co-sponsors, the most support it has ever received.

Congressman John Conyers is on DKos and was posting intermittently till 2015. In a remarkable diary in 2008, he republished a 1974 article he’d written for the The Black Scholar. It made the case for Nixon’s impeachment. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Conyers had helped draft the articles of impeachment that were prepared but never voted on, since Nixon resigned. The article begins:

Richard Nixon, like the President before him, was in a real sense a casualty of the Vietnam War, a war which I am ashamed to say was never declared.

Weeks after the 2016 election, Conyers highlighted the dangerous concordances between Nixon and Trump. Rep. Conyers enjoys a close working relationship with the Democratic Socialists of America and has been one of the most reliable progressive votes in Congress. He is also a staunch champion of individual rights, often getting the highest rating from the ACLU. He gets a 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign, indicating his steadfast support for LGBT rights.

Under his chairmanship, the House Judiciary committee issued contempt citations to John Bolton and Harriet Miers for failing to produce documents related to the firing of nine US district attorneys. Committee staff, under his leadership, issued a report on the Bush administration’s rush to war in Iraq, and the scandal surrounding the abuse of prisoners by US soldiers and contractors. It was titled: “The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution and Coverups in the Iraq War.” He has found opportunities to work across the aisle on certain issues, notably a bill to limit the Patriot Act. As chair of the House Judiciary committee, he argued against prosecuting Wikileaks for publishing documents leaked by Chelsea Manning. In supporting the right of the ordinary Americans to know how their government was using its vast surveillance powers, Conyers stood in opposition to senior Democrats and Republicans who wanted to prosecute.

After graduating from high school, Conyers became a member of the UAW (as his father was). He worked in the Lincoln Car Factory an on the staff at Local 900. Conyers served in Korea for a year and is skeptical of our military adventures. He favors dialog and diplomacy with North Korea (see the placard by the sofa):

Oh, and he’s pretty dapper.

Conyers remains committed to responsible defense, he’s sponsored an amendment to prevent the sale of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia as they’ve been used by the KSA against civilians in their war on Yemen.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. is a Progressive Lion.

Progressive Lion is an occasional series celebrating a politician or activist exemplifying progressive values. The goal is the recognize their achievements and lives. Our initial focus will be on those whose names do not come up frequently here. If you know aspects of their career or work that are not in the diary, please share them in comments.
@subirgrewal

Our bombs blew off this baby’s fingers. She is now learning to use the few she has left.

One year old Zuhoor, whose fingers were amputated after an airstrike in Yemen.

Our government sold the airplanes that dropped these bombs.

Our government refuels the planes on their sorties.

Our government makes and sells the bombs, including cluster bombs.

We share responsibility for these atrocities.

And please don’t believe any of the bullshit peddled to us about how our bombs bring “freedom” and “democracy”. The hands on the triggers are Saudi and we provide the political cover for the Saudis as they do this. The Saudi government is a brutal monarchy. They are about to behead 14 men for taking part in a pro-democracy rally. One of the men was under 18 and arrested on his way to attend college in Michigan. Another is a 23 year old man who is blind and deaf. They were tortured to obtain confessions, most have since recanted.

Meanwhile, in his visit to Saudi Arabia, President Trump did find the time to participate in an elaborate sword dance, but never brought up human rights violations.

US President Donald Trump joins dancers with swords at a welcome ceremony ahead of a banquet at the Murabba Palace in Riyadh on May 20, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The president who spends hours watching TV and tweeting can’t seem to comment on the fact that our close ally is planning to behead men and boys for the crime of attending a rally.

Mr Trump has not yet commented on the case of Mr al-Sweikat. In his speech to the Saudis in May, he said: “America is a sovereign nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens.

“We are not here to lecture, we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship.

“Instead, we are here to offer partnership, based on shared interests and values—to pursue a better future for us all.” — www.independent.co.uk/…

Perhaps torture and a penchant for bombing other countries the “values” we share with brutal monarchies?

— @subirgrewal

Khamenei calls Saudi strikes in Yemen “genocide”, proclaims “neither support nor oppose” nuke deal.

The NY Times is carrying a story on a speech Khamenei gave earlier today: Iran’s Supreme Leader Noncommital on Nuclear Agreement which contains statements on the nuclear deal and the Yemen conflict.

The leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also expressed strong and rare criticism toward Iran’s regional competitor, Saudi Arabia, calling the new leaders in Riyadh “inexperienced youths” who were highlighting the country’s “barbarous features.”In public remarks that were bound to escalate tensions with Saudi Arabia, Mr. Khamenei referred to Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen as an invasion and “a genocide,” which he called a “bad mistake” and a crime akin “to those committed by the Zionists in Gaza.”

“Despite disputes,#Saudis used to display composure w us but now inexperienced #youngsters have come to power& replaced composure w barbarism”  — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) April 9, 2015

The last is kind of a strange thing to say since King Salman is 82 (ascended to throne in January).

He also made some comments on the nuclear deal which contain a mix of optimism and skepticism. I would take them with many servings of salt. He’s speaking to a domestic audience which contains people who do not want any deal with the US, and he clearly cannot turn on a dime and advocate reconciliation with the “great Satan”. It’s the same kind of rhetorical dilemma our politicians face when discussing deals with a charter member of the “Axis of Evil”.

It’ll take years before Iranian and American politicians can speak about each other in non-judgmental terms. Huge props to President Obama for dialing down the rhetoric from day one, as exemplified in the Cairo speech.  This rapprochement with Iran has been six years in the making, which is why it is so crucial that it be given every chance to succeed. As I argued earlier, if it works, it will be Obama’s foreign policy legacy and Cuba was a dry run.

It must be clear, the ayatollah said, that the negotiations were not going beyond the nuclear field. “But,” he continued, “if the other side refrains from its normal bad actions, this will become an experience that we can continue on other issues. If we see that once again they repeat their bad actions, it will only strengthen our experience of not trusting America.”The Iranian leader said that he was not worried about the talks failing and leading to a regional race toward enrichment. In a veiled address to Saudi Arabia, he challenged that country to try and start a nuclear program without the help of foreigners.

“An underdeveloped country said, ‘If Iran has enrichment, we want it too,’” he said. “Well, do it if you can. Nuclear technology is our domestic capability.”

That is likely a reference to the suspicion (widely shared by many) that Pakistan has a tacit agreement with the Saudis to provide nukes if they need/want them. Of course, A.Q. Khan claimed he had provided technical assistance to the Iranians.

Washington Post is also covering the story Iran’s supreme leader voices pessimism on nuclear deal:

In a televised speech marking Iran’s National Day of Nuclear Technology, Khamenei also ruled out any “extraordinary supervision measures” over Iran’s nuclear activities and said that “Iran’s military sites cannot be inspected under the excuse of nuclear supervision,” the Associated Press reported. But he also repeated his denials that Iran has any intention of building nuclear weapons, which he has declared to be forbidden by Islam.

It was not immediately clear whether Khamenei was seeking to assuage hard-liners in Iran who have vocally opposed the nuclear negotiations, or whether he was signaling his own deal-breaking reservations about the framework agreement. Khamenei has the final say on Iranian acceptance of any agreement.Khamenei said he had faith in Rouhani’s negotiators but expressed suspicion of Washington, warning about its “devilish” intentions.

“I neither support nor oppose the deal,” he said, Reuters reported. “Everything is in the details. It may be that the deceptive other side wants to restrict us in the details.”

He added: “I was never optimistic about negotiating with America. . . . Nonetheless I agreed to the negotiations and supported, and still support, the negotiators.” As he spoke , a crowd chanted, “Death to America,” Reuters said.

The NY Times highlighted the emphasis Khamenei seems to have placed on all sanctions being lifted the day a deal is signed:

“The sanctions should be lifted all together on the same day of the agreement, not six months or one year later,” Mr. Khamenei said. “If lifting of sanctions is supposed to be connected to a process, then why do we negotiate?””Hours after the #talks, Americans offered a fact sheet that most of it was contrary to what was agreed.They always deceive breach promises.” — Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) April 9, 2015

Tom Cotton got over $2.1 million in campaign ad support from pro-Israel donors

The NY Times is running a story on how contributions from a small group of single-issue mega-wealthy donors is impacting the Republican party’s stance on Israel.

GOP’s Israel Support Deepens as Political Contributions Shift

Donors say the trend toward Republicans among wealthy, hawkish contributors is at least partly responsible for inspiring stronger support for Israel among party lawmakers who already had pro-Israel views.

Cough. No shit Sherlock. Cough.

The Emergency Committee for Israel, led by William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, spent $960,000 to support Mr. Cotton. In that same race, a firm run by Paul Singer, a hedge fund billionaire from New York and a leading donor to pro-Israel causes, contributed $250,000 to Arkansas Horizon, another independent expenditure group supporting Mr. Cotton. Seth Klarman, a Boston-based pro-Israel billionaire, contributed $100,000 through his investment firm.The political action committee run by John Bolton, the United Nations ambassador under President George W. Bush and an outspoken supporter of Israel, spent at least $825,000 to support Mr. Cotton. That PAC is in part financed by other major pro-Israel donors, including Irving and Cherna Moskowitz of Miami, who contributed 99 percent of their $1.1 million in 2012 races to Republican candidates and causes.

In other news Senator Cotton’s spokesman denied his letter writing campaign was in any way quid pro quo for this support.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group, said this relatively small group of very wealthy Jewish-Americans distorted the views among Jews nationwide who remain supportive of the Democratic Party and a more nuanced relationship with Israel.“The very, very limited set of people who do their politics simply through the lens of Israel — that small group is tilting more heavily Republican now,” he said, adding, “But it is dangerous for American politics as too many people do not understand that of the six million American Jews, this is only a handful.”

Which brings me to the real news in this story. The portion of the liberal establishment that is Jewish (including enough NY Times editors to matter) seems to be breaking big time from the current Israeli administration’s policies.

Uh, did I mention the story’s going to be on the first page of Sunday’s paper?

Or that J Street gets top billing in the story? Looks like the Times is ready to help them boost their profile.

“Israel did not traditionally represent that kind of emotional focus for any element of the Republican Party,” (Geoffrey Kabaservice, a Republican Party historian) said. “But the feeling now is that it is a winning issue, as it helps them to appear strong on foreign policy.”

“Appearing strong” as opposed to being sensible. I’m glad to hear both houses of Congress have majorities who’re focused on appearances rather than substance.

Over all, the most significant contributor by far to Republican supporters of Israel has been Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, who with his wife has invested at least $100 million in conservative causes over the last four years. A large chunk was spent on the 2012 presidential campaign, but Senate Republicans also benefited, and could soon again, particularly those considering a run for president.

The shift has also meant the Republican Party today accepts little dissent on the topic of Israel, said Scott McConnell, a founding editor of The American Conservative, an outcome he believes is in part driven by the demands of financial supporters.“Republicans interested in foreign policy used to understand that it was not in America’s national interest to ignore entirely Arab claims against Israel,” he said. “Now, there is a fanatical feeling of one-sidedness.”

“I know there has been all this fervent speculation that Tom Cotton and Bill Kristol and Sheldon Adelson were at some private room at the Venetian cooking this up,” said Noah Pollak, the executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, referring to Mr. Adelson’s casino in Las Vegas, where many prominent Republicans and Jewish leaders will gather this month. “But Tom is a smart guy and has a long record of thinking about the Middle East, and he is entrepreneurial. Tom wrote this letter.”

In other words, it may not be in the country’s interest. And it may not even be in the Republican party’s long-term interest. But it sure as shit was in Tom Cotton’s interest to write the letter.

Also, he’s an “entrepreneur”. Which is funny, I thought he was a United States Senator. But apparently lobbyists know him as an “entrepreneur”, and presumably one who knows you’ve got to watch that top-line sales/revenue number. But to have sales you’ve got to be selling something. So what exactly does Tom Cotton have that’s for sale?

Meanwhile, Chemi Shalev reminds us in Haaretz that “The opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s indifference”. In that Netanyahu faces new danger in U.S. following Iran deal: Being ignored. That’s in reference to Bibi’s demand that no nuclear deal with Iran be signed till Iran recognizes Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel introduced a new demand Friday for the final phase of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, saying the completed deal must include an “unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel’s right to exist.”

Asked on Friday about Mr. Netanyahu’s new demand, a State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, told reporters in Washington that the negotiations with Iran on the agreement were “only about the nuclear issue.”

I guess that is State Department speak for “It’s our policy not to feed the trolls”.

And lastly, Peter Beinart looks at The three benefits of ending the U.S.’s cold war with Iran

First, it could reduce American dependence on Saudi Arabia. Before the fall of the shah in 1979, the United States had good relations with both Tehran and Riyadh, which meant America wasn’t overly reliant on either. Since the Islamic Revolution, however, Saudi Arabia has been America’s primary oil-producing ally in the Persian Gulf. After 9/11, when 19 hijackers—15 of them Saudis—destroyed the Twin Towers, many Americans realized the perils of so great a dependence on a country that was exporting so much pathology.

As many have noted, Iran is in many ways our natural ally in the region. For instance, as Beinart pointed out earlier, unlike the Saudis, Iran’s ayatollahs actually permit elections that involve quite vigorous debate.

It could empower the Iranian people vis-à-vis their repressive state. American hawks, addled by the mythology they have created around Ronald Reagan, seem to think that the more hostile America’s relationship with Iran’s regime becomes, the better the United States can promote Iranian democracy. But the truth is closer to the reverse.
[…]
As Columbia University Iran expert Gary Sick recently noted, Iran’s hardline Revolutionary Guards “thrive on hostile relations with the U.S., and benefit hugely from sanctions, which allow them to control smuggling.” But “if the sanctions are lifted, foreign companies come back in, [and] the natural entrepreneurialism of Iranians is unleashed.” Thus “if you want regime change in Iran, meaning changing the way the regime operates, this kind of agreement is the best way to achieve that goal.”

Finally, ending the cold war with Iran may make it easier to end the civil wars plaguing the Middle East. Cold wars are rarely “cold” in the sense that no one gets killed. They are usually proxy wars in which powerful countries get local clients to do the killing for them. America’s cold war with the U.S.S.R. ravaged countries like Angola and El Salvador. And today, America’s cold war with Iran is ravaging Syria and Yemen.

I think Beinart makes the last two hugely complex issues seem too neat. But at least he’s bringing them up, so he should get points for enriching the discourse. Seems to be doing a better job than some of our Senators

UN says Saudi airstrike hit refugee camp in Yemen, Houthi forces attacked hospital

The NY Times reports: U.N. Warns of ‘Total Collapse’ in Yemen as Houthis Continue Offensive

Mr. al-Hussein said he was shocked by a Saudi airstrike on Al Mazraq, a camp in northern Yemen for people displaced by the conflict, which caused scores of civilian casualties.
[…]
The United Nations rights office said an armored division of the Yemeni Army, together with Houthi forces, had attacked three hospitals in the southern city of Al Dhale, causing an unknown number of casualties. “We condemn all attacks on hospitals and call on all sides to protect civilians from harm,” the United Nations office said in a statement.The International Committee of the Red Cross also expressed concern at the high number of civilian casualties, reporting that a Yemeni volunteer for the Red Crescent, Omar Ali Hassam, had been shot to death on Monday in the southern province of Al Dhale while evacuating wounded people.

The Guardian is reporting the story: Air strike on Yemeni refugee camp by Saudi-led coalition kills at least 40

As is al-Jazeera: Many dead in ‘airstrike on refugee camp’ in north Yemen

and the Washington Post: Dozens killed in airstrike at refugee camp in Yemen

The Yemeni Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, accused the Saudi-led coalition of hitting the camp, located in an area under the control of the insurgents. Saudi officials did not confirm that. But, asked about the bombing, Saudi Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri, a coalition spokesman, asserted that the rebels were setting up positions in civilian areas and said that coalition warplanes had taken fire Monday from a residential area, forcing a “decisive response,” according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

Sounds a bit like Netanyahu’s response to Gaza civilian casualties. Once again, US made weapons in action.

The complete UN statement is here and ends:

“The killing of so many innocent civilians is simply unacceptable,” the High Commissioner said. “The principles of proportionality, distinction, and precaution fully apply in this context. International human rights law and humanitarian law should be fully respected.”