The last time the American government picked one country over another it resulted in the 9/11 attacks. The murder of Jamal Khashoggi is another example of America picking one country to curtail another. The Trump Administration, like its predecessors, kowtows to the Saudis.
The U.S. government made the same choice in the 1980’s when it decided to support the mujahideen in its resistance against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The mujahideen were Islamist guerilla troops fighting the Russians. The mujahideen engaged in a Jihad against the invaders.
The United States funded the mujahideen, through a CIA program codenamed Operation Cyclone. The CIA money was funneled from Pakistan to the mujahideen. Advanced American weapons that ended up with the mujahidin included Stinger missiles. The man-portable surface-to-air missile was effectively used by the mujahideen to bring down the Soviet helicopters hunting them.
One prominent organizer and financier of the mujahideen was Osama bin Laden, a Saudi citizen.
Osama bin Laden was one of more than 30,000 Arab volunteers fighting the Russians alongside the Afghani mujahideen. In 1988, bin Laden became the first General Emir of Al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden partially funded Al-Qaeda from his personal wealth. Along with bin Laden’s funding, Saudi Arabian funding was considered key by the United States government as per a 2009 U.S. Secretary of State memorandum.
On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda attacked the United States using airliners as bombs. Almost 3,000 lost their lives and another 6,000 were injured in the attacks. On May 1, 2011, Osama bin Laden was killed by a U.S. Seal Team in Pakistan.
Although direct funding and training for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda from the CIA’s Operation Cyclone has yet to be established, the arming, training and funding of the mujahideen provided resources and trained men to al-Qaeda. Powerful factions within Saudi Arabia encouraged and funded al-Qaeda as it formulated itself into an organized terrorist group.
America’s doctrine of supporting anyone against Soviet expansion without a clear plan to deal with the vacuum left in Afghanistan after the Russian withdrawal provided the haven al-Qaeda needed to cement its organization.
The United States indirectly – some would argue directly – created the means that led to the 9/11 attacks.
Today, America faces the same factors as it deals with the details of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. To be sure, this is not a Donald Trump crisis as other American presidents, in both parties, have supported Saudi Arabia previously. It is a myopic American doctrine of dealing with dangers in sound-bites for American voters.
America is making the choice that it must support Saudi Arabia to contain Iran. It is the same choice America made to contain Soviet expansion when it chose the mujahideen to support. Like the reports of Saudi atrocities, the American government chose to ignore ethical issues with the mujahideen.
The American government also decided to support Iran during the Iran-Iraq conflict in the 1980’s. Now, it views Iran as the number one antagonist in the region.
From the mujahideen came the 9/11 attacks. Will history repeat itself after the dust from the murder of Jamal Khashoggi settles? History certainly shows that to be likely.