Republicans need to speak up about Trump's disastrous Middle East policy

By: Rachel Marsden

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — U.S. President Donald Trump just admitted in a Fox News interview that his decision to send U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia was a fiscal one.

“Saudi Arabia is paying us for [our troops].” Trump said. “I said, listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you’ve got to pay us. They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.”

Apparently, all that Saudi Arabia — the primary nation-state sponsor of terrorism, including ISIS and the 9/11 attacks — has to do is toss a few wads of cash at the American president as if he were a Chippendales dancer, and he’ll ignore their transgressions and the fact that they murdered and bone-sawed a Washington Post columnist inside one of their embassies. Trump will also now offer up American soldiers to serve the Kingdom in its family feud against Iran.

The Pentagon had already rung up a bill of hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars supporting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in their failed efforts to beat the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen. The Saudis reportedly still haven’t settled that bill, so on what planet (or offshore fiscal paradise) is this bank account with the billion-dollar Saudi payment that Trump referenced?

We’re all free to speculate, but it’s the job of Congress to get an answer, and to probe why Trump is so keen to send America’s sons and daughters to serve terror-sponsoring states in their power struggles against Iran.

This administration is deceptively trying to peddle its self-serving plotting as American self-defense. For example, the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Iraqi soil was reportedly approved by Trump last June, just days after the announcement of a defense cooperation agreement between the U.S. and the UAE. The deal coincided with a flurry of UAE visits by Trump administration officials — most notably former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who had been delivering lucrative speeches to Iranian opposition rallies in Paris for years, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a former defense contractor. Pompeo said Soleimani posed an “imminent threat” to U.S. interests. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper says he was never provided with any such intelligence.

NBC News and Reuters have reported that Israeli intelligence helped provide targeting information on Soleimani to the U.S.

It all suggests that officials in the Trump administration colluded with Middle Eastern countries to carry out an assassination on their behalf, to the detriment of American interests. The plotters obviously believed that the payoff would outweigh the risk of igniting another hot war in the Middle East. But what about the 176 people, most of them Iranians and Canadians, aboard Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752? That plane was hit by friendly fire above Iran on Jan. 8, at a time when the U.S. and Iran were exchanging missile strikes. There were no survivors. War always has unintended costs.

Why is there even a single Republican cheering any of this? Is it a conservative value to sell U.S. troops to the highest bidder in the Persian Gulf and spill American blood in service of foreign princes and kings? How exactly does that translate into fighting for American freedom?

When did it become a conservative value to run a protection racket for Middle Eastern nations that can afford to pay the U.S. to fight against neighbors who can’t or won’t pay — and assassinate their foes for them so they don’t have to dirty their own hands?

When did it become a conservative value to mislead the public about the real motivations for Middle Eastern involvement?

And since when is it a conservative value to defend these lies to the American public and to the world, placing loyalty to one’s team over the principles of truth, honor, humanity, fairness and integrity?

Conservatives aren’t going to “own the libs” by selling out everything that makes conservatism honorable.

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, one of Trump’s most loyal cheerleaders, broke from the party last week to vote with the Democrats in favor of a congressional resolution to limit Trump’s war powers against Iran. Gaetz stood on principle and may well be ostracized for it by fellow party members. According to the Washington Post, a senior Trump official said the White House “would not be returning Gaetz’s phone calls, text messages, ‘smoke signals or his kneelings in the snow.'”

More Republican lawmakers need to grow a spine and look into the Trump administration’s catastrophic Middle Eastern collusion. In a perfect world, it’s not Trump’s wrath they should fear — it’s that of conservatives who haven’t compromised their values.