Most of my friends cheered Trump’s seriousness of purpose when it came to the Iran section of his speech. Iran hides a dictatorship behind a sham democracy, Trump said. He called the Islamic Republic “an economically depleted rogue state,” chiefly exporting “violence, bloodshed, and chaos.” Its victims are its own people. It uses oil profits to fund terrorists and radicals. Respectfully, I dissent. Trump’s rhetoric is the same drift toward another unpopular war, in a country that American soldiers cannot reform on their own.
But I can’t get over the hypocrisy. Over the years, I’ve gradually devolved from an Iran dove to a mere whataboutist. Trump is correct on every point about Iran. But every single item on which he charges the Iranians could be justly aimed at Saudi Arabia. Except for the “guise of democracy” part; the Saudis don’t even pretend to be anything other than a family despotism.
Those who receive Iran’s patronage terrorize Israel. Those who receive Saudi patronage terrorize Israel and just about everyone else besides. Saudi Arabia turned the Arab Spring into the West’s ongoing nightmare. Almost every recent terrorist attack in Europe can be traced back to a conflict in the Middle East that the Saudis stoked, or a radical mosque they funded in Europe. Or both. Is no one else exasperated by this special relationship? Our leaders would laugh in Teresa May’s face if she asked us to help her bomb and starve Sinn Fein out of Belfast. But the Saudis can ask for us to do just as much to Houthis in Yemen, and we do it.