1) Here’s the White House readout of the call, which clarifies some points, but leaves many other questions unanswered:
— Phil Mattingly (@Phil_Mattingly) January 29, 2017
2) Speaking of unanswered questions, Micah Zenko, who has reliably covered these issues for more than fifteen years, has a few of his own:
Fifteen questions for Trump’s US military-led “safe zones.” https://t.co/SivlQlPIHD
— Micah Zenko (@MicahZenko) January 30, 2017
After much speculation during the past week, President Donald Trump spoke with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman by phone on Sunday, and they have agreed to support safe zones in both Syria and Yemen, according to the White House.
Strengthened military cooperation between the US and Saudi Arabia will have immediate repercussions in a region where the US government has been at war since 2001.
Trump was joined during the call by National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, chief of staff Reince Priebus, and chief strategist Stephen Bannon.
“The president requested and the King agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the ongoing conflicts,” the White House statement said.
A source from the Saudi Press Agency said Saudi Arabia would “enhance its participation in the U.S.-led coalition fighting to oust Islamic State from its strongholds in Iraq and Syria.”
The White House statement also said Trump and Salman agreed to address and confront “Iran’s destabilizing regional activities.”
Details are lacking at this time as to what actions will be taken under the agreement between the US and Saudi Arabia, although the administration and the Saudis have previously suggested any involvement would be for humanitarian reasons. However, this reasoning is highly suspect, and any developing military partnership between the new administration and the Saudis is deeply troubling.
An alliance between the US and Saudi Arabia against Syria, Yemen, and Iran will have dire consequences for the civilians in those countries, as we have witnessed as recently as this morning. But this development also raises the question of the direction of US foreign policy in the region, considering Trump has both cautioned against continued intervention and called for more of it.
The US government is not a benevolent global hegemon. It would serve libertarians to remind the public of that fact as the Trump administration’s foreign policy takes shape and unfortunately continues the interventionist policies of its predecessors.