Senator Marco Rubio took some time to speak on the senate floor to discuss the path forward on the United States’ relations with Saudi Arabia after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post. Senator Marco Rubio is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Speaking on the matter, Senator Rubio asked “why does it matter? Why does the murder of Khashoggi matter and why should we care about it?”
He responded, detailing that “I would tell you is that this is part of a pattern. The Crown Prince who is effectively governing Saudi Arabia now has been continuously testing the limits of the world’s patience but also the limits of our alliance. There’s a pattern here. We saw it, he kidnapped for over two weeks the Prime Minister of Lebanon. He has fractured an alliance that once existed with the Gulf Kingdoms. All of it has implications on U.S. national security. So this is just one more escalation in a pattern of testing the limits of our alliance.”
He continued by saying that “the wrong thing to do about it is to pull and yank away our support for Saudi operations in Yemen, and let me explain why. The first is, right now the only hope of ending that is not winning an armed conflict. It is a peace negotiation. And the people that have to be at that table aren’t just the Houthis, but the deposed Yemeni president who is in Saudi Arabia. If we yank our support, the chances of that peace happening, diminish significantly. In fact the Houthis probably say that Saudis no longer have U.S. support, they’re not as strong as they used to be, I think we can beat them. We don’t need a peace deal. So it actually makes peace less likely.”
Senator Rubio also asserted that “If we pull our support, the chances of a broader catastrophic conflict increase dramatically. And I’ll lay one scenario out for you. We pull our support, the Houthis get confident, they start launching rockets into Saudi Arabia, targeting civilian populations and even members of the royal family and killing people. The Saudis respond with disproportionate force or even the same level of force, and we begin to escalate. And they won’t just respond against the Houthis. They may respond against the Iranian interests elsewhere. And suddenly you have a real live shooting war that extends beyond this proxy fight that we see now. In response to that the Houthis and the Iranians use their presence on the coast and in that port city to close off an important choke point, the el-Mandeb, the Bab-el-Mandeb, which is that choke point in the Red Rea that connects it, the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean where over 4.8 million barrels a day go through. They start bombing oil tankers, they start hitting those, and all of a sudden the world has to get engaged to open that up. And so this holds the real potential for a rapid escalation that could involve a much broader conflict than what we’re seeing right now.”