With Donald Trump under fire for defending Saudi arms sales despite the Khashoggi murder, former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said the Obama administration was less lenient with Riyadh – and was issued a stern rebuke.
While the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey, and the lack of a definitive US response to it, have consumed national headlines, Obama-era ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul was among those who used it to accuse Trump of cozying up to dictators.
It wasn’t long until McFaul was reminded of Obama’s own history of abetting the Saudis.
The ex-envoy claimed Obama’s relations with Riyadh were “very tense.””He did not play business as usual with the Saudis,” McFaul wrote.
Journalist and progressive activist Aaron Maté responded, referencing accounts by former CIA officer Bruce Riedel saying that “no president since Franklin Roosevelt courted Saudi Arabia as zealously as did Obama.”
The sales of US weapons to Riyadh shot through the roof as Obama authorized more arms exports to Saudi Arabia than any of his predecessors in what was perceived as an attempt to reimburse Iran’s arch-enemy for the 2015 nuclear deal.
McFaul argued that the “Saudis hated Obama’s stance on the Arab Spring” and “despised” the Iran nuclear deal. Maté dismissed the appeal to emotions and pointed to the facts.
McFaul downplayed arms exports to the Saudis as a “decades-long practice” that Obama merely maintained, and asked for source material to back Maté’s claim that Obama “greenlighted” the Saudis’ brutal war in Yemen.
But, when given a link to a 2016 NYT report of an internal debate in the White House that resulted in exactly that, McFaul changed gears. The whole conversation suddenly became about attempts to smear Obama ahead of the crucial US mid-term elections.