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Saudi Arabia: The Affirmative Case

If you have not yet read the Introductory essay, please do so, as this essay assumes you have that knowledge.

Saudi Arabia Daily Update

Negative essay


The basic Saudi Arabia case argues for reducing arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

I think there are three potential plans.

Generally reduce sales. The most straight forward case is to stop selling all or nearly all weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Stop selling specific weapons. Teams could also choose to argue for a halt on the sales of weapons, such as precision guided munitions or spare parts for Saudi Arabia’s planes. One general claim in the literature is that the US should stop selling “offensive weapons,” which would mean it would continue to sell missile defense systems.

Gradually/conditionally reduce. The toughest counterplan to beat on this topic will be a conditions conunterplan — a counterplan to reduce sales until Saudi Arabia stops the war in Yemen. If there is a way to reduce sales some to threaten Saudi Arabia), that may be the best possible plan, as the counterplan will be difficult to defeat.

Include the UAE.  As discussed in the introductory essay, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is also active in the war in Yemen. Some argue that the US should also reduce sales to the UAE.



There are a number of potential advantages, but the most common advantage is argues that if the US restricts arms sales to Saudi Arabia that the Saudis will no longer be able to fight the war there.

Reise Ehrlich, February 21, 2019, How the war in Yemen could end — in a matter of days

US arms manufacturers such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin supply 57 percent of the military aircraft used by the Royal Saudi Air Force. The U.S. corporations hire hundreds of US civilian mechanics and technicians to repair, maintain and fuel fighter jets and helicopters. The Arms Export Control Act requires Saudi Arabia to use the military equipment for legitimate self defense. Saudi Arabia’s consistent pattern of disproportionate attacks on civilians belies any claim of self defense, according to Brittany Benowitz, an attorney and former Congressional staffer who analyzes arms control issues. “The Trump Administration is currently not complying with the requirements of the Arms Export Control Act,“ she told me. The act requires the President to stop supplies of spare parts and maintenance of Saudi fighter planes if they violate the act. Those measures would undermine Saudi military capability fairly quickly, much faster than banning new arms sales, according to William Hartung, a defense analyst at the Center for International Policy. “It would affect their ability to fight immediately,” he said in an interview.

Bruce Reidel, Brookings Institute, October 15, 2018, Fact Check: How Much Does Saudi Arabia Spend On Arms Deals With The U.S.?

RIEDEL: If tonight President Trump told the king he was cutting off spare parts to the Saudi Air Force, the Saudi Air Force would be grounded tomorrow morning.

It would take 10 years for Saudi Arabia to replace US weapons.

Thalif Deen, Interpress Service, 4-29, 19,, US and Western arms in Yemen conflict signal potential war crime charges The Manila Times

What is important is that these weapons come with a service package. Though exact data is scarce, the companies supplying the equipment also supply vital maintenance and repair services, he noted. Compare with what happened in Iran in 1979, which also was highly dependent on US and UK arms, Tehran had to figure out by itself how to operate the equipment. Possibly the Iranians were better prepared and trained for that than Saudi Arabia is now, but they struggled to continue to use the US equipment in the war with Iraq and had to resort to importing inferior weapons from China and North Korea It is very likely, said Wezeman, that Russia and China will happily step in and offer their weapons. However, it will take time before they can deliver large numbers of weapons and train the Saudi’s on new equipment based on different military doctrines. A full transition will probably take many years. There are several of other cases where states have shifted between different suppliers, with different levels of success, he pointed out. Warsaw pact countries moved to NATO weapons, over several decades. Venezuela switched from US equipment to Russian and Chinese over a period of roughly a decade.

Grounding the ability of the Saudis to fight a war is critical because the war in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of people and will likely escalate.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, February 14, 2019 Yemen: 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview

NEEDS AND KEY FIGURES The humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains the worst in the world. Nearly four years of conflict and severe economic decline are driving the country to the brink of famine and exacerbating needs in all sectors. An estimated 80 per cent of the population – 24 million people – require some form of humanitarian or protection assistance, including 14.3 million who are in acute need. Severity of needs is deepening, with the number of people in acute need a staggering 27 per cent higher than last year. Two-thirds of all districts in the country are already pre-famine, and one-third face a convergence of multiple acute vulnerabilities. The escalation of the conflict since March 2015 has dramatically aggravated the protection crisis in which millions face risks to their safety and basic rights. KEY HUMANITARIAN ISSUES 1. Basic survival needs More than 20 million people across the country are food insecure, including nearly 10 million who are suffering from extreme levels of hunger. For the first time, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) has confirmed pockets of catastrophic hunger in some locations, with 238,000 people affected. An estimated 7.4 million people require services to treat or prevent malnutrition, including 3.2 million people who require treatment for acute malnutrition – 2 million children under 5 and more than one million pregnant and lactating women (PLW). A total of 17.8 million people lack access to safe water and sanitation, and 19.7 million people lack access to adequate healthcare. Poor sanitation and waterborne diseases, including cholera, left hundreds of thousands of people ill last year. In sum, needs have intensified across all sectors. Millions of Yemenis are hungrier, sicker and more vulnerable than a year ago, pushing an ever-greater number of people into reliance on humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian response is increasingly becoming the only lifeline for millions of Yemenis. 2. Protection of Civilians Yemen is facing a severe protection crisis, and civilians face serious risks to their safety, well-being and basic rights. Tens of thousands of people have been killed or injured since 2015, and among them at least 17,700 civilians as verified by the UN. An estimated 3.3 million people remain displaced, up from 2.2 million last year. This includes 685,000 people who fled fighting in Al Hudaydah and on the west coast from June onwards. Escalating conflict is causing extensive damage to public and civilian infrastructure. Intensity of conflict is directly related to severity of needs. Humanitarian needs are most acute in governorates that have been most affected by conflict, including Taizz, Al Hudaydah and Sa’ada governorates. More than 60 per cent of people in these governorates are in acute need of humanitarian assistance. 3. Livelihoods and essential basic services The Yemeni economy is on the verge of collapse.

Many conflicts in Yemen beyond Saudi-Houthi, solving Houthi-Yemen could aggravate the other conflicts

Ariel Ahram, February 3, 2019, , Ariel I. Ahram is associate professor in Virginia Tech’s School of Public & International Affairs in Alexandria and the author of Break All the Borders: Separatism and the Reshaping of the Middle East. The Stockholm Agreement and Yemen’s Other Wars

For all of the immediate good that the Stockholm Agreement might do, it also complicates the long-term search for conflict resolution. Yemen is suffering through three separate but interlinked wars: 1) the civil war in the north between the Houthis and the central government, 2) another civil war between the central government and the Southern Movement (SM), a loose coalition of separatists centered around Aden, Shebwa, and Hadramaut, and 3) a nationwide campaign against radical Islamist terrorists groups, including al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). These conflicts began in the 1990s and 2000s and annealed during the popular uprising, the splintering of the Yemen security services, and the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011 and 2012. Neither the Houthis nor the SM were enthusiastic about the Saudi-financed and U.N.-backed regime transition process. The so-called National Dialogue Conferences seemed rigged to ensure that Hadi, Saleh’s vice president who succeeded him in a referendum, would maintain control of the government. Boxed out by Saleh’s rule and eager for the opportunity to assert greater political power, both the Houthis and SM were disappointed in what they saw as a continuation of the old regime. The Houthis, who had a long but complicated alliance with Iran, struck a new tactical alliance with the deposed Saleh, their former nemesis. Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah military advisors and Saleh loyalists from the army and northern tribes helped Houthi forces advance from their stronghold in the far north on Sana’a and the south, driving Hadi and the central government into exile in Riyadh. The SM leadership, in contrast, aligned with Saudi Arabia and the UAE to counter the northerners’ incursion. The UAE backed the formation of militias in Aden, Hadramaut, Mahra, and Shebwa. Abu Dhabi also encouraged Salafi militias that offset the influence of the older and more secular southern Yemeni leadership. With Emirati support, the Southern Transitional Council, a kind of political front for the SM, became the de facto government in Aden and other southern cities, effectively ignored the central government. In 2015, STC chairman Aidarous Zubaydi mobilized massive demonstrations in Aden and formally declared independence. The Hadi government deemed the SM’s moves illegal and unconstitutional. Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf states insisted that Yemen would remain unified. Nevertheless, the UAE continued its operational partnership with the SM, bolstering the separatists’ hold in the south and laying bare a critical divergence between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s objectives in Yemen. The northern and southern conflicts inflamed Yemen’s long-simmering struggle with extremist groups. AQAP and other radical Wahhabi and Salafi groups joined the military campaign against the Houthis and Iran, whom they deemed heretics, and took advantage of the state’s collapse to seize cities far from the frontlines, like Mukalla and Zinjibar. The UAE and Saudi Arabia belatedly turned their attention to dislodging AQAP and the Islamic State, but the result has been equivocal. Though terrorist groups have retreated from many populated areas, some AQAP forces have merged with local militias that remain part of the Saudi and Emirati proxy networks. The Stockholm Agreement offers a breakthrough in the northern front, but could hamper efforts to deal with Yemen’s other wars. Although horrendously bloody, the Houthi conflict is in some respects the most tractable of Yemen’s troubles. The Houthis largely concur with the idea of a single, unified Yemeni state, even as they disagree with the Hadi government’s distribution of power and implementation of policy. With Hadi in exile, the Houthis tried keep the central bank and other key state institutions operational for the whole of Yemen. In this sense, the Houthis’ vision for Yemen accorded with the assumption of the international community, which has ritualistically affirmed its “commitment to the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Yemen.” Subsequent negotiations building on the limited progress of the deal reached in December could provide a path to a power-sharing agreement that assures the Houthis political influence and access to the state’s fiscal and financial infrastructure. In contrast, the SM seeks to sever ties to the Yemeni state entirely. The STC denounced the Stockholm process for ignoring southern issues and reiterated calls for secession. Houthi leaders, in turn, accused the UAE and the SM of trying to scuttle the agreement. Even though the international recognition of South Yemen’s independence is unlikely, the Hadi government lacks the military means to remove SM control over the south, setting the stage for future conflict. AQAP and other radical groups disagree about whether statehood is even a worthy goal, but they all seek to preserve their areas of safe haven. They have occasionally served as pro-government militias when their interests coincided with the central government

Human Rights

The Khashoggi incident has created a new impetus from the Trump administration to push global human right standards but actually following through with ending military aid is necessary to provide credibility to that push

Elise Carlson-Rainer, 10-18-2018, Ph.D., is an assistant professor and doctoral program faculty member American Public University’s School of Security and Global Studies. Carlson-Rainer is a former U.S. diplomat and worked in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor., “Khashoggi prompts Trump to reconsider human rights in foreign policy”, TheHill,

The suspected killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi officials in their consulate in Istanbul has riveted the news media. It has also fueled speculation and condemnation from governments and leaders worldwide, and produced a dramatic showdown between Saudi Arabia and its allies around the globe. The Khashoggi case, and in particular the Trump administration’s initial reaction to it, has also have produced something else: a flashpoint of the U.S. addressing Saudi Arabia’s treatment of journalists that has catapulted human rights concerns into the forefront of U.S.-Saudi relations. The Trump administration’s high-level condemnation is unprecedented for two reasons. First, Saudi Arabia is an important and strategic Middle East ally. As such, the Trump administration and its predecessors historically have been relatively silent on the kingdom‘s human rights record. Washington has typically issued only the meekest of statements when the country beheads human rights activists, hangs LGBT citizens, or stones women. Second, Trump’s initial threats to “severely punish” Saudi Arabia, in this case, are unexpected. The administration has not prioritized human rights concerns in U.S. foreign engagements. While not referring to “human rights” per se, condemning the killing of a foreign journalist is tantamount to the strongest human rights foreign policy the U.S. government has exhibited toward Saudi Arabia in decades. A look at Saudi practices, as well as the history of U.S.-Saudi relations, underscores the exceptional nature of the Trump administration’s reaction to the Khashoggi matter. Arresting or killing a member of its journalist corps is not a new practice for the kingdom. In 2016, the Guardian reported that the number of beheadings reached the highest level in two decades. This is a country where people are put to death for “apostasy, sorcery, and adultery.” In addition, women charged with “witchcraft” are stoned to death or beheaded. According to the U.S. government’s Human Rights Report in 2017, the most significant Saudi human rights abuses included: unlawful killings torture arbitrary arrest and detention (including of lawyers, human rights activists, and antigovernment reformists) the imprisonment of political prisoners arbitrary interference with privacy restrictions on freedom of expression (including on the internet, and criminalization of libel) restrictions on freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, movement, and religion Although finally allowing Saudi women to drive received much international press attention, the kingdom remains a dangerous place for women, LGBT people, bloggers and labor rights activists. Quite simply, anyone who strays from the status quo, or questions any power structure in the kingdom, is liable to be repressed. In the face of this situation, the kingdom has largely received a free pass in diplomatic engagements for how it treats its own people. Saudi Arabia was the first country that Trump visited after his inauguration. Both Bush administrations maintained a close relationship with Saudi Arabia. President Barack Obama also continued a close alliance with the kingdom. In 2015, upon the death of King Abdullah, Obama praised his “enduring contribution to the search for peace” in the Middle East. Then-Secretary of State John Kerry called him a “man of wisdom and vision.” The United States is far from alone in working with Saudi Arabia despite its terrible human rights record. Historically, Western nations and the United States have turned a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses while nations such as Iran are roundly condemned for similar actions and policies against journalists and women. Jeopardizing the entire strategic Saudi-U.S. relationship based upon the fate of one journalist would certainly set the Trump administration apart from its predecessors. And if Trump follows his rhetoric with action, he would become one of the strongest defenders of international press freedoms. This would be an ironic distinction many American journalists — who have been accused of being “enemies of the people” by the President — would certainly find hard to accept. Has the Trump administration’s early reaction and warning to Saudi Arabia represented non-committal rhetoric, or does it signal a policy shift — one that would help restore the perception and reputation of the United States as a staunch defender of human rights in the international arena? While it remains to be seen whether the administration’s rhetoric will be matched with actions, Trump’s statements are a jolt to international standards and diplomatic norms regarding bilateral relations and human rights between the United States and Saudi Arabia.


The United States has expanded military aid to Saudi Arabia under the guise of aid being necessary to maintain “national security” interests in the region. This aid however has never been used to maintain security but has instead been instrumental in the maintenance of Saudi Arabian intervention into Yemen. This intervention has created one of the largest humanitarian issues in history targeting millions of innocent civilians.

Ro Khanna, 10-20-2018, represents the south bay in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he serves on the Armed Services Committee. He is the vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, “Congress must end U.S. military aid to Saudi war in Yemen”, SFChronicle,

Every ghastly new detail we learn about the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi suggests that this was a premeditated murder, carried out at the direction of the highest level of the Saudi dictatorship. The cascading revelations rival the gore of horror films, from the 15 Saudis who flew into Turkey, lying in wait for Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, to the bone-saw-equipped forensics specialist who reportedly dismembered Khashoggi’s body wearing headphones and recommending that others listen to music as well. Just weeks before, Khashoggi had publicly pleaded with the de facto ruler of the Saudi regime, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to curb his propensity for violence. Khashoggi’s September column for the Washington Post was headlined “Saudi Arabia’s crown prince must restore dignity to his country — by ending Yemen’s cruel war.” “Cruel” is, if anything, an understatement. Since 2015, the Saudis have launched an estimated 18,000 air strikes on Yemen, attacking hospitals, schools, water treatment plants, funerals, markets and even farms. The Saudis also imposed a blockade on food, fuel and medicine from freely entering the country in what can only be described as a deliberate effort to starve the civilian population into submission. Buried by the news of Khashoggi’s slaying was a grim new warning by Lise Grande, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen: The nation could experience the world’s worst famine in 100 years, with 12 million to 13 million innocent civilians at risk of dying from the lack of food within months. As early as 2015, Foreign Policy magazine reported the Saudi coalition’s “daily bombing campaign would not be possible without the constant presence of U.S. Air Force tanker planes refueling coalition jets.Yet there was never a debate or vote by the people’s elected congressional representatives, as required by the Constitution, as to whether the U.S. military should participate in the Saudi government’s genocidal war. As the architect of this hideous military strategy, Mohammed bin Salman reacted to Khashoggi’s criticisms the way he knew best. MbS, as he’s known, probably ordered the assassination of Khashoggi and then — just as the Saudi regime did after bombing a school bus filled with Yemeni children last month — issued ever-shifting and contradictory lies, relying on the Trump administration’s full backing and clumsy assistance in the cover-up. MbS’ campaign of killing Yemenis and Saudis alike must come to an end. Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and I are leading dozens of our colleagues, including top House Democrats, in demanding answers from the Trump administration about its possible complicity in Khashoggi’s killing. We also are working to force a vote in Congress to decisively shut down unconstitutional U.S. participation in the Saudi regime’s gruesome war in Yemen within weeks. Partnering with Sen. Bernie Sanders, independent-Vermont, we aim to secure majorities in both chambers of Congress as soon as we return to Washington to direct the president to remove U.S. forces from unauthorized hostilities in Yemen. We are invoking the War Powers Resolution with the aim of passing House Congressional Resolution 138 and Senate Joint Resolution 54. These resolutions have priority over other foreign policy considerations in the chambers, and the votes on them cannot be blocked by Republican leadership. Never before has such a feat been attempted in both houses of Congress at once — but the War Power Resolution allows members of Congress to force votes to end illegal U.S. military participation in this war. When we succeed, the Saudi campaign will inevitably collapse. If our moral compass is to guide our country after the butchering of Jamal Khashoggi, the incineration of thousands of Yemenis in U.S.-Saudi air strikes, and the quiet deaths of more than 100,000 Yemeni children who succumbed to war-triggered hunger and disease over the past two years, Congress must pass these resolutions. America’s founders deliberately broke with the unchecked power enjoyed by Europe’s monarchs by vesting Congress with the sole authority over the question of war and peace. By forcing long-overdue sunlight and public participation into the now-secret realm of war, these resolutions will help restore our republic and end America’s complicity in such incomprehensibly immense human suffering. Today’s leaders owe it to all those who have sacrificed for a fairer world to bring an end to the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth.

Weapons end up being transferred to terrorists groups and the Houthis 
Nima Elgibar, February 2019, Sold to an Ally, Lost to an Enemy,

Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners have transferred American-made weapons to al Qaeda-linked fighters, hardline Salafi militias, and other factions waging war in Yemen, in violation of their agreements with the United States, a CNN investigation has found. The weapons have also made their way into the hands of Iranian-backed rebels battling the coalition for control of the country, exposing some of America’s sensitive military technology to Tehran and potentially endangering the lives of US troops in other conflict zones. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, its main partner in the war, have used the US-manufactured weapons as a form of currency to buy the loyalties of militias or tribes, bolster chosen armed actors, and influence the complex political landscape, according to local commanders on the ground and analysts who spoke to CNN. By handing off this military equipment to third parties, the Saudi-led coalition is breaking the terms of its arms sales with the US, according to the Department of Defense. After CNN presented its findings, a US defense official confirmed there was an ongoing investigation into the issue. The revelations raise fresh questions about whether the US has lost control over a key ally presiding over one of the most horrific wars of the past decade, and whether Saudi Arabia is responsible enough to be allowed to continue buying the sophisticated arms and fighting hardware. Previous CNN investigations established that US-made weapons were used in a series of deadly Saudi coalition attacks that killed dozens of civilians, many of them children. The developments also come as Congress, outraged with Riyadh over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year, considers whether to force an end to the Trump administration’s support for the Saudi coalition, which relies on American weapons to conduct its war. Play Video Video: How US-made weapons end up in the wrong hands 10:11 In 2015, Riyadh launched a coalition to oust Iranian-supported Houthi rebels from the country’s capital and reinstate the internationally recognized government of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi. The war split the country in two, and with it came the weapons — not just guns, but anti-tank missiles, armored vehicles, heat-seeking lasers and artillery — all flooding into an unruly and complex state. Since then, some of America’s “beautiful military equipment,” as US President Donald Trump once called it, has been passed on, sold, stolen or abandoned in Yemen’s state of chaos, where murky alliances and fractured politics mean little hope for any system of accountability or tracking. Some terror groups have gained from the influx of US arms, with the barrier of entry to advanced weaponry now lowered by the laws of supply and demand. Militia leaders have had ample opportunity to obtain military hardware in exchange for the manpower to fight the Houthi militias. Arms dealers have flourished, with traders offering to buy or sell anything, from a US-manufactured rifle to a tank, to the highest bidder. And Iran’s proxies have captured American weapons they can exploit for vulnerabilities or reverse-engineer for native production. ‘Do you have American guns here?’ In the narrow, ramshackle streets of Taiz’s historic district, weapons shops lie tucked between women’s clothing stores. Arms markets are illegal in Yemen, but that doesn’t stop them operating openly in this large, mountainous city in the country’s southwest. To one side hang veils, abayas and colorful dresses for sale; to the other are pistols, hand grenades, and US assault rifles available on special order. In one arms market, sweets were displayed among the ammunition. “Do you have American guns here?” CNN asked. “The American guns are expensive and sought after,” the weapons trader replied, in an exchange captured by undercover CNN cameras. In another of the city’s markets, a very young-looking boy handled weapons like an expert. Men joked and chewed khat, a commonly used drug, and the atmosphere was casual. But these shops don’t just take individual orders, they can supply militias — and it’s this not-so-hidden black market that in part is driving the demand for hi-tech American weapons and perpetuating the cycle of violence in Yemen. Once the intellectual heart of the country, Taiz is now a tinder box that set off a war within a war last year, when the various militias backed by the Saudi-led coalition turned their guns on each other.

Global Order
Failure to punish Saudi Arabia for the Khassogi killing wrecks the global order. We need to reaffirm it now by sending a clear signal that the killing is unnaceptable-=
Ana Palacio is former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain and former Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the World Bank Group. She is a visiting lecturer at Georgetown University, October, 29, 2018, Project Syndicate,

Did the Global Order Die with Khashoggi? Trump’s response to the Khashoggi episode, however, is fully decoupled from any overarching values. To be clear, US presidents, together with European leaders, have been coddling Saudi Arabia for decades, and leaders worldwide often base their foreign-policy decisions on realpolitik, rather than moral considerations. But this is the first time a US president has unabashedly acknowledged the purely transactional nature of their policy decisions. The Saudis, Trump declares bluntly, are “spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs” in the US. “I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States.”1 Notwithstanding the dubiousness of the figures involved, Trump’s comments are a bald statement of monetized interest. The comfort, even pride, with which he makes such statements indicates that we really have entered a new era, in which we cannot expect our leaders to clear even the low bar of trying to fit their decisions into a rules- or values-based narrative. This is dangerous, because such narratives are vital to maintain the credibility of the global order and the support of domestic constituencies for it. Just like effective leadership and respect for the rule of law, a certain amount of faith in the system – even if it is qualified by frustration with inequality or impunity – is essential to its survival. A world in which all that matters is the deal, in which there is no ethos guiding our actions and underpinning our governance systems, is one where citizens do not know what to expect from their leaders and countries do not know what to expect from their allies. Such an unpredictable and unstable world is not one that we should blindly accept. It is not too late to respond to Khashoggi’s brutal murder in a way that reinforces, rather than undermines, the rules on which we all depend. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia is a good start, even if it was driven largely by her desire to shore up support for her Christian Democratic Union ahead of regional elections in Hesse; so, too, is the current pushback from Washington against a business-as-usual approach to Saudi Arabia. But more must be done, with principled leaders declaring clearly that what happened in Istanbul is not acceptable. Otherwise, we will effectively be giving up the discourse of values and rules – a decision that could well leave us with no coherent and stabilizing discourse at all.

The rules based international order is critical for global peace and global economic growth

Ross Babbage, December 14, 2016, Baggage is a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, December 14, 2016, Countering China’s Adventurism in the South China Sea: Strategy Options for the Trump Administration,

The security, stability, and prosperity of the Western allies, their partners and friends are heavily dependent on maintenance of the rules-based global order. This order provides a clear framework that is fair, almost universally acknowledged, and highly predictable. It provides an environment within which individuals, corporations, and nations can plan, invest, and operate with confidence and minimal friction. It is an essential lubricant of the global economy and a pre-condition for sound international relations and global peace. The Western allies have a particularly strong interest in seeing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea maintained. This convention has been ratified by 169 countries and provides a clear and fair set of principles and processes for determining the maritime rights and responsibilities of member states.74 It also provides sound mechanisms for adjudicating maritime disputes. These provisions have been used to resolve many longstanding conflicts. Through these and associated means, UNCLOS is contributing significantly to international peace and security. For a major power signatory to the Convention to persist in operating with little regard to the Convention’s rules and refuse to implement the lawful adjudication of maritime disputes is completely unacceptable. The failure of the Western allies to act strongly to defend the rule of law in the South China Sea is effectively ceding key norms of international behavior to the strong and powerful, rather than to the lawful. When a powerful authoritarian state is permitted to seize effective sovereignty over a substantial maritime region without being thwarted by strong counteraction, the constraints on further, potentially more serious aggressive actions are greatly reduced. There is a serious risk that the Western allies will be seen in Beijing as paper tigers. Indeed, Australia has already been described in the Chinese press as a “paper cat.”75

Global free speech

In light of the Khassogi killing, the US must take a stand in favor of global free speech

Kathy Kiely is the Lee Hills chair in Free Press Studies at the Missouri Journalism School, USA Today, October 19, 2018,   Khashoggi was a free speech warrior and the latest casualty in a global war on journalists

Kamal Khashoggi gave us a road map for making sure he did not vanish in vain. In his last column for The Washington Post, written just before his apparent murder and published Wednesday, the Saudi writer presciently wrote that “Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media.” He laid part of the blame for this on people who do not speak out against the censorship. Khashoggi lamented the lack of “backlash from the international community” and the ineffectuality of “condemnation quickly followed by silence.” His journalistic colleagues, along with freedom-loving people of any profession, need to make sure that doesn’t happen again. No help appears to be forthcoming from President Donald Trump. As a candidate, he had no hesitation about declaring the entire nation of Mexico “drug dealers, criminals and rapists” on his own say-so. He early and often questioned his predecessor’s birthplace despite clear proof that he was peddling untruths. But now, the brash defier of political correctness has turned punctilious: In the face of mounting evidence that Saudi Arabia is implicated in the murder of a U.S. resident, the president frets about a rush to judgment. Ideals, not weapons deals, make America great Other American leaders, however, are stepping up and speaking out. Members of Congress, including members of Trump’s party, are expressing their horror in unvarnished terms and promising reprisals. “I can’t imagine that if what we think happened that we would take no action,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Bloomberg. U.S. business leaders are boycotting a Saudi investment conference. At least three blue-chip Washington lobbying firms — Glover Park, Harbour and BGR — have reportedly severed ties with the Saudis. (OK, that’s justthree Saudi lobbyists down and 63 to go — and one of those three might have been inspired to do the right thing by an ultimatum. But it’s a start). To borrow a term popularized by former President George H.W. Bush, these are points of light — signs that in at least some quarters, Americans are remembering what truly makes this country great: Its ideals. Not its military contracts. The momentum toward decency needs to build. As Khashoggi warned, silence in the face of evil equals consent. Impunity for thugs begets more thugs. And Khashoggi’s disappearance was not an isolated incident. It is just the latest in a series of horrific crimes against journalists. More: Can Donald Trump handle the truth about Jamal Khashoggi? Trump’s Khashoggi reaction sure makes him seem bought and paid for by Saudi Arabia Khashoggi wake-up call for US: Stop following Saudi Arabia’s lead. It’s a police state. As Kathleen Carroll, president of the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists, pointed out in a tweet, reports of Khashoggi’s murder capped a fortnight in which journalists were murdered in Bulgaria, Somalia and Mexico. Last week, Myanmar, which just sentenced Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo to seven years in jail on phony charges, arrested three more journalists after they wrote stories critical of the government. Egypt has yet to free Shawkan, the photojournalist jailed for more than five years for the “crime” of taking pictures of an anti-government protest, The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has accused the Saudis of murdering Khashoggi in Istanbul, is certainly not doing so out of love for freedom of the press: Under Erdogan’s leadership, Turkey has become the world’s No. 1 jailer of journalists. And let’s not forget that Erdogan’s thugs attacked protesters and the reporters covering them on U.S. soil. In this country, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials continue to push for the deportation of Emilio Gutiérrez-Soto, a law abiding Mexican journalist who sought asylum here when his reporting on official corruption in his country made him the target of death threats. Khashoggi was a warrior for free speech There’s a global war going on, and it’s not just against journalists. It’s against what journalists represent: free speech. Joseph Bahout, a friend of Khashoggi and a scholar with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was speaking of the Middle East but could have been talking about the larger world when he told NPR this week that “spaces of freedom and action and even thinking are narrowing by the minute.” Americans have always had a healthy resentment of elites. President Trump rode that into power in 2016. Around the world, we now are seeing where unchecked elitism can lead: to dictatorial oligarchies run by governments or criminal cartels whose leaders think that their oil or their drugs or their power gives them the right to play by a different set of rules than those that apply to the rest of us. Journalists make a living from calling out that kind of entitlement, and now they are getting killed for it. It’s time for Americans to decide, and to ask their leaders to declare: Which side are you on?

Disadvantage Answers

This section is not designed to answer all of the disadvantages on the case but it will review the major disadvantages so that teams can prepare answers to them and one or two answers.

*Iran aggression 

As discussed in the introductory essay, Saudi Arabia fears that if it can’t defend itself that Iran will become more aggressive and potentially attack Saudi Arabia and/or threaten US interests in the region.

One answer is that continuing the war increases Iran’s influence.

Jeffrey Feltman, November 26, 2018, Feltman is a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He was United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs from July 2012 until April 2018 and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from 2009 to 2012, Foreign Affairs.  The Only Way to End the War in Yemen,

The threat of expanding Iranian influence is not a reason to delay a cease-fire, however. While ending the war unilaterally and focusing on UN-sponsored political talks will not eliminate Iranian influence, such steps could halt its expansion. A drawn-out war in Yemen, on the other hand, will only produce the same result as the wars in Iraq and Lebanon: a permanently entrenched Iranian presence that operates through military proxies and is eventually able to direct domestic policy.

*Saudi-US Relations

There is a substantial amount of good evidence that claims that selling arms to Saudi Arabia is part of a deal to protect US access to cheap oil sales from Saudi Arabia, which is the largest oil producer. Some teams read impacts related to how relations protect US interests in protecting security in the area and others claim that Saudi Arabia will retaliate by reducing production and/or cutting off supplies so that oil prices increase (law of supply and demand — lower supply and/or increased demand results in price increases), hurting the US economy.

A few answers —

Saudi-US relations hyped and useless

Daniel DePetris is a fellow at Defense Priorities, a nonpartisan foreign-policy organization focused on promoting security, stability and peace, December 8, 2018, Three Ways to Rethink the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Alliance,

Who ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident writer and Washington Post columnist who was ambushed and killed last month in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a fifteen-man assassination squad? Courtesy of in-depth reporting from the late Khashoggi’s former employer, that question is now all but answered. Based in part on electronic U.S. intelligence intercepts and other evidence handed over by Turkish authorities, the Central Intelligence Agency has concluded with high confidence that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) likely gave the kill order. With Riyadh’s culpability in the murder increasingly apparent, there is another mysterious question that deserves an answer: why does President Donald Trump continue to refer to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a strategic ally of the United States? Addressing reporters on November 17 en route to California, Trump called the Saudis “a great ally” in the Middle East and a “truly spectacular ally in terms of jobs and economic development.” Nothing could be further from reality. Saudi Arabia is not an ally the United States can depend on, nor has it proven to be an especially helpful security partner either. Saudi Arabia, rather, is a nation with its own unique set of national interests, some of which align with America but many of which do not. The sooner the Trump administration sees the U.S.-Saudi relationship for what it is—and equally important, what it is not—the sooner Washington can undertake the strategic reassessment that is urgently required and long past due. For decades, the American people have been sold by their leaders the idea that U.S.-Saudi ties being indispensable to the security of the U.S. homeland and a vital facet of promoting peace in the Middle East. With a few notable exceptions—Harvard University Professor Stephen Walt and former U.S. Ambassador to Riyadh Chas Freeman among them—the foreign policy intelligentsia and commentariat have eagerly served as the messenger of this hypothesis. U.S. administrations across the political divide have reflexively viewed the Saudis as integral to containing Iranian power in the Middle East, stabilizing energy prices during gluts in the energy market, and providing America with instrumental information on terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Most of these arguments, however, are hyped, exaggerated, and inaccurate. Riyadh’s behavior is as clear an indication as any that, far from being the amazing ally the foreign policy establishment frequently claims, the Kingdom is at best a nettlesome, half-hearted partner on very specific issues of common interest. Concerning stabilizing the oil market, the Saudis have a mixed record. Riyadh’s motivation in maintaining stability in the market has nothing to do with being a good friend to America and everything to do with Riyadh’s economic interest. A country that depends on oil returns to pad its budget, build up its foreign exchange reserves, and finance its national subsidies on everything from gasoline and food to housing can’t afford a long period of low profits. If prices rise too high over an extended period, the Kingdom will increase crude exports to preserve market share and assure that overseas buyers don’t switch suppliers. The Saudis do so not as a favor to the American consumer but rather as a necessity their bottom-line. Moreover, the Kingdom’s role as a force multiplier for the United States is also vastly overstated. The facts belie the idea of Riyadh as a stabilizing force in the Middle East. Since Mohammed bin Salman was named Defense Minister in 2015 and ascended to second-in-line to the throne in 2017, Saudi Arabia has been as destabilizing to the region’s security and politics as its Iranian archenemy. In fact, Saudi foreign policy under the reign of Crown Prince Mohammed has been an unending series of humanitarian debacles punctuated by strategic recklessness. Report Advertisement For instance, Riyadh’s three and a half year air campaign in Yemen has failed in its primary military objective of pushing the Houthis out of the Yemeni capital and back into the northern highlands. Instead, Saudi (and Emirati) bombing has transformed Yemen into hell on earth, where small children die of disease and starvation every day, weddings are turned into funerals, food is enormously expensive, and the country’s economy is insolvent. The Saudi-led political isolation and economic blockade of Qatar, meant to force Doha to sever relations with Iran, has only solidified ties between both. The kidnapping and forced resignation of the Lebanese prime minister earlier in the year—later taken back upon his release under French pressure—was an international embarrassment, giving further proof to MbS’s highly impulsive decision-making. Finally, there is now the state-sanctioned murder of a permanent American resident and journalist, apparently on the orders of the Crown Prince. This has exposed the Saudi government’s true nature to the world: that of an authoritarian system run by fear of dissent, self-interest, and paranoia. Amidst all of these developments, Washington can no longer drag its feet or offer more explanations to excuse the Kingdom’s poor judgment. A bipartisan majority in the U.S. Senate is finally coming around to that judgment, having voted last week to move forward with a bill that would remove U.S. military forces from Yemen’s civil war. The vote in the Senate came several weeks after the Trump administration’s recent decision to terminate mid-air refueling support to Saudi jets in Yemen, is a long overdue but welcome change of course. But U.S. policy would benefit from a hard-nosed, uncensored reappraisal of the entire decades-old U.S.-Saudi relationship.

– Saudis will still sell us the oil

DEREK CHOLLET, ILAN GOLDENBERG, November 30, 2018, Foreign Policy, the United tState should offer Saudi Arabia a choice,

Then there is the economic relationship. There’s no need to shelve American values and bend to Saudi requests because of their oil reserves. They’re not going to stop selling oil if Washington drops its patronage of Riyadh. It’s in their interest to sell oil, and the United States is better insulated from fluctuations in the energy markets than it has ever been.

U.S. is less reliant on Saudi oil supplies

Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times, October 23, 2018,

For decades, the United States relied heavily on other countries for its oil, chief among them Saudi Arabia. In recent years, however, thanks to U.S. development of shale oil reserves and the growth of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the United States has gradually weaned itself away from many outside producers. Today the U.S. imports only about 11% of its oil from Saudi Arabia, or about 700,000 to 800,000 barrels a day, down from as much as 2 million barrels a day in the late 1990s and early 2000s, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

*Economy/Defense Industrial Based

As discussed in the introductory essay, Trump claims that the exports of the weapons help the economy.

There are two related elements of this argument —

One, the claim that it increases the number of jobs.  This is a highly contestable claim –

Jonathan D. Caverley is an associate professor at the United States Naval War College and a research scientist at M.I.T.October 12, 2018, Want to Punish Saudi Arabia? Cut Off Its Weapons Supply,

And contrary to President Trump’s statement, exports to Saudi Arabia create relatively few American jobs. Based on Commerce Department figures, releasing the billion dollars of munitions currently on hold in the Senate would “create or sustain” fewer than 4,000 jobs. Here’s a more specific example: Publicizing a recent $6 billion helicopter deal with Saudi Arabia, Lockheed Martin predicted that it would “support” 450 American jobs. To date these sales have not “stewarded our national security.” Beyond its tragic war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has blockaded Qatar, an ally that hosts the Middle East’s largest American military base. And Saudi Arabia provides little help when it comes to Washington’s real regional priorities, such as fighting the Islamic State and stabilizing Iraq. The Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy specifically de-emphasizes the war on terror to focus on competition with China and Russia.

Two, others claim that it supports the defense industry in the US and that we need a strong defense industry to support the US military.  But arms sales to the Saudis are a trivial amount of sales for the defense industrial base

Jonathan D. Caverley is an associate professor at the United States Naval War College and a research scientist at M.I.T.October 12, 2018, Want to Punish Saudi Arabia? Cut Off Its Weapons Supply,

Despite recent increases, Saudi arms orders remain a manageably small part of the United States’ exports. According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, in 2017, a near-record year for annual purchases, the United States delivered $5.5 billion worth of arms, 20 percent of all foreign military

*Regime Stability

This negative argument says that if arms sales to Saudi Arabia are cut-off that it will undermine the credibility of the regime.

One answer is that high security spending will undermine the regime.

Anthony Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 13, 2018, Military Spending: The Other Side of Saudi Security,

But, Saudi Arabia Must Also Increase Domestic Spending and Fund Major Economic Reform At the same time, King Salman and Mohammed bin Salman has made it clear that Saudi Arabia has a critical priority for increased domestic spending on every domestic aspect of governance, and to fund economic and social reform. While Saudi Arabia is anything but poor, it is now a highly populated state by its past standards and faces at least a decade in which a massive youth bulge will create new demands for jobs, education, and services. Saudi Arabia’s 2030 plans have clearly acknowledged that its oil wealth has serious limits in meeting these needs, and that Saudi Arabia faces major challenges in funding both its security efforts and its need for reform and improved development plans. As Saudi Arabia’s 2030 development plans— and other Arab Development Plans since 2002—point out, the Kingdom faces a wide range of social, political, governance, and economic challenges that will require a massive level of government direction and investment to correct. Saudi Arabia has serious problems in diversifying its economy, expanding its private sector, and reducing its over-dependence on the petroleum sector. Saudi Arabia must deal with a range of issues. These issues include: an over-dependence on it petroleum sector, the threat of ideological extremism and terrorism, sectarian differences between its Sunni majority and Shiite minority, the need for social change at every level, modernizing education and making it more functional, the need to sharply reduce dependence on the state sector and create a far larger modern private sector, and the need for major reductions in corruption and crony capitalism. Most important, Saudi Arabia is under acute demographic pressure. This is especially true if one considers disguised unemployment and work jobs that are not needed and provide no net increase in productivity. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that its population was only 3.86 million in 1950, but rose to 4.178 million in 1960, 6.109 million in 1970, 10.222 million in 1980, 16,061 million in 1990, 21.322 million in 2000, 25,732 million in 2010, and 28,160 million in 2016. (The CIA estimates 28.6 million in 2017). The Census Bureau does estimate a declining future birth rate, but still estimates that the population will rise to 31.877 million in 2025 and 40.251 million in 2050. The Kingdom’s most critical challenge—and priority for maintaining and improving its internal security—is to properly educate, employ, and support the steady flow of young men and women that will form a “youth bulge” for at least the next decade. Well over 500,000 young Saudi men and women already reach the age where they should enter the labor force each year, and the Arab Development report for 2016 only includes some of these youth in estimating that Saudi Arabia now had over 30 percent youth unemployment. In addressing the issue of youth unemployment, Saudi Arabia must make major reductions in foreign labor and its impact on Saudi payments abroad. Here it is critical that Saudi Arabia and all its strategic partners like the United States recognize that civil stability is Saudi Arabia’s most important single security priority. All of these civil challenges interact and collectively threaten Saudi Arabia’s stability and internal security. Former King Abdullah was one of the few Arab leaders to recognize this reality after the political upheavals began in the Middle East in 2011, and funded a massive multi-billion-dollar effort to create jobs. These programs and payments help, but as the analyses that have led to the 2039 plan make clear, far more must be done and far more must be spent to address these problems. Defense and Security Spending Cost Saudi Arabia Well over 10 Percent of its GDP: Far More than the U.S. and European States Spend Saudi Arabia can only address these challenges to civil stability if brings its security spending under control, and creates a better balance between spending on security and its civil sector. To put this issue in the proper perspective, it is necessary to consider just how much of a burden Saudi security spending puts on its economy as well as on its government budget. The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) produces directly comparable national estimates that include both military and other security spending. The IISS estimates that Saudi Arabia spent 12.51 percent of its GDP in 2015, 12.61 percent in 2016, and 11.30 percent in 2017. This is an extraordinary level of effort for a country with some many other pressing domestic need and that is seeking to transform itself by 2030. In contrast, the IISS estimates that Russia now spends some $61.2 billion a year, and that while Saudi Arabia spends 1.25 times more than Russia at $76.7 billion. As for other leading military spenders, Britain spends $50.7 billion, France sends 48.6 billion, Germany $41.7 billion, and Italy spends $22.9 billion — all far less than Saudi Arabia. The Real-World Limits to “Oil Wealth” Wealth is always relative, and it must always be defined relative to the its ability to meet the needs of a population and how well it is distributed and spent. Saudi Arabia is a comparatively wealthy state by the standards of the developing world, but it is also extremely dependent on petroleum and produce exports, and its relative wealth is already limited by its high population growth. The CIA World Factbook estimates that the Saudi GDP was $1,798 trillion in purchasing power parity terms in 2017, and $1,787 trillion in 2016 — measured in 2017 dollars– ranking 16th highest in the world. It was only $678.5 billion at the official exchange rate, however, which is a more valid measure of the size of its modern economy. Its per capita income was $55,300 in 2017, in 2017 U.S. dollars. Again, a relatively high figure ranking 21st in the world, but one where Saudi Arabia can only meet these challenges if brings its security spending under control, and creates a better balance between spending on security and its civil sector. As the analyses that helped shaped the Saudi 2030 reform plan show, Saudi Arabia’s GDP is poorly distributed in ways that leave a large under class, ignore dependence on foreign labor and the lack of jobs and earning power for Saudi women, the scale of state overspending and waste, and the impact of corruption, cronyism, and privilege. The number still, however, impose serious limits on what Saudi Arabia can spend on defense and security without hurting its civil economy and ability to carry out anything like the 2030 reform plan. The CIA World Factbook estimates that the Saudi petroleum sector accounts for roughly 87 percent of budget revenues, 42 percent of the GDP, and 90 percent of export earnings. Given the fact that this sector is the main source of Saudi wealth, unless its 2030 plan is fully effective, it is clear that Saudi economic reform is critical. Moreover, the volatility of this income is illustrated by the impact of the major drop in oil prices in 2014. The OPEC Annual Statistical Bulletin for 2017 still reports relatively high figures for total oil export revenues, but also reports a massive annual drop in 2013-2015. It estimates that estimates that Saudi oil revenues—measures in current dollars—dropped from $337.5 billion in 2012 and $321.9 billion in 2013, to $284.6 billion in 2014 and lows of $152.9 billion in 2015, and $134.4 billion in 2016. The U.S. government Energy Information Administration (EIA) OPEC Revenues Fact Sheet for May 2017 estimates that Saudi net oil export revenues— the key source of Saudi wealth— were only $133 billion in 2016, and $4,132 in nominal per capita terms. It also estimates that Saudi oil revenues suddenly dropped from $12.5 billion in 2012, $11.9 billion in 2013, and $10.8 billion in 2014 to lows of $5.15 billion in 2015, and $4.1 billion in 2016—measured in constant 2016 US dollars. It is scarcely surprising that Saudi Arabia incurred a budget deficit estimated at 8.3 percent of it GDP in 2017, which had to be financed by bond sales and drawing down reserves. This deficit occurred long before the major costs of implementing the 2030 reform plan could impact on the Saudi budget, and highlights the need to carefully control Saudi security spending. Saudi Defense Places a Massive Burden on Its Budget Substantial Saudi military and security spending has been prioritized over the welfare of the economy and the effort to meet the Kingdom’s rising civil needs. Despite some strange comments by President Obama criticizing Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states for not doing their share as strategic partners during his administration, countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE—and recently Qatar— have spent far more of their economies on defense than any major U.S. European ally. Saudi Arabia and a number of other Arab strategic partners in the Gulf have also made massive arms purchases, many from the U.S. The IISS estimates that the U.S only spent a comparable 3.25 percent of its GDP on military forces and security in 2015, 3.19 percent in 2016, and 3.11percent in 2017, using directly comparable definitions of defense spending and GDP. Russia only spent 3.82% of its GDP in 2015, 3.47 percent in 2016, and 3.10 percent in 2017. Europe averaged only 1.37 percent of its GDP in 2015, 1.33 percent in 2016, and 1.34 percent in 2017. Germany consistently spent less than 1.10 percent. The United Kingdom was the only major European power to meet NATO’s 2 percent of GDP goal during this period and it failed to do so in 2017: It spent 2.03 percent of its GDP in 2015, 2.00 percent in 2016, and 1.98 percent in 2017. From this perspective, the challenges that Saudi Arabia (and the King and Mohammed bin Salman) faces in the military and security sector go far beyond the issue of better planning, command efforts, and management of resources. Saudi Arabia is spending so much on its military forces and security that efforts to improve security threaten its domestic stability and security more than it improves it. Similarly, U.S. and other efforts to get Saudi Arabia to spend even more on security make things worse.


This argument says that cutting arms sales to Saudi Arabia will reduce Saudi Arabia’s willingness to cooperate with the US on terrorism. One answer is that mutual interests mean counterterrorism won’t be disrupted

VOA News, October 18, 2018,

U.S. officials now regard Saudi cooperation on counter-terrorism as invaluable given the human intelligence Saudi operatives provide by exploiting an unrivaled network of tribal and family connections to infiltrate militant strongholds. Tipoffs from Riyadh helped foil a planned suicide bomb attack on a plane over Detroit in 2009 and revealed a bomb disguised as a printer cartridge loaded in Dubai onto a plane bound for Chicago in October 2010. Because such cooperation is in both nations’ interest, it is unlikely Washington would jeopardize it by an unduly harsh reaction to Khashoggi’s disappearance.

*Nuclear Proliferation

This argument says that if Saudi Arabia can’t get access to regular, conventional weapons they will develop nuclear weapons.

But Saudi Arabia’s development of nuclear weapons is unlikely—no infrastructure and no resources, they’ve never even made a car

Zakari 6-11 (Fareed Zakria writing for The Washington Post “Why Saudi Arabia can’t get a nuclear weapon” June 11, 2015, Accessed 7/17/15, LC)

Of the many unnerving aspects of the future of the Middle East, a nuclear arms race would top the list. And to feed that unease, Saudi Arabia has been periodically dropping hints that, should Iran’s nuclear ambitions go unchecked, it might just have to get nuclear weapons itself. This week, the Saudi ambassador to London made yet another explicit threat, warning that “all options will be on the table.”¶ Oh, please! Saudi Arabia isn’t going to build a nuclear weapon. Saudi Arabia can’t build a nuclear weapon. Saudi Arabia hasn’t even built a car. (By 2017, after much effort, the country is expected to manufacture its first automobile.)¶ Saudi Arabia can dig holes in the ground and pump out oil but little else. Oil revenue is about 45 percent of its gross domestic product, a staggeringly high figure, much larger than petro-states such as Nigeria and Venezuela. It makes up almost 90 percent of the Saudi government’s revenue. Despite decades of massive government investment, lavish subsidies and cheap energy, manufacturing is less than 10 percent of Saudi GDP.¶ Where would Saudi Arabia train the scientists to work on its secret program? The country’s education system is backward and dysfunctional, having been largely handed over to its puritanical and reactionary religious establishment. The country ranks 73rd in the quality of its math and science education, according to the World Economic Forum — abysmally low for a rich country. Iran, despite 36 years of sanctions and a much lower per capita GDP, fares far better at 44.¶ And who would work in Saudi Arabia’s imagined nuclear industry? In a penetrating book, Karen Elliott House, formerly of the Wall Street Journal, describes the Saudi labor market: “One of every three people in Saudi Arabia is a foreigner. Two out of every three people with a job of any sort are foreign. And in Saudi Arabia’s anemic private sector, fully nine out of ten people holding jobs are non-Saudi. . . . Saudi Arabia, in short, is a society in which all too many men do not want to work at jobs for which they are qualified; in which women by and large aren’t allowed to work; and in which, as a result, most of the work is done by foreigners.”¶ None of this is to suggest that the kingdom is in danger of collapse. Far from it. The regime’s finances are strong, though public spending keeps rising and oil revenue has been declining. The royal family has deftly used patronage, politics, religion and repression to keep the country stable and quiescent. But that has produced a system of stagnation for most, with a gilded elite surfing on top with almost unimaginable sums of money.¶ Saudi Arabia’s increased assertiveness has been portrayed as strategic. In fact, it is a panicked and emotional response to Iran, fueled in no small measure by long-standing anti-Shiite bigotry. It is pique masquerading as strategy. In October 2013, after having spent years and millions of dollars campaigning for a seat on the U.N. Security Council, it abruptly declined the post at the last minute, signaling that it was annoyed at U.S. policy in its region.¶ Its most recent international activism, the air campaign in Yemen, has badly backfired. Bruce Riedel, a former top White House aide, says that damage to civilians and physical infrastructure “has created considerable bad blood between Yemenis and their rich Gulf neighbors that will poison relations for years. Yemenis always resented their rich brothers, and now many will want revenge.” He notes that the air campaign is being directed by the new defense minister, the king’s 29-year-old son, who has no experience in military affairs or much else.¶ But couldn’t Saudi Arabia simply buy a nuclear bomb? That’s highly unlikely. Any such effort would have to take place secretly, under the threat of sanctions, Western retaliation and interception. Saudi Arabia depends heavily on foreigners and their firms to help with its energy industry, build its infrastructure, buy its oil and sell it goods and services. Were it isolated like Iran or North Korea, its economic system would collapse.¶ It is often claimed that Pakistan would sell nukes to the Saudis. And it’s true that the Saudis have bailed out Pakistan many times. But the government in Islamabad is well aware that such a deal could make it a pariah and result in sanctions. It is unlikely to risk that, even to please its sugar daddy in Riyadh. In April, Pakistan refused repeated Saudi pleas to join the air campaign in Yemen.¶ So let me make a prediction: Whatever happens with Iran’s nuclear program, 10 years from now Saudi Arabia won’t have nuclear weapons. Because it can’t.

*China and/or Russia fill-in

This disadvantage argues that if the US stops selling weapons that Saudi Arabia will just switch their purchases to Russia and/or China and that this will strengthen those countries’ defense industries and military readiness at the expense of the US.

*China and/or Russia deterrence

This disadvantage argues that if the US stops selling weapons to Saudi Arabia that China and/or Russia will be more aggressive in the region.


Traditional political capital arguments are hard to run because Congress opposes selling Saudi Arabia weapons.

There is, however, election evidence that says that if the US cuts sales that Saudi Arabia will retaliate by increasing oil prices, hurting the US economy and costing Trump the election.


Anemic.  Anemic means small.

Bilateral. Bilateral relations are relations between two countries.

Genocide. Genocide is the killing of an entire ethnic or religious group.

Military readiness. Military readiness refers to how well countries are prepare to fight.

Nuclear proliferation.  Nuclear proliferation refers to the spread of nuclear weapons.

Private sector. The private sector refers to businesses that are run an owned by private individuals, as opposed to government run businesses.

Stockholm Agreement.  The Stockholm Agreement is an agreement that was reached in Stockholm, Sweden to reduce the fighting in Saudi Arabia.

NATO. NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a Western alliance of 26 countries that has been designed to protect the security of the West.  Although the focus has been on protecting security in Europe vis-a-vis Russia, broader security interests are also protected.

Shale. Shale oil is a type of oil that is found far beneath the rocks in the earth. The US has produced a lot of shale oil through hydraulic fracking.

Hydraulic fracking. Hydraulic fracking refers to the idea of using this specialized technology to access oil energy sources between the rocks

Doha. Doha is the capital of Qatar, a country that is a neighbor of Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh. Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia.

Negative essay

Review Questions

(1) What are some strong plan options for the Saudi Arabia arms sales case?

(a) Ban all sales
(b) Ban offensive weapons
(c) Ban defensive weapons
(d) All of the above
(e) A & B

(2) Why is the Yemen war advantage so strong?

(a) It’s difficult to win alternate suppliers against it
(b) It has a large, short-term impact
(c) It is difficult to respond to
(d) It is persuasive to judges
(e) All of the above

(3) What are some additional advantage options for the Saudi Arms sales case?

(a) Human rights
(b) Ethics
(c) UAE encirclement
(d) Human rights
(e) Saudi prolif
(f) A & B
(g) All of the above

(4) What are strong answers to Saudi oil disruptions?

(a) Saudis won’t cut oil supplies
(b) High oil prices are not bad
(c) High oil prices don’t hurt the economy
(d) The Saudis will like it if we cut arms sales
(e) All of the above
(f) A & C

(5) What are of the key disadvantages against the Saudi Arabia case?

(a) Iran threat, Saudi-US relations, Russian relations
(b) Iran threat, Saudi-US relations, oil supply disruptions, US power projection
(c) Iran threat, Saudi-US relations, oil supply disruptions, US power projection, US-China relations, China threat, Russia threat
(d) Iran threat, Saudi-US relations, oil supply disruptions, US power projection, , China threat, Russia threat