By Aaron Kliegman In 2019, Iranian agents lured Ruhollah Zam, a dissident journalist living under asylum in France, to Iraq, where they abducted him. The operatives then brought Zam to Iran, where the regime executed him last December for inspiring anti-government protests. The indifference among American journalists and politicians was striking, especially considering the ferocity of their reactions to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Indeed, the media and Democrats were calling to punish Saudi Arabia harshly for sending agents to kill Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Some even wanted Washington to downgrade, if not end altogether, America’s decades-long strategic alliance with Riyadh. Hence Joe Biden promising during his presidential campaign to make the Saudis “the pariah that they are.” The built-up backlash to the killing of Khashoggi led the Biden administration last week to allow the release of an American intelligence assessment concluding Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, often called MBS, approved the hit. The assessment contains no actual evidence linking MBS to the murder, leading the CIA merely to speculate “there is no way this happened without being aware or involved.” The intelligence community even admits in the report that, although “Saudi officials had pre-planned an unspecified operation against Khashoggi, we do not know how far in advance Saudi officials decided to harm him.” To be clear, the murder of Khashoggi was heinous, and it’s hard to believe MBS didn’t order or at least know about it. But the intelligence community and the Biden administration are fortunate they’re not prosecutors in a court of law. If they were, MBS would walk free. The White House has wisely said it won’t punish MBS — the real leader of Saudi Arabia given the failing health of his father, the king — no doubt for fear of damaging relations. That doesn’t really matter, though: The point of releasing the assessment was to make the Saudis look bad. The damage has already been done. Still, Democrats and journalists are demanding harsher action against MBS and Saudi Arabia more broadly. What’s so strange about their determination is their utter silence following the execution of Zam. To explain themselves, many will say that, as tragic as Zam’s death was, Khashoggi was a columnist for the Washington Post living in the United States. Fair enough, except Khashoggi was neither a journalist nor a friend of the West. In fact, Khashoggi was a Saudi insider with ties to the Saudi intelligence services and Islamist extremist movements. He used his platform on social media to make anti-Israel, often egregiously antisemitic comments. And he later became an asset of Qatar, which wanted him to write critically of its rival, Saudi Arabia. In short, Khashoggi was an operative with radical associations, working at the behest of foreign countries. As Lee Smith wrote recently, it seems he was “using his Post articles and relationship with to negotiate with Riyadh for his loyalty.” Naturally, those condemning Saudi Arabia the loudest are the quietist about Khashoggi’s history. Compare this to the lack of response to Zam’s execution. This Saudi-Iranian double standard among American elites is hardly confined to the murder of dissidents. Consider, for example, the situation in Yemen. For years, Democrats and the media have been decrying Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen against the Houthis, extremist rebels backed by Iran. They’ve demanded the US not support the Saudis’ efforts and called for downgrading the alliance. The Saudi war in Yemen has certainly been clumsy and at times incompetent, but too many American elites are letting their irrational hatred of Saudi Arabia blind them to what’s really happening in Yemen: Iran is using the Houthis to try to create a proxy on Saudi Arabia’s southern border to threaten a key American ally with missiles and rockets, just as Iran uses Lebanese Hezbollah to threaten Israel on its northern border. Despite all its problems, Saudi Arabia is a key American ally. It’s an important partner in counterterrorism and a huge purchaser of American arms. The Saudis are also a necessary staple of the global oil market, which still greatly affects the American economy even if the US imports less oil from the Middle East. For those who care more about the humanitarian situation in Yemen than America’s strategic interests, the Houthis are the ones who failed to repair sanitation services, worsening Yemen's cholera epidemic. The Houthis are the ones who’ve confiscated food and medical aid from civilians to support their fighters. The Houthis are the ones who’ve used child soldiers to field more fighters. And the Houthis are the ones with the slogan “Death to America, death to Israel, curse upon the Jews, victory to Islam!” And yet, Democrats in Congress and our nation’s most prestigious editorial boards say Saudi Arabia is the problem, more than Iran and the Houthis. This position makes no sense. Unless their objective here is not to advance America’s interests in the Middle East. And that’s the key point to understand: The objective of many Democrats and like-minded journalists is to downgrade America’s alliance with Saudi Arabia (and other friendly countries) in order to establish more harmonious relations with Iran. They don’t see the Iranian regime as a friend exactly. Instead, they see Iran as an appealing potential partner to play a positive role in the Middle East, allowing the US to leave the region knowing a capable force is there to clean up the mess. According to their misguided progressive view, engaging and appeasing Iran will moderate the regime over time. This is the vision that President Barack Obama pursued and President Biden is following in his former boss’s footsteps with the same team. It’s a recipe for disaster — a perfect formula to embolden Iranian aggression and Saudi risk-taking. And all the while, Iran won’t be punished for murdering Ruhollah Zam, whose only crime was speaking his mind about the cruel and oppressive theocracy that brutalizes the Iranian people and terrorizes the entire Middle East. Newt hosts monthly virtual events in which he discusses news of the day and why it matters to you and your community. These Newt Live events are your opportunity to communicate directly with Newt. 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