Gabbard: US needs to 'stop pretending' Saudi Arabia is an ally

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardSeven takeaways from a busy Democratic presidential campaign weekend in Iowa New Hampshire feels overlooked in Democratic presidential race Analysis: 2020 digital spending vastly outpaces TV ads MORE (D-Hawaii) says one of her first acts as president would be to “stop pretending” that Saudi Arabia is an ally of the U.S.

“You can go down a laundry list of things that show that even as much as the policy establishment claims Saudi Arabia is an ally of the United States and they’re battling terrorism and all of these things — they’re simply not true,” Gabbard told Hill.TV in an interview that aired on Friday.

“Their interests are not serving the interest of the American people,” she continued.

Gabbard accused Saudi Arabia of deliberately pushing the U.S. toward a war with Iran amid escalating tensions between the two nations.

“Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest voices pushing this administration towards a war with Iran — that would be directly counter to the interests of the American people and purely for Saudi Arabia’s benefit,” she told Hill.TV.

The longshot candidate won praise for her breakout moment during the first night of this week's Democratic presidential debates.

Gabbard drew attention for a heated exchange with Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanThe Hill's Campaign Report: De Blasio drops out | Warren gains support from black voters | Sanders retools campaign team | Warning signs for Tillis in NC Williamson: Climate change result of an 'amoral' economic system Overnight Energy: Top presidential candidates to skip second climate forum | Group sues for info on 'attempts to politicize' NOAA | Trump allows use of oil reserve after Saudi attacks MORE (D-Ohio) about U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran, pushed back on Ryan's claim that the Taliban was behind the 9/11 attacks. 

“The reality of it is if the United States is not engaged, the Taliban will grow. And we will have bigger, bolder terrorist acts, we have got to have some presence there,” Ryan said of needing a military presence in Afghanistan.

Gabbard disputed his plan, saying that the Taliban "was there long before we came in and will be there long after we leave. We cannot keep U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan thinking that we are going to somehow squash this Taliban.”

Her comments come after Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman posed next to each other for a photo of world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Japan. The two leaders were spotted exchanging pleasantries and making conversation.

Trump did not choose where he stood in the photo, but the image comes amid tensions between lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the White House on its position on Saudi Arabia. 

Lawmakers expressed outrage over the killing last year of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who had been a critic of Saudi leadership. The Trump administration failed to meet a deadline to issue a report to Congress on who was responsible for Khashoggi's death, while many lawmakers have accused the crown prince of directing the killing.

The Senate last week voted to block Trump’s Saudi arms deal, setting up a potential veto in the White House.

—Tess Bonn