Mar 05 2013
Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Saudi Arabia this week underscores yet again the United States’s willingness to ignore the darker side of the medieval monarchy.
A few years before Kerry, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton munched on lamb and rice with King Abdullah. Back in 2005, President Bush hosted the Saudi monarch at his Crawford ranch. (And then there was President Obama’s supposed kow-towing before Abdullah, which became a rightwing meme.)
This constant show of respect to the Saudi monarchy is a travesty, since Saudi Arabia is a famously repressive theocracy, with an almost complete lack of rights for its people.
“Saudi Arabia in 2012 stepped up arrests and trials of peaceful dissidents, and responded with force to demonstrations by citizens,” states Human Rights Watch in its annual report on the year gone by. “Authorities continue to suppress or fail to protect the rights of nine million Saudi women and girls and nine million foreign workers. As in past years, thousands of people have received unfair trials or been subject to arbitrary detention.”
And yet the lure of cheap oil and arms deals makes the United States look the other way.
“The United States did not publicly criticize any Saudi human rights violations except through annual reports,” Human Rights Watch wryly notes. “The United States concluded a $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, its largest anywhere to date.”
The major problem is that not only do the Saudis impose their model on their own people, they also propagate it worldwide on the strength of their oil money. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated in a December 2009 leaked diplomatic cable that entities in Saudi Arabia were the “most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” Clinton said “the groups funded included Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba” (the group responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks), according to Reuters.