April 7, 2020

Our Saudi “Friends”

By Stephen Tuttle | Oct. 20, 2018

Surveillance video taken on Oct. 2 shows journalist Jamal Khashoggi walking into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. There's no evidence he left alive.  
Khashoggi, a legal alien resident of the United States, was one of Saudi Arabia's leading journalists and an advisor to several Saudi leaders. He became a critic of the Saudi government when 32-year-old Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, often known as MBS, became the heir apparent to the throne, promising reforms while silencing most anybody who disagreed with him.
Khashoggi became an obvious target of a crackdown on the media and self-exiled to the U.S. In 2017. He worked as a guest opinion columnist for The Washington Postand as an analyst for several news organizations. He was a frequent critic of the Saudi government and MBS specifically. 
Engaged to a Turkish woman, Khashoggi was lured to the Saudi Consulate under the guise of a paperwork requirement as part of his upcoming wedding. The Turkish government says they have video and audio proof he was interrogated, tortured, murdered, and dismembered.
The Saudi government claims innocence, and President Donald Trump already repeated their nonsense about “rogue killers.” (Rogue killers in their own consulate? Seriously?) He becomes the latest in a long line of American presidents sucking up to the thuggish family that created and runs Saudi Arabia. 
Nobody much cared about the Arabian peninsula until they discovered there was a lot of oil — the world's largest known reserves of clean crude — under all that sand and rock. American, Dutch and British oil companies made quick deals and started drilling and pumping.
When the House of Saud, the family that owns Saudi Arabia (no, seriously, they really do), nationalized the oil companies, the sellers became buyers, and the power balance shifted. 
We've found various reasons to accommodate them ever since.
We no longer have a critical need for their oil; only nine percent of our imported oil comes from Saudi Arabia. Other parts of the world are more Saudi-dependent, and any disruptions in supply can be destructive to the world economy, but we've found new reasons to maintain our romance with them. We do so with our eyes closed and our noses plugged.
All because nobody buys more military hardware from us than the Saudis.    
(There is no $100 billion deal the president talks about; there are ongoing “discussions,” and it will amount to billions, but there is no such deal now.)
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia continues as one of the most repressive and oppressive countries in the world.
MBS the reformer has allowed women to finally vote — but in municipal elections only. He has allowed women to drive and attend some sporting events — but only with a male companion. At the same time, he rounded up and jailed women dissidents and critics. 
He touted his new transparency while shuttering opposing newspapers and jailing journalists. He boasted about a crackdown on corruption but launched what amounted to a Mafia-style shakedown of the country's leading businessmen. They were detained, housed in a luxury hotel, and forced to pay massive “fines.”
Our friends the Saudis have a legal system in which trials are secret, and you are not allowed to even present a defense for some offenses. The conviction rate is a tick above 99 percent. It's a place where just three years ago a woman convicted of adultery was legally, publicly stoned to death with the approval of her husband. Her alleged paramour was not punished. It's a place where a 14-year-old girl was gang-raped by a group who admitted they had done it. They were publicly lashed. The girl? Twice as many lashes because she was unaccompanied in public and thereby “lured” the men to commit their crime.
They provide the financing for the madrassas that teach Wahhabism, an especially intolerant form of Islam that has bred much of the international jihadist terrorism, including a majority of the 9/11 murderers who attacked us.   
It's a country we claim provides a useful military counterbalance to Iran — that used to be Saddam Hussein's job — but has three times attacked Israel, our only real ally in the region. 
And they've launched a war against Yemen because some revolutionaries in that country believe in a different version of Islam. As a nice bonus, they're flying combat missions with planes they bought from us dropping cluster bombs they bought from us on schools and hospitals.
Saudi Arabia, with no freedom of anything and unrelenting oppression for some, is no friend, nor have they stabilized anything in a region rife with instability.
They likely murdered a U.S.-based journalist whose offense was criticizing their leader-in-waiting. We'll just make more excuses and sell them more bombs.   


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