Since the 1940s, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Ibn Saud structured the framework for an America-Saudi Arabia alliance, the two nations have upheld a partnership as “strategic allies” with full diplomatic relations.
Last week, President Obama visited Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah at his royal palace. The reasoning behind the President’s short trip can be summarized by what The New York Times suggested was an “effort to mend ties.” The US National Security Council said of the U.S.-Saudi alliance, “Good friends sometimes have differences, but they are able to work through those differences. That is the case between the United States and Saudi Arabia.” As Middle East regional turmoil has continued to increase exponentially under the Obama administration’s watch, the Saudis seemingly want reassurance that their place at the table remains permanent. However, the question has continually prevailed: Is this partnership in the best interests of the United States of America?
Those of us who hold Western values as an ideal standard and want America to thrive and prosper have compelling and substantial evidence at our disposal to argue the U.S.-Saudi alliance is not only morally wrong but it also results in a net loss for America’s overall strategic positioning in the world.
The Virulent Violators of the Ultimate American Ideal: Individual Rights
Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi (Fundamentalist Sunni) Islamic society wholly violates the basic inalienable human rights of all its citizens. In Saudi Arabia, there is no freedom of the press, no free elections, no freedom of association, and no rights to free speech.
Life is considerably more difficult for women, as they are not valued as moral or legal equals to men. Women are forbidden from leaving their home without a male counterpart and are disallowed from driving automobiles.
Saudi Arabia sanctions “honor killings.” In 2008, a Saudi woman was killed by her father for the “crime” of chatting with someone on Facebook. A Saudi cleric brought up the case not to judge the father, but rather to condemn the existence of Facebook. “Facebook is a door to lust, and young women and men are spending more on their mobile phones and the internet than they are spending on food,” he said. In Veiled Atrocities: True Stories of Oppression in Saudi Arabia, author Sami Alrabaa gives us countless example of the atrocities committed on behalf of the Saudi regime. The Saudi Kingdom’s mutawas (morality police) have been known to commit countless horrific acts against innocent women. Frequent examples include stonings, beheadings, and rape.
Are They Our Enemies?
United States politicians often struggle or outright refuse to identify what or who exactly our enemy is in the post-9/11 world. President Bush’s choice of terminology was “War on Terrorism” while President Obama chose “Contingency Operations” for his rhetorical declaration. Some argue that America’s struggles in combatting worldwide terror are precisely a result of our government’s inability to define America’s new enemy. This lack of basic identification renders it impossible to target as who or what our enemies will ultimately appear.
Some have articulated that our focus should be on combating the forces that provide moral, ideological, and financial support to the various radical Islamist movements worldwide. Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 attackers, after all, had been born and bred in Saudi Arabia’s Wahabbi Islamist environment. Likewise, 80% of the individuals at the American prison for enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay are Saudi nationals.
While Saudi Arabia may not be providing overt, vocal support for terrorism, evidence suggests its political environment has facilitated the mass-creation of prototypical enemies to the United States from an ideological and moral framework. Back at home in Riyadh, the Saudi state-controlled media frequently disburses anti-American sentiment in the form of op-eds, news stories, and cartoons.
The Worldwide Terror Financiers
The Saudi Arabian government has continued to fund Madrassas (Islamist Schools) throughout the Middle East and Southwest Asia that promote anti-American hatred and Islamist extremism. Recent revelations show that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was frequently dismayed by Saudi Arabia’s terror-financing appartatus. According to a Top Secret government document released by Wikileaks, Clinton observed, “More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other terrorist groups.” The leaked cable went onto explain how militant Islamists would come to Saudi Arabia during the hajj (religious pilgrimage) and successfully solicit funds in order to facilitate their future terrorist operations. According to investigative journalist Paul Sperry, the original 9/11 commission report (until redacted) “found incontrovertible evidence that Saudi Government officials… helped the hijackers both financially and logistically.”
Their Resources Are No Longer Necessary
While Saudi Arabia used to be an important geopolitical ally because of its large oil supply, newer findings have shifted that particular narrative vastly. While some used to worry that the Saudis could hold the world economy ransom due to their past monopoly on oil exports, this potential strategy can no longer be used to leverage the international community. In fact, recent studies suggest that the United States’s potential oil supply far surpasses the Saudis’. By continuing to rely on the Saudis for natural resources, it not only raises our prices for consumers back in the United States, but also provides an excuse for U.S. lawmakers to indefinitely delay exploring America’s vast array of its own natural resources. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States imported on average 1.4 million barrels of oil per day from Saudi Arabia in January 2014.
Can President Obama claim to be a ‘champion’ for women’s rights while bowing to arguably the world’s worst violator of those rights? Has America, as the designated ‘world’s police,’ created a massive moral contradiction due to its alliance with the Saudi Arabian government that severely limits the liberties of its own citizens?
At its best, the United States-Saudi Arabia alliance sends a confusing message to the world at large. At its worst, the alliance undermines our ongoing battle for the promise of a safer tomorrow.