Saudi Arabia is an oil rich country with a political system characterized by an absolute monarchy. Its strongest institutions are the monarchy, military, and religious authorities, whose interpretation of Islam includes second-class citizenship for women and no rights for non-Muslims. Over the past 15 years, Saudi Arabia has spent between 10% and 15% of GDP on military purchases – mostly from the United States and the United Kingdom.
For some years, Saudi Arabia has been competing with Iran for dominance in the Middle East region, and recently has allied with Israel to marginalize Iran and oppose the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Nuclear Deal), which was negotiated by the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany.
Since the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011, the Saudi regime has intensified the crackdown against political reformists, democracy advocates and human rights activists sentencing many of them to lengthy prison terms followed by a travel ban under a repressive “counter-terrorism” law.
Saudi Arabia has played a leading role in the coalition formed in 2012 to support Syrian opposition fighters. This has complicated the prospects of a diplomatic settlement to end the civil war.
In 2015, Saudi Arabia intervened in the Yemen civil conflict and bombed the country, claiming that the Houthi rebels are in alliance with Iran. According to the United Nations, the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition is responsible for roughly two-thirds of the 10,000 civilian casualties in the war.
U.S. politicians deflect criticism of Saudi Arabia. The Obama administration tried to block disclosure of the previously censored “Twenty-Eight Pages” of the 9/11 Commission Report that suggests high-level Saudi complicity, and then in 2016 tried to block a bipartisan Congressional bill that would allow victims of 9/11 and other terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia.
While the US has spent billions of dollars on democracy promotion in many countries such as Cuba and Iran, it has rarely condemned Saudi Arabia for its repressive practices and human rights violations against Saudi political reformists and democracy advocates.
The US should stop selling arms to the Saudi regime, stop cooperating with its war in Yemen, and ultimately back away from the US-Saudi alliance.
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