COLUMN: Saudi Arabia’s continued human rights abuses cannot be supported by the U.S. any longer

For decades Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have been joined at the hip, and this relationship must be ended if America wants to live up to its ideals.

Galen Zavala Sherby is a sophomore journalism major at MU. He is an opinions columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater

For decades, Saudi Arabia and the United States have been staunch economic, political and military allies. Despite a long history of human rights abuses, theocratic fundamentalism and an ever-present tyrannical system of government, the U.S. and Saudi governments have maintained close diplomatic relations. This hypocritical and contradictory unity between a state that purports to be the global defender of democracy and one of the last absolute monarchies on Earth is baffling at first glance.

However, the reasons behind this uncharacteristic alliance are surprisingly simple, and even the cold-blooded murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been incapable of shaking the ties that the U.S. has built with the Saudi royal family. This isn’t to say that the U.S. necessarily ignores the worst crimes of the Saudi regime. Diplomatic reprimands are issued whenever there are particular excesses committed by the kingdom. Although, it should go without saying that empty words do nothing to erase our government’s consistent material support of the regime.

To better understand the current Saudi-American relationship, one has to be aware of the context behind Saudi Arabia’s origins and the historical path the nation has taken up to the present. The kingdom’s modern history begins in 1932 with its establishment under the rule of the powerful Saud family, headed by its patriarch, Ibn Saud. Its position over lucrative oil reserves caught the eye of Europe and the U.S. alike. Over the course of the Cold War, Saudi Arabia was also seen as a bastion of anti-communism, and American soldiers were routinely stationed within the country.

Throughout its existence, the Saudi government has adhered to a conservative interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism. Many of the draconian laws surrounding women’s rights and LGBT+ rights within the country stem from this fundamentalist strain of thought. This blend of conservative religious teachings and a strictly autocratic government resulted directly in the brazen murder and dismemberment of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

If Saudi Arabia lived up to the ideals the U.S. supposedly stands for, in any way, the very notion of murdering a journalist for expressing dissent would have been unthinkable. However, Saudi Arabia’s autocratic system practically demands that those who voice opposition to the royal family’s policies should be eliminated in one way or another.

The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen is another example of criminal conduct by the Saudi state that the American government has, until recently, been actively supporting. Lucrative arms deals between U.S.-based weapons manufacturers and Saudi Arabia have helped the Saudi army to continue waging a war in which tens of thousands of civilians have already died. According to the UN, multiple war crimes have been conducted by the kingdom, using American-made bombs, rockets and bullets.

Even now, new information is coming to light regarding the depth of the Saudi royal family’s involvement in the plot to murder Khashoggi. Recently the CIA declassified a report confirming with a “medium to high degree of certainty” that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman played a key role in approving the journalist’s killing despite his statements to the contrary. Saudi Arabian authorities including the Crown Prince himself have insisted that Jamal Khashoggi’s killing was planned and approved without bin Salman’s knowledge, but this new report has quickly unraveled the officially sanctioned narrative.

The United States’ alliance of convenience with Saudi Arabia must be ended as soon as possible. The continued support of a government that is diametrically opposed to our country’s stated goals is a fundamental travesty and it must be recognized as such in our nation’s actions, not just our words.

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Edited by Sofi Zeman | szeman@themaneater.com

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