Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Politics of War in Syria: Saudi Arabia

During his testimony before Congress, Secretary of State John Kerry revealed that Arab nations (meaning Saudi Arabia and Qatar) have offered to foot the entire cost of an invasion of Syria. 

Secretary of State John Kerry said at Wednesday’s hearing that Arab counties have offered to pay for the entirety of unseating President Bashar al-Assad if the United States took the lead militarily.
“With respect to Arab countries offering to bear costs and to assess, the answer is profoundly yes,” Kerry said. “They have. That offer is on the table.”
Asked by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) about how much those countries would contribute, Kerry said they have offered to pay for all of a full invasion.
“In fact, some of them have said that if the United States is prepared to go do the whole thing the way we’ve done it previously in other places, they’ll carry that cost,” Kerry said. “That’s how dedicated they are at this. That’s not in the cards, and nobody’s talking about it, but they’re talking in serious ways about getting this done (source).”
Although I am loath to admit it, I find myself in agreement with Pat Buchanan when he expresses exasperation on this issue. He writes, “Has it come to this — U.S. soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen as the mercenaries of sheiks, sultans and emirs … hired out to do the big-time killing for Saudi and Sunni royals (source)?” 

As far as I can tell, the geopolitical situation is this: Syria is an ally of Iran, and Iran is attempting to become the dominant influence in the Middle East. Iran, in turn, is the recipient of military and financial aid coming from Russia. The ties between Iran and Russia extend back into the Cold War era. Russia’s interests are plain: (1) Iran borders Russia, giving Russia a reason to desire influence over the country, (2) Russia wants control of Iranian oil and (3) Russia wishes to be influential in the Middle East. 

The leadership in Saudi Arabia is presently the dominant influence in the Middle East and wishes to retain power. Thus, the Saudis are competing with Iran for hegemony in the region. Just as Iran has the support of Russia, Saudi Arabia has the support of the United States. The most faithful allies of the U.S. – Great Britain and France – back Saudi Arabia.   

The American news media provide regular updates on the brutality of the Assad regime in Syria. However, for reasons that remain inexplicable, the media do not provide an equally in-depth treatment of the brutality of the Saudi monarchy. And hence, in this post, I aim to do my small part in correcting this imbalance, and share with the reader what I have learned about Saudi Arabia’s lamentable human rights record. 

The international organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) has provided a public service by documenting some of these Saudi abuses. First, there is the matter of how the government deals with crime. Suspected criminals do not receive a fair trial. When they are found guilty (and they usually are) they may face beheading or something called “cross-amputation” in which the left foot and right hand are removed. “Detainees, including children, commonly face systematic violations of due process and fair trial rights, including arbitrary arrest and torture and ill-treatment in detention. Saudi judges routinely sentence defendants to thousands of lashes.”

Authorities do not always inform suspects of the crime with which they are charged, nor of supporting evidence. Saudi Arabia has no penal code, so prosecutors and judges largely define criminal offenses at their discretion. Lawyers are not generally allowed to assist suspects during interrogation and face difficulty examining witnesses or presenting evidence at trial.
Courageous citizens who set up human rights organizations within Saudi Arabia, or who call for the release of unjustly convicted individuals, are themselves imprisoned. Freedom of speech, along with the other values enshrined in the American Bill of Rights, is not honored in Saudi Arabia. Practicing any faith other than Islam is a punishable offense. One can be arrested for taking Mohammad lightly, or joining certain Islamic sects that are in disfavor. One can be imprisoned for criticizing the incompetence of government officials.

The Sa'ud family rules Saudi Arabia as an absolute monarchy - there are no national elections and no effective means of popular participation in decision making. In early March, the Interior Ministry and the Council of Senior Religious Scholars, the highest law-interpreting body, reiterated a ban on demonstrations. In February, mabahith officers arrested eight people who announced they were founding what they intended to be the kingdom's first political party, the Islamic Nation Party (source).
Saudis import millions of migrant workers to fulfill clerical, manual, and service jobs, because the Saudis regard these jobs as beneath them. According to HRW, “Over 9 million migrant workers fill manual, clerical, and service jobs, constituting more than half the workforce. Many suffer multiple abuses and labor exploitation, sometimes amounting to slavery-like conditions.” In support of this claim, they add, “In years past, Asian embassies reported thousands of complaints from domestic workers forced to work 15 to 20 hours a day, seven days a week, and denied their salaries. Domestic workers, most of them women, frequently endure forced confinement, food deprivation, and severe psychological, physical, and sexual abuse.” The situation became so bad that the government of the Philippines, Nepal, Kenya, and Indonesia took action to deter their residents from traveling to Saudi Arabia for work.  

Given that tyranny is the gravest offense against American values, American patriots must applaud the courage of dissenters who speak out at great risk to themselves. Prince Khalid Bin Farhan Al-Sa’ud was willing to give up his position of power and defected from Saudi Arabia, declaring: 

“This regime in Saudi Arabia does not stand by God’s rules or even (country’s) established rules and its policies, decisions, and actions are totally based on personal will of its leaders.”
“All that is said in Saudi Arabia about respecting law and religion rules are factitious so that they can lie and pretend that the regime obeys Islamic rules (source).”
The steadfast alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia is an affront to American values. But we all know why this alliance exists. The United States depends on Saudi oil. And in light of this fact, it is surprisingly to see that when the U.S. has the opportunity to become less dependent on Saudi oil, it does not seize the opportunity. In recent years, vast deposits of domestic oil and gas have been exploited and the plan is to export these precious commodities (source). Why? Because when the choice is between what is in the best interest of the American people and what is in the best interest of a handful of plutocrats, there is no contest.

No comments:

Post a Comment