Our country has a long and storied history with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but looking at it objectively, it has been primarily a marriage of convenience. The Saudi Arabians cultivated the Wahhabi ideology that gave birth to the threat of Islamic terrorism and have been the primary financiers of groups like al-Qaeda, Daesh (ISIS/ISIL), al-Shabaab in Somalia, and Boko Haram in Nigeria. The 9/11 hijackers and organizers were all from Saudi Arabia; the military coup that deposed democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi from Egypt was partially engineered by Saudi Arabia; the region-wide crusade against Shiites is organized and funded by Saudi Arabian money; they fan the flames of war in Syria but refuse to do their part in accommodating the refugees that flee the violence; untold numbers of civilians have died at the hands of indiscriminate Saudi warplanes in Yemen.
They sow authoritarianism and undermine the progress of freedom wherever they walk. They treat women with barbaric cruelty, depriving them of basic rights and entirely discarding their well-being in favor of a medieval view of morality. It’s the sort of country where a victim of gang rape is sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in jail for violating gender segregation laws, the kind of place that rings in 2016 with a mass execution of 47 political dissidents on deeply questionable “terrorism” charges. In particular, the killing of Shiite cleric and vocal anti-authoritarian critic Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr provoked protests throughout the region, the burning of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran, and the subsequent severing of diplomatic ties between the two nations.
Despite the enormous amount of evidence that proves that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia actively works against America’s interests and is a threat to our national security, Republican presidential candidates Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson chose to defend the sharia-law justified mass executions and the authoritarian monarchy by blaming President Obama’s nuclear peace treaty for the escalation of tensions between the two nations.
“Saudi Arabia is our ally, despite the fact that they don’t always behave in a way that we condone. Iran is a real and present threat” said Fiorina, while Ben Carson opined that “the Saudis have been one of our strongest allies in the Middle East, and I think it’s unfortunate that we put them in the position we have by showing the support to Iran that we have with this foolish deal. There’s no reason for the Saudis to believe that we’re really on their side when we do things like that.”
The Saudis have done very little to show us that they are on our side, but the Republican candidates still use every opportunity to bend over backwards in deference to the autocrats in the Saudi capital of Riyadh while spreading bigotry and hatred against American Muslims by smearing them all with the same brush of Wahhabi extremism that originates and is perpetuated by Saudi Arabia in the first place. The kind of extremism that paranoid Texans imagine that Wahhabi sharia law would bring to their communities is a reality in Saudi Arabia, and they work relentlessly to export that medieval worldview to the rest of the world.
While the defense contractors that make billions in arms sales to the Saudis and are eagerly hoping for a profitable war with Iran push the Republican presidential candidates to astonishing hypocrisy by defending a nation ruled by sharia law and is the biggest sponsor of terrorism in the world, we must stick to President Obama’s nuanced and pragmatic foreign policy if we want to make any progress at helping effect peace or at the very least some sort of stability to the Middle East.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.