In the wake of Barack Obama’s decision to veto the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) (and the subsequent overturn of the veto by Congress), many are left wondering if the president’s continued support for Saudi Arabia means turning a blind eye to human rights abuses and terrorists’ agendas in order to protect America’s relationship with kingdom.
It is no secret that Saudi Arabia has attracted widespread criticism for oppression of its own people. In 2015, execution rates soared under the rule of Saudi King Salman, with at least 151 executions taking place across the kingdom, including beheadings of children and those accused of non-lethal offenses, according reports by Amnesty International (AI).
In 2012, Ali al-Nimr, a 17-year-old Saudi-born political dissident, was sentenced to death by beheading, followed by public display of his body via crucifixion, for participating in an Arab Spring-inspired protest. Despite pleas from both the international community, the ruling was upheld by the kingdom’s highest court in 2015; al-Nimr is reportedly still awaiting execution.
The very week that al-Nimr’s death sentence was reported to have been upheld, Saudi Arabia was selected to head a key UN human rights panel — a panel responsible for selecting top human rights officials and reporting on human right abuses worldwide.
“Petro-dollars and politics have trumped human rights” said UN watch director Hillel Neuer in response to Saudi Arabia heading the influential panel.
Yet, when a U.S. State Department spokesman was asked about the appropriateness of the UN council appointment, he replied “we would welcome it.”
Human Rights groups have also recently condemned Saudi Arabia for coalition attacks that violate international war laws, and even constitute war crimes, in a sectarian conflict against Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen.
Yet, despite protests from various international human rights organizations, the Obama administration has sold more weapons to Saudi Arabia than any other administration. A total of $115 billion worth of bombs, artillery, ammunition, and tanks have been sold to the kingdom in the past eight years amid concerns that the kingdom is in violation of international law. Just last week, AI confirmed that a U.S.-made bomb was used in an attack on a hospital in Yemen.
The commander-in-chief recently further displayed his support for the regime when he vetoed the JASTA bill, stating that it would damage American relations with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Obama further argued that the bill would threaten the concept of ‘sovereign immunity’, a legal doctrine that provides protection for states from legal prosecution — despite the fact that several exceptions to the principle already exist.
Indeed, Saudi Arabia has long been suspected of involvement in the 9/11 attacks and many believe that the families of the victims have a right to pursue justice and to determine the extent of the Kingdom’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks.
It was in 2001 that compelling evidence emerged linking various Islamic terror organizations to Saudi-led charities, particularly the High Commission for Relief of Bosnia and Herzegovina (SHC), the largest fundraising effort in the Muslim and Arab world at the time. What is especially alarming about the SHC is that it was headed by then-Prince Salman, who became the King of Saudi Arabia in 2015.
Whether President Obama’s decisions regarding foreign relations with Saudi Arabia are a result of his desire to protect the American alliance with an oil-producing regime, or whether his decisions are a result of his postmodern ideals based on globalism and cultural relativism, is anyone’s guess. Regardless, the president’s continued support of the absolute theocratic monarchy signifies one thing: Saudi Arabia will continue to oppress its own people and contribute to the instability that plagues the Middle East, all while funding terrorism around the globe.