Who's the Real Troublemaker in the Middle East?
Iran’s no democratic paradise, but Washington’s Saudi allies are even worse.
By Medea Benjamin / otherwords.org

Except for maybe the Affordable Care Act, nothing gets Republican politicians fired up like Iran.

In the first GOP debate alone, Scott Walker promised that he’d tear up the Iran nuclear deal on day one of his presidency. Carly Fiorina blamed the country for “most of the evil that is going on in the Middle East.” Mike Huckabee vowed to topple the “terrorist Iranian regime and defeat the evil forces of radical Islam.”

Oddly, when the candidates complain about the “evil forces of radical Islam” or trouble in the Middle East, they never seem to mention Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s no democratic paradise. But on many counts, Washington’s Saudi allies are even worse. The Saudi royals crush dissent with an iron fist, spread extremist ideology, and invade their neighbors with impunity.

Domestically, the Saudi regime oppresses women, religious minorities, and millions of foreign workers. And it brutally represses criticism from human rights activists, prompting condemnation from both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, for example, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes just for writing a blog the government considered critical of its rule. Hundreds of political prisoners languish in prison — including Badawi’s lawyer, who was sentenced to 15 years for his role as a human rights attorney. New legislation effectively equates criticism of the government and other peaceful activities with terrorism.

Saudi women aren’t permitted to appear in public without adhering to a strict dress code. They need the approval of a male guardian to marry, travel, enroll in a university, or obtain a passport, and they’re prohibited from driving.

The penalties for defiance are steep.

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world, killing scores of people each year for a range of offenses including adultery, apostasy, drug use, and sorcery. It’s conducted over 100 public beheadings this year alone.

Meanwhile, the Saudi monarchy has used its military and financial might to impose its will throughout the Middle East.

In 2011, Saudi tanks invaded neighboring Bahrain and brutally crushed that nation’s budding pro-democracy movement. Two years later, the Saudis backed a coup in Egypt that killed over 1,000 people and saw over 40,000 political dissidents thrown into squalid prisons.

In their latest military intervention, the Saudis have used American-made cluster bombs and F-15 fighter jets in a bombing campaign over Yemen that’s killed and injured thousands of civilians and created a severe humanitarian crisis.

All the while, they’ve helped export an extremist interpretation of Islam around the globe. Let’s not forget that 15 of the 19 hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks were Saudis, as well as Osama bin Laden himself.

Despite all these abuses, Saudi Arabia has been a key U.S. ally for decades. Why?

One reason is oil: Saudi Arabia is the world’s second largest producer, trailing only the United States itself.

Another is the arms trade: The country is the largest purchaser of American-made weapons. In 2010, the U.S. government concluded a $60.5 billion arms deal with the Saudis — the largest in history. This means that for years to come, U.S. weapons will be used by the Saudis to maintain their repressive rule and impose their will on neighboring countries.

A third reason, ironically, is Iran. Since 1979, Washington’s pursued a policy of building up the Saudi military as a counterweight to Iran’s revolutionary government.

For Republican presidential candidates, this primary season is all about vilifying Iran. While they beat up on the White House for making peace with America’s enemies, maybe voters should ask them more questions about America’s friends.


4.0 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 10,855 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Donald Trump Is the Mirror and Hillary Clinton Is the Mask
Chris Agnos · 7,205 views today · Disclaimer: I do not support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president. I think the scope of the political debate is far too narrow for the kinds of actions that need to...
Gil Scott-Heron Deconstructs Colonialism and Black History in His Own Unique Style
3 min · 3,509 views today · His-Story: I was wondering about our yesterdays, and starting searching through the rubble and to say the very least, somebody went to a hell of a lot of trouble to make sure...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 3,453 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 2,495 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Mark Corske's Engines of Domination (2014)
60 min · 2,264 views today · Political power -- armed central authority, with states and war -- is it part of human nature? Is it necessary for human communities? Or is it a tool that ruling elites use to...
HyperNormalisation (2016)
161 min · 1,574 views today · We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless...
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 1,449 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,326 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 1,064 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 1,062 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Anarchists - What We Stand For
unknown · 850 views today · Anarchism : The word “anarchy” comes from Greek and means “no rulers”. As a political philosophy, anarchism is based on the idea that organization does not require rulers—that...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 798 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
For Those Who Don't Want to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils
Peter White · 795 views today · Ranked-choice voting is catching on, and Maine might become the first state to help citizens vote for candidates they actually want.
Planet Earth II Could Be Best Nature Doc Ever Made
3 min · 630 views today · 10 years ago Planet Earth changed our view of the world. Now we take you closer than ever before. This is life in all its wonder. This is Planet Earth II. A decade ago, the...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 405 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 367 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Lessons in the Calais Jungle: Teaching Life Stories and Learning About Humanity
Aura Lounasmaa · 342 views today · I am part of a team of academics teaching a course to residents in the Calais Jungle, a camp for migrants and refugees outside the French city. Life Stories in the Jungle has...
Eckhart Tolle: Your Facebook Ego, That's Not Who You Are
2 min · 290 views today · “Identification with thoughts and the emotions that go with those thoughts creates a false mind-made sense of self, conditioned by the past: the "little me" and its story. This...
Are You Lost in the World Like Me?
3 min · 271 views today · Animated film by Steve Cutts for 'Are You Lost In The World Like Me?', taken from These Systems Are Failing- the debut album from Moby & The Void Pacific Choir. 
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Who's the Real Troublemaker in the Middle East?