What began in 1932 cultivated into a long relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States government. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was recognized as an official state by the United States — with new ruler of a newly-united nation, King Abdel Aziz ibn Saudi finding himself (or rather, placing himself via military force) on the throne in 1926.
One year after its recognition, Saudi Arabia and the US saw an opportunity to work together to explore in the country’s Eastern Province for crude oil. Thus, the two countries created the “Arabian American Oil Company” (ARAMCO), after which the company paid a £50,000 fee to the Saudi King in exchange for exclusive mining rights once the company had confirmed there was indeed oil beneath the sand.
Although the two remained firm economic partners from 1933 onwards, it would take until 1951 for the two countries to formalize their mutual security arrange in the “Mutual Defense Assistance” agreement. Through this agreement, the two nations formally cemented their commitment towards each other’s national defense, as well as towards economic growth. The agreement’s first paragraph outlined the nature of the future of the “special” relationship between the two countries:
“In view of the friendship existing between the Government of Saudi Arabia and the Government of the United States of America in pursuance of conversations which have been held over a considerable period of time regarding the desire of Saudi Arabia to obtain military arms and equipment from the United States and in confirmation of recent discussion with representatives of the Government of Saudi Arabia regarding the extending of procurement assistance to Saudi Arabia for the transfer of military supplies and equipment I have the honor to confirm that by executive decision of the President of the United States Saudi Arabia has been found eligible for such assistance under Section 408 E of the Mutual Defense Act of 1949…”
That was to be the opening paragraph of the MDA that would set the tone for the next few decades of weapons deals. In 2010, the Obama Administration announced the sale of $60.5 billion dollars worth of arms to the House of Saud, much to the chagrin of human rights organizations. Their chagrin wasn’t unfounded — Saudi Arabia has a history of brutality against it’s own citizens as it exacts its interpretation of Shari’a, including punishments like lashes followed by imprisonment and public beheadings.
It’s not like the United States Government was not made aware of Saudi Arabia’s multitude of Human Rights violations at home and abroad — several years before the war in Yemen began.
On top of all of that, Saudi Arabia is alleged to have funneled money to Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. In 2010, Wikileaks released a series of diplomatic cables, which highlighted that Hillary Clinton knew of Saudi involvement in funding Al-Qaeda.The email, dated December 30th, 2009 read, “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,”
In fact, despite the heinous crimes committed by the Saudi Government, it was under President Obama that they received the highest total for arms sales since that 1951 agreement — when the Administration reportedly sold over $115 billion dollars in weapons sales to the Saudi Government — everything from tanks to aircraft to missiles and bombs, according to the Security Assistance Monitor.
More recent scrutiny upon the arms flow to Saudi Arabia by the United States comes in the rather dim light of Saudi’s military role in the Yemeni civil war, which began in January of 2015.
Using US-supplied F-15 fighter/ground-attack aircraft, Saudi Arabia began a bombing campaign, reportedly targeting Shi’a Houthi rebel positions inside Yemeni cities such as Sa’ana. However, since the beginning of their campaign, the Saudi Government stands accused of multiple violations of Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions. These violations include openly targeting civilians with air strikes, which hit open-air markets, hospitals, schools for the blind and even funerals.
Perhaps a more grave allegation levelled against the Saudi Government is the use of chemical weapons, such as white phosphorous and cluster munitions — both allegedly supplied to the Saudi government by the United States, according to the Washington Post..
And so, (while we could go on and on about this topic), there is a new government in Washington and lest you think that things might be different, it is the same old story. When it comes to relations with Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where are the vaunted principles of human rights that the United States frequently preaches about? You might ask that question of your government representatives. You should, in fact ask them.
The West must stop prostituting its principles to the House of Saud, and stand firmly against the human rights abuses in Yemen. In fact, stop the flow of arms to the oppressive theocrats, instead of rewarding them with a seat of UN Human Rights Council, as well as more weapons with which to blow Yemeni civilians to smithereens.
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