Op-Ed, 624 words

Who’s the Real Troublemaker in the Middle East?

Iran’s no democratic paradise, but Washington’s Saudi allies are even worse.


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.

Late King Abdullah and King Salman, then the Crown Prince. Tribes of the World/ Flickr

Late King Abdullah and King Salman, then the Crown Prince. Tribes of the World/ Flickr

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.

Medea Benjamin, the founder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange, is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.
Distributed by OtherWords.org. 

  • http://CommonDreams.org/ Xavier

    I appreciate the content of this piece by Medea Benjamin because it is important for Americans to know about the treachery of the Saudis, one of the US’s middle east allies. But I don’t appreciate the misleading headline. Perhaps Ms. Benjamin didn’t write it.

    Of course we all know in actual fact who the real troublemaker in the middle east is, and that distinction goes to Israel, and Saudi Arabia is only the runner-up.

  • Glen Davis

    So, what do the Republicans, or Democrats for that matter, do when the Saudis are caught making nice with ISIS? Saudi Arabia’s theocratic monarchy and ISIS’s Abu Baker al-Baghdadi are using the same playbook. It seems, to me anyway, it’s only a matter of time. And not much of that.

  • Rehmat

    I’m afraid this time Susan Benjamin boarded the wrong train.

    Israel is the real trouble maker in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is the “banker” for the trouble makers. Riyadh gave $16 billion during 2013-14 to Israel to keep trouble making in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Bahrain.

    These days only the brainwashed by Zionist-controlled media believe that Saudi Arabia or Osama bib Laden was behind 9/11. Laden was already on his death bed with acute kidney problem on September 11, 2001. He most probably died in December 2001 in Afghanistan. Even the faked tapes released afterward showed him contradicted his involvement in 9/11.

    It was head of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI, Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul who had accused Israel Mossad and the neocons in the White House for committing 9/11 on September 26, 2001.

    Israeli author Barry Chamish admitted in 2012 that Zionist committed 9/11.

    • 4ever49

      You are an idiot an obviously in need of more medication.

      • Cat

        And you are 100% clueless about what is really going on

        • 4ever49

          Really? Please tell us what we’ve missed.

          • Cat

            For starters, read Barry Chamish, a jew who calls a spade a spade. After that learn all you can about PNAC and that might help you untether from the Official Story.

          • 4ever49

            Thanks for the info. From an initial take I’d say Barry is a bit far out and lacks credibility.

  • hummingbird

    And these are grown men, dressing like women. No wonder they don’t want women to have any rights.
    What a ridiculous group they are. Well fed and self righteous.
    Their time will be over as soon as oil is no longer needed, or runs out. What else do they have to offer?
    Anyhow, as other posters have already stated: the real troublemaker in the middle east is ✶.

    • radpat_USA

      If you had ever lived and worked in SA you would understand why they dress as they do which has absolutely nothing to with Sharia based domestic political policies.

  • radpat_USA

    MIC profits wouldn’t have anything to do at all with turmoil in the middle east, right?

  • GoianiaHeights

    in answer to some of the more ‘creative’ responses here… in the middle east over the last 60 years:
    – 90% of muslims killed in conflict were killed by muslims
    – 0.3% were killed by Israel.

    middle east turbulence and injustice did quite well for itself during the 2000 years that the jews were subjected to dhimmi status.

    so heres another idea for an article: how antisemitism obscures rational thought.