I am deeply disturbed that the U.S. continues to treat Saudi Arabia as a friendly nation. First and foremost among the reasons not to befriend Saudi Arabia is, of course, its October 2, 2018, murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident journalist and contributor to the Washington Post, critical of Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and de facto ruler, known as MBS. Khashoggi was assassinated by agents of the Saudi government at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Khashoggi was ambushed and strangled by a 15-member squad of Saudi assassins. His body was dismembered and disposed of.
But Khashoggi’s murder was not the first or only homicide committed by MBS. Rape, murder, apostasy, sedition, sorcery, armed robbery, adultery, and drug trafficking are all punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. In the first six months of 2022, Saudi Arabia executed 120 people, nearly double the number put to death in all of last year despite MBS’s promises to reduce capital punishment. That compares to eleven executed so far this year in the U.S., a country almost ten times as populous as Saudi Arabia. Capital punishment has been completely abolished in all European countries except for Belarus and Russia, the latter of which has a moratorium and has not conducted an execution since September 1996.
MBS’s authoritarian regime is consistently ranked among the “worst of the worst” in Freedom House’s annual survey of political and civil rights. Saudi Arabia is one of approximately thirty countries in the world with judicial corporal punishment. In Saudi Arabia’s case, this includes amputations of hands and feet for robbery, and flogging for lesser crimes such as “sexual deviance” and drunkenness.
Saudi Arabia uses its huge oil reserves to bend other nations to its will. It has now teamed up with Russia to cut oil production to force prices up and worsen inflation, particularly in the U.S. As a result, President Biden is (finally) considering curtailing its arms sales to MBS, including $3 billion in Patriot missiles.
The time has come for the U.S. to withdraw its support for the rogue nations of the world. Let Saudi Arabia head the list.