|Saudi war on Yemen: total destruction
On Friday May 8, President Obama announced that he was to meet with the Saudi King, Salman, ahead of the Camp David summit with the GCC rulers. On May 11, a day before the summit, the King cancelled his appearance altogether, a move widely characterized as a snub to the President. On Friday July 17, the White House said that King Salman requested that President Barack Obama meet with Adel al-Jubeir, the foreign minister, despite the fact that the President does not ordinarily meet with foreign officials who are not heads of state. Nevertheless, the President obliged. On August 28, the White House revealed that King Salman would be meeting with President Obama in Washington next Friday, September 4. The Saudi rulers are nervous, but they are blaming the uncertainty they face at home on other countries. The President should restate what he has already said in public: the threats to the Gulf States rulers are internal and of their own making.
Since the start of the uprisings that transformed many Arab countries, the rulers of Saudi Arabia have acted irrationally, arrogantly, and belligerently. As a country that continues to rely on an archaic system of governance, and given the significance of the changes taking place in the region, they ought to be nervous. However, when their paranoia pushes them to act in ways that risked stability and peace in the region, the world community ought to remind them of the limits established by international law and diplomatic protocols. Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, said that President Obama and Salman will discuss the conflicts in Syria and Yemen as well as “steps to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region.” Saudi Arabia has played a very destructive role in these and many other regional and international issues, and the President should tell the King that the behavior of the Saudi rulers is weighing heavily on the U.S.’s reputation and credibility. The Kingdom’s instances of malfeasance are numerous.
1. Saudi Arabia, along with Qatar and Turkey, has supplied genocidal fighters of ISIL, al-Nusra, and Ahrar al-Sham with material and political support, increasing the level of violence and sectarian tension in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
2. Saudi Arabia launched an illegal war on Yemen, imposed a devastating blockade on that country, used illegal weapons, and destroyed roads, airports, ports, schools, markets, and hospitals, pushing the poorest Arab country to the far edge of catastrophic conditions. In the words of Amnesty International, the Saudi-led campaign has left a “bloody trail of civilian death.” Curiously, the Saudi air campaign spared al-Qaeda fighters in Yemen. In fact, the bombing campaign created the kind of environment where al-Qaeda and ISIL thrive, giving them now a stronger foothold in southern Yemen.
3. Saudi Arabia continues to frame the conflicts in Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen in sectarian terms, accusing Iran of interfering in Arab affairs when it is in fact Saudi Arabia that is bombing neighboring countries, arming genocidal fighters, and demanding the removal of presidents of other countries, all while harboring other dictators who have killed protesters and blocked real political and economic reforms.
4. The Saudi rulers continue to offer support and sanctuary for religious figures who preach hate, sectarianism, and supremacism. Hundreds of satellite televisions broadcast thousands of programs full of divisive content that has been used to justify the murder of civilians, the abuse of ethnic and religious minorities, and the subjugation of women.
5. While the Saudi rulers are actively pursuing destabilizing agendas in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon, all countries that have a tradition of some level of citizen participation in electing their leaders, Saudi Arabia has been governed without its citizens’ consent and the ruling clan has no plans to change that reality.
6. The rulers of Saudi Arabia have relied on Wahhabi religious preachers to legitimize their repressive control over the peoples of the region. Wahhabism, the extreme creed skillfully disguised as pure Sunnism, is espoused by all extremist religious groups who kill civilians on sectarian and religious grounds. The Saudi rulers have used the country’s wealth for the benefit of a single clan and a single religious denomination. While relying on public relations advisers, extensive media outlets, generous investments in prestigious American Ivy League universities, and diplomatic relations with key Western governments, they were able to project a moderate image of a sectarian creed and political philosophy that is actually an ideology of hate, exclusion, and supremacism.
The U.S.-Saudi alliance has outlived its utility. If U.S. foreign policy is built on democratic principles and human rights norms, we must ask: what democratic principles and human rights norms do the Saudi rulers espouse and practice? In the post-Arab Spring era, the U.S. administration must align its foreign policy with the nation’s proclaimed values and support peoples’ aspiration for dignity. There are no shared values between clan-based abusive rule and an established democracy. U.S.’s support of a belligerent, criminal regime in Saudi Arabia diminishes its standing in the eyes of Arab masses, validates the double standard charge against the U.S., and exposes U.S. policy as self-interested and unprincipled. The administration ought to change that narrative, and can do so by communicating the above facts to the Saudi ruler on Friday.
* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. His most recent book, Anatomy of Dissent in Islamic Societies, provides a historical and theoretical treatment of rebellious movements and ideas since the rise of Islam. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.