US commitment to human rights on display as staunch ally executes 47

Obama with Saudi ally King Salman

The US is implicated in the mass execution in Saudi Arabia more than the media likes to let on.

US ally Saudi Arabia is making headlines today after executing 47 prisoners, including an Iranian supported Shiite cleric, the execution of which has led to the storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran. The cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, was executed for making sermons critical of the Saudi royal family, and for participating in protests against the regime during the Arab Spring.

Despite claiming to be the bulwark for democracy and human rights in the region, US officials expressed muted concern over the killings, failing to issue a public statement denouncing them. This is unsurprising as the Saudis are longtime close allies of the US. According the Congressional Research Service the Saudis have received $90 billion worth of arms sales from the US since 2010. Much of these arms are now in the hands of ISIS who was at one point funded by the Saudis in the unsuccessful attempt to unseat the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

One can only imagine the global response had the mass execution the responsibility of Iran. Instead, Saudi Arabia maintains close relations with Western powers including the UK which refused to include Saudi Arabia on a list of countries that its diplomats would challenge on their use of the death penalty. This was done in order to not endanger billions of pounds worth of defense contracts currently made with the Saudi regime.

US and UK silence over Saudi crimes is not new, as there was little to no comment made when the Saudi regime invaded the country of Bahrain during the Arab Spring to crush peaceful protests there against the repressive Bahraini government. The protests were crushed using tactics quite similar to the ones employed by the regimes of Bashar al-Assad and Muammar Gaddafi with the difference being that it was, in the case of Saudi Arabia, fully supported by the US government.

Predictably, US state and corporate controlled media almost universally failed to acknowledge the close ties between Saudi Arabia and the US government, playing down the nature of the US position in recent events. CNN mentions that the Saudis have funded rebels opposed to the Syrian regime, but no mention was made that the US did too, often in conjunction with the Saudis, and that Saudi Arabia continues to be a major US ally and recipient of arms sales. Politico writes that the execution could "undermine President Barack Obama’s long-shot efforts to resolve" sectarian violence. No evidence is provided to show Obama's supposed commitment to ending sectarian violence, instead the article unironically continues by writing that the mass killings could "spur more unrest in countries such as Bahrain, where sectarian tensions already run high." There is no mention made that sectarian conflict is high in Bahrain because of the US supported Saudi invasion of the country which specifically targeted the country's Shia population, thereby exacerbating sectarian tensions. As The Intercept points out the Politico article relies solely on US State Department and Saudi funded spokespeople for quotes.

NPR writes simply that those executed were mainly Sunni jihadists, and that the executed Sheikh is accused of "leading a Shiite uprising in Saudi's eastern province in 2011, though his supporters denied this." Were this a Sheikh in Syria, NPR would describe al-Nimr as an "Arab Spring Activist". Instead the US state run media describes Sheikh al-Nimr as a potential violent leader of an uprising who was executed along with "jihadists".

Lucidly Patrick Cockburn writes in the Independent that Saudia Arabia is trying to boost its credentials as a hardline Sunni state so it can calm down its former allies, ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. Do not expect to see this infinitely more interesting take on the events in the US state/corporate media nexus any time soon.

Posted By

Soapy
Jan 5 2016 19:22

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Steven.
Jan 5 2016 19:40

Good blog entry, thanks and very glad to see so far you are sticking to your New Year resolution to write more!