The Saudi government has long been a source of corruption and fascistic rule but to their credit, it seems as though they are finally trying to fix that.
The Crown Prince deserves a lot of credit for leading through bold action on this.
Some of the most connected business and political leaders in the country are being swept up as part of an anti-corruption probe, including Royal Family Members and executives.
Charges range from bribery to money laundering to extortion. Between this and the recent liberalizing of some Saudi laws — including women above a certain age being allowed to drive at certain times of day — Saudi Arabia seems to be headed in the right direction for the first time in a long time.
But there is a long history of failed reformers in the Middle East, covering countries like Iran and Iraq. Intentions always start out positive but whether or not the results end up that way is ultimately another matter.
And let’s remember Saudi Arabia’s long history of disgraceful behavior towards other countries. It wasn’t long ago that the Saudi national soccer team refused to observe a moment of silence for London terror victims during a game in Australia. I could use flowery language here, but I won’t. Instead, I will simply say it was as classless and disgusting as anything I’ve seen in a long time and it sickened me to my very core.
Over the years they have funded numerous bad acts and it is worth keeping in mind that a whopping 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals. Plus, they still refuse to help one bit with the refugee crisis that is tearing their region apart.
As noted Middle Eastern scholar Daniel Pipes explains, “Saudi Arabia has many unique attractions for Sunni Muslims. To begin with, it has 100,000 high-quality, empty fiberglass tents that can house about 3 million people in Mina, just east of Mecca. Fireproof and air-conditioned, complete with toilets and kitchens, this unique resource is occupied a mere five days a year by pilgrims on the hajj.”
In demonstrating how little the Saudis have contributed here, Pipes notes that the amount of Syrians in that country is shockingly low: “One study, by Lori Plotkin Boghardt of the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy, estimates the number in the ‘low hundreds of thousands,’ say 150,000. That’s a small fraction of the over 4 million in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan — and just 5 percent of the migrants who could be housed just in Mina’s splendid tents.”
So the ongoing reforms seem like a step in the right direction, but we must see how it all plays out. Over the years, I know our government has had strong ties to the Saudi Royal Family and that has made it difficult for any president to lean on them strongly.
President Trump got elected as a man of the people who would shatter norms and smash the established order in favor of doing what is right and just for the people of America and my hope was that one of the things he would do differently was lean on the Saudis for their bad behavior and put pressure on them to take in refugees.
I’m a supporter of the president, but to be honest, his actions thus far regarding the Saudis have been far too deferential and incredibly disappointing.
I know the saying “money talks” applies here, but are human rights really for sale? Does human decency really carry a price tag?
The answer should be no, but unfortunately, up until now, it has been yes. Simply put, Saudi Arabia has gotten away with things no poor country would have gotten away with and it is unconscionable.
Having said that, the corruption arrests and reforms appear to indicate these unconscionable abuses may be on the way out in Saudi Arabia.
The Crown Prince legitimately seems sincere in his quest to rid Saudi Arabia of corruption and make real reforms in the direction of improving the human rights of his citizens, including women who can now finally drive (under very restricted conditions, but it is a start).
The Saudis appear to finally be starting to move in a positive direction.
This is something we all should applaud the Crown Prince for and we should continue to monitor the situation with a sense of hopefulness for a change.