Conference Examines the U.S.' 'Special Relationship' With Human Rights Abuser Saudi Arabia

Watch live at Real News 

From the brutal 10-month war in Yemen to the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters within its own borders, the Saudi Arabian government plays a critical role in driving wars and repression across the Middle East. The Gulf state is also one of America’s oldest and closest allies in the region, as well as the number one importer of U.S. weapons, including cluster bombs and bunker busters.

Now growing numbers of human rights campaigners, grassroots organizers, scholars and journalists are sounding the alarm over the close U.S.-Saudi ties and the region-wide harm this relationship unleashes. Many of those critics will gather in Washington, D.C. on March 3-4 for a two-day international summit aimed examining the Kingdom and disrupting its harmful collaboration with Washington.

“Without the U.S. support for the absolute Saudi monarchy, that monarchy would not have been able to withstand the domestic pressure for change and continue to abuse the population,” Ali al Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, told AlterNet. “It would not have been able to invade Bahrain, in cahoots with the United States. It would not be able to continue the bombing of Yemen, which the U.S. is fully supporting with continued assistance and weapons.”

“Unfortunately,” al Ahmed said, “we must address and expose the American culprit in supporting this monarchy.”

Some of those directly impacted by the monarchy will be in attendance, including Mohammed Al-Nimr, the son of the protest leader and Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr, whose recent execution touched off global outrage and region-wide protests. Author, activist and scholar Vijay Prashad will deliver a keynote address at the summit, which will feature numerous grassroots human rights campaigners, including Yemeni activists.

High on the agenda is the question of how to stop U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which continue despite calls for an arms embargo, over concerns that the Saudi-led coalition is committing widespread war crimes in Yemen.

"The European Union just voted for an EU-wide arms embargo to Saudi Arabia because of its bombing of civilians in Yemen, the UK ministry of justice pulled out of a multimillion-dollar prison contract because of Saudi's brutal treatment of nonviolent prisoners, and Belgium refused an export license to ship weapons because of the January 2 execution of 47 prisoners," noted CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin. "Meanwhile, the U.S. is sending record amounts of weapons to the Saudi regime.”

Raed Jarrar, government relations manager for the American Friends Service Committee, told AlterNet that the summit “represents an important political moment where many of our organizations are opposing wars in the Middle East, including the war in Yemen.”

“It also comes at a moment where Islamophobia is on the rise,” he added. “I hope discussions this weekend will help re-think the U.S.-Saudi relationship while recognizing the anti-Muslim sentiments in the U.S.”

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card


Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.