With the web of interests and conflicts emanating from the Middle East growing increasingly complex, many observers have begun to voice more and more skepticism about the decades-long Saudi-U.S. alliance.
Objections to the United States continuing its relationship with the Saudi Kingdom fall into two basic categories. The first is the issue of the country’s less-than-perfect human rights record. This was a major factor within the Obama administration for forming its distancing stance towards the Saudis.
In regards to the country’s overt oppression of its women, for instance, Obama once remarked in 2016, “a country cannot function in the modern world when it is repressing half of its population.” It is this perception of Saudi Arabia as a gross human rights violator has that no doubt contributed to the massively deteriorating public opinion toward the country within the United States.
Second is the issue of support for global terror sourced in Saudi Arabia. There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia, as a whole, espouses support for jihadist groups and contributes to fueling radicalism. This is primarily expressed in the educational and religious infrastructure in the country that both advances the principles of radical Islam and supports it financially.
This realization first hit the West following the September 11th attacks, in which 15 of the 19 perpetrators were Saudi. As New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman wrote months after the attacks: “The idea people who inspired the hijackers are religious leaders, pseudo-intellectuals, pundits, and educators [in] Saudi Arabia, which continues to use its vast oil wealth to spread its austere and intolerant brand of Islam, Wahhabism.”
Over the past several years, this reality has only increased in severity. Take, for instance, the insights gained from Wikileaks-exposed State Department communications from 2010, in which then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote unequivocally that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” Clinton expressed her frustration that “it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.”