Saudi Arabia: The expression of international interests
22 mayo, 2013
Saudi Arabia is an independent state located in the Middle East, north of Yemen, bordering the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. It has a population of 26,534,504 and its oil based industry has ensured a $740.5 billion GDP in 2012. Politically, it is organized as a constitutional monarchy under King Abdullah. The Saudi legal system is based on Islamic (sharia) law and it includes Egyptian and French elements.
In the international news, Saudi Arabia makes headlines with its multi-billion dollar oil industry, international investments in other countries and its constant human rights abuses. Only this Tuesday, Saudi Arabia executed five Yemenis under sharia law despite international pressure for reform in the legal system. The UN condemned these executions under the assumption that “they violate international standards because the bodies were left in public” as an example of the severity of the law in this country. This serves as a realistic reminder of the speed at which changes take place in a highly conservative and religious society.
Women are still treated as minors and they are not allowed to travel, study or work without permission from their male guardians. The King did announce that they will enjoy the right to vote in the 2015 municipal elections however, the harsh restrictions continue to cause international debate over whether or not the government will uphold its promise to reform the country. Detainees, including children, commonly face systematic violations of due process and fair trial rights, including arbitrary arrest and torture. Also, authorities leave very little space for public criticism of officials or government policies in the wake of the pro-democracy Arab Spring movements. The Saudi Ministry of Culture adopted policies of heavy censorship regarding printed press and broadcasted media.
This brings into focus the nature of the political class of Saudi Arabia considering the rather hypocritical attitude adopted with regards to Human Rights. The Saudi government openly condemned the H.R. violations in Syria despite its own obvious problems, having arrested a woman for driving.
The reason for this controversial Saudi attitude can be found in the economic and political relationships that it developed over time. At the end of the Second World War US President Franklin D. Roosevelt extended American protection to Saudi Arabia, saying “the defense of Saudi Arabia is a vital interest for the defense of the United States of America”. Having such an influential ally in the international arena has its benefits, the U.S. being highly supportive with the Saudi regime. Japan is another important ally of Saudi Arabia and their joint statement related to the H.R. violations in Syria proves that both parties’ national interests are intertwined. These interests revolve around the Saudi oil industry as Saudi Arabia exports a very large quantity of crude oil to the U.S, Europe, Japan and many other countries.
This brings into question the strength of the American resolve to stand against oppressive, non-democratic regimes which it has condemned since before the beginning of the Cold War. An interest based resolve of the American political class would imply that the rhetoric against non-democratic regimes can be brought into question.