The report said that so far, the US administration has taken no concrete action against the regime for the killings, or for its efforts to block an investigation. In fact, the Biden administration appears undeterred in its quest to secure a deal with Saudi Arabia that may involve committing the US military to defend the kingdom.
The report noted that the new revelations come during a period when Saudi Arabia's record of destabilizing actions and systematic human rights abuses—from its brutal war in Yemen to the murder of US-resident journalist Jamal Khashoggi—have been treated as if they were ancient history. Whether by purchasing soccer teams and the PGA golf tour or signaling a willingness to normalize relations with Israel, the Saudi regime has been making prodigious efforts to sanitize its image and expand its power and influence.
The new Human Rights Watch report pierced through Saudi rehabilitation efforts and forces attention back on the ugly reality. The report documented Saudi border guards killing hundreds of migrants on the Saudi-Yemen border with explosive devices and close range gunfire.
Newsweek indicated that the brutal killings are once again forcing a fundamental disconnect into focus: despite vowing to make Saudi Arabia a "pariah" and to place human rights at the center of US foreign policy, the Biden administration continues to provide arms sales, military training, and weapons maintenance to the Saudi military despite its abhorrent actions. And, on top of that, they are considering committing US servicemen and women to fight in defense of Saudi Arabia in a NATO-like defense treaty.
The report pointed out that Congress can pump the brakes on the ill-advised rush toward a quasi-US-Saudi alliance. The archaic rules of the Senate combined with the dysfunctional politics of Washington usually mean that it is close to impossible to force a debate and vote. But in this instance, there is a ready vehicle that could break through the morass—Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act, which is meant to ban the provision of US security assistance "to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights."
Last spring, the report added, Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced a resolution under 502B, which is meant to ban the provision of US security assistance "to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights." This resolution would require a State Department evaluation of Saudi Arabia's overall human rights record as a possible prelude to a suspension of US arms transfers to the regime. What is particularly powerful about this vehicle is that any senator can force a debate and vote on the issue, no matter what.
Senator Murphy's statement at the time of the resolution's introduction was as apt now as it was then: "The Saudi government tortures political dissenters, imprisons human rights defenders, brutally murders journalists, helps their citizens evade justice in the United States, and uses our weapons to commit war crimes. ... This resolution sets in motion a process that will allow Congress to debate the deteriorating human rights record of Saudi Arabia and how that should impact US policy going forward."
The report said that a review of US policy toward Saudi Arabia in light of its human rights abuses and aggressive behavior is urgently needed before the Biden administration proceeds with plans to provide security guarantees to the regime in Riyadh as part of a possible normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Why are we still considering arming and defending the Saudis? the report wondered. The time for this crucial debate is now, before the administration further cements US security ties to a reckless, unaccountable regime that is more likely to embroil the United States in conflict than stabilize the Middle East.
#US #Saudi Arabia 23-09-10
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