Saturday, January 02, 2016

Some Friends We Have

Riyadh is none too subtle. It was only on September23 that Glenn Greenwald wrote

Last week’s announcement that Saudi Arabia — easily one of the world’smost brutally repressive regimes — was chosen to head a U.N. Human Rights Council panel provoked indignation around the world. That reaction was triggered for obvious reasons. Not only has Saudi Arabia executed more than 100 people already this year, mostly by beheading (a rate of 1 execution every two days), and not only is it serially flogging dissidents, but it is reaching new levels of tyrannical depravity as it is about to behead and then crucify the 21-year-old son of a prominent regime critic, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was convicted at the age of 17 of engaging in demonstrations against the government.

The day before the piece ran, the AP's Matt Lee questioned Deputy State Department spokesperson Mark Toner. Informed- or reminded- of the selection of the Saudis, Toner was asked "Well, how abut a reaction to them heading the council?"  He responded, "again, I don't have any comment, don't have any reaction to it. I mean, frankly, it's- we would welcome it. We're close allies. If we-"

Unimpressed- or perhaps emboldened- by the kind words from Washington

Saudi Arabia kicked off the new year with mass executions. The Saudi monarchy beheaded 47 people in one day, across 13 cities, leading politicians, human rights experts, and journalists on social media to compare the close U.S. ally to the extremist group ISIS.

Among those killed was Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent cleric in the Shia minority religious group. Al-Nimr was arrested and tortured for his role leading the peaceful democratic uprising against the western-backed Saudi absolute monarchy in 2011.

The Executive Branch has never revealed an unredacted, 28-page portion of the report of the joint congressional inquiry into intelligence community activities on about September 11, 2001. Released in 2002, the report was approved by Presdient Bush, who blocked release of the 28 pages, as has President Obama. It cannot be ascertained whether it implicates foreign countries- especially Saudi Arabia, as it said to- because members of Congress must go to one spot in the Capitol, read it alone while guarded,  and cannot take notes.

A few months before the UN handed Saudi Arabia the key human rights role, the C.I.A. released its report on intelligence failure on the same topic. with virtually everything redacted from 30 pages (sample pages, below).

A year ago Dr. Yousaf Butta British intelligence officer, found

...a Wikileaks cable clearly quotes then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying "donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide." She continues: "More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups." And it's not just the Saudis: Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are also implicated in the memo. Other cables released by Wikileaks outline how Saudi front companies are also used to fund terrorism abroad.

All  the major candidates should speak up. Especially, though, we need to hear from Hillary Clinton, who spent several years as Secretary of State; and from Marco Rubio, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Select Committee on Intelligence, who implies his position grants him the credibility his opponents lack on all manner of national security issues. Not likely, but it's a new year, and anything is possible.

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