Letter: A most uneasy partnership
Editor of the Reformer,
The first meeting of an American President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and a Saudi King, Ab Saud, took place in 1945 on the Navy cruiser USS Quincy. They established a partnership that has endured 70 years, despite the fact that relations have always been uneasy and tense. In fact, the major thing uniting the two countries is an agreement that we guaranty the security of the Kingdom in exchange for Saudi Arabia's guaranty of affordable oil for the world economies.
As most Americans presidents had done since the Saudi oil embargo crippled the American economy, Trump courted the Saudis as soon as he entered the Oval Office. But the longstanding obstacles to U.S.-Saudi cooperation remain. The first is the underlying hatred and discord generated by the Palestine-Israel situation.
In 1945 aboard the Quincy, Roosevelt had broached the difficult issue of Palestine becoming the home of a Jewish state. When President Truman recognized Israel in 1948, Prince Faisal urged his father Ibn Saud to break diplomatic ties with Washington. Much blood has been shed, and will likely continue to be shed over this conflict. And while Trump is attempting to change the dynamics, the conflict continues to deeply trouble the U.S.-Saudi partnership.
The second major obstacle in the U.S.-Saudi relations is that Saudi Arabia follows a unique form of Islam, called Wahhabi. This severe and reactionary doctrine is the product of clerics from the powerful House of Al Shaykh. The House of Saud rules the Kingdom within the frame of this clerical religious environment. This religious doctrine conflicts with American values, especially in its treatment of women. Thousands of religious decrees have regulated every aspect of female life in the Kingdom. Women live segregated from public places and spend most of their lives at home. As a consequence 80 percent of Saudi women suffer from vitamin D deficiency.
The third obstacle to harmonious U.S.-Saudi relations is the Saudis deep belief in monarchies and dictatorships. The last decade has made it clear that the Arab world is ready for fundamental political and social reforms. The series of revolutions that shook the Arab world in 2011 were all against monarchies or dictatorships. Except for Tunisia, the revolutions failed, resulting in a return to autocracy or civil war. And it was Saudi Arabia, America's longtime partner, that was the leading player in the counter revolutions.
Shaftsbury, May 30
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