Under the Pomp of Saudi Arabia, Some Disturbing Circumstances
While the covering press was worried about whether Ivanka and Melania would wear scarves, the home press was covering Trump’s Russiagate. This meant that some background of Trump’s administration and Saudi Arabia got out without much opinionating.
Let’s start with the $110 BILLION arms deal and the war in Yemen. Despite its justification, there are charges that the Saudi bombing is killing civilians. An old law said that arms, such as new planes, cannot be sold if they are going to violate international laws against killing civilians. First, Saudi Arabia claims they do not have many civilian casualties. However, the arms sale includes devices to improve bombing accuracy. While Trump, of course, takes credit for the arms sale, it was mostly worked out by the Obama administration.
We should mention that the gold medal and necklace awarded to Trump is a real emolument from a foreign power if he keeps it, so it should end up in the White House collection.
Now let’s skip ahead to the Extremist monitoring center just founded by Saudi Arabia. It was three sections of about 100 computers each, monitored by Saudis in identical white robes and gutrahs. Presumably they are monitoring internet posts or emails. It is also supposed to be an international monitoring facility.
So here’s the kicker. Saudi Arabia is estimated to have 30,000 political prisoners. That comes from prisoner facilities for 10,000, with an estimated three time overcrowding. The new extremist center can be used to hunt more political opposition to the Kingdom. Presumably the Saudis don’t have our Due Process provisions or Habeas Corpus, so they can have political prisoners. It could turn out to be embarrassing for President Trump if this center turns out to be more politically oriented than ISIS oriented. This is something like Trump proposed for monitoring Muslims in the US.
Next was the scheduled Twitter chat session on how to use Twitter to discourage extremist talk. Fortunately, Trump skipped this session and the very Saudi-popular Ivanka took that charge. Since Trump was one of the world’s greatest Twitter Islamophobes, which induces extremist backlash, it was wise for him to skip it.
Trump’s solution in his much awaited speech to over 50 Muslim countries was to kick extremists out of mosques, and then out of the countries, and then off the face of the earth. The last sounds like it violates due process. In the second, when kicked out of countries, they just go to fight for ISIS in Syria or in Iraq. If kicked out of mosques, the community has no chance to reeducate those who might turn extremist. At the stage for Trump’s talk was Ivanka and Jared. The Saudis well understand the importance of having your family run the government.
Clearly, I am not an expert on Saudi Arabia or Yemen, and the Saudi government denies all of the charges. So consider all of these charges as in dispute.
At the very start, the foreign ministers had a short introduction. The Saudi foreign minister said he was an old friend of Rex Tillerson from the days when Rex would visit as the CEO of ExxonMobil. Rex is also an awarded friend of Putin, working with him to start oil drilling in the Arctic seas. Rex is applying for an exception to sanctions against Russia to do this work. This administration cannot hide that it is being largely run by oil oligarchs and their industry’s interests.
All-in-all, the visit brought to surface a number of troubling characteristics of the two administrations.