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Biden rewards Iranian tyranny and punishes Saudi reform

Emad El Din Adeeb

Published: Updated:

The Biden administration is applying blatant double standards towards Saudi Arabia and Iran when it comes to human rights.

The Biden administration is directing harsh treatment towards Riyadh for one crime, the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, while at the same restoring the status of Tehran, which has carried out numerous crimes far more heinous than that! History has taught us that crime is a universal concept, and that there can be no personal bias in deeming one crime unforgivable while overlooking another.

Let's take a look at what Riyadh has done in recent years compared to Tehran’s track record during the rule of the mullahs. Amnesty International's records, UN human rights reports, and the US State Department's annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices state that in Iran:

• Freedom of expression, assembly, forming associations and joining them are prohibited.

• Normal social life is not allowed; protests, private parties and intellectual seminars are attacked.

• Death sentences are issued extensively and mercilessly against conscientious objectors.

• It committed grave breaches in providing fair trials.

• Authorities practice all forms of systematic torture against detainees and prisoners and extract false confessions from them under the pressure of torture.

• Authorities practice persecution and repression against religious minorities such as the Baha'is, Christians, Jews, Sabeans, Zoroastrians, and Sunni Muslims. Human Rights Watch described these practices as one of the largest campaigns of repression against religious minorities in Iran's history.

• Defendants are not guaranteed investigations or trials.

• Lawyers who volunteer or take charge of the defense of prisoners of conscience are persecuted and intimidated.

Iranians take part in a ceremony marking the 42nd anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, at the Azadi (Freedom) square in Tehran, on February 10 2021. (File photo: AFP)
Iranians take part in a ceremony marking the 42nd anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, at the Azadi (Freedom) square in Tehran, on February 10 2021. (File photo: AFP)

It is astounding that these practices, which began in 1979, continue to the present day. Despite this, during the five years of long and difficult negotiations between the 5+1 nations, the issue of human rights in Iran was not mentioned, nor was there a desire to link it to lifting the sanctions on Iran.This despite the fact that these negotiations took place during the Obama Democratic administration, the same one that called upon Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down after 11 days of demonstrations.

At the same time, not a single word has been uttered on American media, in research centers, or on congressional committees, about the reforms taking place in Saudi Arabia since 2015 to date. These reforms include the following:

• Saudi women can now drive, after this issue was the burning question for every American official or journalist covering Saudi Arabia for over half a century.

• Saudi women now enjoy equal citizenship in rights and responsibilities with Saudi men without discrimination.

• Saudi women can now leave the country and travel abroad without a male family member as travel companion or guarantor.

• Public places and family leisure places are now open to everyone without restrictions, discrimination or separation between men and women.

• Saudi daily newspapers and media are now openly discussing local issues and criticizing government agencies and officials.

• There is now an Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority that does not ignore any citizen's report on cases of public corruption or encroachment on state property.

• The sponsorship system, which was described by the West as a work system that is a type of slavery in the relationship of the Saudi employer to the resident worker or employee, has been dropped.

• There is legislation being instituted to preserve the private and public freedoms of Saudi citizens.

Children wave flags as people celebrate Saudi Arabia's 90th annual National Day, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia September 23, 2020. (Reuters)
Children wave flags as people celebrate Saudi Arabia's 90th annual National Day, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia September 23, 2020. (Reuters)

We do not say or claim that Saudi Arabia has become paradise on earth, or that it competes with Northern European countries in the matter of public or private rights, but we can say with confidence that there have been fast-paced, unprecedented, real reforms leading to comprehensive, qualitative change in the lives of Saudi citizens. King Salman has clearly pledged to implement measures within the comprehensive reform led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

It’s important to have an idea about the geographic and demographic reality of Saudi Arabia. It is a vast country spanning an area of 2.149 million square kilometers with a population of 27 million. Saudi society consists of 3 main communities: desert, rural and urban, of whom 50.9% are male and 49.1% female. Over a third of the population is under thirty, making up the main base of supporters of the current change and reform.

In administrative terms, Saudi society consists of three main regions: Central, Western, and Eastern, which are conservative groups with tribal origins, in which social norms and values are influenced by notions that are extremely difficult to change.

The religious establishment no longer has the final say in determining the direction of state decisions. The essence of reform and change is based on seeing where the public interest of the country and the people resides, in a way that does not violate the rules of Sharia law and is religiously correct without exaggeration or extremism.

If any keen observer of Saudi affairs had been told that within five years these reforms would take place and there would be this level of openness within Saudi society, they would not have believed it, calling it a pipe dream.

None of these realities are included in Washington’s assessment, which is supposed to be balanced and objective.

Logic predicates that just as Washington sees what it believes to be errors in our way of life and our practices, it must also see the magnitude of unprecedented achievement, reform and change taking place in our country.

What's even more astounding is that not only does Washington hyperfocus on our errors in its evaluation, but it is also committing the egregious double standard of rewarding Iran and punishing Saudi Arabia.

The Biden administration is currently seeking to bring Iran back to the negotiating table, to lift sanctions, unfreeze its assets, and thus restore full sale and movement of goods in Iran, while halting shipments of arms and spare parts to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE.

Washington is now striking the Houthi terrorist movement’s classification from the list of terrorist organizations, which will no doubt spur it to increase the frequency of missiles directed at innocent Saudi civilians and Saudi installations built from the money and labor of the Saudi people.

Washington is also turning a blind eye to Iran's proxy presence in the region, in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Hezbollah fighters stand in formation at a rally to mark Al-Quds day, in a southern suburb of Beirut, May 31, 2019. (File photo: AP)
Hezbollah fighters stand in formation at a rally to mark Al-Quds day, in a southern suburb of Beirut, May 31, 2019. (File photo: AP)

Yes, the murder of our colleague Jamal Khashoggi is a crime against humanity, and it is unacceptable, and the Saudi state has condemned it through investigations of the Public Prosecution, court rulings, and the statements of the Saudi Crown Prince.

Prince Mohammad bin Salman was clear when he said unequivocally:

"This matter took place in the shadow of my mandate, and I bear full responsibility."

Prince Mohammed has repeatedly emphasized that he considers what happened to Jamal Khashoggi to be a crime, that he did not know about it in advance and did not order it.

Despite this, the US intelligence conducted investigations in cooperation with the Turkish authorities and concluded with a report that was kept classified since 2018.

Leaked reports from the first phone conversation between President Biden and King Salman bin Abdulaziz, last Thursday, 35 days after Biden's swearing in, reveal the following:

• According White House sources, the conversation went well.

• The importance of strategic relations between the two countries was emphasized.

• The conversation is a continuation of a previous communication between the Saudi foreign minister and the US secretary of state, and another that took place between the US defense secretary and the Saudi crown prince who is also the defense minister.

Of course, the American media couldn't refrain from linking the date of the telephone conversation last Thursday, which coincides with leaks from the American administration of excerpts from the US intelligence report on Khashoggi's killing.

The most important thing about the leaked report is that it in no way confirms nor gives any solid evidence regarding the connection of the Saudi Crown Prince to or responsibility for this crime.

Saudis shop at the Panorama Mall in the capital Riyadh on May 22, 2020. (AFP)
Saudis shop at the Panorama Mall in the capital Riyadh on May 22, 2020. (AFP)

The question now is: Are the Saudi government and 20 million citizens to bear the cross of Khashoggi's murder forever, or does the reality of the situation and the magnitude of strategic interests between Washington and Riyadh require a deeper and more just analysis?

The Biden administration’s policy of accelerating the restoration of the image of Iran and its proxies in the region is an unforgivable strategic mistake.

This policy, that rewards Iran and punishes the Saudi administration, will put the strategic cooperation established by Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz in great danger.

It is true that the United States is - until now anyway - the greatest superpower in the world, but Washington should not forget that there are China and Russia, which are ready to open their stores of weapons and goods wide open to a country like Saudi Arabia that has the financial ability to buy immediately and pay in cash or in exchange for oil and gas reserves.

Nobody now understands how you can treat your strategic friend and ally so harshly, while you seek to restore your strategic enemy's status through unjustified magnanimity!

This article was originally published in, and translated from, the Lebanese online newspaper El Shark.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.