The United States for the first time named Saudi Arabia yesterday as a country that severely violates religious freedom, potentially subjecting the close U.S. ally to sanctions.
"Freedom of religion does not exist" in Saudi Arabia, the State Department said in its annual report on international religious freedom. "Freedom of religion is not recognized or protected under the country's laws and basic religious freedoms are denied to all but those who adhere to the state-sanctioned version of Sunni Islam," the report said, adding that "non-Muslim worshippers risk arrest, imprisonment, lashing, deportation and sometimes torture."
The designation of Saudi Arabia was made as the Bush administration has come under sharp attack from Democrats -- and the hit movie "Fahrenheit 9/11" -- for its close relationship with Saudi rulers.
Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry took the unusual step of singling out the Saudi royal family during his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, saying, "I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation -- not the Saudi royal family."
This should have happened by October 2001 at the latest, of course, but it's still welcome news. One thing that Bush has made very clear over the last three years is that there is a world of difference between allies and "allies", but he does seem to have a bit of a blind spot over which category the Sauds should be in. My guess is that this is part of a grander strategy: the Administration reckon that Iraq is now in such a position that the US no longer need Saudi support. The real message behind this statement could well be "We don't need your oil no more." Could even be part of a plan to topple Iran's Ayatollahs without having to go to war again. Let's hope so.
But credit where credit is due: to Moore and others for raising uncomfortable questions about the cozy US-Saudi relationship
Yes, absolutely. If this is a result of Farhenheit 9/11, then, much as it pains me to say it, thank you, Michael Moore. I still think John Kerry would be a dreadful president, but I thank him, too, for making the Sauds into an election issue. When he loses the election, he'll still be able to take some pride in having helped to make the world a better place.