Wednesday, Dec 07, 2016
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EDITORIAL

Saudi review

The United States’ long-standing relationship with Saudi Arabia as an ally requires serious review.

The kingdom has been a staging area for American wars in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, with its huge oil reserves, has helped stabilize the world oil market, so important to the United States.

It has encouraged reasonable behavior by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. It has plugged holes in global oil production caused by political developments, stabilizing the price by adjusting its flow as needed.

In return, the United States has guaranteed the security of the Saudi monarchy and catered to its political concerns. It looked the other way as Saudi Arabia pursued backward human rights policies: public executions, oppression of women, and financial support of extreme Islamist positions and groups. Saudi Arabia was the home of a large number of America’s 9/​11 attackers.

Now the Saudi government opposes talks aimed at ending Iran’s nuclear program in return for reducing economic sanctions. It supports the most extreme Islamist elements among the Syrian rebels and opposes a negotiated end to the civil war in Syria. It favors continued military rule in Egypt.

The development of significant natural-gas sources in the United States has made Saudi oil less important to the U.S. economy. That shouldn’t be a primary factor in Washington’s policy toward Saudi Arabia, but it is a consideration.

All of this calls for a serious U.S. review of policies toward Saudi Arabia. The United States has a right to expect more from the kingdom, if U.S. guarantees of its security are to continue as America winds down its involvement in the Middle East.

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