Saudi Arabia: Pillar of U.S. Imperialism,
Kingdom of Medieval Barbarism

May 29, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


In Saudi Arabia, Donald Trump addressed a collection of murderous thugs otherwise known as U.S. allies and said they were not involved in a “battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations.” Instead, speaking of the U.S.’s war on “extremism” and “terror,” Trump declared, “This is a battle between barbaric criminals, who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people … that want to protect life and want to protect their religion. This is a battle between good and evil.”

Barbaric criminals? Good and evil? Let’s look at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia itself, which Trump has effusively praised and where those words were spoken. And let’s look into why the U.S. has been so determined to maintain the Saudi kingdom.

Ruthless, Medieval Tyranny

During Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, his secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, marveled at the lack of protest, saying he found it “fascinating” that he did not see “a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there. Not one guy with a bad placard.”

Why not? Because Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy run by the Saud family. The overwhelming majority of people living in Saudi Arabia have no political rights whatsoever—no elections, no political parties, no civic or political organizations, no free speech. Violating these strictures can lead to flogging, jail or death. Attorneys and bloggers have been jailed for advocating human rights. “Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world,” Democracy Now! reports. “Scores of people are killed each year after being convicted of various nonviolent charges that range from adultery, apostasy, drug use and sorcery. The executions are usually carried out by public beheading.” In 2016, at least 150 people were executed, most by beheading.

This fascistic autocracy is undergirded and legitimized by an extreme, medieval form of Sunni Islamic fundamentalism—Wahhabism—which not only forbids opposition to the ruling order, but bans all other religions, and sanctions the repression of non-Muslims and the Shi’a Muslim minority. In Saudi Arabia, atheism is a crime punishable by death.

Gender Apartheid and the Patriarchal Enslavement of Women

A key pillar of Wahhabism and Saudi society is the systematic, patriarchal enslavement of women. They are treated as minors subject to male authority for their entire life under Saudi Arabia’s “guardianship” system. That means women cannot make their own decisions about marriage, school, traveling, or any other important matters in their lives. Women are systematically segregated from men throughout Saudi society in what has been called “gender apartheid.” Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women from driving. In Saudi Arabia female “disobedience” is a crime. 

“The patriarchal and extreme Saudi mentality views women as property which belongs to the state and the family,” one Saudi activist told a New York Times contributor. The writer described what happens to some women who’ve tried to escape from forced, abusive marriages: they have been kidnapped, dragged onto planes and flown back to Saudi Arabia, some with their mouths taped shut and arms and legs bound, and put into detention. “Most horrific is that once a woman is locked in any state institution,” she said, “she won’t be released unless into the custody of a male relative or else she will stay in the prison or state shelter forever.” The writer concludes that “Saudi Arabia isn’t just a conservative country with different values we shouldn’t judge. It is a modern Gilead” [depicted in The Handmaid’s Tale].

Key Cog in U.S. Imperialist Empire… Exporting Barbarism & Medieval Fundamentalism

Saudi Arabia has been and remains a crucial cog in the U.S. imperialist empire, as Trump’s recent visit demonstrated. 

Saudi Arabia is the world’s leading oil exporter with the world’s largest reserves. It plays a critical role in America’s ability to dominate world economics and finance. It occupies a crucial location near key global trade and transit routes. And Saudi Arabia has been a key facilitator for the U.S. empire—including propping up shaky U.S. clients, helping derail anti-imperialist struggle, and directly facilitating many U.S. wars, military assaults, coups, and interventions around the world.

Saudi Arabia exports its barbaric, Wahhabist religion across the globe, spending an estimated $4 billion a year promoting and spreading it by funding publications, preachers, schools (madrassas), and mosques. This has created contradictions for U.S. imperialism, particularly with the spread of fundamentalist Islamic Jihad and groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda, whose outlook and program are outgrowths of Wahhabism and which have received direct support from Saudi Arabia.

There have also been times in U.S. imperialism’s ruthless quest to maintain its dominance when it found it useful to tacitly ally with or support these heinous jihadist forces, and to work secretly with the Saudis to fund, back, and arm them. This took place in Afghanistan during the 1980s when the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan armed reactionary mujahideen fighters (who later formed al-Qaeda and the Taliban) to wage war against the Soviet Union, which had invaded the country. (Socialism was defeated in the Soviet Union in the mid-1950s, and it had become an imperialist rival of the U.S.) And it’s taking place now during the ongoing Syrian civil war, when the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have covertly armed al-Qaeda and perhaps ISIS fighters.1

These are the reasons the U.S. hasn’t only tolerated the Saudi royal family’s tyrannical grip on power—it has welcomed, supported, and pledged to militarily defend it.

U.S. support for Saudi Arabia is a stark example of how U.S. imperialism is incapable of “doing good” in the world. The workings of their global system of exploitation and oppression demand that the U.S. rulers support the most barbaric regimes on earth.

1. In one email later leaked to the press, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton wrote that the Saudis and Qatar were “providing clandestine financial and logistic support to [the Islamic State] and other radical Sunni groups in the region.” [back]



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