President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia is expected to focus on how much he likes selling them weapons, and how much he doesn’t like Iran, and how great he thinks it’ll be if they join together as “Arab NATO,” while assuring the US has deep influence over what that alliance does.
What he won’t be bringing up is all the human rights violations going on in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, and that’s something the Gulf states all seem to be counting on, as they continue to ratchet up their crackdown on dissent.
Freedom of expression has never really been much of a thing in places like Saudi Arabia to begin with, and eager to make President Trump’s visit a quiet and orderly one, at least as far as anyone can publicly see, they continue to ramp up limitations on anyone even remotely resembling a critic.
Journalists whose commentaries are seen as short of absolute praise for the government are being muzzled, as our economists and academics whose policy advice isn’t in keeping with the direction the kingdom is going. Everything is being sacrificed in the name of apparent unity, and every little bit of unrest that slips through the cracks is being blamed on Iran.
It’s the sort of thing people would expect a US president to bring up on his visit, but analysts say that the Saudis et al. were very willing to express annoyance at this when President Obama criticized their crackdowns, and Trump’s interest in keeping relations officially good, and arms sales at record highs, means he’s not going to bring this up.
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