February 2, 2023

A golf event approved by Trump, a handshake in Paris, and a giant city proposed to boost the Saudi image

A golf event approved by Trump, a handshake in Paris, and a giant city proposed to boost the Saudi image

previous president Donald Trump Comments cast doubt on the involvement of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 9/11 terrorist attacks The latest in a string of recent PR victories for the desert kingdom and its rule Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Four years after he was accused of ordering the murder of a prominent Saudi critic and Washington Post journalist Jamal KhashoggiThe Crown Prince was welcomed in two European capitals and Saudi-funded golf tournament Kick off this weekend at Trump Bedminster Golf Club.

With Salman also enjoying positive headlines about his outlandish plans for a futuristic megacity this week, activists and experts have warned that Saudi Arabia’s efforts to reform its global standing have been working despite scant evidence of a change in its approach to human rights, prompting accusations of Western hypocrisy and undermining Calls for reform in the region.

On Thursday, Riyadh’s continued efforts to distance itself from the September 11, 2001 attacks received a welcome boost when Trump said “Nobody has reached the bottom of 9/11,” responding to criticism from victims’ families over his decision to host a lavish LIV golf event at his New Jersey club.

The kingdom’s investment fund is financing the lucrative breakaway golf round, while a Saudi-backed consortium has also bought a British football club. Newcastle United last year.

“Saudi Arabia has adopted a deliberate, long-term strategy of investing in sports and celebrity to distract attention from its reputation – sportswear laundry, whitewashing, reputation washing,” said Michael Page, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. .

“The money the Saudis use is how people downplay or ignore their serious concerns about Saudi Arabia, especially human rights abuses,” he added.

Many Americans hold Saudi Arabia responsible for the 9/11 attacks given that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens. The investigations did not implicate Saudi leaders, but they did highlight the links between Saudi citizens and financing Osama bin Laden And the Al-Qaeda. The Saudi government denies any involvement.

Trump’s comments came nearly two weeks later President Joe Biden collided with the fists of Crown Prince Mohammed During a visit to the coastal city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The move angered rights groups who want to hold the crown prince accountable for the 2018 killing of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. by a team of intelligence agents With close ties to the crown prince, according to a US intelligence report.

Salman took responsibility for the killing but denied any involvement, blaming the killing on rogue Saudi agents.

Image: People walk past a poster commemorating the first anniversary of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Turkey, October 2, 2019.
People walk past a memorial poster commemorating the first anniversary of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Turkey, October 2, 2019. Elif Ozturk Agency / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The incident sparked international outrage, and in 2019, Biden, then a presidential candidate, vowed to make the kingdom a “pariah”.

“Bin Salman was removed, convicted of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. He has now received the red carpet reception … He is out of his cage,” said Abdel Bari Atwan, a political analyst and editor-in-chief of the Al Rai Al Arabi news website.

Salman’s apparent comeback from the diplomatic cold highlights the West’s continued dependence on Saudi oil, especially given the impact of this Russia’s war in UkraineAnalysts said. Washington and its allies are also keen to counteract the impact ChinaRussia and the rival regional power Iran.

Earlier this week, the crown prince, one of the world’s most autocratic rulers, toured the birthplace of Western democracy during a visit to the Acropolis in Athena.

On Thursday, he flew to Paris, where he enjoyed a long handshake with the French president Emmanuel Macron In front of the red carpeted stairs of the Elysee presidential palace. The two leaders discussed “the diversification of energy supplies to European countries,” according to a French statement.

Photo: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman looks at US President Joe Biden during the Jeddah Security and Development Summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on July 16, 2022.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman looks at President Joe Biden during the Jeddah Security and Development Summit in Saudi Arabia earlier this month. Saudi Royal Court / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Activists say Salman’s rehabilitation will encourage other autocrats to disregard human rights.

He succeeded, he really succeeded in mending relations with the West after Khashoggi,” said Ali Al-Adabisi, director of the Berlin-based European-Saudi Organization for Human Rights. These Western leaders are not responsible for human rights. They have their own priorities. What is the message to civil society? Don’t trust these leaders.”

Aside from oil, Saudi Arabia is also a major buyer of arms and a potential source of multi-billion dollar construction contracts to realize the “Salman Vision 2030” for his country’s development.

This week, social media was abuzz with strange images of a planned 106-mile-long building in the Saudi desert, which is part of the Crown Prince’s scheme for a futuristic new city called NEOM.

While some critics welcomed the plan as a cutting-edge urban innovation, most described it as a half-baked idea that would inevitably leave a giant white elephant in the desert. In addition, Amnesty International said that the forced evictions and demolitions related to the project violated human rights standards.

Photo: Former President Donald Trump drives a golf cart with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, head of the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ on July 28, 2022.
Former President Donald Trump drives a golf cart with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, head of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey on Thursday. Doug Mills / Photo Re

Salman portrayed himself as a modern person and, along with ambitious construction projects, curbed the power of the clergy, allowed women to drive cars and supervise the opening of cinemas and other entertainment venues unimaginable in his conservative kingdom.

But the state is more repressive than it was under the crown prince’s predecessors, with rights groups denouncing the arbitrary arrests and detention of human rights defenders and government critics, the use of the death penalty for minors, and the rule of Riyadh. A devastating war in Yemenone of the poorest countries in the world.

Saudi Arabia’s reintegration into the international community despite the abuses is likely to draw more cynicism from the West’s efforts to improve human rights standards, according to Atwan, the analyst.

“The West is actually shooting itself. Arab public opinion does not trust them when lecturing on human rights.” People say: No, sorry. As you know, we don’t believe you. We don’t trust you anymore. “