Hemming and Hawing with Saudi Arabia

May 28, 2009

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

President Obama has added Saudi Arabia to the list of countries he will be visiting this June.  He reportedly will meet with King Abdullah to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Iran and terrorism.  The Arab Peace Initiative, designed by King Abdullah, would grant Palestinians an independent state, settle the issue of Palestinian refugees and create a more peaceful environment between Middle Eastern states. It has also been embraced by the Obama team. The trip reflects a new commitment by the US government to work more closely with Arab countries on issues of peace and power.

Peace in the Middle East is a noble cause for the Obama administration.  But as the Dalai Lama has said, “Peace can only last where human rights are respected.”

Saudi Arabia’s death row list is lengthy.  Juveniles have been sentenced to death and now executed after unfair trial proceedings.  There are also restrictions on freedom of speech and expression, with journalists threatened and censored by religious and political leaders alike.

While Saudi Arabia has made some strides on the human rights front, there is much more work to be done before a regional peace, built on respecting human rights, can stand.  President Obama should take this opportunity to build a relationship based on human rights respect.