We should not sell weapons to Saudi Arabia

Why are we selling weapons to a rich country with a terrible human rights record?

Saudi Arabia is a wealthy country, sitting on top of massive oil reserves. It also has a terrible human rights record. In addition to the massive restrictions placed upon women, Saudi Arabia regularly subjects people to lashings, beheadings, and cuts off hands. If that wasn’t enough, some in Saudi Arabia are pushing for LGBTQ people to face the death penalty.

With all that in mind, why would an open and democratic country sell weapons to Saudi Arabia? If the idea is to balance out Iran’s influence, we have to consider the fact that Iran – despite heavy restrictions on freedom – is a more open society than Saudi Arabia. If the idea is to protect a source of oil, the decline in oil prices and the increase in the US shale oil industry makes North America less reliant on Saudi Arabia than ever before.

If the idea is to profit, that is nothing less than outrageous hypocrisy. Rhetoric about supporting freedom, human rights, and democracy rings hollow when we’re willing to sell weapons to a country that ignores all of that just in exchange for a few million bucks.

At the very least, any arms sales to Saudi Arabia should be tied to increasing human rights and freeing political prisoners. If Saudi Arabia really needs the weapons, why not use that leverage to increase the rights of women, LGBTQ people, and religious minorities?

If rich western countries aren’t willing to tie those conditions to arms sales, then we should cancel them completely.

Let’s bring the hypocrisy to an end. Saudi Arabia is rich. They can build their own weapons or buy them from somewhere else. We must not make ourselves complicit in their appalling human rights violations.

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Photo credit: Omar Chatriwala – Al Jazeera English (Flickr) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/