2010-02-19 / Columnists

Weiner Writes From Capitol Hill

Holding the Saudis Accountable
Commentary By Congressman Anthony Weiner

Congressman Anthony Weiner Congressman Anthony Weiner Another year goes by, and we are still allowing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to operate with impunity; violating human rights, banning religious expression and supporting extremism and terrorism.

Secretary Clinton should re-designate Saudi Arabia as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for 2010 and remove the Presidential waiver they’ve been granted every year that protects them from repercussions from our government.

The Saudis claim that their official policy is to guarantee freedom of religion, but I have yet to meet the Jew or Christian who practices openly on the streets of Riyadh. Even the Shi’a minority population of Saudi Arabia is oppressed, with major Shi’a holidays celebrated only in private.

This has landed the Saudis on the list of Countries of Particular Concern since 2004 under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA).

Our leaders have praised Saudi Arabia for taking steps to modernize curriculum and improve religious freedom, but the reality is that Saudi Arabia has just become better at telling the West what it wants to hear.

They use words like “tolerance” and “progress,” and the American public sends them money and weapons. It’s a symbiotic relationship that hasn’t benefitted the American people and isn’t benefitting the Saudi people who live under one of the most oppressive regimes in the world.

Last year, my office published a study of Saudi Arabian textbooks from the 2008 and 2009 school years. The report found that Saudi schools still teach intolerance, hate and violence towards Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims. These public school textbooks accuse the Jews of attempting to take over the world and demand that those who turn away from the Muslim religion be killed. As long as new generations are being indoctrinated by hateful teachings that incite violence, terrorism will always have a breeding ground in Saudi Arabia.

As the empty promises continue to pile up, we should punish their actions, but we don’t. Since 2005, the United States Congress has stepped up and cut all aid to Saudi Arabia, but the President has decided to sidestep the will of Congress by signing a waiver every year.

This waiver has resulted in nearly $4 million dollars in US aid that has been sent to the Saudis.

In July of 2009, I introduced legislation that would strip the President’s ability to waive the restriction and it passed the House with nearly as many Republicans as Democrats.

The Senate never followed the House’s action, and we are expecting the President to waive the prohibition all over again.

Saudi Arabia has never truly felt pressure from its allies, and has never relented to its allies’ requests to change.

If President Obama is serious, he should follow the House’s lead and stop giving aid to the Saudi Kingdom, and Secretary Clinton should re-designate Saudi Arabia as a Country of Particular Concern, dropping the waiver and demanding real accountability in exchange for support from America.

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