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The West Should Cut Ties With Saudi Arabia

Should the West end its alliance with the Saudi regime? Or should we give its Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman a chance? Watch the debate, hear the arguments and make up your mind

With friends like these, who needs enemies? Saudi Arabia is out of control. After the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, most likely on direct orders from the Saudi Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammed Bin Salman, it’s time for the West to sever ties with this regime of criminal despots. The House of Saud assassinates journalists and imprisons dissidents. Its military indiscriminately bombs civilians in the cruel war against Yemen, which has led to a massive humanitarian catastrophe with an estimated 85,000 children dying of starvation. And that’s not to mention the Saudi regime’s oppression of women and religious minorities, or its troubling support for Islamist fundamentalism around the world. Saudi Arabia has long been accused of backing terrorist organisations and funding the extremist schools that provide them with recruits and influence. Saudi Arabia is a menace, and the West should end its alliance with this pernicious regime.

That’s the high-minded reasoning of the Saudi-bashers. But no matter how much we abhor the behaviour of the Saudi government, shouldn’t we consider our own interests before ending a hugely beneficial decades-old partnership? After all, as more pragmatically-minded people point out, Saudi Arabia is a crucial bulwark against the dangerous influence of Iran, which threatens the region with its expansionist ambitions. Saudi Arabia also provides the West with vital intelligence in the fight against groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS. And while we may not like the conservative form of Islam practised in the Kingdom, is that any of our business? If it is, shouldn’t we support its reform-minded Crown Prince? After all, he has lifted the ban on Saudi women driving, allowed cinemas to reopen for the first time in 35 years, and has promised to introduce a more moderate form of Islam to the Kingdom. Shouldn’t the West give him a chance?


For the motion

Mehdi Hasan

Award-winning British-American journalist, broadcaster and author of Win Every Argument: The Art of Debating, Persuading, and Public Speaking.

Wward-winning British-American journalist, broadcaster and author. Hasan is the host of The Mehdi Hasan Show, which airs on both MSNBC and NBC’s streaming channel Peacock. He has interviewed everyone from General Michael Flynn and Erik Prince, to Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to Russell Brand and John Legend. Hasan is a former columnist and podcaster at The Intercept, and his op-eds have also appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post. In Britain he was formerly the political editor of The New Statesman.

Madawi al-Rasheed

LSE Professor and expert on Saudi Arabia

Exiled Saudi Arabian professor of social anthropology at the Middle East Centre at LSE. She has written extensively about the Arabian Peninsula, Arab migration, globalisation, religious transnationalism and gender. She is the author of Salman’s Legacy: the Dilemma of a New Era in Saudi Arabia and the new book The Son King: Reform and Repression in Saudi Arabia.
Against the motion

Crispin Blunt

Conservative MP for Reigate

Conservative MP for Reigate, and Chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee from 2015 until 2017. He is widely regarded as one of the most experienced foreign policy voices in Parliament.

Mamoun Fandy

Egyptian-born Middle East expert

Egyptian-born Middle East expert. He is president of the think tank London Global Strategy Institute, a former senior fellow at the Baker Institute, the United States Institute of Peace, and the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. He is the author of Saudi Arabia and the Politics of Dissent. His research focuses on the politics of the Arab World, terrorism and radical Islamic politics, and regional security issues in the Middle East.

Lyse Doucet

The BBC's chief international correspondent

The BBC’s Chief International Correspondent, who played a key role in the BBC's coverage of the wars in Syria and Yemen and has covered all the major stories in the region for the past 20 years.