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The West Should Get Out of Bed with the House of Saud

Should we desist now, or it is of vital political and economic interest to stay in bed with the Saudi kingdom?

Have we no morals? We know that the Saudis created the monster that is Islamic terrorism, allegedly spending some $100 billion on exporting fanatical Wahhabism to other Muslim nations around the world. We know about the public beheadings and floggings, and the treatment of women that amounts to gender apartheid. Yet Western governments persist in cosying up to the Saudi royal family, making an ally of one of the most reactionary regimes in the world, so that we can buy their oil and sell them our expensive weaponry. Enough: we should stop turning a blind eye and start treating Saudi Arabia with the condemnation it deserves.

That’s the liberal, reformist position. But others would maintain that even if we find many of its practices abhorrent, it is of vital interest to the West to stay in bed with the Saudi kingdom. After all, it is one of our most important allies amongst the Arab states, helping curb Iran’s ambitions for supremacy within the Middle East. It has also joined the coalition against the horrifyingly brutal Islamic State, sending warplanes to strike targets in Syria and training moderate Syrian rebels to fight the extremists. The Saudis have also donated $500 million to UN humanitarian efforts in Iraq. These are policies we should support. Hold your nose if you must, but the West should keep in with the House of Saud.


For the motion

Mona Eltahawy

Egyptian-American freelance journalist

Feminist author and award-winning commentator. Her work has been published in The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other publications around the world. She is a frequent guest on current affairs programmes on the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and other media outlets, where her goal is always to disrupt patriarchy. She is also the author of Headscarves and Hymens and recently launched her newsletter Feminist Giant. Her latest book The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls is published by Tramp Press on April 22.

Hillary Mann Leverett

US foreign policy expert

US foreign policy expert and former career diplomat who served at the White House in both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. She has criticised what she sees as America’s increasingly dysfunctional strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia and is the co-author of Going to Tehran, which advocates US rapprochement with Iran.
Against the motion

Sir Alan Duncan

Minister of State for Europe and the Americas

Minister of State for International Development from 2010 to 2014 and expert voice in the Conservative party on the Middle East, where he travels regularly. Before entering Parliament in 1992 he worked as an oil trader for an independent commodity company.

James Rubin

Former Assistant Secretary of State

Assistant Secretary of State and Chief Spokesman for the US State Department under Madeleine Albright from 1997-2000, during a major Clinton administration push for an Israel-Palestine peace deal.

Zeinab Badawi

BBC World News presenter

BBC World News presenter.