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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.


Speakers

For the motion

Mona Eltahawy

Egyptian-American freelance journalist


Egyptian-American freelance journalist. She writes and provides commentary on Egypt, the Islamic world, and women’s rights for the press and television and radio networks. She is the author of Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution. She was named by Newsweek magazine as one of its “150 Fearless Women of 2012”. Mona is currently a contributing opinion writer for the International New York Times and lives in Cairo and New York City

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.
Chair

Zeinab Badawi

BBC World News presenter


BBC World News presenter.