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Bush Administration Waives Actions Against Saudi Arabia

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About a month ago, JABBS asked why the Bush Administration hadn’t followed up, as required by law, on its designation of Saudi Arabia as a “country of particular concern” for “severe religious freedom violations” pursuant to International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA).

Under IRFA, the administration was supposed to take action late last year, or 90 days after making its designation. There are 15 potential actions the IRFA allows.

Now, roughly a year after the designation was made, the Bush Administration has taken action — and that action is no action, at least for another six months.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice notified Congress last week that she had authorized a 180-day waiver of action against Saudi Arabia “in order to allow additional time for the continuation of discussions leading to progress on important religious freedom issues.”

The decision came after Rice met in Washington with — and we have to assume, was impressed by — the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal. Rice and the prince stressed the importance of “continuing to work on this issue,” spokesman Kurtis Cooper said.

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At the time of its designation last year as a “country of particular concern,” the action was applauded — especially given the close ties between the Bush family and the Saudi leadership. But the waivers do little to change the perception that the designation was an empty action — perhaps done only to score points during a heated presidential campaign.

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The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal agency established by Congress in 1998 to promote religious freedom around the world, had been recommending that Saudi Arabia be designated a “country of particular concern” since its formation. The reasons? Saudi violations of religious freedom within its own borders, and also reports of its propagation and export of an ideology of religious hate and intolerance throughout the world.

Reacting to Rice’s decision, the commission issued a statement, saying real progress was absent in Saudi Arabia on religious conditions and that the U.S. government should use the 180 days to achieve real progress. Otherwise, the commission said licenses should not be issued for exports to Saudi Arabia of technology that could be used in military programs, and Saudi officials responsible for religious freedom violations should not be permitted to visit the United States.

***

In a related move also last week, President Bush waived financial sanctions on Saudi Arabia for failing to make significant efforts to stop slave trade in prostitutes, child sex workers and forced laborers. That waiver will last for three months.

Saudi Arabia was one of 14 countries listed by the State Department in June as failing to adequately address the problem. But Bush decided it was not in the national interest of the United States to punish Saudi Arabia, as well as Kuwait and Ecuador.

Why is it not in the “national interest?” We know it’s not because of its work on religious freedom. Is it because Saudi Arabia has done so much to fight terrorism? Nope. Bring Al Qaeda to justice? Nope. Stopped fighters from crossing the border into Iraq to join the insurgency? Nope. How about helping the U.S. to keep oil prices in check in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita? Nope.

I suppose our official policy is that the Saudis will “continue to work” on that issue, too.

Compare the decision to provide the Saudis with a waiver with the praise given the Bush Administration in this 2002 Congressional report:

“The Bush administration and the 107th Congress have continued to give priority to the trafficking problem (and) focus attention on the problem. The State Department issued its first Congressionally mandated report on worldwide trafficking in July 2001. It categorized countries according to the efforts they were making to combat trafficking. Those countries that do not cooperate in the fight against trafficking could face U.S. sanctions, starting in 2003,” the report reads.

And, truth be told, Bush has followed through — on 11 of 14 countries that have been cited.

But Saudi Arabia? Nope.

***

This item first appeared at Journalists Against Bush’s B.S.

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About David R. Mark

  • Realist

    “Saudi Arabia was one of 14 countries listed by the State Department in June as failing to adequately address the problem… of religious freedom issues.”

    So why don’t you pick on the 13 countries that don’t control our oil supply — without which our economy would fold up like a Bedouin tent in the middle of the night.

  • http://jabbs.blogspot.com David R. Mark

    Or, we could be self-sufficient by increasing gas mileage and using alternative fuel cars (hydrogen, hybrid, etc.) and then we wouldn’t have to be beholden to the Saudis.

    Face it, Bush said this was in the U.S.’ national interest, but in truth, it’s in the Saudis’ national interest. It’s not in the U.S. best interest to be beholden to a despicable terror state.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    This raises two questions.

    First, what other countries on the list has Bush taken action against – I’m guessing not one.

    Second, why the hell do we even have a list or a policy regarding promoting religious freedom in other countries in the first place.

    Dave

  • Bliffle

    “Second, why the hell do we even have a list or a policy regarding promoting religious freedom in other countries in the first place.

    Because self-righteous religionists never tire of telling other people what to do. While ignoring their own sins, one might add.

    B

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    Forget religious freedom for a second.

    Saudia Arabia and Pakistan are two of the leading hot-beds for terrorists and were leading up to 9/11. I don’t need to remind you where bin Laden’s main organizing occurred and where the hijackers came from. If you mistakenly think Iraq was tied in with al Qaeda, do some research on the presence of terrorists in these two nations even today and you’ll REALLY have something to get mad about.

    Yet you see very little diplomatic or military pressure on either nation because they’re our allies and we can’t risk angering them for economic and (so we say) strategic interests.

    All you tough-talking conservatives should really be more outspoken about this, shouldn’t you?

    That is all.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    >>All you tough-talking conservatives should really be more outspoken about this, shouldn’t you?<<

    What is there to say about it? We need allies. We can’t fight the war on terror on our own. If we went after every tinhorn dictator and morally questionable regime when we could use them instead we’d never accomplish anything. People are complaining about invading Iraq, ferchissakes. How much more unjustified would an attack on Pakistan or Saudi Arabia be? With these countries there’s at least the hope that by working with them we can bring them around to a more reasonable perspective over time. Working towards that makes a lot more sense than creating more enemies.

    Dave

  • http://jabbs.blogspot.com David R. Mark

    Religious freedom is only one part of the equation.

    The countries that are among the 11 include Burma and Iran.

    The question one should be asking is, why is it in the U.S.’ national interest to be beholden to such a despicable nation?

  • Realist

    The only question we should be asking is why is it in our national interest to attack those who supply our oil?

    The Saudi government has not attacked us.

    Let’s get real.

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    The Saudis have done more to overlook and sponsor terror than Iraq ever did.

    Pakistan, another ally, is offering only nominal assistance in hunting down al Qaeda leadership that we KNOW is within its borders, including bin Laden.

    So it boils down to allies and strategic interests like oil. I think that explains it pretty well — we just need to admit that and stop with the BS retroactive justification based on human rights and terrorist cells.

    That is all.

  • Yusuf Germino

    Its because the US is having trouble fully controlling Iraq and sees the possibility of greater problem in the future for its access to Iraq’s oil, now it is focusing on Saudi Arabia.

    Saudi Arabia is a sovereiign nation with Islam as its religion. While it is true that there are no churches in Saudi Arabia, Christians are not prohibited to practice their religion privately. I was a Christian before and have since converted to Islam after 8 years of living in KSA, practicing my religion with other Christians, albeit discretely.

    American should refresh their memory, for killing red Indians not following their religion and still continue to do so until now through harassment, repression and unfair treatment of the original “Americans”. The white people are not the American, it is the Red Indians.

    Now, putting economic sanctions. America – the institution is the world’s greates economic terrorist for having put under sanctions many countries in the past who defy its whims and wishes.

    May the heavens have mercy when it pours its wrath on you. Katrina – is a warning. A preface of a bigger beating from the skies to a nation who prides itself as the ‘world’s most powerful country’ led by the ‘world’s most powerful man’.

    The American institution’s intention in its effort to put Saudi Arabia under economic sanction is as dark as as any evil administration is, unde the guise of human rights, religious freedom etc. blah blah blah……

    Maybe you are also forgetting that in America, they kill unborn babies legally. What human rights are you talking about. Prostitution, how about you making statistic of how many prostitutes work in America, who make pornographic movies, or poses in adult magazines. Take the beam in your eye before you pick on the speck on someone else’s; says the Bible.

    If these sanction pushes through, remember, the heaven is fair and just. It will certainly hear the cry of the oppressed. Because when it judges – it does so fairly. Maybe another Katrina.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    >>Pakistan, another ally, is offering only nominal assistance in hunting down al Qaeda leadership that we KNOW is within its borders, including bin Laden.

    So it boils down to allies and strategic interests like oil. I think that explains it pretty well — we just need to admit that and stop with the BS retroactive justification based on human rights and terrorist cells.<<

    Last I checked Pakistan didn’t have any oil and Bin Laden was believed to be in Iran.

    Dave

  • http://none.com Bob A. Booey

    Huh, Dave? Let me slow it down for you.

    The strategic interest in Iraq was oil.

    The reason we’ve never considered military action against Saudi Arabia or Pakistan was because the former is our only “ally” in the region and the latter has no oil and is too dangerous to mess with.

    Where did you hear bin Laden’s in Iran? I think you’ve been reading too many wacky “Invade Iran Now!” right-wing sites trying to provide some justification for more war.

    Almost everyone thinks he’s in the mountains of Pakistan, including intelligence and military people.

    That is all.

  • JR

    Where did you hear bin Laden’s in Iran?

    I heard it from a Middle East politics guest on the Daily Show, can’t remember his name unfortunately.

    However, it would be consistent with Porter Goss’s statement about “national sovereignty” standing in the way of our capturing bin Laden. I suppose you could also interpret that as referring to the problem of getting free run of Pakistan to perform our own search, but the statement makes even more sense in reference to Iran.

    Also, the production values of the last video (October 2004) were so much higher than previous ones, it seems hard to believe that it could have been made while hiding in a cave in Pakistan.

    I too am on board with this theory. Two questions, however: Could he have the sponsorship of the Iranian government, despite being from a competing branch of Islam? And why haven’t we heard more from him if his position is so much more secure now?

  • troll

    *Now, putting economic sanctions. America – the institution is the world’s greates economic terrorist for having put under sanctions many countries in the past who defy its whims and wishes.*

    this is one of the tough one – Americans hate to look at this history and contemplate its consequences

    troll