Think it over

We should stop doing business with Saudi Arabia

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
A haunting presence. Source: AP

The world is still in shock at the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident journalist. It shows in the most dramatic way that we must consider Saudi Arabia in the same category as Libya under Muammar Gaddafi or Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

But this debate doesn’t seem to come at the right time for the international democratic public. There’s opposition to democracy and the rule of law all around the world. Even in the European Union, we see shocking developments in Poland, Hungary and Italy. Right now, Americans and Europeans are wrapped up in their own problems. Couldn’t we just keep on relying on Saudi Arabia to act as a bulwark against Iran? After all, recently it seemed like the kingdom has been gradually becoming more open, right?

No. Saudi Arabia has no human rights, no press freedom nor freedom of speech. People who think differently, such as blogger Raif Badawi, are lashed. No excuses are going to change that. Nor is the US any good as a defender of human rights.

The only thing that could help is clarity from Germany and Europe. It is irresponsible to export weapons, and it took a long time for Chancellor Angela Merkel to stop them. We need a whole new look at arms export controls. The Bundestag must play a key role in that, in order to end the 19th-century-style back room dealmaking that’s going on in the Federal Security Council.

Likewise, the CEOs of this world should also steer clear of Riyadh. Those attending the investor conference share moral responsibility. We should also bear in mind the fact that Saudi investments play a big role in Silicon Valley.

“We need Saudi Arabia.” Really? This has been an excuse for way too long. Mistakes can be fixed. We can manage without this backward murderous state.

To contact the author: columnist@handelsblatt.com

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