the latest in a run of recent public relations successes for the desert country and its reigning Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose comments threw doubt on Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the 9/11 terror attacks.
A Saudi-sponsored golf tournament will begin this weekend at Trump’s Bedminster golf club, four years after the crown prince was accused of ordering the murder of prominent Saudi critic and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Activists and experts cautioned that Saudi Arabia’s efforts to improve its global standing were succeeding despite little evidence of a change in its approach to human rights, fueling accusations of Western hypocrisy and undermining calls for reform in the region. Salman was also enjoying favorable headlines this week about his bizarre plans for a futuristic mega-city.
When Trump responded to criticism from the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks about his choice to organize the opulent LIV golf series event at his course in New Jersey, Riyadh’s continuous efforts to distance itself from the Sept. 11, 2001 atrocities received a much-needed boost.
The lucrative breakaway golf circuit is funded by the kingdom’s investment fund, and a Saudi-backed group also acquired Newcastle United, a British sports team, last year.
According to Michael Page, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, Saudi Arabia has adopted a deliberate long-term strategy of investing in sports and celebrities to detract from their reputation for sportswashing, whitewashing, and reputation laundering.
He continued, “The Saudis’ use of money is influencing how people minimize or divert attention away from extremely serious concerns about Saudi Arabia, particularly the country’s violations of human rights.”
Given that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals, the 9/11 attacks are blamed by many Americans on Saudi Arabia. Investigations did not identify any Saudi authorities as being involved, but they did identify Saudi nationals as having ties to the financing of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Any participation is denied by the Saudi government.
Nearly two weeks had passed since President Joe Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed banged fists in Jeddah, a coastal city in Saudi Arabia.
The decision infuriated rights groups because they want the crown prince to be held accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. According to a U.S. intelligence report, Khashoggi was killed there by a group of intelligence operatives with ties to the crown prince.
Salman has admitted guilt in the killing but has denied any involvement, blaming renegade Saudi agents for the crime.
International outrage followed the incident, and in 2019, Biden, who was running for president at the time, threatened to demonize the kingdom.
In addition to being isolated, Bin Salman received harsh criticism over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. According to Abdel Bari Atwan, political analyst and editor of the Arab news website Rai al-Youm, now that he has been given the red carpet treatment, the man is free.
Analysts said that Salman’s apparent comeback from the diplomatic ice underscores the West’s persistent reliance on Saudi oil, particularly in light of the effects of Russia’s conflict in Ukraine. China, Russia, and Iran, a competing regional power, are all sources of concern for Washington and its allies.
The crown prince, one of the most dictatorial leaders in the world, visited the Acropolis in Athens earlier this week and learned about the history of Western democracy.
He traveled to Paris on Thursday, where he had a long handshake with French President Emmanuel Macron in front of the Elysee presidential palace’s red-carpeted staircase. According to a French statement, the two presidents talked about ensuring that European nations had a variety of energy sources.
Activists fear that Salman’s rehabilitation may inspire other autocrats to disregard human rights.
The director of the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, Ali Adubisi, who is based in Berlin, claimed that he had really been successful in mending ties with the West following the death of Khashoggi. These Western leaders have a poor record of protecting human rights. They each have different priorities. And what does this say to civil society? Beware of those leaders.
In addition to purchasing a significant amount of armaments, Saudi Arabia is a possible source of multibillion-dollar building contracts to carry out King Salman’s 2030 development plan for his nation.
This week, bizarre photographs of a 106-mile mirrored structure in the Saudi desert that is part of the crown prince’s idea for a futuristic new city dubbed Neom flooded social media.
Critics have characterized the concept as a half-baked idea that will unavoidably result in a huge white elephant in the desert, however some have praised it as cutting-edge urban innovation. Furthermore, forced evictions and demolitions connected to the project have allegedly breached human rights standards, according to Amnesty International.
Salman has positioned himself as a modernizer, and in addition to the large-scale building initiatives, he has reduced the influence of the clergy, permitted women to drive, and oversaw the opening of theaters and other entertainment venues that were previously unimaginable in his traditional kingdom.
However, the country is far more authoritarian than it was under the crown prince’s predecessors, with rights organizations criticizing arbitrary detentions, the use of the death sentence for minors, and Riyadh’s destructive war in Yemen, one of the world’s poorest nations.
According to the analyst Atwan, Saudi Arabia’s readmission into the world community in spite of its abuses is likely to fuel more skepticism of the West’s efforts to uphold higher standards for human rights.
Actually, the West is shooting itself in the foot. He claimed that while speaking on human rights, the Arab people does not trust them. No, sorry, they say. We don’t believe you, you know that. We no longer have faith in you.