Free Speech Trumps Business. Not in the U.S.
By Rachel Ehrenfeld
Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 @ 4:03AM
Left: Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstroem © AFP
In an unexpected and unprecedented step the Swedish government announced that “the principles of human rights were more important than a military deal,” and therefore it will cancel a lucrative arms deal with Saudi Arabia, its fourth biggest arms purchaser.
The announcement came after Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstroem was blocked by the Saudis from speaking at the Arab League meeting on Monday. She planned to address Human Rights violations and particularly the need to “strengthen gender equality, improve women’s access to resources and increase women’s representation,” in the region.
Wallstroem was invited despite her public criticism of the Saudis for sentencing blogger Raef Badawi to 1,000 lashes and 10 years imprisonment for insulting Islam. Last January Wallstroem Twitted, “One must protest against what are nearly medieval methods” of punishment and said flogging was “cruel attempt to silence modern forms of expression.” Apparently, the Arab League was willing to overlook her criticism in order to honor Sweden’s recognition of the non-existing state of Palestine, last October. But this good will was not extended to Wallstroem’s views on Human Rights.
When last January, on his way to Riyadh to congratulate the new King Salman, President Obama was asked to raise with Monarch the concern about the flogging of the blogger. Obama told CNN that the best way to deal with Saudi Arabia was by applying steady pressure “even as we are getting business done that needs to get done”.
Obama reasoned, “Sometimes we need to balance our need to speak to them [the Saudis] about human rights issues with immediate concerns we have in terms of counter-terrorism or dealing with regional stability, ” he elaborated.
On balance, when money comes up against principles, money invariably wins in the U.S., especially when it comes to weapons sales.
The Saudis are the biggest importers of American weapons. Between October 2010 and October 2014, the U.S. sold $90.435 billion worth of defense equipment to the Saudis, and according to a new study released by IHS Jane’s, according to “planned deliveries, imports will increase by 52 per cent to $9.8 billion in 2015.” Thus it is unlikely the President would upset the applecart.
In a statement expressing “condemnation and astonishment” the Arab League denounced Wallström’s remarks, as “incompatible with the fact that the constitution of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is based on sharia [law].” According to them, the barbaric Islamic law, which is also enforced by ISIS, “has guaranteed human rights and preserved people’s lives, possessions, honor and dignity.”
Actually, most Western Infidel political leaders, including the U.S. President, have made similar statements about the so-called ‘religion of peace’. Indeed, it would have been surprising for Obama, who fails to identify Islamic terrorism, to act as courageously as Wallstroem by condemning the barbaric Islamic law and the countries that use it to suppress infidels, gays, women, and free speech.