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Gottinger writes: "Just days before Saudi Arabia performed a mass execution of 47 people, including four pro-democracy protesters, the US approved tens of millions in military contracts to the Saudi government."

A protest against the Saudi Arabian government in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. (photo: Getty Images)
A protest against the Saudi Arabian government in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. (photo: Getty Images)

US Approved Millions in Military Contracts to Saudi Arabia Just Days Before Saudis Executed Pro-Democracy Protesters

By Paul Gottinger, Reader Supported News

04 January 16


ust days before Saudi Arabia performed a mass execution of 47 people, including four pro-democracy protesters, the US approved tens of millions in military contracts to the Saudi government. The contracts include $24 million to Raytheon for equipment relating to Patriot missiles, $12 million to Advanced Electronics for electronics updates to F-15 fighter jets, and tens of millions of dollars to Boeing for implementation of a laser guided, air-to-ground weapons system.

The Pentagon announced the contracts three days before the execution of four non-violent Shia protesters. The majority of the executions were carried out in the form of beheadings – the same form of execution favored by ISIS.

The weapons contracts draw attention to the US government’s continued arming of the Saudi government, which regularly engages in human rights abuses at home and abroad. Despite recent allegations of war crimes against Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen, the US continues to replenish the Saudi arsenal with billions in weapons.

As a result, Amnesty International has accused the US of violating the Arms Trade Treaty. The treaty prohibits the sale of arms if there is knowledge the weapons will be used against civilians. The International Committee of the Red Cross has documented 100 instances of the Saudi-led coalition attacking hospitals in Yemen.

Among those executed earlier this week was Sheik Nimr al-Nimr, who was well known to Shia Muslims around the world. Al-Nimr was a leader of the 2011 Arab Spring protest in Saudi Arabia’s Shia region. His execution sparked protests in multiple countries including Iran, where protesters set the Saudi embassy ablaze. In response to the embassy fire, Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic relations with Iran.

Human Rights Watch reported that al-Nimr “supported only peaceful protests and eschewed all violent opposition to the government.” In US cables released by Wikileaks, al-Nimr stated his support for “American ideals” like peace and justice. He also said acts of violence “directly contradict the spirit of Shi’ism” and as a result, Shia Muslims such as himself “are natural allies for America.”

The three other protesters set to death were teenagers at the time of their arrest. These young men participated in peaceful pro-democracy protests during Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring. Yet Saudi Arabia, fearing a democratic movement that could challenge the royal family’s complete control over the country, has accused the protesters of terrorism.

The three young men executed were Ali al-Ribh, just 18 at the time of his arrest, Mohammad Shioukh, 19 at time of his arrest, and Mohammad Suweimal, about whom little is known.

In addition to these three executed protesters, three other young protesters who were minors at the time of their arrest have been sentenced to death and are awaiting their executions. They are Ali al-Nimr, who is Sheikh al-Nimr’s nephew and was arrested at 17, Dawoud al-Marhoon, who was 17 at the time of his arrest, and Abdullah al-Zaher, who was 15.

Many of these young men awaiting execution or recently executed were tortured while they were detained. It is unlikely that any of them received a fair trial.

Human Rights Watch has “documented longstanding due process violations in Saudi Arabia’s criminal justice system that make it difficult for a defendant to get a fair trial.”

Reader Supported News spoke with Ali al-Ribh’s mother prior to her son’s execution on January 1. His mother said that while he was in prison, Ali experienced both physical and psychological torture, which was used to force him to make a false confession.

“All charges are without proof or evidence,” Ali’s mother said. “The whole thing is a malicious sectarian case and nothing more.”

“My son has always had a great love for freedom and equality. The injustice and discrimination against the Shia community in Saudi Arabia affected him deeply,” she said. “Ali was kindhearted. At an early age he knew he wanted to help his community by working to bring about peaceful democratic changes.”

According to Ali’s mother, Ali was held in solitary and was refused medical treatment after receiving a broken nose, injuries to his head, limbs, and back while being tortured. He was also subjected to sleep deprivation and did not receive adequate meals.

The executions of these four Shia protesters have been met with widespread condemnation. Amnesty International described the executions as a demonstration of Saudi Arabia’s “utter disregard for human rights.”

Philip Luther, the director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program, stated the killing of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr suggests the Saudi government is “using the death penalty in the name of counter-terror to settle scores and crush dissidents.”

Brian Dooley, of Human Rights First, criticized Washington’s support for Saudi Arabia. He wrote, “Washington’s muted response to mounting Saudi violations – 2015 saw at least 157 executions after unfair trials, the most for two decades, and a continuing clamp down on non-violent critics of the government – only enables the repression.”

These executions have already had wide-ranging political impacts and may further destabilize the Middle East. This is likely to be the case in Iraq, where the US is hoping to minimize sectarian tensions, which force Sunni Muslims to support ISIS.

Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi stated that the execution of Sheik al-Nimr “would lead to nothing but more destruction.” He continued, “Violating human rights … leads to repercussions on the security, stability and the social fabric of the peoples of the region.”

For the families of those who’ve been executed, the broader political fallout may only heighten the pain of losing a family member.

Ali’s mother told me, “Ali’s imprisonment deeply touched our lives as his parents. Ali aspired to become an electronics engineer and to complete his university studies in America. But injustice prevented him from achieving his wishes.”

“My son was taken away from me. He suffered from all kinds of torment and abuse, and still he always said, ‘Don't worry, I am not the only one who is oppressed and sentenced to death. There are many people like me.’”

“Ali wanted to raise awareness of the injustice toward Shia in Saudi Arabia. He wanted the world to know about all of the peaceful protesters who’ve been wrongly accused of crimes. Ali wished to stand for all the oppressed, and to have all free people stand with him, so we can all have a victory of freedom and democracy.”

Ali’s mother concluded, “Ali’s spirit of hope and his love gave us strength, but now when I think of him, all I feel is pain.”

Paul Gottinger is a staff reporter at RSN whose work focuses on the Middle East and the arms industry. He can be reached on Twitter @paulgottinger or via This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+33 # Balthazar 2016-01-04 14:13
And WE wonder why THEY hate us so...
+5 # Kootenay Coyote 2016-01-04 16:34
& why do We hate Them?
+1 # Brian Flaherty 2016-01-04 14:22
See! That's the problem with LibSymps. . .They haven't learned to tell the difference between SOB's!!!

The Saudis may be jerks and/or "Anti-Dems". . but, they're OUR "Anti-Dems". . .And, we gotta support our "friends!"

And, when we give military aid to our "friends" it helps OUR economy! In this very simple way: The US Gummint does NOT "subsidize" Private Enterprise. . .But, when our Gummint gives military aid [ie: US Dollars] to our friends, they spend that money with US Arms Manufacturers. . .providing jobs for hard-working Murrican workers!

Thus, the Private Enterprise System functions like a well-OILed Machine; our "Friends" are able to defend THEIR Way of Life against their enemies (and, we are not sucked into endless Regime-Change); and, Murrican Workers benefit. . .A Win-Win situation all the way around!

And, it helps the LibSymp Movement, too. . .They bitch about the Murrican Oligarchs messing with the World Balance; and, provides an impetus for LibSymp Fund-Raisers and the LibSymps feel like they have a Purpose in their Lives!

Wasn't that easy to understand??!

PS. . .It also provides a boost to the Murrican Flag Industry!
+2 # angryspittle 2016-01-04 15:34
Jesus are you deluded.
+21 # futhark 2016-01-04 17:19
This has got to be satire. Yet, I agree with Mr. Flaherty that the system of American military aid to its perceived allies is done without recourse to any standards of ethics. The process exists solely for the expeditious advancement of the interests of the Murrican Oligarchs, subsidized entirely by American taxpayers who receive little, if any, advantage therefrom.
+10 # Shades of gray matter 2016-01-04 14:46
Plus, it's a standard Israeli trick: Arm ($$$$) both (several) sides in a Mideast conflict and help them to kill each other on a "grand" scale. Israel has thrived on this for decades, especially since she has manipulated US into taking the brunt of the expense, casualties.
Perhaps the Royals should flush out ISIS, now that Salafi Islamist ISIS has turned on Wahabbis. If Saudis killed several "pro-democracy" activists, they got every single one of them in the Kingdom.
0 # Caliban 2016-01-05 01:35
This grand (and quite expensive) Israeli strategy for messing up the Middle East--you are joking right? If you are not kidding I, for one, would like to see some proof.
+8 # janie1893 2016-01-04 14:55
But, one day soon, they will come for us!
+11 # turtleislander 2016-01-04 14:55
Why is anyone surprised?
+7 # Emmanuel Goldstein 2016-01-04 19:18
I agree. Business-as-usu al for the Saudi branch of the American Empire.
+51 # harleysch 2016-01-04 15:05
Release the 28 pages of the Congressional 9/11 report on the Saudi role in 9/11 terror attacks. Both Bush and Obama have refused to declassify the 28 pages.

It is time that those American politicians who protect and sponsor the Saudis, including Bush and Obama, must answer for their promotion of barbarism. Obama's continuing military aid to the Saudis -- including full support for the genocide in Yemen -- makes him an international criminal!
+27 # jdd 2016-01-04 15:17
If the 28 redacted pages of the 9/11 Joint Inquiry Report had been released by Obama, there would be no ISIS, no Al-Nusra, and no war in Syria. Enough is Enough.
+15 # futhark 2016-01-04 17:23
Which is the precise point of not releasing these pages. ISIS and the civil war in Syria inspire the fear necessary to maintain public support for a technologically enhanced and oversize military machine. Just think of the economic upset, the jobs lost, the profits annihilated if the American people were not made to live in constant fear of violence by foreign nationals or their agents!
-16 # MidwestTom 2016-01-04 17:19
The ONLY candidate who might release the 28 pages is Trump. All of the others are too tied to the Establishment.
+7 # Jim Rocket 2016-01-04 17:49
Trump might do it just because he enjoys being the bull in the china shop but it's more likely that they would sit him down and explain why it can't be released - and he would agree being a member of the .001% himself.
+15 # Emmanuel Goldstein 2016-01-04 19:20
You think billionaire real-estate developer Donald Trump is not a member of the Establishment????

+1 # lfeuille 2016-01-04 20:18
NO way would it be worth it.
0 # dipierro4 2016-01-04 20:26
I have a fantasy that Trump, clueless as he is, takes office. And Vic Nuland and some of her neocon friends walk in and tell him, "We're gonna knock off so-and-so, then destabilize this country here and create some chaos over there, and then take advantage of it all, and here's what's gonna happen..." And Pres Trump, after picking his jaw up off the floor, says, "Wow, this is the sh*t that both parties have been doing?! Uh-uh, get the F out of here, that's crazy!"

I think it is possible. Of course, I would sooner not find out the hard way.
-8 # MidwestTom 2016-01-04 17:21
I certainly do not know what the 28 pages say, but they probably either expose Saudi Arabia or Israel. If it is Israel Bernie certainly will not expose them, not are about Trump. He actually might Auction them off to the highest bidder.
+9 # jdd 2016-01-04 19:30
You can google. The 28 pages of this report, headed by former Sen. Graham of Florida, extensively detail the Saudi role in the support and financing of the 911 hijackers.The former Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Bandar is directly implicated. It might explain why the Saudi royals were whisked out of the country at a time when all flights were grounded by G W Bush. The relevant chapter of the Joint Congressional Inquiry Report was then "classified" by Bush, and despite the demands of numbers of Congressman, among others, has been still kept "classified" by President Obama, who operates their protection racket. As Sen. Graham has stated at a recent press conference, "We know they did it, "and they know we know." Yet nothing is done and they continue their barbarism and sponsorship or terrorism without fear of punishment.
-4 # MidwestTom 2016-01-04 20:12
If this is true, why hasn't this come upon the debates? Makes Trump's stances even more appealing.
+11 # Radscal 2016-01-04 18:09
I completely agree that those 28 pages should be released.

But, considering what BS the rest of that Report is, I don't expect those pages to finally reveal the full truth about 9/11.

In fact, I fear that focus on that one issue tamps down calls for a full NEW and independent investigation with complete subpoena powers.
+1 # jdd 2016-01-04 19:44
The fallacy in your thinking is that as long as that entire chapter is hidden from the American people, the authorship of 911 will remain an unsolved atrocity. Or simply as GW Bush stated, almost right away, "It was bin-Laden," who was by then an expendable patsy. End of discussion. Bomb Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet Wahabist terrorism has proliferated far beyond Al-Qaeda, itself a US/Saudi/Britis h creation.There is obviously more to the whole story, as we learned at the trial of 911 kingpin Zacarias Moussaoui, but opening the 28 pages will begin the process and permanently alter USA policy.
+6 # Radscal 2016-01-04 20:07
I wrote that it's important to get those pages released.

One of the interesting things from the Moussaoui trial was they entered into evidence a video of the second plane. The scene opens with the camera filming down the river. Then the plane enters the frame and then the camera follows it up river until the WTC is centered in the frame. Then the camera stops and waits for the plane to crash.

Foreknowledge? Is this the video reported to have been taken, but not found when the cops caught the van. The cops got the still cameras, but not the video. The still included photos of the photographers "high-fiving" and smiling. One was rather artistic. It had a guy holding a lit lighter while in the background, the tower burns away.
+21 # REDPILLED 2016-01-04 15:22
As others have commented, no surprise here. The U.S. has a long record of supporting and rewarding brutal, anti-democracy regimes, especially since 1945.

The U.S., an oligarchy, has no reason to support democracy anywhere. Only power, resources (oil) and geostrategic positioning matter to the ORCS (Oligarchic Ruling Class Sociopaths) who rule us and desire to rule the planet.
+22 # goodsensecynic 2016-01-04 15:24
You Americans are getting off light.

Canada's egregious past prime minister Stephen Harper was tossed out of office having agreed to a $15 billion (with a "b") arms deal with the Saudis. It is the biggest arms sale in Canadian history and a hideous embarrassment to those of us who object to multiple public beheadings, but do not object to women driving automobiles.

Now, newly minted Prime Minister Justin "Sunny Ways" Trudeau (our answer to Barack "Hopey Changie" Obama) is stuck trying to look like the transformationa l chief magistrate he claims to be - while failing to make his "refugee targets," dithering over his campaign promise to remove Canadian jet fighter-bombers from Iraq and generally restoring faith in Canada as something better than the environmental/f oreign policy pariah that Harper turned it into.

Good luck to everyone involved, but I am cautiously pessimistic.
+21 # angryspittle 2016-01-04 15:35
We need to stoop feeding all of the damn conflicts by pouring america made arms into the area. Just look at th weaponry and vehicles used by Isis...all American from guns to hummus.
+9 # angryspittle 2016-01-04 15:35
Humvees. Damn spell check.
+16 # Stilldreamin1 2016-01-04 15:57
No surprises here. This is how we roll- as the heads roll. Look back at the statements of Jeane Kirkpatrick or go a little further back to John Foster Dulles. You want to run the world for your own benefit?- you have to be willing to kill a lot of your brothers and sisters.
+12 # Radscal 2016-01-04 18:14
One of the all-time "Greats" was Secretary of State Madeline "Mad Woman" Albright. When asked about the deaths of 1/2 million Iraqi children due to US policies during the Clinton Administration, she said, "The price, we think is worth it."
+6 # jdd 2016-01-04 19:54
Yea, truly an evil woman, who's father Josef Korbel, mentored Condoleezza Rice. But now Hillary is vying for depravity honors with her role in the destruction of Libya and trashing of Syria. Not content with the millions of victims and refugees she has help create, she wants a "no-fly zone" in Syria to put us on the path to WW III.
+10 # danireland46 2016-01-04 16:14
Just another example of how screwed up our priorities are. The Cheney/Rumsfeld mantra was "Spread Democracy in the Middle East". So who did they align with, Saudi Arabia, a despotic Kingdom.
This deal won't be aborted however, because keeping the MIC pipeline flowing is at least as important as the Saudi pipeline.
+8 # Anonymot 2016-01-04 17:15
WE say "We should do this. We should do that." The DOD people, the arms manufacturers, and the private dealers in death frankly don't give a damn what we say. They make a fat living doing exactly what they do. Killing is other people's business. It's all legal and official. This government's for it, the last government was, and the next one will be, too.

This is what we and our predecessors thought was going to be the world's great dream. It's the species, folks - fatally flawed.
+4 # AUCHMANNOCH 2016-01-04 18:55
It ain't the species mate it's the hubris and selfish self regard of every empire in history.The American Empire is heading for oblivion like every empire before it. The next empire won't be any better.Maybe you are right - maybe it is the species if you happen to be born into an empire. I remember when I used to sell stuff to American soldiers in Germany who were waiting to be sent to Vietnam. They were always talking about "When I get back to the world." To them the U.S.A. WAS the world or the only part worth anything.
+1 # elizabethblock 2016-01-04 19:33
You know what? I'm tired of reading the comments. Most of them are ... well, the writers did not obey the dictum "make sure that brain is running before engaging mouth."
I try not to add a comment unless I actually have something useful and/or interesting to say. I think I'll stop.
+4 # ChrisCurrie 2016-01-04 19:59
Given that Saudi Arabia has been one of the leading financers of ISIS and other Wahhabi terrorist organizations in the Middle East (including the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks), the US Government should seriously reconsider any further attempts to arm Saudi Arabia.
+3 # janie1893 2016-01-05 01:17
The only enemies of the US are countries that do not purchase war material from the US. If we don't ensure war somewhere on this small planet, we will have to pay a great deal more for our cars, our luxurious homes and our fast food. My God, how awful!
0 # ProfT 2016-01-05 21:11
Got to wonder how many they would have executed, without our bribes.

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