Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Birds of a feather, flock together

Saudi Arabia tortured and sexually harassed human rights activists, including several women, human rights groups have alleged. Prisoners in the kingdom's Dhahban Prison have been electrocuted and flogged.
Saudi Arabia arrested several women's rights activists earlier this year and influential clerics and intellectuals have also been detained.
Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued statements on Tuesday detailing alleged torture of detained prisoners.
Activists were left unable to walk or stand properly after electrocution and flogging, an Amnesty International release said, with one woman reportedly sexually harassed by interrogators in face masks.
Human Rights Watch's release also speaks of electrocution, as well as whipping and "forcible hugging and kissing" of at least three detained women.
This on top of the murder of Khashoggi and the atrocities committed in the Yemen war but still the US president stands by Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is a "steadfast partner" that has agreed to invest "a record amount of money" in the US, Trump said.
They are indeed a huge buyer of American weaponry but not as big as Trump claims they are. The president has frequently estimated the total extent of defence sales to the Saudi regime at $110bn, and variously said they would generate 450,000, 500,000 or 600,000 jobs.
According to a report by the Centre for International Policy thinktank in Washington, those figures are hugely inflated. The report, US Military Support for Saudi Arabia and the War in Yemen, argues that Saudi Arabia needs the US far more than the other way round, and the administration is underplaying its hand, if it wants to rein in Riyadh.
The actual value of US arms sales to Riyadh since Trump took office is $14.5bn, the report says. Even that figure refers to “letters of offer and acceptance” for new weaponry and support equipment, which is just one step in a longer process involved in arms transactions. It does not represent actual signed contracts.
The report’s author, William Hartung, said it was difficult to pin a precise number of jobs to that volume of sales.
“If we take a generous approach and include all jobs created in direct assembly and production of components, along with the jobs induced by the spending of wages by workers employed in assembly or component production, the $2.5bn in annual arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia would create 17,500 jobs in any given year,” Hartung wrote, pointing out that it was a tiny fraction of 1% of the 160 million US workforce.
 Trump has suggested that other arms suppliers like Russia or China would quickly take any business turned down by the US. But Hartung argued that Saudi armed forces are so dependent on US hardware it would be very hard for them to change suppliers selling totally incompatible equipment.
“The preponderance of US equipment used by Saudi forces also makes it difficult for another supplier like Russia or China to replace the United States as a major supplier to Riyadh,” the report said. “It would take decades for the Kingdom to wean itself from dependence on US equipment, training and support, and new equipment might not be easily interoperable with US-supplied systems.”

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