Conveniently for President
Such are the complications of the uneasy alliance between the United States -- a country that claims to be the world's preeminent defender of human rights -- and Saudi Arabia -- one of the worst places on the planet for anyone who wants to exercise those human rights.
Saudi Arabia is a lovely place to live if you are a rich, male Muslim, but if you are a woman, a nonbeliever or a fan of democracy, watch out or you will end up like Raif Badawi. His crime was to create a website dedicated to free speech. His punishment is 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. The first 50 of those lashes were administered Jan. 10 in a public square in front of hundreds of onlookers who had just finished their Friday prayers.
The next round of 50 whacks had to be delayed because Badawi has not yet recovered from the first flogging. Apparently, that is what passes for mercy on the Arabian Peninsula. The
The Saudis get special treatment because, in a chaotic, violent region, Saudi Arabia is a rare island of stability. The Arab Spring that toppled dictators across the Mideast has turned into a deadly winter of anarchy, repression and extremism, from Libya and Egypt to Syria and Yemen. At the end of a 10-year American occupation, Iraq is a fractured mess with half the country in thrall to the vicious fanatics of Islamic State. It would not be a surprise if some American policymakers harbor a secret nostalgia for the simpler era when U.S. leaders were cozy with Arab authoritarians, such as
The Saudis are the last autocrats left who can still exert some influence over the seismic drift of the Mideast. That’s why Secretary of State