Saudi Arabia and Iran continue to turn their national struggle into a religious conflict. The first is dangerous. The second could be catastrophic.
Yet Riyadh, America’s nominal ally, just demonstrated that it is the more reckless of the two states by executing Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
There is much bad to say about Tehran’s authoritarian and interventionist Islamic regime. But even worse is Saudi Arabia, considered by Washington to be a valued ally.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is essentially a totalitarian state. Last year Human Rights Watch reported that Saudi Arabia continued “to try, convict, and imprison political dissidents and human rights activists solely on account of their peaceful activities.”
Freedom House rated the kingdom at the bottom in terms of both civil liberties and political rights. Purported “antiterrorism” legislation allowed the “authorities to press terrorism charges against anyone who demands reform, exposes corruption or otherwise engages in dissent.”