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As we speak, 10 women are going on trial for advocating their right to drive cars. Yeah, to drive cars. That thing that we do instead of walking ½ a mile to the bagel shop around the corner? That’s a freedom that these women are risking their lives for.
They come from Saudi Arabia – one of the strangest countries I’ve ever researched. This case is a perfect example: on the one hand, the government lifted the ban on female drivers just weeks after the protests that led to the arrests of these women activists. But, the protestors were still held in prison where they were reportedly tortured and sexually assaulted. And they are going on trial as “traitors” and “agents of foreign embassies.” Amnesty International called the charges “bogus.” How does that make sense? It would be as if LBJ passed the Civil Rights Act and then arrested MLK for marching on Washington to ask for the Civil Rights Act.
But that’s Saudi Arabia. It’s a country of contradictions: massive wealth and modern technology in a fundamentally conservative country that bases its laws off of what would have been appropriate during the age of Muhammad 1500 years ago. Their leadership, namely their crown prince, is young, seemingly modern, and pushes social reforms at the same time that he eliminates rivals, imprisons protestors, and appeases Islamic fundamentalists in his administration. What’s really happening is that the Saudi government wants to appear to foreign powers to be reforming its terrible human rights record without actually reforming its terrible human rights record within the country. But no one influential within the most powerful governments on the planet would fall for this transparent fabrication, right? Oh yeah, and, apropos of absolutely nothing, the Saudi Crown Prince is BFFs with Jared Kushner. But I’m sure it’s fine.
Today we’re talking about Saudi Arabia. What has been their relationship with the western world in the past? Who is Mohammad bin Salman and how did he get so close with Trump’s son-in-law? And why are we so openly supportive of a country that so clearly violates human rights? Spoiler: it’s oil. Because of course it is. This is Anti-Social Studies; I’m Emily Glankler; settle in and let’s get some historical context.
Act 1: 20th Century Saudi History
Historically, the Arabian peninsula has been home to nomadic tribes and travelers. Its residents have always been able to capitalize on its strategic position in the middle of the Middle East, connected on land by the Silk Road and on water by the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. This was especially true because the Arabian Peninsula has been home to Islam’s two holiest cities for almost 1500 years, making the peninsula a prime destination for Muslim merchants and pilgrims visiting Mecca and Medina.
As the historical and ethnic home to Islam and a central stopping point on most major trade routes, the Arabian Peninsula has been kind of a big deal for a long time. This is especially true relative to the rest of the Middle East. In my research, I came to the probably oversimplified conclusion that the Arabian Peninsula has a pretty epic superiority complex when it comes to the rest of the region that can help explain most of their interactions with their neighbors. And this was true even before they discovered oil and got really cocky about it.
Alright, so Saudi Arabia’s history is long and complex and I don’t have time for that. Basically we need to know two things: Wahhābism and the Saud family.
Wahhabism and the Saud Famiy
Wahhabism is a really strict branch of Sunni Islam, named after Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. He was a religious scholar in the 1700s who called for the purification of Islam in response to what he saw as sacrilegious practices that had sprung up in the thousand years since Muhammad founded Islam. As Enlightenment ideals were spreading out of Europe and the Industrial Revolution was revving up, some cultures experienced a backlash against progress that moved societies further away from the teachings of their religion. This happened especially in the Islamic world where religious scholars view the Qur’an as the literal word of God with very little room for adjustment.
So, from what I can tell, Wahhabism is to Islam what the Puritans were to Christianity – you know, the guys with the buckles on their hats who said we were all going to Hell unless we stopped dancing or something? It was a real Footloose situation in colonial New England. Anyway, Wahhabism is like that for Islam. And it has become the most important denomination of Islam in Saudi Arabia because al-Wahhab, its founder, created an alliance with a man named ibn Saud. Together, they founded the first Saudi state in the middle of the 18th century.
The Arabian Peninsula has always been home to various tribes, many of whom were nomadic until relatively recently, and the Saud family consistently had to fight for dominance in the peninsula. Since the first Saudi state was founded, there have been two more Saudi kingdoms – both tied to Wahhabism – but the one we’re concerned with is the Third Saudi State. They took control of Riyadh as their capital in 1902 and came to control most of the peninsula – what we now know as the state of Saudi Arabia – by 1932. During that time, their biggest rival was the other major Islamic power in the region: the Ottoman Empire.
If you remember from season 1, by the 1900s the Ottoman Empire was ruthlessly nicknamed “the sick man of Europe” but they still were very powerful, especially in the Middle East. The new Saudi state looked around for other powers who were also trying to weaken the Ottomans and they landed on Great Britain. The British had been eyeing land in the Middle East for some time and they got what they wanted after the Ottomans lost in World War I. Britain ruled some land in the Middle East, including Iraq and the Transjordan, as mandates, and they saw the Saudis as allies in the region. This was a pretty awkward alliance, considering you had a strict isolationist Islamic kingdom allying with a modern imperialist Christian power, but hey, weirder things have happened in history. Like remember when the medieval Catholic Church burned Bibles so that regular Christians couldn’t read it for themselves? And when the British subjugated the entire planet for a cup of tea? Yeah. People are the worst and history is weird, man.
Anyway, by 1932, the Saud family had firm control over most of the Arabian peninsula and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was officially founded. The founder and king Ibn Saud’s main focus externally was maintaining independence – remember, this is still in the time of European imperialism when the British are running around with a permanent marker drawing everyone’s borders for them. But his domestic priority was asserting his country’s legitimacy as the supreme home of Islam (meaning that their version of Islam – Wahhabism – was also the correct one.) But, Ibn Saud was always more concerned with his political power than his religious puritanism – something the family has consistently been criticized for. Meaning, he and his family have been willing to bend the rules on their strict interpretation of Islam if it means consolidating power or economic gain for their family.
For the record, Saudi Arabia does have other religions. There is a small population of Shiite Muslims and some Christians, although all of those are foreigners just living in the country. Historically there was a Jewish population but they were ::cough:: “escorted” out of the country by the Saudi military in 1950. Side note: Jews are straight up just not allowed inside Saudi Arabia. Up until a few years ago, any foreigner wanting to come work in the kingdom had to sign a document promising that they were not Jewish. Recently, the government has allowed people of all faiths to enter the country (although, if I were Jewish I don’t think I’d like to be the first to test that policy); but Israeli nationals are still banned. Remember from last season that most of the Islamic world doesn’t recognize Israel’s existence as a nation. Anyway, public worship and displays by religions other than Islam are prohibited and even within Islam, non-Wahhabi Muslim groups are limited in their ability to practice their faith publicly – even other Sunni branches.
Essentially, Saudi Arabia is governed by the Wahhabi version of sharia law – or the law as dictated by the Quran. Considering that the Quran was compiled in the 600s, this makes many aspects of Saudi life… er… behind the times? You know, like women not being able to drive cars? I always wondered how they justified this: “There is no mention of women driving cars in the Quran!” But… there’s also no mention of men driving cars. Because cars didn’t exist. I’m sure there was some passage about men leading camel caravans and they just rounded it up to cars, but still. It’s dumb.
So how did a strict, fundamentalist Islamic state come to be the closest ally to the Western Judeo-Christian world in the Middle East? Well, again, the Saudis allied with the British against their common enemy of the Ottomans. And then, the Saudis tentatively sided with the Allies in World War II with the promise that they would be a founding member of the United Nations after the war. Basically, the new Saudi Kingdom wanted legitimacy on the world stage and so they looked to the western powers to give them that validation – even though western values ran almost directly opposite to Wahhabi teaching. Again, in Saudi Arabia, politics and power trump religious values within the royal family. And yes, my use of the verb “trump” was intentional. We’ll get there…
From what I’ve gathered in researching Saudi Arabia, it seems that they care more about their enemies than their allies. Meaning, they are more concerned with beating the people they don’t like – and they will work with just about anyone who is also trying to beat the people they don’t like. In this case, the “people they don’t like” are generally Shi’ite nations who are a power threat in the region, most importantly, Iran. You know who else isn’t a big fan of Iran? You guessed it: the United States. But we’ll get to that in a second.
Saudi Arabia is also not super concerned with creating some worldwide Arab movement. They are not very involved in the Arab League and other attempts at pan-Arab ethnic unity. They see themselves as the purest Muslims because they are ethnically Arab, like Muhammad, and they live on the land where Islam was founded. So they don’t really see the need to involve themselves with other Muslims nations unless it is directly in their self interest. So in terms of a country that could potentially work with non-Muslim powers like the U.S., the Saudis are “open for business” – at least relative to other states in the Middle East.
So Saudi Arabia is essentially putting out these signals into the atmosphere: We’re willing to work with the West!… We hate Iran!… Oh, and we have a ton of OIL! ::record scratch:: and the U.S. is like, “Saddle up, boys, we’re going to Saudi Arabia!”
Act 2: U.S.-Saudi Relations
The U.S. has been interested in Saudi Arabia since 1933, when the Standard Oil Company of California – now Chevron – won a 60-year contract to explore eastern Saudi Arabia. They discovered oil there just five years later and the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have had an “It’s complicated” relationship ever since.
I say complicated because, well, let’s just say that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia don’t have much in common. You know, as far as religion, government and economic structure, all around culture,… oh yeah, and general freedoms and human rights. But American leadership has always recognized the strategic importance of a friendly Saudi Arabia – again, friendly to U.S. presidents and business interests not, say, to its own people.
But having an ally in the region has only become more crucial as the 20th century progressed, especially in 1979 when the Iranian Revolution installed a fiercely anti-American regime in one of the other largest countries in the Middle East. We’ve found it pretty easy to look the other way on the Saudi’s undemocratic practices because we need them both strategically and economically.
At the end of World War II, just before he died, FDR met with the Saudi King on a US ship off the coast of Egypt. At this meeting, the two leaders discussed oil rights, the Allies use of Saudi airspace at the end of the war, and the idea of the Allies creating a Jewish homeland in the Middle East after the war was over. This meeting took place just weeks after the Soviets had liberated Auschwitz and the public was starting to realize the full extent of the horrors of the Holocaust. The Allies knew that Saudi Arabia was one of the largest powers in the region and if they agreed to allow 10,000 Jews to emigrate to Palestine, other Arab nations might follow in their support… well, not support, but they might follow in their tepid acknowledgement of those Jews’ right to exist in Palestine. That part of the meeting was a no-go. You should check out Episode 116 on the modern Middle East if you want more detail.
FDR was able to charm the Saudi king into a long-term secure relationship between US oil companies and the Saudi government. Roosevelt gifted the king one of his own wheelchairs (along with a plane, so don’t worry… he didn’t just get a used wheelchair) and supposedly for the rest of the king’s life when he would show visitors around his palace he made a point to take them by the wheelchair saying, “This chair is my most precious possession. It is the gift of my great and good friend President Roosevelt, on whom Allah has had mercy.” Whoa, nice regifting Franklin.
The rise in the Saudi oil industry, supported by American companies, had some positive and negative effects. Obviously, it greatly increased state revenue, which before then had come primarily from taxes and the Hajj – Muslim visitors coming to pay their respects at the Ka’aba in Mecca. But eventually, Saudi Arabia produced on average 10.7 million barrels of oil each day, and over 70% of that was immediately exported.
The Saudis set up Aramco – the Arabian American Oil Company – that was jointly owned by the Saudi government and two American oil companies: Standard Oil and Texaco. Production was mostly managed by the foreign companies but under the official control of the Saudi government, with the agreement that 50% of the net income would go to the Saudis.
Through this new wealth, cultural life exploded in Saudi Arabia. Mass media like newspaper and radio sprang up and foreigners flooded into the region. All of this cultural change and new levels of wealth disturbed many of the ultra-conservative Muslims who lived, and ruled, in the country. In a country already with a history of distrust in foreigners, xenophobia became rampant and many devout supporters of Wahhabism were outraged at the new society that was springing up. They often responded by clamping down on societal progress even more harshly than they had before.
As they grew more influential in the region and across the globe, the Saudis started throwing their weight around. In 1960, they helped found OPEC – the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries – which gave its members more power to regulate output, and thus oil prices. Their true power was first showcased in 1973 when Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil producers organized an oil boycott in protest of U.S. assistance to Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Even though the boycott didn’t last long, the price of oil worldwide quadrupled. Major nations had to start paying attention to the Saudis.
Over the 1960s and the 1970s the Saudi government took over more of the actual production of Aramco by buying out foreign shareholders. By 1984 the president of Aramco was a Saudi citizen and today the company is known as Saudi Aramco – heavy emphasis on the Saudi. But, U.S. companies Chevron, Dow Chemical, and ExxonMobil still have some refining and petrochemical projects in the country.
The peak of the U.S.-Saudi alliance came in the early 1990s during the Persian Gulf War, when the U.S. stationed troops in Saudi Arabia as we fought Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq, the first time under Bush 1. But, discontent among Saudi citizens grew as U.S. troops remained in the country for “security purposes” until 2005. Yeah, I don’t know why we keep being surprised that countries get annoyed when our troops just stick around like a bad houseguest. Go home, guys!
The greatest test to our relationship was posed by Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was born in Saudi Arabia but spent most of the 1980s fighting the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan. Ironically, because his forces – part of a larger resistance called the mujahideen – were resisting communism, they were supported by… you guessed it… the United States!
After returning to his home country, he left for good in 1992, partly in protest of the royal family’s support for U.S. forces, and he was officially stripped of Saudi citizenship in 1994. He set up a new permanent base in Afghanistan, protected by the new Taliban leadership, and one of his major inspirations for his ensuing terrorist campaigns was his fatwa against “Americans occupying the land of the two holy mosques,” or Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. This obviously culminated in the September 11 attacks and, considering that 15 of the 19 attackers were Saudi citizens, it unleashed a wave of anti-Saudi sentiment in the U.S.
In the years after the attacks there have been controversies that have increased tensions between the two countries. When the Bush administration released its 9/11 Commission Report, 28 pages were omitted. Many speculated that this may have been to cover up any Saudi officials who were involved in the attacks, which would make it incredibly difficult to continue the partnership but so far that’s just a theory.
In 2016, the U.S. Congress passed legislation that allowed the families of 9/11 victims to sue the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a highly unusual decision by Congress that goes against the general principle of sovereign immunity. Now, those families probably won’t ever be able to actually collect any damages – I doubt the Saudis are going to write those checks any time soon – but it was notable because it was passed over President Obama’s veto. The point is that U.S. presidents have a long history of overlooking pretty egregious actions by the Saudi government so that they can keep a friendly face in the Middle East and keep the oil pipelines open. Which brings us to…
Act 3: The Apprentice: Saudi Edition
OK. So the reason why Saudi Arabia has been popping up in the news the last few months was because of the murder of a journalist named Jamal Khashoggi. He was Saudi, but living in the United States and working as a columnist for the Washington Post, among a few other things. He was fiercely critical of the Saudi government and then, in October of 2018 he went to the Saudi consulate in Turkey to get legal documents so that he could get married and he was never seen again.
Now, I’m not going to get into the intricacies of the ensuing investigation because a) it’s really complicated and b) I don’t want to get anything wrong since this is such a recent and emotional topic for many. All I will say is that based on the investigations that have occurred in the months after his disappearance, everyone seems pretty comfortable saying that the Saudis had Khashoggi assassinated. Everyone except the Saudi government and the Trump administration, that is. Why is that?
Well, it all goes back to a burgeoning bromance between Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and the Saudi crown prince (meaning, the son of the king), Mohammed bin Salman (known colloquially as MbS). Jared, 38, has become a fierce supporter of the 33-year-old crown prince, whom he has met on several occasions; and the two seem to be just two friendly 30-something bros looking for a good time reshaping the geopolitical landscape.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
First, who is MbS? Technically, he’s next-in-line to rule Saudi Arabia but it would appear that he is pretty much doing most of the day-to-day decision making already while his father remains the symbolic figurehead. He has put Saudi Arabia on a path toward social and economic liberalization as part of his Vision 2030 plan to diversity the Saudi economy. All of this, so far, according to the American worldview, is good. He’s restricted the power of the religious police and done a lot to enhance women’s rights – increasing women in the workforce, allowing women to attend more public events, and allowing them to drive their own cars. Imagine that, a woman driver. Who would have thought? So, he’s pretty cool, right?
Well… he’s also committed a lot of human rights abuses. Dang it! So close. We’ve seen a rising number of detentions, the increased use of torture, and mass arrests of members of the Saudi royal family. He has also escalated tensions with neighboring countries by bombing Yemen (more on this in a second) and arguing with Qatar and Lebanon.
Also, it is widely believed that MbS is the one who arranged the assassination of Khashoggi, although he has, of course, denied it. Don’t forget what I said at the beginning: so far, the Saudi government seems to mostly be reforming for show, without much follow through. Again, the women currently in prison for breaking the laws that they successfully reformed.
The Saudis and the Trump Team
So… what has been the relationship between the Saudi government and the Trump administration? Short answer: great! For them, I mean. Similar to Kim Jong Un from the last episode, the Saudis seem to see Trump as a rare and unique ally in the White House – an American administration whose values and objectives align more closely to their own than at any other time in history.
In the summer of 2016, before the election, Donald Trump Jr. met with an envoy representing the crown prince and, supposedly, the envoy offered to help the Trump presidential campaign. Hear that Russia? You’re not the only one Don Jr. is meeting with so you better make sure the dirt you have on Hillary is primo dirt.
After Trump was elected, the Saudis quickly positioned themselves as essential allies that could help Trump fulfill his campaign promises. They’ve offered billions of dollars to buy American weapons and invest in American infrastructure and even to help broker peace between Israel and Palestine. This is crucial, especially because the Israeli government has been mildly interested in crown prince Mohammed bin Salman because of his aggressive stance toward their mortal enemy, Iran. MbS has also made statements about Israel’s “right” to the land, although this could just be a strategy aimed at the U.S. More on that in a second…
But seriously, the Saudi government presented a slideshow presentation to the Trump team offering to help bolster the new administration. I love the idea of a bunch of royal dictators working on a Google Slides presentation. I like to imagine that when they showed up for the presentation, they had forgotten to bring the right dongle to connect their computer to the projector. Saudi monarchs: they’re just like us!
Here’s what they presented to Trump’s team:
- They would create an “Arab NATO” with tens of thousands of Islamic troops ready to go anywhere the region if Trump ever needed them;
- an intelligence and data exchange to help with Trump’s “extreme vetting” of immigrants from Islamic nations;
- $50 billion over four years on American defense contracts;
- increased Saudi investment in the U.S. to $200 billion over four years;
- and, along with other Gulf states, an investment of up to $100 billion in American infrastructure.
Damn. Why are we making Mexico pay for the wall? The Saudis are literally offering billions in a PowerPoint presentation. But, on a serious note: It should make us nervous that authoritarian governments around the world are this eager to help Trump, right?… anyone?
Although oil is still the primary economic motivator in the U.S.-Saudi relationship, Trump has brought more attention to the fact that Saudi Arabia is the top destination for U.S. weapons. Since 1950, the U.S. defense industry has sold close to $90 billion worth of arms, according to the Pentagon. President Trump has frequently praised these arms deals, saying they create millions of jobs (but defense firms don’t quite agree with this). Recently, on a trip to Saudi Arabia, Trump signed a series of arms deals expected to total around $350 billion over the next ten years. That’s four times the amount that we’ve sold the country over the last 70 years – just in the next decade.
All of this has brought up questions about whether Donald Trump has business interests in Saudi Arabia and the quick answer is: of course he does. While he doesn’t own any real estate in the country, he’s been doing deals with Saudis since the early 90s. He even bragged in a 2015 campaign rally that, “Saudi Arabia, I like the Saudis… I make a lot of money with them. They buy all sorts of my stuff. All kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundred of millions.” So, to be fair, it wasn’t that hard for the Saudis to convince the Trump administration that they should work together.
The final move that the Saudis made to get in good with the new administration was to identify an easy target: someone who they could develop a relationship with outside an official capacity and then use as an “inside man” to sway President Trump toward Saudi causes. And they found this easy target in Mr. Jared Kushner. Oh, sweet baby Jared.
Apparently, a delegation of Saudis close to the crown prince visited the United States the month Trump was elected with the express purpose of identifying someone within the new administration to “court” as a potential ally for MbS. They quickly identified Jared Kushner as the focus for this courtship, apparently because he “brought to the job scant knowledge about the region, a transactional mind-set and an intense focus on reaching a deal with the Palestinians that met Israel’s demands.”
Basically, Jared was naive and willing to trade a lot in exchange for a big win in Israel/Palestine. In addition to being the son-in-law of the U.S. president, Jared and his family are also close friends with the current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and he has donated to nonprofits building settlements in the West Bank. A member of Trump’s family with a high security clearance and a personal passion and economic motivation for a peaceful Israel? You’re my guy, said the crown prince.
And it worked. Jared has been the strongest advocate for MbS in the White House. Going against protocol, Jared arranged for the crown prince to be received as a head of state, with photographs and news coverage, even though his father is technically still the king. At that meeting, Jared revealed that the two had already spoken on the phone multiple times, which concerned some onlookers considering these conversations between an administration official and a member of a foreign had not been documented.
Jared has since visited Riyadh multiple times and after each visit MbS has appeared more empowered to consolidate his control of the government. After a visit in 2017, MbS removed his older cousin from control of the Interior Ministry, formally replacing him as next in line. And after an unannounced visit later that same year, MbS detained 200 wealthy Saudis, including a few of his own family members, in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh in a “corruption” sweep that was really a power grab. For the record: if I have to be a political prisoner, I would prefer to be the kind that stays in the Ritz-Carlton, thanks. After each of these power plays, President Trump has publicly praised MbS’s leadership.
After the Khashoggi murder, Jared was insistent within the White House that MbS should not be blamed. And, even more controversially, he actually had conversations with the crown prince advising him on how to “weather” the storm of international criticism after the assassination.
But, in general, from what I can tell, it seems like Jared – sweet baby Jared – is really sincere about his belief that MbS could be a key ally in establishing peace in the Middle East. But, he seems to be approaching the relationship with horse blinders on. Jared is so focused on the idea that he could use his relationship with Saudi Arabia to broker an historic Israeli-Palestinian peace deal that he is willing to overlook, ignore, or disbelieve negative reports about his new BFF. It’d be sweet, if the lives of innocent civilians didn’t hang in the balance.
Now, to be fair, there are times when this new relationship has helped. Like I mentioned before, the Saudis are currently embroiled in a civil war in Yemen that has been especially brutal. The reasons for this war are to complicated to get into on this episode, but essentially Saudi Arabia and other powers in the region are fighting alongside the Yemeni president against rebel groups who oppose his government. Backed by the U.S. and other western countries, the Saudis have committed air strikes in the country with the aim of bringing Yemen back under the control of President Hadi.
At one point, the Saudi-led coalition had blocked a critical port in Yemen, cutting off humanitarian and medical supplies from entering the wartorn region. The U.S. National Security adviser at the time, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster (amazing name for a military guy, by the way) suggested that Jared should call up his buddy to address the issue. One quick phone call and a few days later the Saudis had agreed to allow humanitarian organizations and supplies in through the port.
Long term, will anything historic come of this relationship? Probably not. Most of the PowerPoint promises they made haven’t amounted to much. They’ve signed a bunch of letters of interest regarding investments but there aren’t many firm deals in place. And they’ve reduced their proposed infrastructure investment from $100 billion to $20 billion. Maybe they were offended that Trump didn’t ask them to pay for the wall?
Even with MbS on his side, Jared’s initial approaches to Palestinian leadership have been rejected. And a peace deal got way less likely when Jared and Ivanka cut the ribbon on the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem – a city that Palestinians have long wanted some control over or rights to. And, MbS’s dad isn’t too keen on his son’s flexibility in Israel, either. The 82 year old king declared recently that, “The Palestinian issue will remain our primary issue until the Palestinian people receive all of their legal rights.”
I like to imagine Jared and MbS talking on the phone, lying on their stomachs with their feet kicked up, phone cord twirling between their fingers (my imagination is set in the early 90s), just complaining about their dads. “They just don’t get us, right? Ugh!”
So, for now, add this to the list of highly problematic governments who are over eager to build connections with the current administration. But, what is fairly unique about Saudi Arabia is that the U.S. government has a long history of overlooking their extreme views and mistreatment of civilians in order to keep an oil-rich ally in the region who wants our help maintaining their status as the powerhouse in the Middle East. And who knows? Maybe Jared will be the one to finally establish peace in the Middle East? Weirder things have happened in history.