Saudi human rights under new spotlight in Biden era

By Frank Gardner
BBC security correspondent

Activists say Saudi Arabia should be held to account over its human rights record

The Trump administration, according to President Biden’s campaign team, “wrote Saudi Arabia a blank cheque”. It accused it of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses and prolonging a disastrous war in Yemen where tens of thousands have been killed in six years of conflict.

The new team in the White House has promised a complete reset of relations with Saudi Arabia where human rights will now feature prominently. President Biden has signalled he will end US military support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. Already, after just one week into his term, the US has suspended billions of dollars’ worth of arms sales to both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, pending a review.

But is anything really going to change in the long term? Will the Biden administration’s much-publicised intentions have any practical effect on the numerous human rights abuses in the kingdom or on its war in neighbouring Yemen?

After all, Saudi Arabia is America’s closest security partner in the Arab world, a vital strategic ally in confronting the expansion of Iranian-backed militias across the Middle East, and a major customer for US arms sales.

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