In last night's Intelligence Squared U.S. debate on the motion "The Special U.S.-Saudi Relationship Has Outlived Its Usefulness" the team arguing AGAINST the motion won by convincing more of the packed NYC audience to join their side after they heard arguments on both sides.
Former ambassador to Turkey and Iraq, James Jeffrey, and his partner F. Gregory Gause, head of Texas A&M's International Affairs Department, persuaded the audience that we need Saudi Arabia to help promote stability in the Middle East, and that concerns about Saudi Arabia's human rights record are outweighed by the necessity of working with the Saudis to protect American interests.
"There are two kinds of countries in the world from a geopolitical standpoint: Those who are trying to change the global order in some kind of illegitimate and typically violent way - that's the Soviet Union, Milosevic, Saddam, Iran, North Korea. And there's those regimes - some of which are pretty deplorable internally - that are basically willing to work with us to preserve that international order which benefits us all. Saudi is in the latter category. Iran is the former category. For me, that closes the case." - James Jeffrey (watch clip)Their opponents, former ambassador-at-large Mark P. Lagon and London School of Economics professor Madawi Al-Rasheed, argued that Saudi Arabia is a "pressure cooker" that could explode at any time and the U.S. needs to be more forceful in pushing for better treatment of groups like women and non-Sunni Muslims.
"U.S. credibility in the world is harmed irreparably if we are standing with such a retrograde power, not only authoritarian, but positively medieval in the way it treats people who for small crimes with execution and lashing. The United States should ask for changes. It doesn't have to underwrite the power of this regime with its arms sales." - Mark P. Lagon (watch clip)* Watch the full debate video here: http://smarturl.it/SaudiDebate