Video Source: Youtube.
A new documentary, Saudi Arabia Uncovered (2016), shows footage secretly filmed inside the kingdom, and highlights the tension between state oppression and freedom of speech embodied in global technology. The film was broadcast in Britain on ITV on 22 March 2016. You can see reports on the film here, here and here. Circulation of the film online coincides this week with a US State Department Country Report (here) damning human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. On 12 April 2016, a jailed blogger profiled in the above film, Raif Badawi, was awarded the PEN Pinter Prize, which recognizes courageous writers who defend freedom of speech. In 2013, Badawi was sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for writing a liberal blog. He started a hunger strike from prison in December 2015; his sister was briefly imprisoned in January 2016. Badawi's family fled and took refuge in Canada.
"Ensaf Haidar, wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, will collect the freedom of speech award on his behalf." Image Source: Patrick Seeger/EPA via The Guardian.
The documentary is part of a flurry of negative American and UK media coverage of Saudi Arabia this spring. In March 2016, a University of Waterloo talk and a Washington DC Codepink conference revealed brewing western speculation that Saudi Arabia is not sustainable. In part, that is due to falling oil prices, and an unfolding "Shakespearean story ... over who will be the next king." There were negative reports on the kingdom in Foreign Affairs and The Atlantic in March and April 2016.
"In this lecture Bruce Riedel discusses Middle East policy with a focus on Saudi Arabia and its evolving role in the region. Riedel is director of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institution. ... Riedel was a senior advisor on South Asia and the Middle East to the last four presidents of the United States in the staff of the National Security Council at the White House." Centre for International Governance Innovation, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada (31 March 2016). Video Source: Youtube.
At the centre that debate is Hillary Clinton and her American presidential bid, which should raise some red flags on the timing and tone of information releases. One Codepink conference participant reported in HuffPo last month that Clinton had overseen billions in arms deals to Saudi Arabia to enable attacks on Yemen (this was reported at The Intercept in February 2016). Saudi Arabia heavily funded Clinton's presidential campaign and Clinton Foundation donors concluded related weapons deals via the US State Department while Clinton was Secretary of State. This spring, journalists and blogs began reading Clinton's leaked, released and hacked emails. WikiLeaks released PDFs of secret Saudi diplomatic cables in November 2015 and Clinton's Secretary-of-State declassified emails on 29 February 2016. On 9 March 2016, Zero Hedge sifted through different releases of the Clinton emails and found that the 2012 Benghazi incident was funded by the Saudis:
Other conservative reports claim there is a phone conversation transcript, released 14 April 2016 (here), apparently confirming that Clinton knew that Benghazi was planned and not a spontaneous protest."This means we have an e-mail from a trusted Clinton adviser that claims the Saudis funded the Benghazi attack, and not only was this not followed up on, but there is not any record of this e-mail ever existing except for the Russia Today leak."
BREAKING NEWS >> State Department Belatedly Releases New Clinton #Benghazi Documents: https://t.co/7gqAU5zlmv via @JudicialWatch— Judicial Watch (@JudicialWatch) April 14, 2016