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8/26/15

Middle East: Who's the Real Troublemaker in the Middle East? - by Medea Benjami

Except for maybe the Affordable Care Act, nothing gets Republican politicians fired up like Iran.

In the first GOP debate alone, Scott Walker promised that he'd tear up the Iran nuclear deal on day one of his presidency. Carly Fiorina blamed the country for "most of the evil that is going on in the Middle East."

 Mike Huckabee vowed to topple the "terrorist Iranian regime and defeat the evil forces of radical Islam."

Oddly, when the Republican candidates complain about the "evil forces of radical Islam" or trouble in the Middle East, they never seem to mention Saudi Arabia.

Iran's no democratic paradise. But on many counts, Washington's Saudi allies are even worse. The Saudi royals crush dissent with an iron fist, spread extremist ideology and invade their neighbors with impunity.

Domestically, the Saudi regime oppresses women, religious minorities and millions of foreign workers. And it brutally represses criticism from human rights activists, prompting condemnation from both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, for example, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes just for writing a blog the government considered critical of its rule. 

Hundreds of political prisoners languish in prison -- including Badawi's lawyer, who was sentenced to 15 years for his role as a human rights attorney. New legislation effectively equates criticism of the government and other peaceful activities with terrorism.

Saudi women aren't permitted to appear in public without adhering to a strict dress code. They need the approval of a male guardian to marry, travel, enroll in a university, or obtain a passport and they're prohibited from driving.

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world, killing scores of people each year for a range of offenses including adultery, apostasy, drug use and sorcery. It's conducted over 100 public beheadings this year alone.

Read more: Who's the Real Troublemaker in the Middle East?

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