During the discussion on the Iran nuclear deal, it has been strange to hear US politicians fiercely condemn Iranian human rights abuses while remaining silent about worse abuses by US ally Saudi Arabia. Not only is the Saudi regime repressive at home and abroad, but US weapons and US support for the regime make Americans complicit. So let’s look at the regime the US government counts as its close friend.

1. Saudi Arabia is governed as an absolutist monarchy by a huge clan, the Saud family, and the throne passes from one king to another. The Cabinet is appointed by the king, and its policies have to be ratified by royal decree. Political parties are forbidden and there are no national elections.

2. Criticizing the monarchy, or defending human rights, can bring down severe and cruel punishments in addition to imprisonment. Ali al-Nimr was targeted and arrested at the age of 17 for protesting government corruption, and his since been sentenced to beheading and public crucifixion. Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for writing a blog the government considered critical of its rule. Waleed Abulkhair is serving a 15-year sentence for his work as a human right attorney. New legislation effectively equates criticism of the government and other peaceful activities with terrorism. The government tightly controls the domestic press, banning journalists and editors who publish articles deemed offensive to the religious establishment or the ruling authorities. Over 400,000 websites that are considered immoral or politically sensitive are blocked. A January 2011 law requires all blogs and websites, or anyone posting news or commentary online, to have a license from the Ministry of Information or face fines and/or the closure of the website.


US special operations forces are operating in 81 countries according to the Wall Street Journal. Their budget has increased five-fold since 2001 and their personnel have doubled. They operate in secret, most often without Congressional oversight or even knowledge. Is it dangerous for the president to have what is de facto a personal army like this? Tune in to the Ron Paul Liberty Report:

Reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

On the sparsely populated Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Circle, there is a giant “doomsday” seed vault, which houses samples of the seeds of crops from gene banks around the world. The theory behind this plan was that some huge cataclysm might wipe out some important types of plants and the frozen vault would serve as a last-chance place for humanity to recover some of those seeds.

It was opened back in 2008, and it’s already had its first withdrawal.

The cause was the Syrian Civil War, and in particular the years of fighting over Syria’s former financial and industrial capital of Aleppo. Among the many things that were located in Aleppo was the International Center for Agricultural Research in The Dry Areas (ICARDA), which had been the primary gene bank for a lot of seeds that can grow in dry climates like Syria.

Luckily, the group had deposited copies of the seeds at the doomsday vault, and having had to relocate from the rubble that used to be Aleppo to Lebanon, they’re withdrawing those seeds, to replace all the ones that got destroyed in Aleppo. The plan is to make copies of those seeds and send those back to the vault, in case Northern Lebanon isn’t as safe as it seems right now.

For decades, Cuba had been ruled out by international organizations, such as the OAS (Organization of American States), the WTO (World Trade Organization), the Commission on Human Rights, among others.

Sanctions and isolation were based on the premise that Cuba violates human rights and oppresses its own people. Under the The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act or “Helms Burton Act” of 1996 this set off provisions that were aimed at a peaceful transition to a representative democracy and market economy in Cuba.

What had been neglected for a long time, was the path of self-determination of Cuba and its people and a promotion of diplomacy instead of hostility. Steps to bring democracy into Cuba have been forced upon with an economic embargo for nearly 5 decades. The trade embargo still exists; named after the originators of the laws Torricelli and Helms-Burton and other laws signed by former President George W. Bush.

This plan tried to bring the collapsing of Cuba and the transition to a democratic system. But in recent years, changes in the political landscape of Cuba and its international involvement in “medical diplomacy” have brought the island state to gain significant influence. President Obama’s move to normalize U.S.-Cuban diplomatic relations was not an act of benevolence. Apart from polls stating the support of normalizing relations by Cuban-Americans, the millions of Dollars spent in holding up the failed policies, and the lack of results it brought, the international support for Cuba was a key factor. In fact, improved relations with Cuba will open the path for better cooperation between the U.S. government and the Latin American states.


Kabul – Some days ago, at the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ Borderfree Center, I met Jamila, the mother of a little girl, Fatima, who comes to the Street Kids School, a program designed to help children working on the streets go to school. Jamila, a young mother of seven, smiles and laughs easily, even though she faces dire circumstances here in Kabul.

Nine years ago, at age 19, she fled escalating conflict in Pul e Khumri, located in the northern province of Baghlan, and moved to Kabul. Jamila had already been married for 12 years.

Her family, desperate for income, had sold her in marriage to an older man when she was seven years old. As a child, she lived in servitude to the family of her future husband, earning a small income for them through sewing and embroidering.

At age 13, She gave birth to her oldest daughter . With her when we met were two of her middle daughters, Fatima and Nozuko. Her oldest daughter is no longer with her, as, at age 12, she was given away, six years ago now, in marriage. Jamila is determined not to give her remaining daughters away in marriage while they are still children.


Hadisa, a bright 18-year-old Afghan girl, ranks as the top student in her 12th grade class. “The question is,” she wondered, “are human beings capable of abolishing war?”

Like Hadisa, I had my doubts about whether human nature could have the capacity to abolish war. For years, I had presumed that war is sometimes necessary to control ‘terrorists’, and based on that presumption, it didn’t make sense to abolish it. Yet my heart went out to Hadisa when I imagined her in a future riddled with intractable violence.

Hadisa tilted her head slightly in deep thought. She listened attentively to different opinions voiced by fellow Afghan Peace Volunteers. She struggles to find answers.

But when Hadisa turns up at the Borderfree Afghan Street Kids School every Friday to teach the child breadwinners, now numbering 100 in morning and afternoon classes, she lays aside her doubts.

I can see her apply her inner compassion which rises way above the war that is still raging in Afghanistan.