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Where’s the Republican outrage over 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.

Meanwhile, the Saudi monarchy has used its military and financial might to impose its will throughout the Middle East.

In 2011, Saudi tanks invaded neighboring Bahrain and brutally crushed that nation’s budding pro-democracy movement. Two years later, the Saudis backed a coup in Egypt that killed over 1,000 people and saw over 40,000 political dissidents thrown into squalid prisons.

In their latest military intervention, the Saudis have used American-made cluster bombs and F-15 fighter jets in a bombing campaign over Yemen that’s killed and injured thousands of civilians and created a severe humanitarian crisis.

All the while, they’ve helped export an extremist interpretation of Islam around the globe. Let’s not forget that 15 of the 19 hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks were Saudis, as well as Osama bin Laden himself.

Where’s the Republican outrage over Saudi Arabia?

Despite all these abuses, Saudi Arabia has been a key U.S. ally for decades. Why?

One reason is oil: Saudi Arabia is the world’s second largest producer, trailing only the United States itself.

Another is the arms trade: The country is the largest purchaser of American-made weapons. In 2010, the U.S. government concluded a $60.5 billion arms deal with the Saudis — the largest in history. This means that for years to come, U.S. weapons will be used by the Saudis to maintain their repressive rule and impose their will on neighboring countries.

A third reason, ironically, is Iran. Since 1979, Washington’s pursued a policy of building up the Saudi military as a counterweight to Iran’s revolutionary government.

For Republican presidential candidates, this primary season is all about vilifying Iran. While they beat up on the White House for making peace with America’s enemies, maybe voters should ask them more questions about America’s friends.

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