The rest of the world might be voicing apprehension over Saudi Arabia’s recent mass execution and the crucial impact it will have on the region, but Republican presidential hopefuls appeared to be more concerned about defending the oil-rich kingdom and its atrocities.
Instead of condemning the Middle Eastern country for its human rights violations, presidential candidates Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson slammed Iran for its reaction and highlighted the importance of alliance between Riyadh and Washington, D.C.
The conservative country beheaded 47 anti-government protesters on Saturday, including prominent cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, to demonstrate its no tolerance policy toward dissent. Nimr's execution sparked anger in Shiite communities, particularly in Iran where protesters stormed Saudi embassy and smashed the furniture.
The backlash and criticism eventually led Saudi Arabia to sever its diplomatic ties with its Middle Eastern rival — a move that analysts believe will exacerbate the sectarian tensions in the region.
“I take the Iranian condemnation with a huge grain of salt,” Carly Fiorina told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, dismissing Iran’s reaction over the death of the religious cleric. “This is a regime that tortures citizens routinely, that thinks nothing of executions, that still holds four Americans in jail.”
Since the oil-rich kingdom is United State’s biggest ally in the Middle East and has been a major influence on American foreign policies for quite some time now, Fiorina’s rhetoric is not very surprising.
“Saudi Arabia is our ally, despite the fact that they don’t always behave in a way that we condone,” she said in her brief mention of the mass execution. “Iran is a real and present threat.”
Meanwhile Republican candidate Ben Carson took the matter to a completely different tangent and placed the blame for the killing on the United States. The Republican candidate apparently believes that the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal pushed Saudi Arabia to repress its Shiite population.
“The Saudis have been one of our strongest allies in the Middle East, and I think it’s unfortunate that we put them in the position we have by showing the support to Iran that we have with this foolish deal,” the retired neurosurgeon told ABC’s This Week. “There’s no reason for the Saudis to believe that we’re really on their side when we do things like that.”
Even when asked specifically to weigh in on Saudi Arabia’s mass execution, Carson continued to hold on to his notion.
“Of course we don’t condone that kind of thing,” he said. “But I’m just saying we need to stop doing silly things that promote these kinds of activities.”
Saudi Arabia has justified the executions as part of its strict interpretation of Sharia law, which has led some to liken the kingdom’s judicial system to that of the Islamic State. However, unlike the latter, the conservative country enjoys international legitimacy and has the U.S. and U.K. among two of its most important allies.