Stuck in the middle of multiple controversies involving grotesque human rights violations, Saudi Arabia is turning to big U.S.-based PR firms and lobbyists to bolster its image in the mainstream media.
In September alone, the Saudi government signed deals with the world's largest private PR firm Edelman and the Podesta Group, which is one of Hillary Clinton’s major fundraisers, according to disclosure documents obtained by The Intercept.
“In March, the Saudi Royal Embassy retained two influential lobbying firms, DLA Piper and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. DLA Piper, for instance, employs a small army of former government officials, including retired U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss and George Mitchell. Also in March, the embassy retained two firms that specialize in analyzing big data for political clients, Targeted Victory and Zignal Labs,” the online publication adds.
Saudi Arabia has always been notorious for its beheadings without proper trials. However, the Gulf kingdom has come under increased scrutiny after moving to crucify Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, the young son of a government critic who was accused of participating in illegal protests and of firearm offenses – for which authorities were unable to provide any evidence.
In fact, a few months ago, it was reported that Saudi Arabia was beheading people at the same rate (and for the similar reasons) the terrorist Islamic State decapitates people. Yet, there has constantly been a deafening silence from the United States government over the issue.
One possible explanation, therefore, could be the powerful lobbying muscle in Washington which makes sure Riyadh is presented in a favorable light before U.S. lawmakers. And it seems to be working efficiently.
Case in point: when Lee Fang, a reporter with the Intercept, asked former presidential candidate Mitt Romney about the illegal Saudi-led coalition bombing campaign in Yemen, this is what he got as a reply: "Nice to see you." Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware and Sen. Mark Warner also ignored similar questions from Fang.
Be it plans for al-Nimr’s crucifixion, the mass murder of Yemeni civilians, record number of executions or the criminal negligence in the recent Hajj stampede – it appears as long as Riyadh is pouring in millions of dollars the U.S. will continue to turn a blind eye to deplorable human rights abuses by Saudi Arabia.