It’s Official: 70 in U.S. Congress Urge President Barack Obama to Back Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

A large, bipartisan group of Members of Congress has sent a formal letter to President Obama calling on him to “publicly address Saudi Arabia’s serious human rights violations” when he visits the country this Friday.

Led by Representatives Trent Franks, Jim McGovern, Frank Wolf, and Jackie Speier, the letter is supported by a total of 70 elected U.S. Representatives.  The signers cover the full ideological spectrum in U.S. politics:  liberal Democrats, “Blue Dog” Democrats, moderate Republicans, and Tea Party-backed conservatives.

How did this happen?

Josh Rogin broke the news at The Daily Beast and offered context:

The letter was signed by a broad bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Trent Franks (R-AZ), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Frank Wolf (R-VA) and John Lewis (D-GA). NGOs on the letter included Amnesty International, International Christian Concern, Human Rights Watch, Christian Solidarity Worldwide – USA, and the National Organization for Women.

Julian Pecquet covered the story at Al-Monitor and shared my arguments for why:

The letter, which was first made public by Al-Monitor last week, has been endorsed by groups as varied as Amnesty International, the National Organization for Women and Voice of the Martyrs…

“This is the beginning of an expression of popular concern articulated through the US Congress about that relationship,” predicted Sunjeev Bery, the advocacy director for Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA. “The Saudi Arabian government’s repression is so bad across so many fronts that it has created an environment in Washington, DC, where multiple groups representing multiple communities are all pushing Congress at the same time.”

For too long, the U.S. government has prioritized geopolitics and oil instead of basic freedoms in its relationship with this highly repressive ally.  Large cracks of congressional dissent are starting to emerge into the light.

Read the full letter from Congress here (PDF).

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