Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Obama Must Stand Up for Human Rights

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Obama Must Stand Up for Human Rights

Article excerpt

Byline: STATESIDE With US Editor Christopher Bucktin

IT WOULD be hard to think of a worse way to start the New Year than the decision by Saudi Arabia to execute 47 prisoners including the popular Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Barely hours into 2016 the streets of Riyadh ran blood red in a move Sunni rulers knew would unleash a fierce backlash throughout the Middle East.

Iran reacted with fury. Protesters laid siege to the Saudi embassy in Tehran before setting it ablaze.

In turn Iran's diplomats were expelled from Riyadh.

The developments have now left the region struggling to contend with devastating political and religious divides, divides that extend far beyond the calm waters of the Gulf and encompass nearly every major conflict zone in the Middle East.

Most notably, perhaps, the crisis means prospects for a diplomatic breakthrough in Syria and Yemen now look much more remote, just as international momentum for negotiations, led by the US, seemed to be on the verge of delivering results.

The current standoff is as dangerous now as its 80s predecessor, which first saw diplomatic ties suspended between 1988 and 1991.

It threatens to derail President Obama's romance with Iran that was supposed to bring peace and leave him with a least some sort of legacy after a disastrous time on the global stage.

Instead, after seven years in office, the outgoing US leader has seen hostilities between Saudi Arabia and Iran deepen dramatically on his watch.

At fault is Obama's attempt to be all things to all countries, which has spectacularly backfired leaving him between a rock and a hard place.

In ensuring he remained one of Saudi Arabia's closest allies, the President has been happy to turn a blind eye to its human rights record. Even this week he failed to condemn the executions. …

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