France Analysis

How France and the US are being held hostage by Saudi Arabia

Both French president François Hollande and American head of state Barack Obama flew to Riyadh to pay their respects after the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on January 23rd. For the French leader it was yet another journey to the Arabian kingdom that he has already twice honoured with state visits. France and the United States - and other Western countries – have stayed close diplomatically to Saudi Arabia, seeing it as a source of oil, a massive market to buy their weapons and a pivotal place to exchange key intelligence. But the flipside of this approach, write Thomas Cantaloube and Pierre Puchot, is that these countries have been trapped into supporting Saudi's own regional political games, while also backing one of the most repressive regimes on earth. Moreover, at a time when France and other nations have made fighting terrorism their international priority, elements in the Saudi kingdom are still suspected of financial links with prominent terror groups.

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The world had not seen such a parade of heads of state and government for, well, at least 15 days, since leaders had gathered in Paris following the Charlie Hebdo and Jewish supermarket murders. As for United States president Barack Obama coming to offer his condolences in person, one has to go back to the death of Nelson Mandela for the last time that happened. So who was it who merited such attention from world leaders? It was none other than the Saudi Arabian king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud who died at the age of 90 on January 23rd, 2015.

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