Our good friends, the Saudis

If a wave of democracy is sweeping the Middle East, it sure hasn't washed over Riyadh yet.

Published May 16, 2005 6:18PM (EDT)

Pointing to recent Iraqi elections, protests in Lebanon, and a few faint murmurings about political reform in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, supporters of President Bush's foreign policy have been particularly vocal about a wave of democratic influence sweeping the region. The invasion and occupation of Iraq, they argue, deserves much of the credit for setting it off.

It has yet to wash over Riyadh. Three Saudi academics, first imprisoned in March of last year, will now stay locked away for up to nine years for petitioning the kingdom's rulers to move toward a constitutional monarchy and speed up political reforms.

Relations were warm when Bush clasped the hand of Crown Prince Abdullah in Crawford in late April and pressed the Saudis to pump more oil and help ease gas prices. Apparently the issue of democratic reform in the kingdom didn't make the agenda.

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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