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Should Sanctions be Imposed on Saudi Arabia


Jamal Khashoggi was a journalist, author, former news editor of the al-Arab Channel and a critic of the Saudi Arabian government. He had no wife and two children. He was 59. He entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey at 1 pm October 2nd; he went there with the hope of obtaining documents that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz. CCTV footage proves he entered the consulate…none exists of him leaving. We know this; no one will argue these points because they have been irrefutable and unchangeable from the very beginning of the investigation. But we are not at the start of the investigation. We are nearing it’s end, and now other facts have come to surface, facts equally as irrefutable, equally as damning. Jamal Khasogghi was murdered. Murdered by Saudi agents inside the Saudi consulate, murdered with premeditated planning in cold blood, and he was murdered with the knowledge and consent of the Saudi government. The Saudi leadership have admitted to all these facts besides one, that they themselves were responsible. I would bet good money not one person in this room believes that, and yet we still find ourselves here, debating whether or not to impose sanctions on said government. I believe that debate ends now, and I have 3 reasons why.

It's the right thing to do.

The opposition will likely admit that this was an unspeakable crime, a horrible tragedy that deserves condemnation so long as we don’t lose money doing so. What they might not tell you is just how this crime was committed. Jamal Khassoghi was not just murdered but was dismembered while still alive for daring to criticise the Saudi government. The details of how this was done are important, because while the opposition want to confuse you with the maybes and probablies of economics, I would like to keep our focus where it should be, October 2nd. Because the more you hear of the that day, the angrier you get that anyone could do something like that and escape punishment. Khashoggi was killed by a 15 man Saudi intelligence team, who recorded him being hacked apart by a bonesaw by a doctor who specialised in post mortems. It took Khasogghi seven minutes to die, seven minutes of barbaric torture inflicted not to extract information, but to ensure the most painful end imaginable for a man who’d dared use his voice. No one here can imagine the horror of those seven minutes, no one can imagine the brutality needed to do it. Economic punishment for an act such as this is not a question, it's a requirement. 

Secondly, it’ll stop behaviour like this in the future

As sickening as these tragic events are, they present an opportunity for civilised countries across the world, including Spain, to send a message. The message is this, that you cannot kill a journalist and get away with it, not if you trade with us or have tall buildings, not even if you have oil; your money does not excuse your cruelty. This is a powerful message to deliver, and if done right through sanctions, it is a message that will be heard across the world, especially in Saudi Arabia. But it would do more than just be heard, it could save lives. Khassoghi is not the only Saudi journalist to go missing, he’s just the latest. In the past year, three Saudi critics alone have mysteriously disappeared, and there may be many more waiting to be found, just like Khassoghi, cut into pieces and buried. If we make it clear that this will not be tolerated, the Saudi government might think again before ordering another killing, and a life will be saved through the sanctions imposed by Spain and others.

Finally, what happens if we don’t?

Some of you may still think that the opposition´s arguments are true, that we should not risk jobs or the flow of money into Spain with sanctions that might not work, over some journalist far away who we never really knew. But let me put this a different way. If no sanctions are imposed, and Saudi Arabia continues its campaign of repression, how do we live with doing nothing? How do we, as a nation, look at ourselves in the mirror and admit we didn’t punish torture when we could’ve? If we sit back while the world is watching, for the reasons the Saudi’s hope we will, and for the reasons the opposition thinks we should, we will compromise our integrity and undercut our values to the bone. In letting the perpetrators walk without so much as a slap on the wrist, we become accomplices to the crime. Do we really need arms money so badly we are willing to sell our souls for it? Do army contracts justify supporting a brutal government and passively allowing theses atrocities to continue? I have enough pride in this country and other western and free democracies to say no, we will not accept your blood money. We will punish you for what you’ve done and we will do it because we are willing to defend the values our civilisation is built on, those of free speech and human rights.

Sanctions represent a financial sacrifice, yes, but no sanctions at all represent a far greater loss, that of our willingness to do what is right for the right reasons, instead of degrading our foreign policy for foreign weapons. Money cannot and must never buy morality. Javier R, Year 12 


Saudi Arabia is the worst. I think we can all agree they’ve done some pretty despicable things. However, today I am going to argue that sanctions are not the answer. 

There are very few cases where you can definitely identify sanctions as having been a success, except sometimes in combination with other factors. They rarely succeed by themselves. Sanctions only work against a state whose leaders ultimately must answer to its people.  Sanctions don’t work when, as was the case with Cuba, the sanctioned state has protectors that undercut the sanctions regime. Moreover,  sanctions work slowly. Patience is required. Applied synergistically with other actions, though, sanctions can be a powerful tool. They work best when they’re one element in a comprehensive approach — they’re a tool and not a stand-alone solution.

However, they have been so overused in recent year that they’re becoming completely ineffective and, in some cases, even counterproductive. The vast majority go unnoticed — except by the people, businesses, and governments they directly impact — more than a few have notably fallen far short of reversing aggressions.

We’ve politicised strategic reality. Sanctions thrive only when their effects are measured by facts, not political grandstanding and yet, they’re the go to solution at the moment. That’s just because governments don’t want to stir up problems, meaning they don’t want to do anything that would actually help. ‘Sanctions’ sounds good but they don’t help.

We westerners think we’re all that. We think we know what’s best and that we must punish everyones else accordingly. However, we don’t have the right to take this high ground. We’re almost as bad as them. In 2015 alone 101 schools and hospitals were bombed in Yemen by the Saudis. War is terrible but Hadi and Saudi Arabia could not fight without the $115 billion worth of weaponry sold to them by the United States, and that’s just what happen during Obama's reign. The UK is also directly contributing to the carnage. Since the start of the conflict, the UK has exported 3.3 billion pounds worth of licensed arms to Saudi Arabia. Until we are willing to accept our role in the problem and stop feeding the fire, we don’t have the right tell them what to do with the guns we sell them. 

When Russia went under sanctions, their poverty rate doubled, inflation soared, pensions declined dramatically in real value and trade collapsed. For months, Russian newspapers insisted that there was no shortage of medicines — which told us that there were medicine shortages. We want justice and revenge, it’s normal, but we can’t punish people just for being born in a certain place. The majority of those suffering are normal people like you or me. They don’t deserve to lose their jobs and not be able to feed their families. 

Moreover, it has been proven that imposing sanctions actually hurt the country that imposes them. They can no longer export to the country they sanction and the business environment becomes complicated & unpredictable, both meaning that jobs are lost. Sanctions have really become symbolic but that doesn’t matter if you’re unemployed and unable to clothe your children. Sanctions just excessively interfere with the flow of funds worldwide and divide allies. There are many knock-on effects and in most cases, many more victims than that of original crime. 

As I have established, sanctions are harming both sides. Why is there all this need for punishment and violence? Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman called Jamal Khashoggi’s murder a ‘heinous crime’. Neither he nor the people or Saudi Arabia want violence nor sanctions. The government recently pledged to permit women to drive, allow movie theatres into the country and to teach physical education to girls in school. This seems backwards to us but Saudi Arabi is taking drastic leaps forward and sanctions would just slow this process down. The last thing we want is for them to hold a grudge against us. 

In summary, under some circumstances, sanctions may be a good option but under this one, I argue not to hold back a country which is trying to improve. A crime has been committed and when sufficient evidence is obtained we should be pushing to enforce the correct legal actions on the individuals who committed the crime but not punish ordinary people who are just trying to survive.

Jemima G, Year 12 

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