Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has announced a “research and essay competition” at the National Defense University to honor Saudi Arabia’s recently-deceased King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.
In a DoD News press release, Dempsey called the late king “a man of remarkable character and courage,” credited with “the modernization of his country’s military” during his 10-year reign. Abdullah, of course, also presided over continued punishment of women drivers, gays and religious and political dissidents in his country.
The most recent prominent example is Raif Badawi, a blogger who is currently serving a sentence of 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam.” The sentence is being carried out in weekly beatings — 50 at a time — but they were suspended for two consecutive Fridays due to medical concerns. Badawi’s family appealed the case to Abdullah before his death, who in turn referred it to the country’s Supreme Court. (RELATED: Saudis Postpone Floggings For Health Of ‘Blasphemer’)
According to the Pentagon, the essay contest “will focus on issues related to the Arab-Muslim world and is designed to encourage strategic thinking and meaningful research on a crucial part of the world.” National Defense University, which will host the competition, primarily conducts graduate-level studies in international affairs, strategy and strategy.
U.S.-Saudi relations have been tense for decades. America’s economic and military presence was one of Osama bin Laden’s chief reasons for declaring jihad against the United States. For its part, Saudi Arabia has long claimed to share security interests with the United States, all while funding schools around the world that promote its rigid interpretation of Sunni Islam, a key component in some terrorists’ radicalization.
On Monday, the same day the Pentagon announced the essay contest, Saudi Arabia carried out its first beheading under the newly-enthroned King Salman. Moussa al-Zahrani was convicted of serial child molestation in a case accused of being “riddled with inconsistencies.”
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