Saudi Arabia ‘the new Chinese:’ Harshly valid parallels for war crimes revealed at PGA Tour LIV Golf hearing

WASHINGTON — A second hearing about the PGA Tour’s deal with the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) took place Wednesday morning at the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Although no PGA Tour or LIV Golf officials were present, plenty was revealed about the Saudi Arabian Kingdom, the primary benefactor of LIV.

“We would be naive to believe that the PIF’s actions related to the PGA Tour are not part of the Kingdom’s much larger lobbying, public relations, and broader influence operation in the U.S.,” said Ben Freeman, one of the witnesses Wednesday.

Freeman is the Director of Democratizing Foreign Policy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

“Saudi lobbyists have made the case for this deal in Congress,” Freeman continued. “The public relations firms that are paid millions by the Saudi regime have spun the PIF narrative about this to mainstream media outlets.”

The PIF’s wealth has exponentially increased since 2015, when Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman assumed control of the sovereign wealth fund. It has invested over $35 billion in American companies, which include Twitter, Uber, and Starbucks.

PGA Tour Chief Operating Officer Ron Price and PGA Tour Policy Board Member Jimmy Dunne testify before the Senate on Jul. 11, 2023.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The PIF has also invested over $2 billion into LIV Golf.

For perspective, the PGA Tour is a $1 billion company, and the PIF will likely invest that much—if not more—into the tour should the agreement go through.

The Saudis have invested billions of dollars worldwide, hoping to diversify its economy. The Kingdom knows oil is a depreciating asset, especially as many countries turn to renewable energy and electric vehicles.

The “New Chinese”

Saudi Arabia—and the PIF—has more censorship within its borders than any other country in the world, aside from China.

This led a prominent Hollywood filmmaker to label the Saudi regime “the new Chinese,” per Freeman.

Of course, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has a long history of human rights abuses and censorship, as it controls all elements of Chinese media and public opinion.

China, Uighur Muslim

Women walk past a propaganda slogan promoting ethnic unity in the ‘New Era’ in both Chinese and Uighur languages in Western China.
Photo by Pedro Pardo via Getty Images

The CCP continues to oppress the Uighur Muslims in Western China, in hopes of eradicating the minority Muslim residents there while instilling Han Chinese populations in that area.

The Saudi Kingdom operates in a similar fashion, hence the parallels made throughout the hearing.

Just last month, Joey Shea of Human Rights Watch, another witness at Wednesday’s hearing, confirmed the mass murder of Ethiopian migrants by Saudi border officials.

According to Human Rights Watch, roughly 750,000 Ethiopians live and work in Saudi Arabia. Thousands of Ethiopians had to escape their country for economic reasons and because of a brutal conflict taking place in the country’s northern regions.

Yet, along the Saudi-Yemen border, where thousands of Ethiopians have tried to enter the country, Saudi border guards brutally murdered “at least hundreds” of migrants.

As Shea pointed out in her testimony, this is a crime against humanity if “committed as part of a Saudi government policy to murder migrants.”

The Saudis have also played a vital role in the Yemeni civil war, which has led to over 400,000 deaths, including 100,000 children.

Additionally, the Saudi Kingdom planned the dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

The Kingdom also suppresses anyone who speaks out against the regime.

Just two weeks ago, at the end of August, the Kingdom sentenced Mohammed al-Ghamdi to death because he criticized the government and denounced the Kingdom’s human rights abuses, per CBS News.

So, human rights abuses and oppression in Saudi Arabia are nothing new. Rather, Wednesday’s hearing confirms that they are still ongoing, hence the parallels to China.

Saudi Involvement with 9/11

Another point of emphasis during this hearing was the Saudi Kingdom’s potential involvement with the Sept. 11 attacks. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens, and redacted documents point to the Kingdom’s support in this endeavor.

“We will pursue uncovering the truth as much as we can,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said. “The issues here go beyond golf, go beyond Saudi Arabia.”

Sen. Blumenthal also chairs the PSI and has been the leader in getting to the bottom of the PGA Tour’s deal with the PIF.

But since Wednesday’s hearing took place just two days after the 22nd anniversary of 9/11, Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the attacks was a pertinent topic of discussion.

9/11 Memorial, United States

American flags and roses are seen at the South Tower’s Reflecting Pool on Sept. 11, 2023.
Photo by Luiz C. Ribeiro for NY Daily News via Getty Images

“The victim’s families have still been denied justice from the Saudi government,” Freeman said. “The Saudi monarchy has spared no expense to avoid accountability, even stooping so low as to trick U.S. military veterans into lobbying against the 9/11 victim’s families.”

The Saudis have lacked accountability for their actions and refuse to cooperate with Congress over the deal.

“We are fighting for justice through litigation against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its role in the murderous attacks that led to the deaths of my father and thousands of others,” wrote Brett Eagleson, the CEO of 9/11 Justice, in an op-ed for The Hill on the anniversary of 9/11.

The lack of transparency also is seen within the U.S. Government.

The FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) have withheld information about Saudi involvement from the American public too, making Eagleson’s fight against the Kingdom rather difficult.

“We need to use the full authority of this committee to uncover these documents and be fully accountable,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said.

Whether those documents are unearthed remains to be seen, but slow progress continues.

Regardless, this is the Kingdom that has entered into business with the PGA Tour. They lack accountability, censor their citizens, and dismember critics. They also have ties to the deadliest attack in American history.

And because of these reasons, Yasir al-Rumayyan, the Chairman of the PIF, has been subpoenaed to testify before Congress. But he has refused to testify in Washington, citing jurisdiction concerns. Whether the subpoena changes things remains to be seen.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.

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