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While top American officials and media outlets praise Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a “revolutionary,” 12 people are beheaded per month. Professor Asad AbuKhalil says the Saudi monarchy “has become far more repressive than it has ever been.”

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BEN NORTON: It’s the Real News. I’m Ben Norton.

According to politicians and pundits in the United States, Saudi Arabia’s new dictator Mohammed bin Salman is a revolutionary who will supposedly bring progressive change to the world. In February, the top U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross published an op-ed in the Washington Post titled, quote: “America should get behind Saudi Arabia’s revolutionary crown prince.” Most major corporate media outlets have published article after article whitewashing Mohammed bin Salman, and depicting the 32-year-old Saudi Crown Prince as a messiah. In reality, however, the Saudi regime’s brutal oppression has continued under Prince Mohammed. A recent report by Human Rights Watch found that in the first four months of this year Saudi Arabia beheaded 48 people, half of them for nonviolent drug charges.

Joining us to discuss the reality in Saudi Arabia is As’ad Abukhalil. As’ad is a leading expert on Middle East politics and a professor of political science at California State University Stanislaus. He regularly writes at his website The Angry Arab News Service. Thanks for joining us, As’ad.

AS’AD ABUKHALIL: Thank you, Ben.

BEN NORTON: So can you react to the recent report? We now know that on average, every month a dozen people in Saudi Arabia are beheaded, Half of them for nonviolent drug offenses.

AS’AD ABUKHALIL: It has to be said that since the Second World War, successive U.S. administrations have consistently coddled and indulged the despotism and cruelty of the Saudi regime. This has been a consistent manner. However, there has been an adjustment in recent years, because the Saudi government has become far more repressive than it has ever been.

This is what people don’t understand, that what this crown prince is doing is selling what he calls reform in terms of opening up the country for foreign investment, and allowing clowns and singers to come to Saudi Arabia. And along the same line, he has been tightening the parameters of a l lowed speech and movement within the country, like Twitter and social media have been restricted increasingly under this prince than they ever were before. The freedom of the press, which never existed in Saudi Arabia, is now more abysmal than it ever has been.

And yet, as you suggested, there is a triumvirate that is now responsible for the promotion of the despotism of this crown prince. And we’re talking about the U.S. administration that is endorsing what ever this crown prince is doing. Second, you have large corporations who have at stake, oil corporations, arms defense industries and so on, who are part of selling this new crown prince to the world. And the third element is the Zionist lobby. The Zionist lobby and its branches, Democrat or Republican, have also been promoting this crown prince. I just looked up today, I mean, the palace of the crown prince is now a site of pilgrimage. You see delegations after delegations of liberals, conservative, media types, think tanks, government agencies, all flocking to Saudi Arabia at the feet of this crown prince. I saw a delegation of from the Center for American Progress, former Clintonites, who are now groveling at the crown prince’s feet, basically.

BEN NORTON: Yeah. And what did you take of, we had seen reports of real progress in Saudi Arabia. Of course, women are finally being allowed to drive. The fact that they couldn’t in the first place is outrageous, considering that in no other country in the world have women been banned from driving. So there are some forms of progress, but can you respond to those? How do you think those reflect on Mohammed bin Salman?

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Ben Norton is a producer and reporter for The Real News. His work focuses primarily on U.S. foreign policy, the Middle East, media criticism, and movements for economic and social justice. Ben Norton was previously a staff writer at Salon and AlterNet. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.