When Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, delivered her first speech after the weekend massacre at an Orlando LGBT nightclub, she listed a predictable collection of problems contributing to the killings, from the availability of assault rifles in the U.S. to the proliferation of extremist ideologies emanating from the Middle East. Then she delivered a surprisingly blunt message to America’s Arab allies: It is “long past time,” she declared, for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar to stop their citizens from funding extremist organizations, as well as from “supporting radical schools and mosques” that send young people into extremism.
The timing of the message was coincidentally potent. It came on the same day that the powerful Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in the U.S., in a period of uncertainty over the precise future of relations between Washington and Riyadh.
The awkwardness of the relationship became even more evident when that night, the visiting prince dined at the Georgetown home of Secretary of State John Kerry. The two reportedly discussed the shooting and reiterated their commitment to “countering extremism.” The sentiment was diplomatically appropriate, but the fact that Saudi Arabia executes people simply for being homosexual gave it a visible patina of hypocrisy, highlighting again the gulf separating the countries.