What bubbles below the Gulf’s oil giants

The Arab states in the Gulf, which account for nearly half of the world’s oil supply, also hold the lowest combined rankings for democratic freedoms and rights. The two characteristics help explain why democracies face a balancing act to live up to their values while doing business with these vital sources of energy.

Last Friday, for example, U.S. President Joe Biden drew fire by affirming immunity for Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite U.S. intelligence reports that link the de facto Saudi leader to the 2018 killing of a Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. In the United Kingdom, meanwhile, the House of Lords plans a debate on how the government might “address human rights abuses in the Gulf States.”

Though valid, these actions may overshadow an important shift already underway in the six states of the Gulf: an emerging generation of youth demanding economic opportunity, religious freedom, and social equality.