5 dictators the U.S. still supports

America was a key backer of the Mubarak regime — at least, until the uprising in Cairo intensified this week. Which other autocrats in the region still enjoy U.S. support?

The U.S. has had a good relationship with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia since the 1970s.
(Image credit: CC BY: The White House)

With the destabilized regime of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, the Obama administration faces something of a dilemma. On the one hand, Obama says he wants the will of the Egyptian people to prevail. On the other, the embattled Mubarak has long been a key American ally. Egypt is the fourth largest recipient of U.S. military aid — only Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel receive more — and Mubarak has been hailed as Israel's greatest friend in the region. Of course, the Egyptian leader isn't the only autocrat to receive U.S. backing, covert or otherwise. Here, five more:

1. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

The U.S. has had a good relationship with Saudi Arabia since 1974, when Richard Nixon became the first American president to visit the country. The ties strengthened during George W. Bush's tenure — Saudi Arabia was certified as an anti-terrorism ally in 2007 — and King Abdullah maintains a good relationship with President Obama. And yet Saudi Arabia is indisputably an authoritarian regime. There is no elected parliament, public protests are banned, and the media is controlled by the state. The United States' support of Abdullah may one day backfire, says Alex Welch at The Daily Campus. "On the day the Saudi monarchy collapses, the United States may find itself powerless to defeat any anti-American sentiment that may foster as a result."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

2. President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen

Yemen's leader for 32 years has been "one of America's foremost allies in the 'war on terror,'" says Kim Sengupta in The Independent, and has worked with the U.S. to target the country's large network of al Qaida operatives. Leaked WikiLeaks cables described how Saleh had covered up U.S. military strikes in the country and offered American forces an "open door" to execute more attacks. However, Saleh's grip on power will soon come to an end — an Egypt-style revolt has forced him to announce he will step down in 2013.

3. Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said of Oman

The sultan of Oman has ruled over the country in a benevolent dictatorship since 1970, and has established an absolute monarchy under which all substantial decisions are made by him. Even so, Oman is one of America's oldest Arab allies, and one of the few Arab countries with which a free trade agreement has been signed. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently praised the "remarkable gains" made in Oman under the sultan's leadership.

4. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea

The ruler of Equatorial Guinea was described as a "good friend" of the U.S. by Condoleezza Rice back in 2006, reports Justin Elliot at Salon, and continues to enjoy the support of the Obama administration. And yet, Human Rights Watch says Obiang's country is "mired in corruption, poverty, and repression," and his government "regularly engages in torture and arbitrary detention." The president's son reportedly spent more on luxury goods between 2004 and 2007 "than the country's annual education budget."

5. Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan borders Afghanistan, and the U.S. has pursued a strategic alliance with President Berdymukhamedov to allow arms and supplies to travel through his country. Turkmenistan received $2 million in military aid last year, and its leader has met with Secretary of State Clinton and General David Petraeus. But "Turkmenistan is run by one of the most repressive regimes in existence," says Justin Elliott at Salon. Restrictions on freedom, religion, the press, and movement are widespread, as are torture and detention of political prisoners.

To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us