While the United States is concerned over rampant human rights abuses committed by Saudi Arabia, President Barack Obama on Tuesday stressed that it's often more important to first focus on security issues, reported The Associated Press.
"Sometimes we have to balance our need to speak to them about human rights issues with immediate concerns that we have in terms of countering terrorism or dealing with regional stability," Obama told CNN prior to his Tuesday visit to the country to pay respect to recently deceased Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.
Saudi Arabia, the U.S.'s closest Arab ally, has drawn criticism for its unfair discrimination of women and harsh prosecution of peaceful activists. A blogger was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for creating a website critical of Islam.
As Newsweek noted, the country's public beheadings for crimes such as adultery, "sorcery" and "drug receiving," put to shame those conducted by the Islamic State group.
Then there are the concerns from high ranking U.S. officials that Saudi Arabia continues to covertly finance terrorism around the world.
But Obama said he does intend to continue to pressure the Saudis to transition to a more modern approach to human rights and criminal justice.
"It is important for us to take into account existing relationships, the existing alignments within a very complicated Middle East, to recognize that we have strategic interests in common with Saudi Arabia and that even as we work on those common interests, for example, countering terrorist organizations, that we are also encouraging them to move in new directions, not just for our sake but more importantly for their sake," Obama told CNN.
"But the trendline is one that I will sustain throughout the rest of my presidency and that is to make an argument to those friends and allies of ours that if they want a society that is going to be able to sustain itself in this age, then they're going to have to change how they do business."
During Obama's Tuesday visit to Saudi Arabia, he touched "base on some of the issues where we're working together with the Saudis," according to National Security Council spokesman Ben Rhodes, USA Today reported.
Those issues include the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, the coup in Yemen, counterterrorism, falling oil prices and nuclear negotiations with Iran.