Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Lethal Embrace: Britain's Special Relationship with Saudi Arabia.

"We have a relationship with Saudi Arabia and if you want to know why I’ll tell you why. It’s because we receive from them important intelligence and security information that keeps us safe. The reason we have the relationship is our own national security...For me, Britain’s national security and our people’s security comes first.”-PM David Cameron.

David Cameron's claim that Britain has a special relationship with Saudi Arabia because it provides intelligence that assists in anti-terrorism came out in an interview with Channel 4's Jon Snow in which he was pressed on his reaction to the forthcoming execution of a Shia activist, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr.

By just raising evident human rights abuses, Snow allowed Cameron to portray the Saudi-British relationship as one of 'constructive engagement', that without the close ties there would be no possibility of even trying to influence Riyadh on such matters as flogging bloggers and executing dissidents.

Cameron's claim that Britain's alliance with Saudi Arabia keeps it safe is utter mendacious nonsense. It is clear Saudi Arabia has funded and backed intolerant Wahhabi Islam within the region and across the globe and that this has assisted in generating the spread of ideas that forged groups such as Al Qaida.

Even if the Saudis had given intelligence on a specific attack, the scale of Riyadh's financing of Sunni jihadist militias from Iraq into Syria, as part of its proxy war with Iran, was a major factor in creating ISIS. This is not a matter of opinion but of fact: even Hilary Clinton in 2009 complained about it in a Wikileaked cable.

The real reason Cameron and others in the British establishment turn a blind eye to the world's largest backer of Sunni jihadi-terrorism is because of the lucrative BAE arms deals and the amount of petrodollars Saudi sheikhs have pumped into London's property and banks since the oil price spike of the 1970s.

Since Thatcher's destruction of British manufacturing in the 1980s, the only big successful sector of manufacturing left in Britain has been the arms industry. The sales of jet aircraft and weapons, as well as training and the sort of intelligence help being used in 2015 to help Saudi jets pummel towns in Yemen, are very lucrative.

As Richard Norton Taylor pointed out,
'It has sold 72 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft to the country in a contract worth an estimated £4.4bn, upgraded Saudi Tornado aircraft (part of the controversial £40bn al-Yamamah contract signed by Margaret Thatcher) in a contract worth an estimated £2.5bn, and upgraded 70 US F15 combat jets in the Saudi air force....The UK Ministry of Defence has gone out its way to help the Saudis by diverting 500 lb Paveway IV guided bombs originally earmarked for the RAF to Saudi Arabia to enable it to continue striking targets in Yemen and Syria. Paveway bombs are produced by Raytheon UK'.
Apart from the evident inhumanity of the Saudi kingdom, with more beheadings per week than ISIS and the indiscriminate use of air power in killing civilians in Yemen, ISIS is poised to exploit the chaos there to gain ground and start targeting Saudi oil production plants. This is an even worse form of blowback than Al Qaida.

Britain, by aligning so closely with the Saudi establishment, could well find itself pulled into a region wide war should Saudi Arabia become destabilised by falling oil revenues, caused by global slump in oil prices, and the sheer costs of its invasion of Yemen that has already been compared to its version of a 'Vietnam quagmire'.

The Yemen military intervention itself was part of a paranoid fear that Iranian backed Shi'ites are ready to encircle the oil rich kingdom and rise up within it in those oil producing regions towards the border with Bahrain that Saudi tanks crossed in 2012 to brutally crush the protests that followed the 'Arab Spring'.

By tacitly backing Saudi Arabia and its corrupt and repressive regime, Britain has only stored up a greater potential for anti-Western resentment and terrorism. This would be directed against it should the kingdom collapse and descend into Syrian-style religious and tribal warfare in the near future as seems probable.

ISIS is gaining ground both within Yemen because of the Saudi's use of Tornado and Typhoon jets to destroy towns and targets there. ISIS strategy is based on exploiting the Sunni-Shia clash as a means to position it as the real 'Islamic State' and so force the Saudis to co-opt support within the kingdom by a relentless war on Shi'ites.

When Cameron or Blair makes plain that what happens in the Middle East necessarily has an impact on the domestic security of Britain, they should be taken at their word. The danger of terrorist blowback has been factored in to geopolitical calculations and the determination is that Britain shall do 'business as usual'.

Clearly, the corrupt lethal embrace of the Saudi establishment goes far beyond partisan party politics within Britain. New Labour's Mandelson and, of course, Blair touted 'aerospace' as one of Britain's great strengths that it inherited back in the 1990s and that made it a great "global player".

Domestic opposition to the British government need to make these interconnections between Saudi Arabia and the promotion of global jihadism plain. Corbyn needs to stress that the jolly "prosperity agenda" that the Saudis fund actually puts short term economic gains before Britain enduring security needs.

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