The disappearance of the Parliamentary watchdog on arms sales abroad is not so mysterious when it is considered that the Saudi military intervention in Yemen started in March 2015. There is no reason why government would want any sort of examination of the use of British made weapons in indiscrimate bombings.
The hope is that the 'forgotten war' would remain forgotten because aligning with Saudi Arabia against Houthi militias, backed by Iran, is considered a major geostrategic imperative required to check Iranian influence. It is part of the wider proxy war being played out across the region, most obviously in Syria.
Supposed realpolitik, therefore, trumps any humanitarian considerations the British government have. Britain is involved in milirarily assisting the Saudi war effort along with the US as a matter of intentional policy decisions based on the claim, as made by Phillip Hammond, that the Saudi War in Yemen is 'legitimate'.
The idea that humanitarian and military objectives are at odds presupposes that is a problem for Cameron's government but it is not. Certainly it would like to preserve its image as force for moral good in the world but it tends to think that this always dovetails perfectly with the power interests it backs.
The US directly supports Saudi Arabia's war.Britain supports the US to retain prestige as a Global Player that the Gulf States want to work with as a partner. Focusing on the narrow issue of whether war crimes have been committed, as important as that is, ignores the fact Saudi Arabia does as it pleases.
Saudi Arabia is regional hegemon and leader of a coalition of Gulf states blitzing Yemen. It includes Bahrain where Britain started work on the Mina Salman Port on October 31st 2015. Hammond said 'The presence of the Royal Navy in Bahrain is guaranteed into the future, ensuring Britain’s sustained presence east of Suez.'
How the Saudi led war contributes to 'regional stability' is not clear but the obvious fact is that it does not and it has little basis in legality according to international law experts. The war to reinstall Hadi at his request depends on his acceptance as the legitimate leader but this is just claim not a fact.
As Madawi Al-Rasheed claims 'The Saudi war on Yemen is not an inevitable war of self-defense forced on the leadership by Houthi expansion inside Saudi Arabia and undermining Saudi national security. Instead, it was a pre-emptive strike to inaugurate an aggressive Saudi regional foreign policy.'
The British government can hardly recognise that Saudi Arabia is committing war crimes with British made jets because it is directly complicit in having created-and in continuously maintaining-the Saudi war machine in 2015. FO legal advisers are claiming Britain could be tried for war crimes
Apart from that, the Saudi War is unwinnable and helping AQAP and ISIS to gain ground just as the proxy war in Syria has. The danger is that, along with disgruntled Shia within Saudi Arabia itself, jihadi violence will blowback as the war drains further the ability of the Al Saud monarchy to buy off discontent.
The collapse in the oil price has reduced oil revenue earnings drastically. But, even more bizarrely and dangerously, Saudi Arabia has actuallyACTIVELY aligned with AQAP as a means to roll back the Houthis despite the US having fought its drone war with the jihadists since the group was created in 2009.
Hammond made plain that British involvement in air strikes in Syria allowed Saudi Arabia to concentrate on the 'legitimate' Yemen War. It is hard to see how Britain's air strikes on ISIS are going to defeat global terrorism when its ally was ready to aid them in Yemen ready for ISIS to step in to take over.
Cold War Legacy: Why the US and Britain are standing by Saudi Arabia.
Cold War Legacy: Why the US and Britain are standing by Saudi Arabia.
The US and Britain want to achieve preserving their hegemony in the Greater Middle East against that of rival powers, though it is misleading to claim that the Gulf powers are 'vassal states' ( Chomsky ). The truth is worse than that as it the Gulf states that have turned Britain into their servant.
Essentially, it is about preserving interests, the profits from the colossal arms trade, which Britain leads the world in with Saudi Arabia, and preference as an investment destination for Saudi petromoney. It is Britain that is dependent on Saudi Arabia rather than vice versa.
Fear of Saudi collapse is leading Britain and the US to demonstrate all the more that they are a loyal ally, especially after the nuclear deal with Iran which was about bringing Tehran in from the cold as a way to involve it in solving Syria as well as shoring up Shi'ite dominated Iraq.
The intractable problem is that while the US and Britain effectively help back internal repression in Saudi Arabia, the more likely it would increase resentment against the Saudi monarchy and the West. It will hasten too the emerging Sunni-Shi'ite clash that is developing across the region.
Western foreign policy has failed as has the old Cold War alliance system, which reached its nadir of 'effectiveness' in the 1980s with the Gulf States backing the mujahadeen in Afghanistan against the USSR and Saddam Hussein against what was then a revolutionary Islamist Iran.
The problem is that Iraq no longer acts as a 'balancing power' between Iran and Saudi Arabia as a consequence of the Bush's and Blair's invasion of 2003 and the fragmentation of the state into Kurdish, Shi'ite and Sunni territories. Iran is central to maintaining the Baghdad government.
The US and Britain has not quite got used to the idea, as remains clear with the disastrous policy towards Syria of demanding 'Assad must go', that it does not have the means to single-handedly determine events in the Greater Middle East along with Saudi Arabia.
On the contrary, the attempt to try and balance Iran's growing influence by aligning firmly with Saudi Arabia's policy elsewhere, as is the case on Syria and Yemen, is helping to ratchet up the proxy war and cause the chaos that ISIS has exploited
From one perspective, US and British foreign policy has helped replace the AQ threat with a worse one. From another, it could be considered that the war on ISIS has positive spin off benefits in testing out and developing the military technology, especially drones, and in selling more arms.
Yet, from another viewpoint, it makes no sense at all to be directly supporting a Saudi state that has openly backed AQ given that it is the terrorist atrocity of 9/11 that stimulated what was once called the 'war on terror' and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The idea the US and Britain have leverage over Riyadh is increasingly untenable. Cameron claimed the Saudis give him information which 'keeps us safe' from terrorism. Yet whatever truth there is in that ( which is highly questionable ), the source of global jihad ultimately emanates from Saudi Arabia.
Unlike during the Cold War, where these sorts of geopolitical power games and arms deals could be carried out at great distance from the West, the contribution these failed foreign policies are making towards anarchy and chaos will almost certainly blow back towards Europe and the US.