There are a number of excuses which regularly get trotted out in order to justify our relations with Saudi Arabia.
We rely on them for oil, they’re an important trading partner, they’re important to our economy, they’re an important strategic partner that helps to keep us safe from terrorism, and that if we didn’t sell them weapons, then someone else would…possibly the Russians!
All of this is demonstrably nonsense.
For a start, only 3% of UK oil imports come from Saudi Arabia. Most of our consumption comes from our own reserves and the rest from Europe and Africa.
What the British state and British capitalism really value is not Saudi oil, but the wealth generated by its sale which they can spend on high-grade weaponry.
We are told that arms sales to Saudi Arabia are important to the British economy, yet in 2015-2016 (a peak year for those sales), total exports of ALL goods and services to Saudi Arabia, both military and non-military, made up just 1.3% of UK exports worldwide. In this context, South Korea, Sweden, Hong Kong, Poland, Switzerland and Norway are all more important to us.
As for jobs…
“To give you an example, BAE Systems, the British company, when trying to get the Serious Fraud Office in the UK to close down a massive corruption investigation into BAE, said if the investigation continues, the Saudis won’t buy our typhoon jets and that’ll cost 55,000 jobs in the UK. Turned out, there were actually less than 7,000 jobs in the UK that would have been created by this deal.”
These people will be highly skilled designers and engineers, they won’t struggle to find work and I’m sure that their skills could be put to a much better and more productive use.
The real ‘value’ of arms sales is not to the British economy as a whole, but specifically to the very narrow sector that is the arms industry, with 42% of whose exports went to Riyadh in the last decade.
Reports state that the UK’s contribution to the last military strikes in Syria was to fire eight ‘Storm-Shadow’ missiles at an alleged chemical weapons facility, each of which cost £790,000 – totaling £6.32 million. The missiles were manufactured by BAE Systems.
BAE Systems have also just signed a deal with the Saudi government for the provisional sale of 48 Typhoon jets to the kingdom, allowing them to drop more BAE missiles on Yemen.
Missiles that will be fired by Saudi pilots who are being trained at RAF Valley in Anglesey, Wales.
The conflict in Yemen started in September, 2014. March 25th, 2015 saw the Saudis enter the fray. On the 26th of March 2015, the UK licensed £3.3 billion of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, including £1 billion of bombs and missiles, up from only £9 million the previous year (an 11,000% increase).
Our domestic arms industry’s function is to meet London’s long-term commitment to remain a global military power, and to entrench strategic ties with ‘allies’, no matter how brutal and despotic they are, such as the Saudis. But these commitments are, of course, a matter of choice and not a necessity.
You only need look at the government appointment of former UN ‘Penholder’, Michael Rycroft, to the Department for International Development (DFID), as an example of how this works…
“Two tragedies have dominated Rycroft’s time at the UN since he joined in April 2015. The first was the war in Yemen, while the second is the genocide in Myanmar.
Tens of thousands have died in these twin calamities. More die every day. Millions have fled their homes and millions face starvation.
Rycroft was “penholder” at the UN Security Council on both Myanmar and Yemen. This term means that it was his responsibility to lead discussion and draft resolutions on both countries…
…During his period in charge, Britain has continued to sell arms to Saudi Arabia while using diplomatic muscle to fend off attempts to give proper scrutiny to the Saudi coalition’s merciless bombing of Yemen.”
“I am delighted to be joining DFID as your Permanent Secretary at this important time. DFID has a fantastic reputation and a crucial mission: to eradicate poverty.
I believe in aid and also in international development more broadly. As the UK leaves the EU, we need to consider our strategic direction. I want us to think of ourselves as central to the British Government’s work, building partnerships to protect our country from long term threats, creating long term opportunities and promoting the UK around the world.”
“The attack on Yemen is not “Saudi-led” but merely Saudi-fronted. Britain and the United States are concealed behind what Lord Curzon once called an ‘Arab facade’. Philip Hammond claimed Britain aren’t directly involved in the Yemen campaign but hinted they could be in the future. He instead states that Britain will support the assault on Yemen “in every practical way short of engaging in combat”.  Below is a catalogue of British involvement, based on reporting so far:”
This all means that our government will go to extraordinary lengths to appease the cash cow.
They are happy to ignore UN experts who have called on Britain and the U.S to stop arming Saudi Arabia for its campaign in Yemen amid evidence that Western bombs are being used in war crimes. Something that they’ve long been well aware of.
The United Nations have said that between 12 and 13 million people are at risk of starvation within the next three months if the Saudi Arabian-led coalition continues its bombing of Yemen.
This should be the top news story everywhere in the world right now. A catastrophe manufactured by an indiscriminate Saudi bombing campaign, with U.S/U.K weapons, training, and logistical and diplomatic support to bomb weddings, funerals and school buses with impunity.
Instead, the world was more concerned by the death of one Washington Post journalist.
This is a famine which our government have helped to create, along with the conditions for over 1.2 million suspected cases of cholera to develop (including 10,000 new suspected cases each week), as well as over 1,900 cases of diphtheria.
This UN statement has been reported throughout the British media.
Not one saw fit to highlight the U.K. or U.S involvement that has facilitated this crisis. There is no mention of the U.K. or U.S at all.
Let that sink in.
Only the BBC could muster an utterance, even then it is fleeting;
“Saudi Arabia, backed by the US, the UK and France.”
That’s it. That is the entirety.
Yet barely a week after the release of this damning report by the UN implicating the UAE and Saudi Arabia in human rights violations and war crimes, it was business as usual as British MP’s hosted the UAE’s foreign minister at a roundtable in Parliament that they were trying to keep secret. The same MP’s who happen to have had a recent all expenses paid trip to Dubai!
The Tories aren’t solely to blame on this one. Parliament had a chance to help put an end to the misery two years ago when in February 2016, Labour proposed a motion to stop the sales of arms to Saudi Arabia over the bombing of Yemen.
Unfortunately, 102 Blairite MP’s where either absent or abstained on the official Labour motion. It was all the usual suspects.
Shame on every single one of them.
Our involvement is these atrocities is the reason that the UK refused to back a UN inquiry into Saudi ‘war crimes’, not the ‘fears it will damage trade’ as cited.
As discussed, this is a totally spurious argument which is wholly without merit.
They also abstained from the recent EU wide bid to enact an arms embargo on the Saudis.
Though how seriously the EU can be taken is anyone’s guess, given Macron’s stance after the Khashoggi affair…
“Macron heard warning bin Salman over Khashoggi after Saudi crown prince tells him not to worry: ‘I am worried’”
Regardless of this most recent scandal it was business as usual from May.
But when you consider that Theresa May’s husband’s Capital Group is one of the biggest profiteers from the war on Yemen, this behaviour is hardly surprising.
And it’s not just BAE, Capital Group is also one of Lockheed Martins biggest investors, another company greatly profiting from the destruction in Yemen.
But what about keeping us safe? Supposedly, the intelligence shared is one of our greatest tools in ‘fighting terror’.
Strange then that a British think tank (the right-wing Henry Jackson Society) says Saudi Arabia is the main sponsor of extremism in the UK, urging a probe into sources of the money being injected mainly by the Riyadh regime into the institutions promoting radicalism in the European state.
Their report claims Saudi Arabia has, since the 1960s, sponsored a multimillion-dollar effort to export the radical Wahhabi ideology across the Islamic world, including to Muslim communities in the west, adding that foreign funding for extremism in Britain mainly comes from the Saudi kingdom.
Theresa May buried the report.
Another common suggestion is that Riyadh could easily import arms from elsewhere if the UK were to stop supplying them. This fundamentally misunderstands the nature of what the UK and US provide: complex, state-of-the-art weapons systems, together with ongoing support to sustain their use.
These systems cannot simply be replaced and personnel retrained by Russia, China or anyone else, certainly not overnight.
This is why Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former CIA analyst, said back in 2016 that Washington and London could effectively pull the plug on the Saudis’ bombing of Yemen whenever they liked, since “the Royal Saudi Air Force cannot operate without American and British support. See:
Another tale they like to spin is that Saudi Arabia has an inherently different culture from ours, but that we are supporting the “reformers”.
In reality, of course, the Arabian peninsula is like any other region, a highly contested socio-political space, but for decades real reformers have faced the obstacle of repressive regimes who are funded, trained, supported and armed to the teeth by the west.
The only “reforms” that any of those regimes have ever been interested in, like those who back them, are in are those that consolidate their own wealth and power.
Everyone’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s really an easy way: Stop participating in it.
This is the situation we find ourselves in. We export terror to the Middle East, who in return export terrorism to us. This in turn is causing a global radicalisation of an already disenfranchised and disempowered peoples. Add in populist demagogues pointing the finger of blame toward everyone apart from those who have created this tinderbox and you can see where this is heading…
For a closer look at the destructive nature of the Saudis relationship with Western Imperialism…
‘How U.S.-Saudi Marriage Gave Birth to Jihad’
[And why Saudi Arabia is able to act with impunity]
“Like any imperialist power, the United States can be a bit unscrupulous in the partners it chooses … Less a specifically Saudi phenomenon, the great Wahhabist offensive of the last 30 or 40 years is best understood as a joint venture between oil imperialism and neo-medieval Islamic revivalism.
On its own, such an austere doctrine would never have made it out of the badlands of central Arabia. Only in conjunction with outside powers, first Britain and then the United States, did it turn into a world-altering force …
It worked for nearly everyone until 19 hijackers, 15 of them Saudis, flew a pair of fuel-laden jetliners into the World Trade Center and a third into the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 people in all.
The 9/11 attacks should have been a wake-up call that something had gone seriously amiss. But instead of pressing the pause button, the United States opted to double down on the same old strategy.
From its perspective, it had little choice. It needed Saudi oil; it needed security in the Persian Gulf, global commerce’s most important chokepoint; and it needed a reliable ally in the Muslim world in general. Moreover, the Saudi royal family was clearly in trouble.
Al Qaeda enjoyed wide public support. Indeed a Saudi intelligence survey reportedly found that 95 percent of educated Saudis between the ages of 25 and 41 had “sympathies” for bin Laden’s cause. If the Bush administration had walked off in a huff, the House of Saud would have become more vulnerable to al Qaeda rather than less.
Consequently, Washington opted to work on the marriage rather than splitting up. This entailed three things.
First, there was a need to cover up Riyadh’s considerable role in the destruction of the Twin Towers by, among other things, suppressing a crucial 29-page chapter in a joint congressional report dealing with Saudi links to the hijackers.
Second, the Bush administration redoubled efforts to pin the blame on Saddam Hussein, Washington’s latest villain du jour. Need “best info fast,” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered while the towers were still burning, according to notes taken by his aide Stephen Cambone. “…Judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. at same time—not only UBL [i.e. Usama bin Laden]. Hard to get a good case. Need to move swiftly—Near term target needs—Go massive—sweep it all up, need to do so to get anything useful. Things related or not.” Washington needed a fall guy to get the Saudis off the hook.
Third was the need to prosecute the so-called “War on Terror,” which was never about terrorism per se but about terrorism unsanctioned by the United States. The goal was to arrange for jihadis only to strike at targets jointly approved by Washington and Riyadh.
This meant, first and foremost, Iran, the Saudis’ bête noire, whose power, ironically, had grown after the U.S. invasion of Iraq had tipped the formerly Sunni-controlled country into the pro-Shi‘ite column. But it also meant Syria, whose president, Bashar al-Assad, is an Alawite, a form of Shi‘ism, and Russia, whose friendliness to both countries left it doubly marked in U.S. and Saudi eyes.
Ideologically, it meant taking Wahhabist anger at Western powers such as America, Britain, and France and directing it at Shi‘ism instead. The doors to sectarianism were thus opened.”
To read more: