THE BLOG

Britain's Hypocrisy Over Saudi Arabia Is Nauseating

05/10/2015 12:59 BST | Updated 04/10/2016 10:12 BST

The most sensible comment I saw during the kerfuffle over Jeremy Corbyn's refusal to sing the national anthem was from an ex-RAF fighter pilot. A veteran of WW2, Harry Leslie Smith pointed out that his primary gripe lay with 'politicians who sell guns to tyrants.' It was a shame his comment got lost in the hysteria surrounding the Labour leader, as it drew attention to a facet of UK foreign policy that too frequently goes unchallenged: that for all Cameron's bluster about the intolerable nature of life under Islamic State, his government and many before him are content with promoting misery and instability in the Middle East and beyond whenever it dovetails with UK interests. Recipients of British diplomatic and military endorsement in recent years have included Saddam, Assad and Gaddafi, making any human rights rhetoric from British Prime Ministers feel about as convincing as the mantra by the Foreign Office that Britain doesn't negotiate with terrorists. The recent migrant crisis is an appalling reminder of how such deplorable self-interest can come back to haunt us.

The least that could be said of these illicit deals was they were done in the dark. Such protocol doesn't seem to apply with Saudi Arabia. The recent news that Britain helped the Saudi government secure a position within the UN human rights council, although apparently conducted in secret, hardy came as a surprise in light of our government's farcical display of mourning for the late King Abdullah in January this year.

Such support for the Saudi royal family is sickening in light of its constant stream of barbaric antics against its own citizens, including the impending decapitation and crucifixion of 20-year-old political activist Ali Mohammed al-Nimr. It should go without saying that medieval and arcane punishments and the denial of basic freedoms to women, homosexuals, dissidents, journalists and petty criminals were in full swing in Saudi Arabia long before the rise of Islamic State. For Cameron to condemn one whilst prostrating himself in front of the other is little short of despicable, and indeed contradicts his admission in 2011 that British support for dictators in the Middle East had unacceptably helped to fuel carnage and volatility.

Furthermore, when considering the UK's national security, British sycophancy towards the Saudis is counter-productive. Vacuous claims on Cameron's part that Saudi Arabia is a vital partner in fighting terrorism don't stand up to recent history given the Saudi government's tendency for bankrolling terrorist movements across the Middle East, such as the radical Salafists receiving funding from Riyadh and the promotion of Wahhabism in Afghanistan that laid the foundations for the Taliban. If we were to believe the UK government's rhetoric over terrorism for even a minute, the willingness of the Saudis to promote such instability threatens everyone's safety.

I'm agnostic about the use of drone warfare to say the least. But if the MoD insists on it, aiming at the House of Saud wouldn't be a bad place to start.

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