Counterpunch on Saudi Arabia’s Influence on British Foreign Affairs

Binoy Kampmark, one of the contributors to Counterpunch, has put up a very interesting piece on how the Saudis have managed to influence British foreign policy through a mixture of bribery, business connections and threats. He describes the very extensive gifts and consulting fees given to various Tory MPs, and notes the close connections Blair’s New Labour also cultivated with the head-choppers in Riyadh. May’s government has also profited massively from selling arms to Saudi Arabia to use in their war in Yemen. It’s why Philip Hammond, the Tory foreign secretary, decided to accuse the Iranians of being the principle sponsors of global terror.

But the regime has also used threats. When Blair threatened to investigate the corruption scandal surrounding BAE, the head of the Saudi national security council turned up in London to threaten another 7/7.

The situation is very different under Corbyn. Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry says she wants to conduct an international inquiry into Saudi atrocities in Yemen. This would mean suspending arms sales to the theocratic absolute monarchy. He makes the point that Thornberry is very much following Robin Cook’s stated intention of establishing an ethical foreign policy. Despite that, New Labour abandoned any sign of actually doing this once they got into power. Just as the abandoned the talk about stopping the privatisation of the NHS and the erosion of the welfare state.

But Thornberry means what she says, and this will terrify the Saudis, who will hope for a Tory victory.

Kampmark writes

‘The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia always knows when it’s onto a good thing. That particular “thing”, in the few days left before the UK elections, is the May government. That same government that has done so much to make a distinction between policy and values, notably when it comes to dealing with Riyadh.

The United Kingdom has been a firm, even obsequious backer of Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen. In the traditional spoiling nature of British foreign policy, what is good for the UK wallet can also be good in keeping Middle Eastern politics brutal and divided. The obscurantist despots of the House of Saud have profited, as a result.

The Saudi bribery machine tends to function all hours, a measure of its gratitude and its tenacity. According to the register of financial interests disclosed by the UK Parliament, conservative members of the government received almost £100 thousand pounds in terms of travel expenses, gifts, and consulting fees since the Yemen conflict began.

The Saudi sponsors certainly know which side their bread is buttered on. Those involved in debates on Middle Eastern policy have been the specific targets of such largesse. Tory MP Charlotte Leslie was one, and received a food basket totalling £500.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is another keen target of the Kingdom’s deep pockets, having shown a willingness to defend mass executions in the past. “Let us be clear, first of all,” he insisted after consuming the Kingdom’s gruel on why 47 people were executed in January 2016, “that these people are convicted terrorists.” Four of them, including Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, were political protesters as well, but terrorists come in all shades.’

‘Attempts to shine a strong, searing spotlight on corrupt practices, notably those linked to BAE, have been scotched, blocked or stalled. One such example, a chilling one given the recent spate of attacks on civilians in the UK, involved a disgruntled Prince Bandar, head of Saudi Arabia’s national security council, threaten Prime Minister Tony Blair with “another 7/7” should a fraud investigation into BAE-Riyadh transactions continue.

High Court documents in February 2008 hearings insisted that the Prince had flown to London in December 2006 to give Blair a personal savaging laced with ominous promise: stop the Serious Fraud Office investigation, or expect London to witness a terrorist inflicted bloodbath.’

‘The picture is not a pretty one when shoved into the electoral process. But then again, the May wobble and turn may well justify such a relationship on terms that Saudi security and power is preferable to other authoritarian regimes. These big bad Sunnis are the good Muslims of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Such splitting of hairs doesn’t tend to fly well from the stump and the Tories might well attempt to keep things as quiet as possible. The Saudis, on the other hand, will be wishing for business as usual, praying that the threat of a Corbyn government passes into the shadows of back slapping Realpolitik.’

The message here is that the Saudis are not our friends. They are ruthless, self-interested butchers and despots. They have corrupted our politics, and have no qualms of sending terrorists to kill and maim innocents when it serves their purpose. Just like they did on 9/11.

It’s time their malign influence was firmly brought to heel. Saudi terrorism must be stopped. And a very good start is Jeremy Corbyn’s stated policy of stopping British arms sales to them.

Vote Labour on June 8. They’ll be tough on terrorism, and tough on the causes of terrorism.

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2 Responses to “Counterpunch on Saudi Arabia’s Influence on British Foreign Affairs”

  1. vondreassen Says:

    the sooner we abandon fossil fuels – including oil- the better for us – and for the planet;

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