Saudi Arabia’s appalling behaviour doesn’t stop. The continuing support of the British and American governments is shameful.

Saudi Arabia’s appalling behaviour doesn’t stop. The continuing support of the British and American governments is shameful.

Saudi Arabia continues to be in the news.

1) There is the blockade of Qatar. Saudi and a few other unsavoury Arab governments have imposed a blockade on Qatar – an act which is, in an of itself, extraordinary. They have demanded, among other things that Qatar cease support for various publications – most notable Al Jazeera, most astonishingly, Middle East Eye. Why? To quote Doug Bandow (a respected foreign policy expert, whose 1988 book “Beyond Good Intentions: A Biblical View of Politics“, published by Crossway, remains in print)

“Until recently, life in Qatar was quite pleasant. But then Saudi Arabia, backed by President Donald Trump, who has gone from critic to fan of the ruling royals there, led an effort to isolate its smaller neighbor. With supreme irony, Riyadh, whose people have done more to fund and man terrorist attacks on Americans than any other nation, accused Doha of backing terrorists. “

Al-Jazeera may not be perfect; like most major media organisations it is scarcely impartial; but it still, like the not-quite-perfect BBC, provides a useful service, especially in the context of the Arab world. And, as has been said, the Saudi demand that Qatar shut down Al-Jazeera is the equivalent of the EU demanding that the British government shutting down the BBC.

As for Middle East Eye, it is edited by David Hearst, (former chief foreign leader writer for The Guardian), is not funded by Qatar, is independent of any government or movement, and is highly respected. The Saudi demand that Qatar shut it down is absolutely preposterous.

Have you heard the stern condemnations of Saudi Arabia’s demands coming from Downing Street and the White House? Nor have I.

 

2) Then there’s Yemen. Saudi Arabia invaded two years ago, and since then have repeatedly bombed civilian targets such as schools, hospitals, and funerals. They have also imposed a blockade, ensuring that there are shortages of food and medicine. The result is that children are dying of malnutrition, and (as reported by Daniel Larison)

“Yemen’s cholera epidemic is already the worst in the world, but daily it is growing even worse:

The death toll from a major cholera outbreak in Yemen has risen to 1,500, Nevio Zagaria, the World Health Organisation’s representative in Yemen, said on Saturday, and appealed for more help to put an end to the epidemic.

Last week there were 200,000 cases of cholera in the country, and now there are almost 250,000. In another week, unless things change quickly, there will be even more. Cholera is treatable, but it requires being able to deliver the right medicine in sufficient amounts to the sick, and right now the Saudi-led blockade and the devastation of Yemen’s health care system make that very difficult. Aid agencies are working extremely hard to contain the epidemic, but they are doing so without adequate funding and with scant or no cooperation from the governments with the means to help. The civilian population is now especially vulnerable to preventable diseases like this one because of severe malnutrition caused by years of blockade and war. Because of the damage to the country’s infrastructure, it is difficult for people to find enough clean drinking water. The near-famine conditions make it much easier for disease to spread rapidly, and they make it more likely that the disease will kill many more people than it would have otherwise. These are man-made disasters inflicted on the people of Yemen as the result of deliberate policy choices by their neighboring states and their Western patrons.

The U.S. and other coalition supporters can still try to repair some of the damage they have helped cause, but after more than two years of working to bring about the world’s worst humanitarian crisis it is doubtful that any will make a serious effort.”

 

3) And the latest is that

“A report on the foreign funding of extremism in the UK was given to Downing Street last year, it has been revealed, but Theresa May is still to decide whether to make its findings public.”

Home Office minister Sarah Newton said: “The review into the funding of Islamist extremism in the UK was commissioned by the former prime minister and reported to the home secretary and the prime minister in 2016.

The review has improved the government’s understanding of the nature, scale and sources of funding for Islamist extremism in the UK. Publication of the review is a decision for the prime minister.”

So why has the government not made its finding public? Because it is believed that it points to Saudi Arabia’s involvement in funding and supporting terrorism.

Tim Farron is absolutely right when he says

““It is a scandal that the government are suppressing this report. The only conclusion you can draw is that they are worried about what it actually says. We hear regularly about the Saudi arms deals or ministers going to Riyadh to kowtow before their royal family, but yet, our government won’t release a report that will clearly criticise Saudi Arabia. “All this government seems to care about is cosying up to one of the most extreme, nasty and oppressive regimes in the world. You would think our security would be more important, but it appears not. For that Theresa May should be ashamed of herself.”

Relationships, apparently

It’s not the first time. Back in September, Jeremy Corbyn questioned Theresa May in the House of Commons about British support and said “The British Government continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia that are being used to commit crimes against humanity in Yemen, as has been clearly detailed by the UN and other independent agencies.” May replied “Actually, what matters is the strength of our relationship with Saudi Arabia. When it comes to counter-terrorism and dealing with terrorism, it is that relationship that has helped to keep people on the streets of Britain safe.” I find that statement horrifying and shameful.   The fact that she probably had seen the report into the funding of Islamic extremism in Britain when she made that statement probably makes it worse.

One could go on. The Saudi government practices public beheading of convicted criminals, had close links to the 9/11 hijackers, forbids its citizens from becoming Christians, bans the selling of Bibles, and tolerates no church buildings on its territory.

My view is that this is disgraceful. It seems to me that if most other Middle Eastern countries behaved like Saudi Arabia, the American government would be doing all it could to topple the government. But different rules apply to Saudi Arabia.

Why? It’s about “alliances”. According to the Washington Post,

. . . .When the operation began, support for a key ally was a foregone conclusion, one official said. “There was this great sense of ‘this is the right thing to do,’ ” the official said. . . . Despite repeated strikes on schools and hospitals, officials see little choice for now but continued support, given the intense desire to shore up a bilateral relationship . . . .”

What we need to remember is that the Saudi government is not an ally of the British or American people. It is an ally of our governments and politicians. Alas, we the people are not entirely without responsibility for our politicians.

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