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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Robert Fisk

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The Good Old Saudis Have Let Us DownBy Robert Fisk
January 12, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - "The Independent-Only six of our British military chaps, it seems, are helping the Sunni Saudis kill Shia Yemenis. And they’re not actually in Yemen, merely helping to choose the targets – which have so far included hospitals, markets, a wedding party and a site opposite the Iranian embassy. Not that our boys and girls selected those particular “terrorist” nests for destruction, you understand. They’re just helping their Saudi mates – in the words of our Ministry of Defence – “comply to the rules of war”.
Saudi “rules”, of course, are not necessarily the same as “our” rules – although our drone-executions of UK citizens leave a lot of elbow-room for our British warriors in Riyadh. But I couldn’t help chuckling when I read the condemnation of David Mephan, the Human Rights Watch director. Yes, he told us that the Saudis “are committing multiple violations of the laws of war in Yemen”, and that the British “are working hand in glove with the Saudis, helping them, enhancing their capacity to prosecute this war that has led to the death of so many civilians”. Spot on. But then he added that he thought all this “deeply regrettable and unacceptable”.
“Regrettable” and “unacceptable” represent the double standards we employ when our wealthy Saudi friends put their hands to bloody work. To find something “regrettable” means it causes us sadness. It disappoints us. The implication is that the good old Saudis have let us down, fallen from their previously high moral principles.
No wonder the MoD has popped across to Riyadh to un-crease the maps and explain those incomprehensible co-ordinates for the Saudi leaders of the “coalition against terror”. Sorting this logistics mess out for the Saudis does, I suppose, make it less “unacceptable” to have our personnel standing alongside the folk who kill women for adultery without even a fair trial and who chop off the heads of dozens of opponents, including a prominent Saudi Shia cleric.
Those very words – regrettable and unacceptable – are now the peak of the critical lexicon which we are permitted to use about the Saudis. Anything stronger would force us to ask why David Cameron lowered our flag when the last king of this weird autocracy died.
And exactly the same semantics were trotted out last week when the Tory MP and member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Daniel Kawczynski – who was also chairman of the all-party UK parliamentary group on Saudi Arabia – was questioned on television about the 47 executions in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s misogynistic policies and its harsh anti-gay laws. Faced with the unspeakable – indeed, the outrageous – acts of a regime which shares its Wahhabi Sunni traditions with Isis and the Taliban, Kawczynski replied that the executions were “very regrettable”, that targeting civilians would be “completely unacceptable” and the anti-gay laws “highly reprehensible”. “Reprehensible”, I suppose, is a bit stronger than regrettable.It was instructive, also, to hear Kawczynski refer to executions as “certain domestic actions”, as if slicing heads off human beings was something to be kept within the family – which is true, in a sense, since the Saudi authorities allow their executioners to train their sons in the craft of head-slicing, just as we Brits used to allow our hangmen to bring their sons into the gallows trade. This familial atmosphere was always advertised by its ambassadors and their friends. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, when he was Saudi Arabia’s man in Washington, spoke of his country’s religion as part of a “timeless culture” whose people lived according to Islam “and our other basic ways”. A former British ambassador to Riyadh, Sir Alan Munro, once advised Westerners to “adapt” in Saudi Arabia and “to act with the grain of Saudi traditions and culture”. This “grain” can be found, of course, in Amnesty’s archives of men – and occasionally women – who are beheaded each year, often after torture and grotesquely unfair trials.
Another former ambassador, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles – or “Abu Henry” as he was affectionately called by his Saudi friends – used arguments back in 2006 that might have come from David Cameron today. “I’ve been hugely impressed by the way in which the Saudi Arabian authorities have tackled and contained what was a serious terrorist threat,” he said then. “They’ve shrunk the pool of support for terrorism.” Which is exactly how our Prime Minister justified his support for Saudi Arabia’s place on the UN Human Rights Council last October. “It’s because we receive from them important intelligence and security information that keeps us safe,” he told Channel 4’s Jon Snow.
But wasn’t there, nine years ago, a small matter of the alleged bribery of Saudi officials by the British BAE Systems arms group? The Financial Times revealed how Robert Wardle, the UK director of the Serious Fraud Office, decided he might have to cancel his official investigation after being told “how the probe might cause Riyadh to cancel security and intelligence co-operation”. The advice to Wardle was that persisting with his official enquiry might “endanger lives in Britain”. Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara ordered the investigation closed.
The advice to Wardle, I should add, came from none other than Sherard Cowper-Coles, who later became UK ambassador to Afghanistan and, on retirement from the Foreign Office, worked for a short time as a business development director for BAE Systems. Our former man in Riyadh now has no connection with BAE – yet it would be interesting to know if the Saudis are using any of the company’s technology in the bombing of civilian targets in Yemen.
But relax – this would elicit no expressions of outrage, condemnation or disgust at Saudi Arabia – nor any of the revulsion we show when other local head-choppers take out their swords. Any such UK involvement would be unacceptable. Even regrettable. We would be sad. Disappointed. Say no more.

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Saudi Crimes… Western Business As UsualBy Finian Cunningham
January 12, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - "American Herald Tribune" -The United States and Britain are probably the biggest impostor nations known to mankind. The Anglo-Saxon duo never ceases to remind the world of their self-declared democratic virtues, highest regards for human rights and upholding of law. In reality, their relations with the rest of the world are more fitting to criminal enterprise.
Last weekend, a key client regime of Washington and London carried out yet another war crime. Saudi Arabia has been bombing its southern neighbor Yemen for over nine months now. In the latest crime, a hospital was struck by Saudi warplanes in the northern Yemeni province of Saada, killing five people. It is but the latest instance in a litany of such war crimes committed by Saudi military forces in Yemen.
Thousands of civilians, women and children, have been slaughtered in Saudi air strikes on residential areas in the Yemeni capital Sanaa and many other towns and villages across the Arab Peninsula country. Shipping works and store facilities have been hit in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida in a deliberate attempt to cut off the 24 million population from food, fuel and medicines.
The munitions dropped on Yemen include internationally banned cluster bombs, as confirmed by video footage showing “US Air Force”on the ordnance shrapnel.
Saudi claims that they are fighting on behalf of the exiled “government of Yemen”are balderdash. As are Saudi claims that the Ansarullah forces who kicked out the erstwhile American and Saudi-backed president are stooges of Iran, and that the Iranian government is subverting the Arab Peninsula. That’s Saudi paranoid fantasy, as even the New York Times and Washington Post have coyly admitted.
The real reason for the Saudi slaughter in Yemen is that the autocratic rulers in Riyadh cannot tolerate the idea of a popular uprising next door to their despotic regime. When the Ansarullah forces and Yemeni army joined forces to oust the corrupt puppet-president Adel Rabbo Mansour Hadi at the end of 2014 that was a red line for the Saudi dictators.
Popular uprisings in the oil-rich Persian Gulf are absolutely anathema and must be ruthlessly crushed, out of fear that the contagion of democratic power might spread. The people of Bahrain painfully demonstrated that back in 2011 and are still demonstrating it with ongoing Saudi-backed repression against their pro-democracy protests.
But the real villains in this piece are Washington and London. The Saudi regime and the other closely related monarchies in the Gulf would not get away with their despotism and crimes against humanity were it not for the unswerving indulgence afforded by the Anglo-Saxon “champions”of democracy and rule of law.
It is astounding the double-think that Washington and London are allowed to perpetrate, thanks to the obsequious Western mainstream media. US President Barack Obama and British premier David Cameron are indulged in their awry focus on “bringing democracy”to Syria or in their remonstrations with Russian leader Vladimir Putin over unsubstantiated infringements in Ukraine.
Yet Obama and Cameron have evidently nothing to say, and are scarcely questioned in the obsequious media, when it comes to their “ally”in Saudi Arabia.
No elections, women banned from driving cars or opening a bank account, people routinely flogged for allegedly practicing “sorcery”, human rights activists jailed and tortured for expressing mild criticism of the House of Saud. Even after these absolute autocrats order the beheading of prominent Shia cleric Nimr al Nimr, the “champions”of democracy in Washington and London still have nothing to say.
During his five years in office as prime minister, David Cameron’s United Kingdom has earned some $10 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, according to the London-based Campaign Against the Arms Trade.
For the United States, the Saudi proceeds are far greater. Last year alone, the US sold nearly $20 billion in weapons to the Saudi regime. That’s about 12.5 per cent of total US annual arms exports, according to figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
In 2012, the Obama administration signed off on an arms deal with Saudi Arabia worth about $60 billion –reportedly the biggest weapons contract in history.
British and American munitions, warplanes, attack helicopters and cluster bombs are being used by the Saudis to terrorize the population of Yemen into submission. The same state-sponsored terrorism is, to varying degrees, deployed across the entire Persian Gulf to ensure that the Western-backed Arab dictatorships remain in power.
Washington and London’s silence is not merely unscrupulous muteness for the sake of maintaining profits and lobbying graft for the monstrous weapons industries; it is not even just about maintaining the flow of hydrocarbons from the oil-rich Middle East where 70 per cent of the world’s reserves are estimated to be.
It’s more disturbing business-as-usual than that. The arming of despots to oppress people is the reality of how Washington and London assert their power in the world. Democracy and human rights have nothing to do with, except to serve as a bit of rhetorical window-dressing to conceal the barbarity. 
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. For over 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.

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