The Tories’ friendship with Saudi Arabia stretches our trust to the limit

Are UK jobs more important than standing up for human rights?

Riyadh’s ‘Chop Chop Square’

In recent months the Conservative Party’s friendly relations with the Saudi Arabian government have been highlighted and attacked by people from across the political spectrum.

Saudi Arabia’s recent mass beheading of a mixture of jihadists, religious dissenters and a prominent ‘moderate’ Shia cleric has revived the deep rift between Saudi Arabia and (Shia) Iran and highlighted Britain’s close relations with the Saudi state.

The death of the cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, highlighted the Saudi’s deep distrust of religious dissenters and the centrality of Islamic fundamentalism to the Saudi government. Nimr al-Nimr stood accused of ‘disobeying the ruler’, ‘inciting Sectarian strife’ (but not violence) and of firing a weapon at Saudi security forces – though there is no evidence of the latter.

Al-Nimr was not one to mince his words, rejoicing at the death of Saudi Arabia’s interior minister Crown Prince Nayef Abdul-Aziz al-Saud and stating that he hoped Abdul-Aziz al-Saud would be ‘eaten by worms and will suffer the torments of hell’. But nasty comments do not justify execution.

Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski argued that Nimr al-Nimr was guilty of ‘plotting terrorist activities’ and refused to condemn the killings, though he also stated that he finds the death penalty ‘unpalatable’. What kind of politician thinks beheading a controversial activist is ‘unpalatable’ but essentially fine?

The answer is the kind of government which arms and collaborates with one of the world’s most violent dictatorships. A government which went so far as to honour and praise the dictator King Abdullah, when he died last year.

Philip Hammond, the Conservative foreign secretary, also refused to condemn the actions of the Saudi government, preferring to point out Iran’s appalling human rights record. David Cameron eventually offered criticism of the Saudi government’s actions, stating that his government has ‘disagreements’ with Saudi Arabia but also stressing the need for close relations.

Kawczynski has pointed out that 100,000 British jobs are dependent on our close relations with the Saudi state but this simply portrays the government as willing to barter away any sense of right and wrong.

Saudi Arabia is not just a regular human rights abuser with a conservative set of religious doctrines; it is arguably the most fundamentalist nation in the Islamic world. Like ISIS it practices crucifixion as a form of punishment.

Saudi Arabia is the main financier of Sunni terrorist groups, which includes Al-Qaida and ISIS. The Saudi government has not been accused of funding terrorism directly but of turning a blind eye to wealthy Saudis involved in funding groups including ISIS, as well as being the foremost proponent of Salafism – the ultra-traditional form of Islam which influences ISIS.

This is done by investing in mosques, madrasas, cultural centres and missionaries which preach Salafism on a global scale, including in Britain and across the Middle East. It is plausible that this funding is one of the main sources of the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism in the last few decades. Robert Fisk is perhaps right to call the Saudis the ‘spiritual mentors’ of ISIS.

The government’s willingness to work alongside the Saudis in their war in Yemen is equally disturbing. The Saudis have bombed a refugee camp, allegedly bombed a busy marketplace, declared an entire governorate (province) to be a military target (effectively classifying countless civilians as legitimate targets) and, according to the UN, have also bombed schools and hospitals.

The Saudis’ thuggish tactics in Yemen clearly amount to war crimes, and prove that the Saudi state is not only dangerous domestically but is also a threat to innocents internationally.

Britain’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is unlikely to end soon, but the Tories’ fraternal relations with a Salafist police-state is disturbing and embarrassing, even if it isn’t necessarily surprising.

For a government which wants to repeal the Human Rights Act, having close relations with the Saudis is not very good PR. For a government which wants to appear tough on national security and moral in its foreign policy, having close relations with Saudi Arabia is farcical.

Adam Peggs is a student and blogger who has previously contributed to Leaders of the Opposition and Labour Briefing. Read his blog here.

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49 Responses to “The Tories’ friendship with Saudi Arabia stretches our trust to the limit”

  1. Bradley B.

    ”Kawczynski has pointed out that 100,000 British jobs are dependent on our close relations with the Saudi state but this simply portrays the government as willing to barter away any sense of right and wrong.”

    Let you and all of you who share your ideals put your money where your ideals are and undertake to give 10% of your net income for life into investments for alternative jobs to weapons production. If not, tell us who you think should foot the bill for your ideals and why. Keep in mind the government has no money. That is the money of the British people.

    Corbynistas are high on ideals and lost for words when it comes to wealth creation. Democracy is a product of wealth. Democracies which are poor are oligarchies with democratic façades.

  2. Chris Kitcher

    Corbynistas, of which I am proud to be one, are a very strong on wealth creation and perhaps you should listen to what John Mcdonall is saying rather than jst reguritating waht you read in the Mail and Express.

    Listening to Camoron and Osborne plead how poor the country is I now see why the Tories are planning to destroy the Human Rights Act and take awy peoples rights by further attacks on Unions. We are no longer and hve no been for decaeds a democracy.

  3. Bradley B.

    The Tories are as bad on wealth creation as McDonnell and Corbyn becasue neither are willing to acknowledge that in order to gather funds for investment we must cut consumption. Borrowing an extra 10 billion would help but not make a substantial difference. We also need to divert around 20 billion per annum from consumption. No left or right parties are willing to do that and that is why we are screwed. Consumption includes all services a well as usual consumer purchasing.

    Any time McDonnell or Osborne talk of investment they are soon bleating on about ”INWARD.” Sure. let the foreigners do our investing for us. We have public services and holidays and cars that come first!

    Of course we could issue bonds to encourage savers but they are already so much in debt, which combined with business debt and public debt form the harbingers of a new recession.

  4. Cole

    100,000 is obviously a ludicrous exaggeration. I’m no Corbynista, but there must be some point at which we stop selling arms to dodgy regimes. Would we seriously sell them to Iran or N Korea?

  5. Chris Kitcher

    What a load of Thatcherite nonsence in your first sentence. Now is the time, with low interest rates,for governments to borrow money which will firstly increase the infrastructure of this country and secondly in doing so create jobs and boost the the economy within the country.

    Osbourns stupidity like Thatcher in comparing the natonal economy to household economy is so false and misguided that we all ar suffering especially the poor and vulnerable.

    If he wants to make the public pay for his disasterous management of the economy he should be taxing the large corporation that use offshore tax havens and the wealthy not the poor and vulnerable.

  6. gaswork

    Saudi Arabia just Sentenced a Poet To Death For Abandoning Islam, this country has become something you wipe of your shoe, as what it used to represent is no more.

  7. Harold

    Personally if we could reach agreement with ISIS that the weapons would not be used against the UK, I would sell them arms if it created 10,000 jobs. I see no difference in who you sell the weapons too, they still have the end product. I would not be surprised if the UK Arms industry with Government consent id not already arming ISIS.

  8. Bradley B.

    You need to get over your childish fixation that criticism of your ideas must mean the person criticising is a Tory. Britain’s problems are a consequence of both parties under-investing when in government .

    You wan to borrow more than Osborne? Okay. But have you not noticed that he is already borrowing tens of billions MORE than he said he would and the economy is still sluggish.

    Neither party has built a decent trades school in thirty years and for thirty years we have had shortages of skilled building workers.

    We have problems which transcend party and class. Taking an extra 10 billion a year off the wealthy and corporations is feasible but it will not address our fundamental OVER-CONSUMPTION. It will not help the trade deficit.

  9. Daniel Carter

    Let’s put the Government in an awkward position over the brutal Saudi Regime! Britain should be champions of human rights

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