“The Foreign Office currently warns all Britons travelling to Saudi Arabia to exercise vigilance: “Any increase in regional tension might affect travel advice,” its website says. It is a warning that David Cameron could do well to heed when he flies to the kingdom today. Saudi Arabia might seem an ideal customer to a British prime minister keen to win contracts. If Barack Obama can sell the kingdom nearly $30bn of F-15 fighter jets, Britain can surely flog its armoured personnel carriers, sniper rifles, small arms ammunition and weapon sights………. However, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are fast learning to play another role in the region. The kingdom is branding itself as a bulwark not just against the Revolutionary Guards in Iran and despots in Syria, but against the Arab spring itself……… Internally, the most authoritarian regime in the Arab world has much to fear from demonstrations – which are illegal…………”
The Conservative (Tory) British prime minister likes to claim his coalition government’s love of democracy and spreading it around the world. His government participated in the NATO bombing and ground campaign for the liberation of Libya from Mu’ammar Qaddafi. Colonel Qaddafi was formerly a dear and near friend of Britain and the U.S. government in the last decade. They liberated Libya, just as they helped in the liberation of Iraq eight years ago. Just as they might help in the ‘liberation’ of Syria if the absolute ruling oligarchies on my Gulf, and their Salafis and the Wahhabi faux-liberals have their way.
The British government, like the United States government, like the Iranian government, like the French and Saudi governments, doesn’t give blanket support to all movements for freedom and dignity. If it truly believed in democracy before self-interest it would not do the following, and more:
- The Crown Prince of Bahrain invited to visit the UK and was feted at No. 10 Downing St and other places.
- The King of Bahrain to UK invite to visit the UK, where he was feted even as his mercenary forces were, are, busy gassing and killing and arresting protesters. Even as his local and imported Jordanian torturers are busy in the cells.
- Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex last week visited Bahrain where they reportedly received gifts of jewellery and watches. Gifts usurped by the ruling al-Khalifa clan from the poor people of Bahrain.
- Now Mr. Cameron is visiting the most repressive regime in the Middle East, which also makes it the second most repressive regime in the whole world (thank God for North Korea). That would be the Democratic People’s Kingdom of (Saudi) Arabia, which is dangling the prospect of fat contracts in return for turning a blind eye, nay two blind eyes.
- British governments since the days of Tony Blair have become good at the two-faced game. Pushing democracy while pushing weapons that repress democracy. Pushing transparency in other countries while suppressing investigations at home of massive bribery to Saudi princes like Bandar Bin Sultan (as in BAE Systems and Saudi al-Yamama and Tony Blair and British SFO).
- Just before the Riyadh visit, Mr. Cameron loudly and noisily sent a new British warship to the Persian-American Gulf. The goal was likely to show the al-Saud princes who their true friends are; that it is not only the Obama administrations, and whoever follows it into the White House.