We must stop ignoring our government’s alliance with Saudi Arabia

Britain has an alliance with the country that combines wealth and influence with a brutal regime and uses it to wreak havoc on its enemies.

The murder of the dissident Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, is horrific and shocking, yet this is hardly the first occurrence where the Saudi alliance has brought the United Kingdom national shame because of our Saudi alliance.  Saudi Arabia is preparing to acknowledge the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi happened as the result of a botched interrogation, according to CNN and The New York Times.

The Guardian yesterday reported that: “The Republican chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, Bob Corker, one of a handful of senators briefed on US intelligence on the case, said he believed Khashoggi was murdered and that the “intel points directly” at the Saudi government.”

We should roundly condemn them for their medieval system of justice, silencing of dissent and free speech and their war crimes in Yemen.

The cosy relationship that has developed between the West and Saudi Arabia, is based upon military sales, including British company BAE Systems, and Donald Trump was yesterday quoted as saying, “We don’t like it even a little bit. But whether or not we should stop $110bn [£83bn] from being spent in this country – knowing they have … two very good alternatives. That would not be acceptable to me.” Such comments are symptomatic of the relationship that has evolved, in which we put economic well being ahead of ethics.

Britain welcomed Mohammed bin Salman, the ruler of Saudi Arabia in all but name, to Downing Street with open arms in March. In this meeting we rolled out the red carpet to a man who presides over a state embodying values that should be antithetical to our own.

Not only did the government affirm its commitment to continue arms sales to Saudi Arabia, making us the second biggest supplier of deadly weaponry to the Saudis, but provided $100 million in aid to a country with a GDP per capita higher than Germany’s.

The supply of armaments to the Saudis is particularly concerning. United Nations experts concluded that British weaponry is being used to commit war crimes in Yemen, including air strikes on a funeral which killed 140 and wounded 525 innocent Yemenis.

The British government is also covertly breaking international law by supplying illegal cluster bombs to the Saudis, according to Amnesty International.

Downing Street defended Britain’s indefensible relationship with the Saudis by arguing that the partnership brought Britain £65 billion in trade, a case of the Tory Party and Mrs May putting cash above principles once again. No amount of trade can justify a friendship with the Saudi’s.

However, there is no longer a bipartisan consensus to continue this horrific relationship, as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has long fought against the brutality of the regime, pledged that upon entering office he would halt all arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The issue of Saudi Arabia has come up again due to the blatant murder of dissenting Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a US Citizen. The Washington Post columnist disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and has not since been seen. The journalist fled the kingdom in fear for his life after criticising the government on their conduct of the war in Yemen and their repressive policies. The Saudis have as of yet offered no convincing explanation.

This sort of flagrant violation of international law must not be tolerated by the West if we are to maintain any credibility on the world stage whatsoever. However, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has proved to be just as capable at standing up for Britain on the world stage as he was at standing up for the NHS as Health Secretary, and has offered an incredibly weak response, merely asking that the killing be investigated.

The same people who criticised Jeremy Corbyn for calling for cool heads and an investigation after the Salisbury attack and rushed to impose sanctions on Russia are now proving their hypocrisy by being unbelievably slow to act when it is inherently obvious what occurred in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The reason for inaction is simple — the Saudis are our allies and the Russians are our strategic enemies. The U.K. is starkly aware that they can not isolate two of the world’s largest exporters of oil and gas.

Imagine if Iran had committed such an act and say, had one of its dissident journalists residing in America murdered on Turkish soil. The right-wing press would be crying bloody murder and calling for stringent sanctions and possibly whipping up fervour for war.

As it is, there has been little outcry from the establishment in both Britain and the USA, with President Trump suggesting that “rogue agents” were responsible for the murder, despite the US not countenancing any possibility of such for the Salisbury attack.

Even if the attack was autonomously carried out by agents in the consulate and was not ordered from Riyadh, the Saudis are likely responsible for covering the event up. In any case, according to Turkish police, the killing was ordered from Riyadh and to deny this borders on fantasy.

The West must stop allowing Saudi Arabia to commit atrocities with impunity. The UN has warned that Yemen could be facing the worst famine in 100 years if Saudi airstrikes do not cease. The fate of a multitude of Saudi dissidents living abroad is threatened if the West does not provide a strong response to this atrocity.

For many years, the Saudi alliance was treated as a fact of life and something that had to be put up with. This is only true because the military and political establishment relies on the public not applying pressure on the government to change.

The Saudis must be held accountable for their actions, and Britain has no interest or justification for supporting it.

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