Mayday! UK cozying up to Saudi Arabia, major human rights offender
Boris Johnson, Britain’s current foreign secretary and former mayor of London, is about as gaffe prone a politician as you will find. Such is the Old Etonian’s propensity for ‘putting his foot in it’, you could be forgiven that British Prime Minister, Theresa May, appointed him to such high political office as some kind of practical joke.
Not too long ago he stood up in the UK parliament and called for protests to be staged outside the Russian embassy in London, over Russia’s refusal to desist from confronting Western-backed jihadists in Aleppo. The result of this Churchillian call to arms was the arrival of one solitary protester at the embassy – an ignominious state of affairs, to say the least.
Johnson’s latest gaffe, however, has come in the form of words of rare truth being spoken by a member of Her Majesty’s Government in relation to the country’s longstanding and egregious alliance with Saudi Arabia. In a statement during a conference in Rome, Johnson, referring to events in the Middle East, is reported to have said: “There are not enough big characters, big people, men or women, who are willing to reach out beyond their Sunni or Shia or whatever group to the other side and bring people together and to develop a national story again. That is what's lacking.” He then reportedly continued: “That's why you've got the Saudis, Iran, everybody, moving in and puppeteering and playing proxy wars.”
Let us take a moment to unpack this.
First, generalizing a Sunni-Shia divide as the crux of the destabilization, crisis and conflict that has engulfed the region is false and bespeaks intellectual laziness. It is not a Sunni-Shia divide; it is a sectarian versus non-sectarian divide that describes the various ongoing conflicts across the Middle East. And in this regard there is no comparison to be made between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Tehran’s support for the Palestinians, who are predominately Sunni, is a matter of record, as is its participation in the conflict in Syria on the side of the country’s non-sectarian government. Iran, indeed, is self-evidently not the sectarian state that Boris Johnson describes and despite the continuing attempts of its detractors and enemies to paint it as one.
Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is the very definition of a sectarian state. Indeed, not only is it sectarian it is medieval in the barbarous treatment of its own people and the human rights abuses that are its credo, proselytizing an extreme variant of Sunni Islam, Wahhabism, that is near-indistinguishable from the variant proffered by ISIS. Putting it even more graphically, the similarities between Saudi Arabia and ISIS are such it would be accurate to characterize both together as ‘headchoppers of the world unite’.
Returning to Boris Johnson, the part of his statement where he opines about the need to “develop a national story again,” this merely illustrates his ignorance with respect to the nature of events in Syria. There he will find a conflict being waged by the country’s armed forces and allies in defense of a society underpinned by a national rather than religious or sectarian identity.
Making the British foreign secretary’s remarks all the more controversial is that they emerged at the very point at which the country’s prime minister, Theresa May, was sitting down in the company of King Salman of Saudi Arabia in Bahrain, no doubt doing her utmost to sell the UK’s biggest customer for arms sales even more weapons, while whitewashing its appalling human rights record.
Even more bizarrely, given Johnson’s recent slip of the tongue in lambasting Riyadh, is his prior defense of the Saudi military campaign in Yemen; the UK foreign secretary arguing that a “threshold” had not been crossed. He did so despite a UN report back in January alleging 119 separate breaches of humanitarian law committed by Saudi forces during said campaign.
Aside from Boris Johnson’s schizophrenic statements and rhetorical twists and turns, he does reflect the cognitive dissonance that describes British foreign policy when it comes to the Middle East. This cognitive dissonance also explains the comments of Alex Younger, the new head of the country’s foreign intelligence agency, MI6, who said: “In Aleppo, Russia and the Syrian regime seek to make a desert and call it peace. The human tragedy is heartbreaking.”
It is hard to know where to begin and where to end in response to such an outrageous statement? Suffice to point out that in Aleppo, Russian and Syrian forces have just succeeded in liberating thousands of civilians who were being held hostage by sectarian butchers and religious extremists, the very people reinvented in the West as the latter day equivalent of the French resistance or Partisans of Second World War repute. They have done so in the face of a perfidious propaganda offensive mounted by the British ‘regime’ that Mr Younger so faithfully serves.
Ultimately, we are talking a British regime whose egregious role in these events is one to which history will not be kind.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.