GETTING on for 100,000 people have died in Saudi Arabia’s war on the Yemeni people and the number of children and infants dying from hunger, malnutrition and other conflict-related afflictions is also close to that number.
Imperial Britain’s exploitative relationship with the Middle East is a long-standing affair. One distinctive mark of imperialism’s poisonous legacy is the post-colonial persistence of ethnic and political divisions which have bedevilled Britain’s former colonies.
India, Ireland, Cyprus, Malaya, Sri Lanka, Guyana are all places where independence has been disfigured by divisions that, in the main, owe their toxicity to the tactics of a British ruling class that was and is a past master in the techniques of divide and rule.
If the most toxic of the time bombs it left behind is to be found in the irreconcilable expectations engendered by the Balfour declaration, in which a beneficent Britain promised both Palestinians and zionists the lands on which Palestinians lived, then the dispensation which divided up the neighbouring Arab lands with set square and ruler runs it close.
When the British empire still included millions of subject peoples east of Suez, an obscure tribal figure was plucked from the remote Arabian hinterland to rule over the sands that covered the precious oil needed to fuel the Royal Navy in its defence of imperial plunder. And no less important was the Yemeni port of Aden, a way station and refuelling point for their majesties’ ships.
It is that impossibly reactionary regime, driven by its deeply obscurantist Wahhabi brand of primitive religion and today headed by the murderous Mohammed bin Salman, that is responsible for the air war on Yemen. The Saudi air force is trained by Britain, our country and the United States supply the aircraft, the bombs, the replacement parts and maintenance services that keep it flying.
Beyond the criminal complicity of our government in this war is the hypocrisy which finds any excuse to clothe imperial ambition in the guise of “humanitarian” intervention when the local regime is out of favour – Syria, Iraq and Libya spring to mind – but when the crimes are committed by a favoured ally, no sanctions can be applied.
Labour under Jeremy Corbyn established a base line of opposition to the unsavoury alliance of Britain and Saudi Arabia, an alliance sanctified by intimate ties between the two royal families, cemented by massive flows of capital and lubricated with the exchange of oil and armaments.
Keir Starmer won office by promising Labour members that he would continue the party’s progressive policies and if there is a critical starting point for an ethical foreign policy in the Middle East, it is in ending the supply of aircraft, parts, training and logistic support for this inhuman war.
Death in Bahrain
THE decision by Bahrain's Court of Cassation on Monday to reinstate the death sentences for two local Shi’ite men is a transparently prejudicial act and an illustration of the double standards that Britain displays in its relations with its favoured regimes in the Middle East. Bahrain repays hypocritical words from Britain with more of the same.
It was pressure from solidarity and human rights groups that led to the earlier court ruling that the confessions of these two men had followed torture.
Reprieve director Maya Foa was spot on when she said: “To Western partners, Bahrain promises human rights reform. To citizens, it threatens that if you speak out, you will be imprisoned, tortured and convicted of crimes you did not commit.
“These unlawful death sentences are intended as a warning to would-be dissidents.”
It is time to clip the claws of these despotic regimes.
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