HOW much more will it take, in light of ever more horrific details emerging of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, for Theresa May’s government to end its arms sales to Riyadh?
Despite Donald Trump’s initial efforts to distance Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from responsibility by speculating on a possible “rogue” operation, the audit trail leads back to him.
It beggars belief that a hit squad of Saudi “tourists,” many with close links to the prince, could fly to Istanbul, complete with bone-cutting machine, to arrive in the consulate in time for Khashoggi’s appointment to receive papers necessary for marriage to his Turkish fiancee, without permission from the highest level.
Khashoggi was a major thorn in the side of the corrupt Saudi monarchy and effective head Prince Mohammed clearly intended to remove that thorn.
The crown prince has gained a reputation for ruthlessness in recent years not only in disregarding the scale of civilian casualties in Yemen’s civil war but in locking up many fellow princes in a luxury hotel until they agreed to hand over some of their personal wealth.
Prince Mohammed also launched an unsuccessful Gulf Arab states’ blockade of Qatar that Turkey was instrumental in undermining.
He has cultivated overseas links, sewing up arms, property and trade deals with Britain’s government and the House of Windsor, and befriending Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner who acts as a go-between for both Washington and Tel Aviv.
Kushner invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Saudi Arabia twice last year for meetings with Prince Mohammed, linking promises of lavish investment with Trump’s mythical Middle East “peace” plan.
The US president’s recognition of Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and his decision to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem derailed that diplomatic initiative.
While Abbas understands that some issues are more important than financial gain, such a position is beyond Trump and his special friend Theresa May.
Trump has ruled, since first offering the pretence that the “rogue operation” thesis was credible, that there could be no question of real sanctions against Riyadh over its role in Yemen or in Turkey.
He pointed to the huge arms sales and other US-Saudi trade links, claiming that interference with them would be an own-goal in terms of thousands of US workers’ jobs, to say nothing of corporate profits and shareholder dividends.
A similar point was made yesterday by Michael Heseltine, who was Margaret Thatcher’s defence secretary when the huge al-Yamamah arms deal with Riyadh was signed over 30 years ago, following which credible allegations of bribery were probed by the Serious Fraud Office, only for Tony Blair to call off the SFO to avoid causing offence to the Saudi royal family.
Then as now, immense profits generated by the oil-rich Saudi autocracy for US and British merchants of death, along with other corporate conglomerates, trump any consideration of an ethical foreign policy.
May hopped on board Trump’s fiasco express yesterday, deciding that her government too will deny visas — or refuse renewals — to around 20 Saudi nationals suspected of involvement in Khashoggi’s gruesome murder.
Job done — no embarrassment to the House of Saud, while London and Washington congratulate themselves for acting over a particularly extreme example of media censorship.
Profitable trade continues unabated, as do lavish state visits, and Saudi Arabia will make its oil wealth and extremist links available to its Western friends for regional dirty tricks, whether in Qatar, Palestine or underwriting the jihadist hordes sent to dismember Syria.
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