Saudi Arabia: The Forgotten Poison Of The Middle East

With the focus of the international media on the Mesopotamian valley because of ISIS, the Syrian war and of course the refugee crisis, it’s easy at times like these to forget about the big-picture problems of the wider Middle East. Jeremy Corbyn, the recently elected leader of the Labour Party used his speech at the party conference in Brighton to draw attention and call upon David Cameron, rightly, to stand up to Saudi Arabia and stop the flow of weapons to Riyadh.

Many establishment politicians and media outlets ignore Saudi Arabia because the guise of external stability makes it easy for our leaders to deliberately ignore it. Saudi Arabia blatantly lacks the desire to act in the interest of its people or the interest of peace in the region.

Saudi Arabia has recently been appointed leader of a UN panel, which governs human rights inspections. There was a horrifying lack of outrage in the Western World to this news. This is because many Western governments believe in exchange for oil and more importantly a perception that it is in our geo-political interest; we turn a blind eye to the nature of the Saudi Arabian state. We buy oil from Saudi Arabia and they then use that money to buy weapons we manufacture. On the surface this appears to be a lucrative partnership to secure both our resource and strategic interests in the region.

However this a completely incorrect and juvenile assessment of the political reality of the wider Middle East, with the Iranian nuclear deal effectively ending the main problem the West has with Iran i.e. it’s capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction, there’s a genuine lack of any serious military threat. Some may argue that Iran supports terrorist groups abroad such as Hezbollah and therefore is a danger to be contained. Saudi Arabia though, has been at best complicit in the ISIS advance because as a Sunni group it destabilises the Shia governments of Iraq and Syria, which are more closely aligned to their sworn enemy, Iran. By buying oil and selling weapons to Saudi Arabia we make our fight against ISIS much more difficult by continuing to fund the Saudi state’s ability to resist our own influence.

Additionally Saudi Arabia’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis is both morally repugnant and against Western interests. Saudi Arabia has refused to reallocate any of the 20% of GDP it spends on defence to house refugees, or provide any humanitarian relief in the country. Instead the Saudi government continues to use its military to bomb small and impoverished Yemen to its south where an airstrike recently killed over 150 people at a wedding party. Perhaps more worryingly for the fight against terrorism, Saudi Arabia has offered to build 300 mosques in Germany for the influx of refugees. This is no religious humanitarianism however; this is a calculated move to further export Wahhabism, the Saudi government’s hard-line and socially backwards, perverted form of Islam.

Jeremy Corbyn did a wonderful thing by using his speech to bring attention in the UK to the naïve and hypocritical relationship we have with Saudi Arabia. The Conservative government continues to wrongly support one of the most detestable regimes on the entire planet that punishes its own citizens in a medieval fashion. ISIS and Assad may be abhorrent, but we only have to look to our ‘allies’ to find the root of the poison.

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Cameron And Corbyn, Neither Offer The Full Solution On The European Refugee Crisis

Europe has been overwhelmed by its own inadequacy and has resolutely failed to deal with the increasingly large numbers of people coming into Europe. David Cameron’s token proposition of allowing a ‘few thousand’ Syrian refugees to come to Britain does not change his position that Britain needs to ‘sort out’ the situation on the ground in the war torn country. Jeremy Corbyn on the other hand, suggests Britain should adhere to its liberal traditions, stay out of foreign wars and take as many refugees as possible. Both approaches are far too simplistic to handle the most detestable failure of the modern European Community.

It’s fair to say I am in favour of a nuanced approach to decision making in modern politics, with my political ‘heroes’ including 18th century parliamentarian and aristocrat Edmund Burke, Tony Blair the-war-criminal-extraordinaire and Charles Kennedy fierce opponent of the war in Iraq. Ideological consistency is not my forte.

A humanitarian disaster on the scale of the European migrant crisis requires a universal, fully comprehensive approach in order to tackle the unfolding catastrophe. Both Cameron and Corbyn are held back from embracing an across-the-board solution by their own ideological predispositions and prejudices. Cameron on the one hand is held back from accepting more refugees and tackling the immediate human disaster at home because of his and his party’s irrational fear of the ‘other’. Corbyn is held back from truly tackling the root cause of the problem because of a reactionary and ideological, anti-colonial paranoia that prevents him from accepting any idea of foreign intervention on the part of Western World. In reality we need a fusion of these two approaches that transcends partisan ideological lines if we ever hope to truly end this crisis.

The UK has both a moral obligation and a geopolitical need to involve itself across the world to stop the flood of desperate people coming to European shores. We have to preserve our liberal international reputation, vital in every aspect of our daily lives, from getting the best international trade deals and diplomatic power.

Aylan Kurdi was recently found dead on a Turkish beach after his family attempted to make the two mile trip across the sea to Greece. He was three years old.

In order to make sure we do not alienate ourselves within Europe ahead of Cameron’s ‘renegotiation’, the right wing must accept the refugees that make it here, or at the very least process, shelter them and recognise there is a human side to this political tragedy. The left however must realise that merely accepting the refugees is not enough and there is a political element to this human tragedy. Our government wanted to intervene in Syria but was defeated on a parliamentary vote, which Jeremy Corbyn, of course voted against.

People on the left of politics simply need to recognise that inaction is also a deliberate choice that has consequences; we’ve allowed the four-way fight in Syria between Assad, ISIS, the Kurds and Assorted-rebel-groups, to go on unchecked for years. Many of course at the mere hint of a foreign intervention cry “Iraq” like an in-built moral reflex and rightly point out the factionalised nature of Syria and how difficult the practicality of an intervention would be. The West of course made mistakes in Iraq but there is no reason we cannot learn from them and apply those lessons to an intervention in Syria.

The mistake of inaction should have been learnt in Rwanda in the 1990s when the Western World stood idly by as it watched one million people succumb to the greatest genocide of modern times. The plain fact is Europe has both the economic ability to accept many refugees and the military capability along with the USA to provide serious protection to people living in Syria. With a military intervention to set up safe havens for refugees and defeat ISIS, we give the Syrian people a chance to rebuild the area from the disgusting groups trying to destroy it and its inhabitants, by doing so we can control the flow of refugees, tackle the people smugglers directly responsible for many of their deaths and put in place a truly long term solution.

European powers made a mistake in creating Syria; the responsibility falls on us to sort out our mess.