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.