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Saudi Arabia Won't Save Britain from Its Post Brexit Decline

Why does the British Government devote so much time and effort to cultivating the rulers of Bahrain, a tiny state notorious for imprisoning and torturing its critics? It is doing so when a Bahraini court is about to sentence the country’s leading human rights advocate, Nabeel Rajab, who has been held in isolation in a filthy cell full of ants and cockroaches, to as much as 15 years in prison for sending tweets criticising torture in Bahrain and the Saudi bombardment of Yemen.

Yet it has just been announced that Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, are to make an official visit to Bahrain in November with the purpose of improving relations with Britain. It is not as though Bahrain has been short of senior British visitors of late, with the International Trade Minister Liam Fox going there earlier in September to meet the Crown Prince, Prime Minister and commerce minister. And, if this was not enough, in the last few days the Foreign Office Minister of State for Europe, Sir Alan Duncan, found it necessary to pay a visit to Bahrain where he met King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and the interior minister, Sheikh Rashid al-Khalifa, whose ministry is accused of being responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses on the island since the Arab Spring protests there were crushed in 2011 with the assistance of Saudi troops.

Quite why Sir Alan, who might be thought to have enough on his plate in dealing with his area of responsibility in Europe in the era of Brexit, should find it necessary to visit Bahrain remains something of mystery. Sayed Ahmed Alwadei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, asks: “Why is Alan Duncan in Bahrain? He has no reasonable business being there as Minister of State for Europe” But Sir Alan does have a long record of befriending the Gulf monarchies, informing a journalist in July that Saudi Arabia “is not a dictatorship”.

The flurry of high level visits to Bahrain comes as Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, awaits sentencing on next week on three charges stemming from his use of social media. These relates to Rajab tweeting and retweeting about torture in Bahrain’s Jau prison and the humanitarian crisis caused by Saudi-led bombing in Yemen. After he published an essay entitled “Letter From a Bahrain Jail” in the The New York Times a month ago, he was charged with publishing “false news and statements and malicious rumours that undermines the prestige of the kingdom”.

This “prestige” has taken a battering since 2011 when pro-democracy protesters, largely belonging to the Shia majority on the island, were savagely repressed by the security forces. Ever since, the Sunni monarchy has done everything to secure and reinforce its power, not hesitating to inflame Sunni-Shia tensions by stripping the country’s most popular Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, of his citizenship on the grounds that he was serving the interests of a foreign power.

Repression has escalated since May with the suspension of the main Shia opposition party, al-Wifaq, and an extension to the prison sentence of its leader, Sheikh Ali Salman. The al-Khalifa dynasty presumably calculates that US and British objections to this clampdown are purely for the record and can safely be disregarded. The former Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond claimed unblushingly earlier this year that Bahrain was “travelling in the right direction” when it came to human rights and political reform. Evidently, this masquerade of concern for the rights of the majority in Bahrain is now being discarded, as indicated by the plethora of visits.

There are reasons which have nothing to do with human rights motivating the British Government, such as the recent agreement to expand a British naval base on the island with the expansion being paid for by Bahrain. In its evidence to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Government said that UK naval facilities on the island give “the Royal Navy the ability to operate not only in the Gulf but well beyond in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and North West Indian Ocean”. Another expert witness claimed that for Britain “the kingdom is a substitute for an aircraft carrier permanently stationed in the Gulf”.

These dreams of restored naval might are probably unrealistic, though British politicians may be particularly susceptible to them at the moment, imagining that Britain can rebalance itself politically and economically post-Brexit by closer relations with old semi-dependent allies such as the Gulf monarchies. These rulers ultimately depend on US and British support to stay in power, however many arms they buy. Bahrain matters more than it looks because it is under strong Saudi influence and what pleases its al-Khalifa rulers pleases the House of Saud.

But in kowtowing so abjectly to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf kingdoms, Britain may be betting on a flagging horse at the wrong moment. Britain, France and – with increasing misgivings – the US have gone along since 2011 with the Gulf state policy of regime change in Libya and Syria. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in combination with Turkey, have provided crucial support for the armed opposition to Bashar al-Assad. Foreign envoys seeking to end the Syrian war since 2011 were struck by British and French adherence to the Saudi position, even though it meant a continuance of the war which has destabilised the region and to a mass exodus of refugees heading for Western Europe.

Whatever the Saudis and Gulf monarchies thought they were doing in Syria, it has not worked. They have been sawing off the branch on which they are sitting by spreading chaos and directly or indirectly supporting the rise of al-Qaeda-type organisations like Isis and al-Nusra. Likewise in their rivalry with Iran and the Shia powers, the Sunni monarchies are on the back foot, having escalated a ferocious war in Yemen which they are failing to win.

ORDER IT NOW

In the past week Saudi Arabia has suffered two setbacks that are as serious as any of these others: on Wednesday the US Congress voted overwhelmingly to override a presidential veto enabling the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia. In terms of US public opinion, the Saudi rulers are at last paying a price for their role in spreading Sunni extremism and for the bombing of Yemen. The Saudi brand is becoming toxic in the US as politicians respond to a pervasive belief among voters that there is Saudi complicity in the spread of terrorism and war.

The second Saudi setback is different, but also leaves it weaker. At the Opec conference in Algiers, Saudi Arabia dropped its long-term policy of pumping as much oil as it could, and agreed to production cuts in order to raise the price of crude. A likely motivation was simple shortage of money. The prospects for the new agreement are cloudy but it appears that Iran has got most of what it wanted in returning to its pre-sanctions production level. It is too early to see Saudi Arabia and its Gulf counterparts as on an inevitable road to decline, but their strength is ebbing.

(Reprinted from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Brexit, Saudi Arabia 
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  1. O’Bahrain – Why I love thee?

    Mark Dankof, former US Senate candidate in an interview with Iran’s Press TV claimed that Saudi ‘royals’ have sent their forces to combat the anti-Khalifa protests in Bahrain and supplied arms to anti-Qaddafi rebels in Libya on orders from Obama administration to protect Israeli interests in the region.

    “I am part of the American Right in this country that has consistently opposed the type of foreign policy that the United States has been pursuing in the Middle East. Well does it relate to supporting the Zionist state, without question, as it also relates to supporting a series of regimes in that part of the world that clearly do not have popular support, and in the long run, it is simply going to take a foreign policy based in force for this whole status quo to continue,” said Dankof.

    “There is only one problem. Aside from the immorality of this, the United States does not have enough men and enough money to continue this type of an imperial policy any more than their British predecessors did. And when we look at Robert Gates’ history as his superior at the CIA, Ray McGovern, said about the nature of Gates’ relationship with Barack Obama, I think it is entirely reasonable to postulate that, in fact, there was an agreement between Gates and the Saudi regime that they would carry this out either at the behest of the United States or the bare minimum with a green light from the United States to proceed,” added Dankof.

    https://rehmat1.com/2011/03/18/mark-dankof-us-is-in-bahrain-for-israel/

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  2. The policy and bearing of Britain in regards to the US over the past sixty years is strongly reminiscent of the former insistence by Hoxha’s Albania that, “together with the Chinese, we Albanians make up one quarter of the human race.” But if in being a sycophant of the US you may hope to retain some shred of dignity, there can certainly be none in becoming a stooge of Saudi Arabia.

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  3. Well they do it for the money of course, key people are getting lots of it and they don’t care at all about Human rights. As to Brexit it remains to be seen if this will be good or bad for Britain, right now it looks as though the whole EU is going down in flames and Britain is looking like the smartest guy on the block for getting out. Europe is a collection of Countries filled with people who hate each other, do you seriously think it will succeed?

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    • Replies: @PurpleHaze
    It will be good for the bankers. They will be able to merge the London and Frankfurt stock exchanges (will consequent cost cutting/profit raising). This merger would be prohibitied by itra-European competition laws if UK remained within the EU. However, it is conceivable that the EU would still do its best to stop it, something the TTIP is designed to prevent.
  4. Speaking of “setbacks”:

    Pentagon Paid for Fake ‘Al Qaeda’ Videos

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/10/01/pentagon-paid-for-fake-al-qaeda-videos.html

    Read More
    • Replies: @Rehmat
    The Daily Beast being Israeli propaganda shit wouldn't mention the name of the VIDEO JEW who work for the Pentagon.

    Iraqi-born Israel-US Jewish citizen Rita Katz, the founder of anti-Muslim propaganda site S.I.T.E is the brain behind ISIS Fake Video.

    https://rehmat1.com/2016/04/14/isis-hit-list-targets-muslim-but-not-jewish-politicians/
  5. @Renoman
    Well they do it for the money of course, key people are getting lots of it and they don't care at all about Human rights. As to Brexit it remains to be seen if this will be good or bad for Britain, right now it looks as though the whole EU is going down in flames and Britain is looking like the smartest guy on the block for getting out. Europe is a collection of Countries filled with people who hate each other, do you seriously think it will succeed?

    It will be good for the bankers. They will be able to merge the London and Frankfurt stock exchanges (will consequent cost cutting/profit raising). This merger would be prohibitied by itra-European competition laws if UK remained within the EU. However, it is conceivable that the EU would still do its best to stop it, something the TTIP is designed to prevent.

    Read More
  6. @Wally
    Speaking of "setbacks":

    Pentagon Paid for Fake ‘Al Qaeda’ Videos
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/10/01/pentagon-paid-for-fake-al-qaeda-videos.html

    The Daily Beast being Israeli propaganda shit wouldn’t mention the name of the VIDEO JEW who work for the Pentagon.

    Iraqi-born Israel-US Jewish citizen Rita Katz, the founder of anti-Muslim propaganda site S.I.T.E is the brain behind ISIS Fake Video.

    https://rehmat1.com/2016/04/14/isis-hit-list-targets-muslim-but-not-jewish-politicians/

    Read More
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