Donald Trump has just signed a huge $109.7bn arms deal with Saudi Arabia despite previously linking the Gulf state to the 9/11 terror attacks. And this U-turn says all we need to know about the type of global alliance being pushed by the US President and his close ally Theresa May: namely, that business appears to trump human rights every time.
Trump’s previous comments
Only last year, Trump questioned the wisdom of the 2003 invasion of Iraq by stating:
We went after Iraq. They did not knock down the World Trade Center, OK?
He then suggested that another country might have escaped its fair share of blame:
You will find out who really knocked down the World Trade Center because they (the government) have papers that are very secret.
Saudi Arabia’s new best mate then went on to say:
You may find it’s the Saudis, OK? But you will find out.
But will we?
Former President Barack Obama controversially tried to stop US citizens from suing the Saudi government for damages related to 9/11, in spite of 15 of the 19 hijackers having come from Saudi Arabia and al-Qaeda being driven by the country’s fundamentalist state ideology of Wahhabism. There have long been widespread concerns, for example, about the Saudi regime spending huge sums promoting and exporting this ideology.
Now that Trump seems to have changed his tune on Saudi Arabia, it looks like it’ll be business as usual as far as Saudi-US relations are concerned. It also looks like he’s gone from claiming that the whole religion of Islam hates the West to literally dancing to the Saudi tune.
An arms deal with Saudi Arabia worth $350bn over 10 years might have had something to do with his apparent change of heart.
The Saudi regime is one of the harshest on the planet. Only last year, there were reports that beheadings had reached their highest stage in 20 years. Women, meanwhile, have been banned from driving in Saudi Arabia since 1957, and the country is one of the only Muslim-majority countries to legally enforce a dress code. This is a country where gay people are executed and public displays of apostasy will secure you a meeting with the executioner.
Meanwhile, a Saudi-led multinational coalition has killed over 10,000 people in Yemen since 2015. UK minister Tobias Ellwood even accused the Saudis of purposely targeting civilians in 2016, though he later reportedly helped to block investigations and mislead the House of Commons on the issue. Today, Yemen is desperately short of food and fuel, amid allegations of the Saudis deliberately targeting the country’s farms and agricultural industry. The UN has also criticised the Saudis alleged bombing of trapped civilians. And the Saudis have been accused of using banned cluster munitions during strikes on residential areas. This is especially troubling considering claims that British-made cluster bombs have been used.
A vote for May is a vote for Trump (and Saudi Arabia)
Theresa May has repeatedly defended the UK’s rather pally relationship with the Saudis, which has resulted in over £3bn in arms trade since the conflict in Yemen began. And cabinet ministers have only recently accepted luxury hampers from the Saudi regime during austerity in the UK and a famine in Yemen.
The Conservatives have also shown they’re committed to standing alongside Donald Trump as he marches towards war on a number of fronts, highlighting how they’re happy to ignore the lessons of the past (such as the invasion of Iraq).
The current Labour Party leader, on the other hand, consistently got past foreign policy calls right. And the party has now pledged to both “end support for unilateral aggressive wars of intervention” and “review all training and equipment contracts with repressive regimes, to ensure that Britain never colludes in the mistreatment of civilians”.
Trump and May alike have shown their eagerness to put business before human rights, and their respective relationships with Saudi Arabia are just more proof of that.
Britain deserves better. And so does the world.
– Read more Canary articles on Saudi Arabia.
– If you oppose the UK’s double standards and apparent complicity with the crimes of the Saudi regime, demand that your MPs take a strong stand by voting for change on 8 June. Today (22 May) is the last day to register to vote.
– Discuss the key policy issues with family members, colleagues and neighbours. And organise! Join (and participate in the activities of) a union, an activist group, and/or a political party.
– Join or support the Stop the War Coalition. Show your support for Veterans for Peace, who are fighting for peaceful solutions to the world’s problems. And take action with the Campaign Against Arms Trade.
Featured image via UK Home Office/Flickr and Gage Skidmore/Flickr