Thursday, September 18, 2003

So who's up for the invasion of Saudi Arabia then?

Which oil-rich Middle Eastern country supported Osama bin Laden?

Which oil-rich Middle Eastern country is run by an alliance of Wahhabi fundamentalists and corrupt princelings?

Which oil-rich Middle Eastern country recently locked up a number of British citizens for no reason at all, subjected them to beatings and sleep deprivation, forced them to make video statements later re-edited to give the police's desired story and shown on national television?Link

Which oil-rich Middle Eastern country is apparently mulling over the acquisition of nuclear weapons? link

Well, none of those questions have the answer "Iraq". The relations between Britain (especially) and Saudi Arabia are something like a satirical exaggeration of those between the West and Arabs generally. Here we see the Western powers propping up the oppressive rule of an utterly anti-democratic elite, in a country afloat on oil but reliant on an underclass of immigrant workers with no rights and a weird gilded-cage world of foreign professionals. Consider the vast Al-Yamamah contract with BAE Systems - or the guns-for-oil deal, as we may call it. (Part of the contract is paid for in oil - hence the value of the deal varies with the oil price.) BAE supply aeroplanes, tanks, spare parts, maintenance and pilot training. Saudi Arabia pays in *oil*. What could put it better?

Except, perhaps, for the recent revelations about BAe's alleged use of money from the Al-Yamamah deal to lavish luxuries upon Saudi dignitaries. Here we see the accident prone arms giant buying properties, whores, yachts, vast restaurant bills and God knows what else for a range of princes - and charging the lot to the Saudi state. Wonderful. It was hardly surprising that the people responsible for this beauty managed to divert quite a lot of cash their way, too. Link

One has to wonder how far all this really supports the interests either of Britain or of Saudi Arabia, as opposed to individual Britons and individual members of the house of Sa'ud. If Saudi goes ahead and - as suspected - attempts to buy nuclear bombs from Pakistan, a horrible precedent will have been set. The deterrent factor of having to build up a considerable industry in order to enrich your own uranium or produce your own plutonium, design and engineer the weapon, support the industry that makes the nuclear machinery etc, will be gone, as will the provision in the Non-Proliferation Treaty forbidding the sale or transfer of nuclear weapons from nuclear powers to non-nuclear states. And we will be living in a world where the means for instant genocide are for sale.

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