British rulers back Saudi tyranny


IT’S A ROYAL FAMILY AFFAIR: Prince Charles and Saudi Tourism Minister, Prince Sultan bin Salman in the Saudi capital, Riyadh last year

by Bill Bonnar On 9 January, following the killing of journalists from the Charlie Hebdoh magazine a huge demonstration took place in Paris to condemn the attacks, show solidarity and defend the principle of freedom of speech. The attacks had been carried out by Islamic fundamentalist militants. Attending that day were the political leaders and heads of state from many countries including Britain, America and Israel.

On 23 January, following the death of the Islamic fundamentalist King Abdullah of Saudi many of these same leaders rushed to the funeral in Riyadh to show solidarity and pay their respects. In Paris they fell over themselves demonstrating outrage at such a flagrant attack on democracy; in Riyadh they fell over themselves in praise of a tyrant who presided over a barbaric regime which had tyrannised his people for decades.

Saudi Arabia was created in 1932 as an absolute monarchy supported by the strictly conservative Wahhabi Sect. Despite some very minor reforms the political system established then still exists today. It is a violently repressive society which rejects democracy and civil rights as ‘un-Islamic’ and clamps down hard on any opposition.

Last year, Human Rights Watch, produced a report which stated that there were at least 30,000 political prisoners and that public floggings and executions were common place. Saudi is also a strictly hierarchal society enforced by law. Women have absolutely no rights and are considered the property of men.

15 per cent of the population are from the Shia minority and face institutionalised discrimination while there are around eight million foreign workers often subjected to exploitation, brutality and the fear of arbitrary dismissal and expulsion. So why were so many western leaders including our own Prince Charles keen to pay their respects and show support? It is because Saudi is one of the cornerstones of world capitalism.

It has a regime which is staunchly pro-capitalists, is locked in a strategic military and political alliance with the West and is the kind of regime that the West would like to see throughout the Arab world.

Too harsh? Look at the track since the end of the Second World War. The West has consistently intervened in the region to undermine progressive and secular governments and support reactionary Islamic regimes.

Like Saudi Arabia, these tend to be enthusiastically pro-capitalist, socially conservative and steadfastly defend western interests in return for political and military support.

Saudi Arabia is an essentially medieval society propelled into the 21st century on the backs of immense oil wealth and foreign investments. In Riyadh, behind the futuristic glass fronted office blocks, air conditioned shopping malls and manicured lawns is a society which would not have looked out of place a couple of centuries before.

Why is this? Surely this economic development should have been transformational in terms of the development of society. In reality Saudi is controlled by a powerful ruling capitalist class which has systematically looted the country for decades.

It rules through a combination of brutality, patronage and corruption and has forged close alliances with the theocratic religious establishment and western governments and companies whose interests it protects. It represents a massive vested interest resistant to any change in society which might threaten those interests.

It has particularly close links with Britain. The Saudi ruling class are major investors in the City of London and have bought scores of billions of pounds worth of British arms over the years; all used for domestic repression or to police neighbouring states.

Its sons are educated at elite private schools in Britain while British military and security advisors educate their Saudi counterparts on the art of repression. Particularly nauseating are the links between the British and Saudi Royal families with regular visits both ways.

Every effort should be made to expose the true nature of the Saudi regime and similar regimes in the region. This means breaking through the media propaganda which portrays these countries as examples of stability and progress, as valuable customers and as principled allies.

It means exposing the true nature of Britain’s relationship with Saudi; a relationship based on arms sales, commercial contracts and a complex network of links between members of both ruling classes. What really terrifies the west is that one day this regime will be replaced by one based on secularism and democracy. Who will look after western interest then?

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