Yemen: The Savage May-Saudi Equation
As Yemen's annihilation continues, Theresa May is reaffirming her support for the brutal Saudi regime
Theresa May has picked a good week to visit Saudi Arabia. We are marking the second anniversary of the war in Yemen – a war begun with a Saudi led intervention which has left an estimated 7 million Yemenis on the edge of starvation. The bombing of the port of Hodeida is having a severely detrimental effect on aid shipments and those of other goods, and the Saudis and their allies are doing everything to prevent access to medicines, food and other essentials.
At a time when May’s government is cutting benefits for some of the poorest children in Britain, her allies are carrying out policies which are endangering the lives of Yemeni children including bombing schools. Along with her new friend Donald Trump, May is a supporter of Saudi policies in Yemen. Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is calling to lift a ban on the sale of precision guided munitions to the Saudis, previously imposed by Obama because of fear of civilian casualties as a result.
Successive British governments have shown no such compunction, selling arms to Saudi, sending British military advisers to help with the Yemen bombing and generally getting as close as possible to one of the most reactionary powers in the world.
Saudi Arabia’s role in the Middle east is a reactionary and dangerous one. The closeness of some of its key figures to Islamic terrorist groups including ISIS, its abuse of human rights, women’s rights and all forms of democracy, its profoundly conservative religious politics are all nothing compared to the vast profits which have been made since the notorious al Yamamah arms deal sealed by Margaret Thatcher’s son Mark back in the 1980s.
Saudi Arabia is given special treatment rather than being branded an international pariah because it is seen as a key ally of Britain and the US and as a bolster against Iran in the region. They have watched as Saudi military spending has doubled in just over a decade and have seen this as source of support and even stability in the Middle East.
It is exactly the opposite. As we see with the war in Yemen, this is a brutal and oppressive regime which is being backed by its western allies regardless of the outcome.
Trump’s ban on people from several supposedly unstable countries with terrorist threats does not extend to Saudi Arabia – despite its citizens’ involvement in the 9/11 attacks, despite its connection to right wing Islamic terrorist groups, despite its record on human rights.
That pretty much says it all. Will Theresa May speak out against any of this? Don’t hold your breath.