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The economics of hypocrisy and why the sheikdoms have to go

AbdullahPaying close attention to politics you become immune to the dollops of lick spittle and cretinous behaviour that comes with it. Yesterday, however, didn’t only take the biscuit but dribbled great dollops of gob over it. Remember when the Dear Leader died and great numbers of presidents and prime ministers queued up to praise his rancid regime? Nope, me neither. Then why the hell is the government and the British establishment they represent flying flags at half-mast and gibbering pious praise for the late and very much unlamented Abdullah ibn Abdilaziz Al Saud, the self-styled King of Saudi Arabia?

For my money, on the old autocracy and brutality scale the Stalinist monarchy of North Korea is eclipsed only by the Saudis. Sure, our friends in the North have networks of forced labour camps, a culture of summary execution, and a grotesque personality cult. Every obscene trapping of a disgusting dictatorship is present in spades. Yet North Korea gets by without reducing women to chattel, publicly whipping alcohol drinkers, beheading people for sorcery, and executes a woman in the same manner, albeit after dragging her through the streets of Islam’s holiest city.

This might occasionally be covered by the British media, but there’s – at best – a unanimity of silence from our politicians. At worst, as per today, the most gut-wrenching hypocrisy. With the honourable exception of Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, and a handful of others. Come, let’s gaze upon their hypocrisy.

David Cameron:

I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abd Al Aziz Al Saud. He will be remembered for his long years of service to the Kingdom, for his commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths. My thoughts and prayers are with the Saudi Royal Family and the people of the Kingdom at this sad time.”

The Queen:

I am saddened to learn of the death of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, HM King Abdullah bin Abd Al Aziz. Your distinguished brother Abdullah had devoted his life to the service of the Kingdom and the service of Islam. He will be long remembered by all who work for peace and understanding between nations and between faiths. I offer Your Majesty my sincere condolences and I offer my sympathy to the Saudi people.”

Westminster Abbey:

The Abbey flag is flying at half mast as a mark of respect following the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, King of Saudi Arabia”

Barack Obama:

As our countries worked together to confront many challenges, I always valued King Abdullah’s perspective and appreciated our genuine and warm friendship. As a leader, he was always candid and had the courage of his convictions.”

America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests” said Henry Kissinger in a hard-nosed reflection of his time at the State Department. A truth that applies equally to perfidious Albion and its relations with other states too.

The relationship the UK has had historically with Saudi Arabia are intertwined with oil and markets. The al-Yamamah arms deal brokered by the freedom-loving Thatcher government has seen BAE systems rake in £43bn in revenue between 1985 and 2006. There have been a number of subsequent deals that has also seen BAE in receipt of a couple of billion here, several billion there (further details).

Governments of all stripes maintain that armaments support skilled, well-paid jobs. Then again, so did a great deal of Britain’s manufacturing base, which they were only too happy to see go to the wall. The truth of the matter is Saudi oil money helps lubricate the establishment, contributes to the treasury (theoretically), and flatters the egos of those who care about such things that Britain remains a Middle East player.

There’s also an unhealthy investment balance between the two kingdoms. British investment in Saudi Arabia stood this time last year at around $15bn, annual exports at £3.1bn and stand to grow more as their economy rapidly expands. Meanwhile, total Saudi assets invested here are estimated at £62bn. They are gobbling property in and throwing up buildings London, making a not inconsiderable contribution to economic growth figures. Like other Gulf sheikhdoms, money is spreading out from property speculation to the real economy: supermarkets, creative industries, education, sport. There is a very real material interest helping explain why our government is supine when it comes to Saudi brutality and sponsorship of terrorism.

Not that that’s a good excuse, of course. As a rule, I am wary of sanctions against rancid regimes. Capitalism and markets, for all their faults (and their faults are legion), have a tendency to promote private freedoms corrosive of public authoritarianism and tyranny. Sanctions against North Korea and Cuba should be scrapped, for instance.

Also, that the Saudi Arabian economy, like the other Gulf States, is diversifying domestically as well is good news. Their monarchies may not be long for this world. The relationship Britain has had with Saudi Arabia these last 60 years is very different from the ongoing process of integrating it into global capitalism. It has been a corrupt one-to-one where we supply Saudi absolutism with weapons – the means to secure it – in return for cash and oil. Our trading relationship has not undermined the monarchy, it has strengthened it. And it’s becoming increasingly dysfunctional from our point of view. It’s their money helping inflate London/South East property prices and exacerbating our housing crisis, for instance.

No, it’s time the relationship with Saudi Arabia and Gulf State sheikhdoms were reset. Our arms deals are helping prop up some of the 21st century’s most disgusting regimes. They have to go.

This article first appeared at All that is Solid

Image credit: photo by Cherie A. Thurlby in the public domain


  1. green dragon says:

    Sadly this fondness for grovelling to the corrupt saudi royal family appears to have spread to the devolved Labour government in Wales, which paid its own ‘tribute’ to the late tyrant by lowering flags outside the Welsh Assembly

  2. swatantra says:

    PBC speaks for us all.: In the name of your God GO! Both Labour and Tory Govts have been sucking up to the Sheiks for decades. You could say that Britain got what we deserved from ISIS and Al Quaida and the Islamofacists. Its going to take Us and the USA a long time to disentangle ourselves from this one goddamnawful mess of our own creation. Britain and the USA created ISIS.

  3. I am pleased to see that that Charlie Hebdo march had such an affect on David Cameron and François Hollande, as they arrive to heap praise on King Abdullah and to kiss the hand of King Salman.

    Barack Obama will turn up there next week.

    I should be surprised if they did not come away with blood on their lips, so much of it drips from the hands of any King of Saudi Arabia.

    One day, one day soon, we shall see these people as we now see the British, French and American politicians who sucked up to Pinochet and to Ceaușescu, to Pol Pot and to apartheid South Africa, to Ian Smith and to Robert Mugabe, to Stalin and to Hitler.

  4. I should like to know the last time that the flags over our Parliament building and over Westminster Abbey were lowered to half mast for the head of a foreign state. Probably for Kennedy in 1963. So long ago that Churchill was still in Parliament.

    But it happened automatically for the King of Saudi Arabia this week, and the people responsible were surprised that anyone was surprised. Yes, our political elite really is as close as that to one of the most evil regimes on earth.

    Meanwhile, the announcers on CNN, allegedly the flagship of American liberalism, have been dressed in mourning black. I want to see Obama bow to King Salman next week. He bowed to King Abdullah in 2009.

  5. Robert says:

    Why do we bend both knees to these creeps well they are rich and they have Oil.

    And if you have Oil, American love you and if the Americans love you so do British leaders.

    Oh yes and they are the leaders of the Muslim world, the ones which see women as second rate people who cannot drive because well they are women.

  6. Well, Robert, in 2008 Hillary Clinton promised that, as President of the United States, she would nuke Iran if so instructed by the Saudi, Kuwaiti and Emirati donors to her campaign. She has never retracted that promise.

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