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Boris Johnson: Time for a Demo at the Saudi Embassy?

Johnson was telling the truth when he talked about Saudi Arabia being involved in proxy wars in the Middle East says Lindsey German


Boris Johnson can, it seems, get away with quite a lot – until he attacks Saudi Arabia. Criticising the Saudis is just too much for British prime ministers, diplomats and arms dealers, because this is the special relationship which does not speak its name. Saudi is the most important customer for arms sales. Its investments in Britain are substantial. Its closely guarded Mayfair embassy is the most sumptuous in London apart from the US one just up the road.

Politicians and royalty rush to fawn over the Saudi royal family at every opportunity, claiming Britain receives important intelligence from the centre of torture and execution which is the desert kingdom.

This relationship involves not just aiding and abetting the foreign policy of Saudi Arabia, but keeping very quiet about its effects. Johnson was in fact telling the truth when he talked about Saudi Arabia being involved in proxy wars in the Middle East, as is its rival Iran. Saudi money and support has been forthcoming for ISIS and other groups in Syria. And it is engaged in a bloody war in Yemen.

The British government is up to its neck in support for the Saudi bombing of Yemen. To the extent that it is actively involved in supporting operations. As Patrick Wintour says in today’s Guardian: ‘The UK not only provides them with arms, but its military cell in Riyadh counsels the Saudi-led coalition on its targeting procedures, and makes its own battle damage assessment of Saudi raids. Although specific targets are not chosen by the UK, British forces are intimately involved in what Johnson has now called a proxy war.’

Intimately involved indeed. This is despite the human rights record and military aggression of Saudi Arabia, and despite the disastrous consequences for the people of Yemen.

Johnson has so far hung onto his job, and today is off to Bahrain, that other close ally in the Gulf which has another terrible record on human rights. He will no doubt have to grovel to them and the Saudis.

This is a particular travesty since it further covers up the role of Britain’s allies in the region, and successive governments’ pernicious support for them. Johnson must feel especially aggrieved since it puts him in a position of having to deny what were basically true statements.

We shouldn’t feel too sorry for him though. And he could always organise a demonstration outside the Saudi embassy. That might be a popular move.

Tags: arms-trade

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