Britain unveiled its version of the so-called Magnitsky laws, preaching human rights and justice, but then took all the shine off by resuming arms sales for Saudi Arabia’s illegal war on Yemen.
If there ever was a case of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing, Britain’s shameful and shambolic 24-hours are it. To great fanfare, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab
proclaimed to the world that the UK is launching its first ever global sanctions regime.
There were individuals from Russia, North Korea, and Myanmar on the roll call of dishonor.
There was also a block of 20 Saudi Arabian nationals who, according to the Foreign Office, are responsible for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
Not only was he lured on false pretenses and then murdered in the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul, it’s widely thought that he was then butchered and removed piece by piece in suitcases.
That fits well Raab
’s description of “those with blood on their hands, the thugs of despots, the henchmen of dictators” who will not be able to “buy up property on the King’s Road, to do their Christmas shopping in Knightsbridge or frankly to siphon dirty money through British banks.”
Along with the Khashoggi assassination, which has been traced back to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) by security services, bin Salman has imprisoned women, including his own cousin, for protesting for their human rights, and at regular intervals detains anyone regarded as a threat to his power. Currently, former Saudi intelligence agent Saad Aljabri is in exile in Canada attempting to free his wife and two kids back in the Kingdom – they were taken hostage in a bid to weaken him, after he fell out of favor with MBS. And these are just things on the surface.
So it was a jaw-dropping move with the ink barely dry on the sanctions regime when the UK government announced it was going to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia. They had been forced to stop because of the Kingdom’s engagement in neighboring Yemen, another of MBS’ pet projects. He’s trying to ensure the leadership is pro-Saudi and aligns with his agenda.
The optics became so awful the UK had to halt sales, as according to the UN, 60 percent of the 7,700 civilian deaths were caused by the Saudi-led coalition. Monitoring groups such as Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project put that figure even higher, at 12,000 civilians.
In the same time period since 2015, Britain has sold £5.3 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia. They only stopped when the Court of Appeal ruled last year that the UK’s decision-making in doing so was unlawful.
In a nutshell, Yemen has been devastated by the military conflict, which was really a proxy war for other nations. It’s a poor country where the war has created the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet right now, with millions of children facing starvation. Images of skeletal kids with swollen stomachs say more than any UN report or newspaper article could ever do.
Still, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss confirmed she was agreeing to begin selling weapons to the Saudis again because, “In the light of all that information and analysis, I have concluded that... Saudi Arabia has a genuine intent and the capacity to comply with international humanitarian law.”
Capacity? Maybe. Intent? Highly unlikely according to their track record. The British pandering to MBS so he’ll sign over more of his petrodollars in orders is embarrassing.
Not only that, it makes a mockery of the sanctions list.
Draw a line in the sand – and pick a side. But Britain hasn’t done that, proving under this government, it’s morally bankrupt.
Arming a warmonger like MBS while sanctioning his sidekicks is lunacy. As a nation, we should be ashamed.
* Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney