Newly arrived despots are the worst kind
Malcolm Rifkind has an article in The Times today (paywall) that invites us to regard Saudi Arabia as a “true friend”.
And here’s one reason why:
“Their foreign policy is moderate and rarely aggressive against their neighbours. And if their internal policy is often cruel in our eyes it is the product of hundreds of years of cultural difference, not the result of some newly arrived despot”.
What species of nonsense is this? If you’ve been sentenced to death by the Saudi courts for practicing “witchcraft“ will it console you that the ruling was made by a gaggle of ancient religious fanatics, rather than some johnny-come-lately dictator? If you’re one of the Shia of Saudi Arabia, does it matter to you that your oppression is a consequence of “centuries of cultural difference”? If you’re a rape victim who has been sentenced to be lashed for “illegal mingling” with men will it comfort you that your leaders wear keffiyehs rather than berets?
Rifkind implies we should be grateful to the Saudis for the tip-off about the cargo bombs. This says it all. What kind of regime would ever think of not passing on intelligence that could prevent a terrorist atrocity abroad?
I believe that Britain should be realist in its foreign policy. It is necessary to deal with vile regimes like Saudi Arabia. But crawling apologias like Rifkind’s for these repressive Wahhabi zealots leave a bad taste.
And I wait with anticipation for Rifkind to be roundly condemned by those who continue to support the US invasion of Iraq on the grounds that Saddam Hussein was a vicious human-rights abusing dictator.Tagged in: Malcolm Rifkind, saudi arabia
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