What a “true friend” Saudi Arabia is to us

Ben Chu

flagSaudi 150x150 What a true friend Saudi Arabia is to usSaudi Arabia does not come out of the WikiLeaks cables smelling of perfume. Here’s Hillary Clinton’s memo in December 2009:

“It has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority….donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide…Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT [Pakistan's Lashkar-e-Taiba], and other terrorist groups, including Hamas, which probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources, often during Hajj and Ramadan.”

This puts Sir Malcolm Rifkind’s recent invitation for us to regard Saudi Arabia as a “true friend” in a new light.

Interestingly, Sir Malcolm has been one of the most prominent critics of WikiLeaks for releasing all this information. Perhaps he’d rather we let important people like him tell us who our allies are – rather than letting us work it out for ourselves from the available evidence

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  • Maria Kelly

    Julian Assange said that the US and its dominated partners are descending into cyber McCarthyism, it certainly looks as though that has now happened.
    It is completely ridiculous that the process for his extradition to Sweden kicked off as it did today on the basis of being wanted only for questioning on what really looks like very unsound charges. We will see what the US do meanwhile, consider the following quote:
    ‘On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress. But the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognise that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it.

    This challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic. The words of the first amendment to the constitution [guaranteeing freedom of speech] are carved in 50 tons of Tennessee marble on the front of this building. And every generation of Americans has worked to protect the values etched in that stone.’
    Hilary Clinton 2010

  • robzdad

    Tell me something new!

  • kalit

    As I recall, Rifkind and Hurd were the two most determined defenders of Slobodan Milosevic while his goons went about their business raping and murdering, but much of the so-called British Left did the same, disingenuously arguing against arming the Bosnians who needed the means to defend themselves. They were succeeded by the great defenders of Britain’s laughable East of Suez aspirations, the venal mediocrities Blair and co. Of course such people will defend the Saudis as ‘true friends’, feminists, democrats, etc. etc and more. Wonders will never cease, but national bankruptcy and self-willed illiteracy, as recent surveys are highlighting, will soon put an end to this reverie

  • Clare

    Al-Qaeda and related terrorist groups have made several foiled attacks against members of the Saudi royal family. You seem to be forgetting this. The most recent victim was the Minister of the Interior, Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, who was wounded in an Al-Qaeda suicide bombing in 2009.

    While Al-Qaeda does have wealthy financial backers in Saudi Arabia, these people are not members of the government. Presumably it is the government to whom Rifkind was referring when he talked about ‘true friends’, not every single citizen of the entire country.

    As somebody who lived in Saudi Arabia for years, my opinion of the Saudi government couldn’t get much lower than it is already, and I rarely say anything in its defence. However, I think it’s only fair to point out that in spite of its many serious faults, it’s hard to see how support for terrorism is one of them. I can’t imagine that the leading royals particularly enjoy being targets for Al-Qaeda – and neither can the government-funded Saudi soldiers and gate guards who are responsible for protecting expats like me. Dozens of them have lost their lives in the course of their duty, but this seems to get forgotten too.

  • David Matthews

    The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth becomes the greatest enemy of the State.” — Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister

  • artgenie

    It is interesting to recall a British soldier and hero, Sir Robert Willoughby (known in Arabia as “Ullobi”) during the 1920’s. He took part and died in the struggle to unite the tribes of Arabia under the rule of a Hashemi tribe.
    Unfortunately the fanatical and brave fighter, and wahhabi, Abdullaziz Ibn Saud won the day using his taliban-like fanatics called Ikhwan. We have been kidding ourselves when it comes to our relations with Arabia. Wahhabism formed in the eighteenth century embraces the ibn Saud family as its hereditary Imams of Wahhabism.

  • bringingbacklogic

    ‘dropping a bomb right on top of Mecca…’?!!!!!!!!!! I’m presuming you do not know that the capital and seat of the Royal Family of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is Riyadh, not Mecca (the spiritual heartland of Muslims worldwide)- unless of course you want to embark on an assault against the Muslim world and not just KSA.

    Dropping a bomb on the spiritual capital of Muslims would be worse than the crusades, and not even a sociopathically belligerent and intellectually incapacitated president would even contemplate that so I don’t know how you could

  • Al Loomis

    every government would have you believe that when it speaks, the whole nation supports that speech. this is never true, although only switzerland makes it clear, from time to time, that governments are not the nation.

    the saud family is not saudi arabia, and 15 of the 9/11 commandos were saudi. there’s a message there.

    the wahhabi clerics of saudi would overthrow the saud family in a day, if they thought they could get a better deal from the usa, but they have nothing to offer the west, so endure the profligate wastrels.

  • jimfred

    Is WikiLeaks an anagram of,’Realpolitik lives on’,I wonder.

  • Clare

    1.) To my knowledge, absolutely no one in the Al Saud family is an imam. The role basically involves leading the five daily prayers and overseeing the congregation of an individual mosque. There is no prestige attached to such a job, because…

    2.) …there is no such thing as organised clergy in Sunni Islam. No hierarchy of any kind. This is one of the major reasons why Islam split into two branches in the first place – the Shi’a believed in a formal hierarchical clergy system, that could be passed through family lineage, and the Sunnis didn’t. Wahabbism is a sect of Sunnism. The Al Sauds have no special religious role in the Wahabbi tradition.

    As for the Saudi royal family, they are pro-American in every aspect of their government. Their lifestyles are decadent (alcohol, drugs, parties galore) and the code of conduct they impose on the rest of the population is remarkably different from the one they follow themselves. This is partly why there is so much dissent and ill-feeling towards the Saud family, which fuels militancy both at home and abroad. As someone else has observed, there is a reason why so many of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, and part of that is the USA’s unequivocal support for the current regime. If it weren’t for the hypocrisy and the cruelty and the double standards, militancy would not be anywhere nearly so common on the Peninsula as it is.

    As for the founding of Saudi Arabia, it’s a lot more complex than you are making out. If you read a history of the Ottoman Empire, you will find that the Hashemites had quite a limited role in the drama and that Ibn Saud’s territories were even a British protectorate for a short time – at his own behest. He was a key British ally in the First World War, and his rule was championed by the likes of St John Philby (hardly a ‘taliban-like fanatic’). In short, the early grapple for power on the Arabian Peninsula cannot be defined as ‘noble Hashemite chap with good old British support’ versus ‘foaming-at-the-mouth religious extremist’. There were numerous other contenders for power, and the decisive factors in who actually unified and led the kingdom were the First World War and the collapse of the Ottoman era.

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