The latest reports of the Royal Air Force (RAF) training Saudi Arabian military pilots in Britain must compel us to revisit the relationship between the UK and the world’s most notorious pro-western, nepotistic dictatorship, Saudi Arabia.
The modern history of Saudi Arabia owes its prominence to British imperialism because the ruling Saudi tribe, led by desert bandit, the Emir Abd al-Aziz Ibn al-Saud, began its modern rule as a British Empire proxy militia in the early 20th century. The tribe took control of what is now the capital, Riyadh with British supplied weapons in 1902. Immediately after WW1, the Saudi tribe expanded its territory and took control of north western Arabia, Ha’il, after its then ruler declined the honour to be another British puppet. Britain sent reinforcements from India to help the Saudis occupy Ha’il. At this point in Ibn Saud’s political evolution, the British changed his title from Emir to “Sultan”. Later when the ruler of Hijaz region (where the holy cities of Mecca and Medina are), Sharif Hussain bin Ali, refused to sign away Palestine to the Empire in a proposed Anglo-Hijaz treaty, the Saudis were given the green light to invade Hijaz in 1924-1925. In the early 1930s, the British Empire named Ibn al-Saud’s territorial conquests of the previous two decades in the Arabian peninsula, the “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”. The Empire then crowned Ibn al-Saud, a “King”. Specifically speaking, a bureaucrat by the name of George Rendel working in the foreign office took credit for naming the new country.
Therefore, the Saudi tribe came into modern political existence as a proxy force for the British Empire so to do its geo-political bidding. The British Empire then moulded this tribe into a nation-state. Naturally, the new Saudi state was and is primarily accountable to its overlords, Britain and later also the United States.
In the post World War Two era, as long as the nepotists of Saudi Arabia ploughed billions of petro-dollars profits into the American and British economies, especially into the US-UK military-industrial complex, no one cared what policies they domestically or internationally pursued as long as it didn’t harm Western interests. The recent (and almost forgotten) horrific murder of the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey is testimony to this.
Four days before the Saudis began bombing Yemen in March 2015, then British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond was in Saudi Arabia claiming he wanted restraint between the contending protagonists in Yemen. Soon after the Saudis began bombing, Hammond said Great Britain supports the Saudi military intervention, “in every practical way short of engaging in combat.” In other words, behind the scenes the Brits are doing everything, while the Saudis are there for the cameras. One of the 6000 British Aerospace (BAE) employees deployed at Saudi military facilities told Channel 4’s investigative documentary programme, Dispatches, “We [Brits] have to do all their [Saudis] work, from the ground up. The Brits don’t touch the bombs, but that’s the final 5%. If you didn’t do the 95%, that final 5% couldn’t happen.”
In every respect, the role Britain is playing today in the so-called Saudi war on Yemen is analogous to the British crushing of the Palestinian uprising of 1936-9. In Palestine, the Empire taught its colonial-settler Zionist proxies how to crush the indigenous Palestinians until they were able to go it alone, as they did so after World War Two in the ethnic cleansing campaign of 1947-1948. Likewise, today the U.K is training and assisting Saudi military pilots until, undoubtedly, they’ll be able to go it alone in other parts of the Middle East.
As of late 2019, 100,000 Yemenis have been killed. Farmlands, where most Yemenis work, have been deliberately targeted by Saudi warplanes. There is widespread malnutrition. An economic siege and blockade was imposed on Yemen since the start of the war. Decrepit infrastructure is further destroyed. A country that was already the poorest in the region is impoverished further. For what? Essentially, it is because the powerful obviously think certain people have no right to a dignified existence, so, in this case, they are better suited for live target practise and a cruel death. During two centuries of British imperial rule in India, the British elite extracted a total £43 trillion of plunder and the Empire’s policies led to the death of at least 35 million Indians in unnecessary famines. To this day, there are over 50 statues of the Empress of India, Victoria, adorn the urban landscape in the United Kingdom. Today, Britain persists with imperial policies through proxies.
In conclusion, over the last five years the dictators of the Saudi tribe have ploughed £15 billion into the coffers of British Aerospace. These billions provide employment and therefore economic stability for Britain. Yet, a fraction of this money could have easily been used to establish peace in Yemen between the warring protagonists as well as rebuild Yemen’s essential infrastructure. Instead those who wield global power clearly prioritise the balance sheets of Western corporations over alleviating misery and saving peoples’ lives.