Excuse the pun, but I was weary about reading David Wearing’s “AngloArabia: Why Gulf Wealth Matters to Britain”. This weariness was born out of the way he is positively referenced on social media by a new peculiar breed of intellectual that has recently emerged in British academia. This peculiarity is defined by the Edward Said-quoting intellectual in question being sympathetic towards past anti-imperialist revolts, resistance and revolutionaries yet mysteriously silent on, manufacture consent for and even endorse contemporary British imperialist interventions such as in Libya or Syria. I’m thinking of an intellectual such as Professor Priyamvada Gopal and, I’m sure there are many others who morally juggle this perverse dichotomy, that is making a living researching past struggles against the Empire yet at the same time are at the very least silent on contemporary Western military interventions in the Global South. Indeed, Wearing informs the reader in the ‘Acknowledgements’ that Professor Gibert Achcar (who was in favour of the Libyan intervention) is “an invaluable mentor and a formative intellectual influence.”
“AngloArabia” is an examination of the relationship between the British state and the Gulf Arab States that make up the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) in the post Cold War era. However, the first chapter, “Empire’s Legacy” which aims to provide a historical account of how the Arab tribes that came to rule the Gulf from the nineteenth century leading up to the Cold War, confirmed my expectations. First of all, Wearing claims that “by the end of the nineteenth century, the Gulf was firmly under British control, with the British resident (London’s chief regional diplomat) able to call in naval support…under the overall command of the Bombay government.”[i] This is very confusing and tells us nothing about the role of the “resident” and what his role was. The ‘resident’ was not an innocuous role, post or title. Far from it. The “resident” was a central figure of the imperial ruling system called “Indirect Rule” the British Empire conclusively established after the Indian uprising of 1857 was finally crushed. After this revolt, the Empire concluded that going forward it would be best to govern India through regional puppets with a British resident in the background pulling the strings and calling the shots. One of the reasons for this strategy is if there were upheavals then any popular ire will be aimed at the puppet rather than the Empire. The nineteenth century Gulf rulers answered to the Resident in Bushire (which is in Iran) who was directly appointed and accountable to the British Empire in India. It was this Resident in Bushire more than anyone else who established the rulers in the Gulf.[ii] Continue reading
The film Dunkirk directed by Christopher Nolan, has raked in almost $500 million dollars. One of the sub-plots of the film, that is the sea aspect of it, shows an everyday ‘Joe’ played by Mark Rylance, courageously sailing the English Channel to rescue the retreated and stranded Tommy holed up on the coast of Dunkirk. But as the British historian Clive Ponting conclusively tells us in his book, 1940: Myth and Reality, this was very much a propagandistic interpretation what actually happened:
“One of the myths of Dunkirk is that the troops were evacuated from the beaches by an armada of small boats manned by volunteers from all over England. Continue reading
Now in its third year, the British co-ordinated Saudi Arabian led war on Yemen shows no sign of abating. Thousands of people have been indiscriminately killed and the northern part of Yemen is literally laid to waste as British made weaponry is tested on Yemenis. Last year there were reports of famines and now there are reports of hundreds of thousands of cases of cholera. The country which was already one of the poorest in the world is now further pulverised, impoverished and devastated.
The Saudis have been enthusiastically supported, primarily by the British establishment, from the very beginning of this attack on Yemen. Surreally and cruelly, one of the richest countries in the world is bombing the poorest country in the peninsula.
One of the most daunting aspects of the Saudi-British war on Yemen is the support it has received from most of the population of South Yemen. By South Yemen I mean the area that was formally known as the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. This support compels one to ask why have Southerners welcomed the Saudi-British led military campaign? Continue reading
Anyone with half a brain cell knows that Saudi Arabia shares the same ideology as ISIS and al-Qaeda. Anyone knows that only last year candidate Donald Trump rightly condemned Hilary Clinton’s proximity to the Saudi Arabian ruling clan while at the same time supposedly being a champion of women’s rights. Yet here he was in the capital of jihadism on his visit abroad as President lecturing Muslims on the need to combat extremism in a land were public floggings and executions are a norm. Where campaigners for freedom of speech are met, if they’re lucky, with prison sentences.
But for a moment let’s put aside Trump’s brass-necked and sickening hypocrisy. Early in his speech he regurgitated this myth about the founding of the Kingdom that demands unpacking:
“King Abdulaziz, the founder of the Kingdom who united your great people. Working alongside another beloved leader — American President Franklin Roosevelt — King Abdulaziz began the enduring partnership between our two countries.”
Firstly, the notion that AbdulAziz ‘founded’ the Kingdom is mythic nonsense. The British actually founded the Kingdom and AbdulAziz was merely their puppet. When AbdulAziz expanded into the Ha’il region (in the north) it was because the British drove him there because the then rulers, the Rashidis, rejected the British Empire’s advances to be another puppet. The British even sent in reinforcements for AbdulAziz to capture the region. Continue reading
The recent repackaging of Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate from Jabhat al-Nusra to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham has hoodwinked very few people. The Americans, who blacklisted Nusra back in 2012 and are widely and practically sympathetic to the Syrian Islamist insurrection against the government of President Bashar al-Assad have refused to accept there is anything substantial in the name change besides different labelling.
Taking a step back, the name ‘al-Qaeda’ itself has indefinite and opaque origins but the leaders and individuals who came to personify ‘al-Qaeda’, especially after the atrocities in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, emanated in an Islamist insurgency which had considerable support from the West. Specifically, the Afghan war in the 1980s which pitted the old Soviet Union against Islamist jihadis was where many of al-Qaeda’s future operatives and leaders learned their bombastic trade.
An organisation called the ‘Maktab al-Khidamat’ i.e. the “Service Bureau” was set up to greet, meet and manage the Arab recruits for the insurgency against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Both future leaders of al-Qaeda, the late ‘Sheikh’ Usama bin Laden and current ‘Emir’ Aymen al-Zahrawi were drawn to Afghanistan during this period. Bin Laden was head-hunted by Saudi intelligence after they couldn’t find a minor member of the Saudi royal clan to join the ‘jihad’, while Zahrawi first arrived in Afghanistan as part of an ‘aid convoy.’ More so, it is known thousands from the Arab world were recruited to fight the Soviets and Western media were more than willing to favourably refer to them as ‘Mujahideen’ i.e. Holy Warriors. Continue reading