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 latest reports of British special forces injuries fighting in the Saudi led war on Yemen once again provides further evidence the British political establishment are the main Western backers behind the war launched in March 2015. It’s not for the first time British elite forces operating in Yemen are reported to have been injured. Yet western commentary, especially before these injuries became known, largely blames the United States as the main instigator behind the current destruction of Yemen. For example, former British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband’s latest article on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen claims that the war is a “strategic failure” and only the United States possesses the might to put it right. Above all else, he implies the US is the nation most responsible for the dire situation. Last year, the same Miliband was forthright and declared after a visit to Yemen, that the United States, has a “threefold responsibility” for the crisis in Yemen without mentioning the British role in assisting the Saudis. But in the light of these latest reports of British injuries how accurate is it to say or imply that the United States is the main global power behind the war on Yemen? Continue reading
The ‘enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is one of the most simplest proverbs to understand. As far as the Middle East and Muslim majority countries are concerned it was employed first by the British, and then the United States when the latter inherited the mantle of defending western interests during the Cold War. As the Financial Times admitted just after the recent jihadi attacks in England:
“…armed Islamists were viewed as cold war allies of the west. Osama bin Laden’s mujahedin and the CIA were on the same side in the fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.”
So it was no surprise in 2014, that when a young British-Libyan jihadi was killed in Syria, former British foreign secretary, William Hague sent condolences Continue reading
As we once again darkly commemorate the anniversary of the British-American invasion and destruction of Iraq launched on 20th March 2003 it is important to revisit one of the more endearing fabrications that was peddled in the lead up to that war. Alongside the ‘45 minute claim’ and ‘Uranium purchases from Niger’, one wing of the British establishment also let it be known that Tony Blair’s involvement was due to his subservience to George W. Bush. The latter was the line enthusiastically propagated by Great Britain’s anti-war movement, “Stop the War Coalition” (StW) and also its leading mainstream journalist, the Guardian newspaper’s associate editor, Seumas Milne.
No lesser figure than anti-capitalist social activist and writer Naomi Klein vouches for Milne’s “sound” anti-imperialism.
A year before 9/11 attacks on American soil and the subsequent ‘War on Terror’, Milne wrote an excellent and aptly titled article “Throwing our weight about”. In it he took to task Tony Blair’s infatuation with military interventionism (or ‘humanitarian war’) specifically in Kosovo, Iraq (1998) and Sierra Leone as well as noting British interference in Zimbabwean domestic issues. Milne further endorses Nelson Mandela’s rebuke of Blair, in that he is, Continue reading
Beyond the triumphalism of the British mainstream media, beneath the jubilation of the London politicians, the last rites of “Britishness” maybe gathering pace. The percentage margin of victory for the pro-British Union in the Scottish independence referendum belies any notion of a comfortably united British, so-called “United Kingdom.”
Scots were clearly galvanised to the tune of a remarkable 84% electoral turnout. This numerically translated as 3,619,915 votes being validly cast. Of these 2,001,926 were cast to remain in the United Kingdom, that is, to remain part of the British state. While 1,617,989 wanted complete autonomy and separation from the Kingdom.
What separated victory for the Union and with it the complete cessation of the state we continue to refer as “British” Continue reading