Posts Tagged ‘BAE Systems’


Congress votes to end military aid to Saudi

In our last post two days ago, we highlighted the Dispatches programme which described in graphic detail the role our weapons supplies were having in Yemen.  The Saudis, using jets supplied by us, were creating suffering on an almost unimaginable scale with tens of thousands of deaths, a cholera outbreak and starvation of its people.

Today, 4 April 2019, the US Congress has voted 247 to 155 to end military aid to Saudi Arabia.  Further votes are planned to stop weapons supplies as well.  It is expected that President Trump will veto the actions but nevertheless, it sends a strong message of what Americans think of this terrible regime and its countries continuing military support for it.

This puts the UK in a tricky position.  A chief ally stepping back leaves this country somewhat exposed.  We shall have to see over the coming days what feeble excuses are trotted out to justify our support and role in the killing.

Sources: The Nation, Washington Post, the Guardian

 

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Channel 4 Dispatches programme shows Britain’s involvement in this terrible war

On Monday 1 April 2019, Channel 4’s Dispatches programme showed some terrible scenes from the war in Yemen and the death and destruction which is taking place.  The war has resulted in considerable misery for thousands of civilians and the programme reported that around 55,000 children under 5 have died from malnutrition as a result.

They focused on a bus which containing school children which was bombed in a market place killing 40.  They were able to find a young survivor who had suffered shrapnel wounds but was lucky to have escaped with his life.  He was understandably still traumatised.

Britain – as we have noted in this blog many times before – is a key supplier of weapons and the main supplier is BAE Systems who sell the Typhoon fighter jet.  It is these jets, along with those supplied by the Americans, which are used to bomb Yemen and in particular, schools, mosques and hospitals.

In addition to supplying jets and munitions, the programme revealed that 6,000 BAE staff were working there involved in the crucial business of keeping the jets flying.  They managed to excuse their activities by claiming that because they do not actually handle the weapons – the final 5% as someone put it – therefore they were not mercenaries.  They also reported that British military personnel (which we know to be from the RAF) were also involved.

A great deal of time was spent interviewing various individuals concerning the ethics of supplying weapons – especially jets and their rockets – which are used by the Royal Saudi Air Force to cause such misery.

‘Dancing with the Devil is sometimes worth it’ former Air Vice-Marshall Sean Bell

One person interviewed was former Air vice-Marshall Sean Bell who argued that if we were not involved it could be a whole lot worse.  This seemed to be based on the notion that we were in some way moderating the Saudi activities which seemed a weak argument especially in the light of the rest of the programme.  He said ‘dancing with the devil is sometimes worth it’ because of the influence it gives us, not just with the Saudis but also in the Middle East generally.  Our involvement and dependence on Saudi arms sales was featured in a Channel 4 news item with Bell.  A Twitter feed on this topic can be found at @c4dispatches.

The British government has also been engaged in some dubious thinking based also on the notion of influence.  The Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP said in the House of Commons:

Because of our commercial relations with Saudi Arabia we are actively monitoring their compliance with International Human Rights law and we have a lot of contact with them […] We raise concerns with them if we think things are going wrong.  Clip from the Dispatches programme

This concept of maintaining contact so that we can exert influence took a knock in the programme because it was revealed we have in fact next to no influence.  Former US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that attempts to hold back the Saudis seemed ineffectual since their attitude was to ‘act quickly and ask questions later.’

Further damage to the notion of influence was evidence from an American official sent to investigate after the school atrocity.  It seems our personnel were ‘not where it mattered’ [in the control room that is] but that there was a separate floor where the operations were actually being directed.  More damagingly, most of the strikes are not in fact controlled from Riyadh but are what are called ‘dynamic strikes’ conducted by SRAF pilots without reference to the control room.  They do not have in their cockpits the vital information about which targets are safe to be hit.

Conclusions

Britain’s involvement in this war is calamitous for the country itself and our influence and reputation.  We can hardly complain about Russia’s activities in Syria when we are only one remove from doing the same in Yemen.  Because sale of arms to Saudi Arabia is so important and lucrative, we are not in a position to end it without significant damage to our balance of payments.  The only beneficiary of this trade are the shareholders of BAE Systems and other arms firms and dealers.  The losers are of course the 60,000 dead in Yemen.

In addition to the use of our weapons in this terrible war, is the fact that we have given support to this regime, a regime which systematically uses torture and has closed down any form of dissent and freedom of speech.  Again the arguments are about our ‘influence’ which seems to be all but invisible.  Members of the royal family are regularly rolled out to visit and add a veneer of respectability to the Saudi royals.

When Mohammad bin Salman assumed power the talk was of a reforming monarch.  This disintegrated following the Khashoggi murder and more arrests of human rights activists.

The final word should perhaps go to Andrew Mitchell MP, interviewed on the programme, who said:

History will judge it as an appalling failure of British foreign policy

 


On the occasion of Saudi National Day, I am reminded of the great history of Saudi Arabia. Today, the Saudi people can be rightly proud of their nation, of their history and their developments. Saudi Arabia is a strong nation, an important player in the world and a key partner of the UK. The development of this nation began with unification.

Sir John Jenkins, September 2014

Sir John Jenkins was the Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and has been in the news recently following the mass execution of 47 people in that country.  He was interviewed on the Today programme on the BBC and was asked if he wished to condemn the executions.  This question seemed to vex him and prompted him to write a three page piece in the New Statesman (8 – 14 January 2016) in which he attempted to explain the quandary he found himself in.  He wrote:

I understand the point of the question.  But I have been wondering since then what exactly it is that I and others hare being invited to condemn.  The fact of the execution its nature, the Shia identity of the victim [Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr] his status as a cleric, that the Saudis still practise capital punishment, the nature of their judicial system, the timing of the act, the suspicion that it might undermine the peace process in Syria or infuriate Iran – or perhaps all of this and more?

 He then goes into a long explanation of the history of the country and its tortuous relationship with Iran and other neighbours.  At the heart of the article is the assumption is that most of those executed along with al Nimr were terrorists.  He then goes on to say that one might still think it is an act of state brutality and should be condemned as such but that this position is not a policy.  The signal the Saudis sought to send out was that they will enforce the judgement of the courts on those who seek to undermine the stability of the kingdom.

The article begs a number of questions not least of which is the fact that most of those executed were not terrorists but people who are protesting at the iniquities of the state itself.  Nothing like fair trials took place which is not unusual.  Torture is routine and prisoners are denied access to lawyers.

His response and the subsequent article attracted some interest and a biting piece in Private Eye (No 1409).  They pointed out that Sir John was now executive director of the International Institute of Strategic Studies.  A quick look at their web site reveals who it is who funds the charity.  It is an interesting list and includes Lockheed Martin; BAE Systems; HSBC; British American Tobacco; Exxon; Raytheon; Ministry of Defence; Ministry of defense (Saudi Arabia) and so on, all organisations with a vested interest and substantial business interests in Saudi.  It also receives substantial funding from FCO. Once again we see the interests of arms and other companies exercising undue influence over the opinion makers.  Private Eye makes the point that it is a pity the BBC did not mention to its listeners the funding behind the institute when interviewing people like Sir John.  Many might have been misled into thinking that they were hearing the wisdom of a former Ambassador not someone speaking for a range of arms firms and other business interests.  No wonder Sir John was in such a quandary.  He wants us to believe that Saudi is a strong nation.  It is a long way from that.  It is deeply corrupt and far from progressing seems by its recent actions, to be regressing.