Jeremy Corbyn has launched a scathing attack on Theresa May, accusing her of misleading parliament over the UK’s support for Saudi aggression in Yemen.
This week May told parliament that Saudi-led intervention was “backed by the United Nations Security Council and, as such, we support it.”
In her speech, the Prime Minister left out any specific examples to support her case. Foreign Office officials told Middle East Eye that the prime minister was referring to UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which was passed in 2015.
Closer inspection of the document would suggest that the Security Council merely noted a letter from the Yemeni President asking for Saudi-led military intervention. No official endorsements were made, at least not in writing.
On Friday, the Labour leader spoke out:
“It cannot be right, as I told the prime minister on Wednesday, that her government is colluding in what the UN and others say is evidence of war crimes. Germany has suspended arms supplies to Saudi Arabia, and so must the British government. This outrage must end.
“Nor is it true, as the prime minister claimed, that the Saudi-led war in Yemen has been authorised by the United Nations Security Council.
“What’s needed now is both a ceasefire and a concerted international effort to achieve a negotiated political settlement.”
Should we really be selling weapons to Saudi Arabia?
In recent years, a Saudi-led coalition has waged a brutal bombing campaign across Yemen, as part of a wider war against Houthi rebels, who oppose the Yemeni government and are supported by Iran.
Several key ports in Yemen are also blocked, leading to huge food shortages. According to the U.N. over 8 million Yemenis, many of them children, are “a step away” from famine. The situation in Yemen is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis and also its worst cholera crisis.
Mr. Corbyn is keen to bring attention to the notion that huge quantities of British military equipment are bought by Saudi Arabia and then used in wars such as the one in Yemen.
This week the UK signed a preliminary deal with Saudi Arabia on Friday for the sale of 48 Typhoon fighter jets. The Chief Executive of UK arms dealing firm BAE Systems, who will be the main private sector beneficiaries of the deal, commented: “We are committed to supporting the Kingdom as it modernises the Saudi Armed Forces.”
Charles Woodburn, CEO, said: “Today’s news is a positive step towards agreeing a contract for our valued partner. We are committed to supporting the Kingdom as it modernises the Saudi Armed Forces and develops key industrial capabilities critical to the delivery of Vision 2030.” pic.twitter.com/HU9g2wxWBW
— BAE Systems (@BAESystemsplc) March 9, 2018
Previous deals such as Al Yamamah – the largest single arms deal of all time – circumvented British weapons export licencing rules, which meant Saudi Arabia was free to use the weapons as they pleased, regardless of the humanitarian cost. The current bombing campaigns in Yemen, therefore, are a contemporary example of this gruesome deal in action.
Key Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have been on a state visit to the UK this week. Despite protests, the UK government is still more than keen to please the Saudi Royal Family and refuses to acknowledge the full extent of the regime’s repressive actions, both at home and abroad.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS): Reformer or ruthless dictator?
It’s also worth noting that the Saudi prince has embarked upon one of the most extensive public relations campaigns in history, recruiting several leading Western firms to reinvent his – and Saudi Arabia’s – global image.
If you’ve seen or read that “MBS” is driving sweeping social reform in the country, then the campaign’s working.
The reality is that in the last 6 months alone, the Crown Prince can be described as anything but a “reformer”. It’s been business as usual.
Last November, authorities detained hundreds of current and former officials and businessmen without disclosing details about any charges that had been brought against them. Some were later freed, reportedly after making financial settlements. Criticisms of King or Crown Prince are now classed as terrorism.
The death penalty and torture are commonplace in SHF’s Saudi Arabia. And in terms of foreign policy, the U.N. has recently accused Saudi Arabia of human rights abuses in Yemen and Akshaya Kumar, the Deputy United Nations Director, has been urging for Saudi elites including bin Salman to have their assets-frozen and a travel ban imposed. She wrote: “[The UN Security Council] has the power to put sanctions on anyone violating the laws of war in Yemen. Coalition leaders, including Prince bin Salman, meet that threshold.”