Stop Arming Saudi Arabia
After over one thousand days into the Saudi bombing of Yemen, which is almost entirely UK/US equipped and supported, the first large protest takes place in London of a few hundred people outside Downing Street.
They are outraged that the British government is not just rolling out the red carpet for one of the most brutal family dictatorships in the Middle East, but also quite deliberately facilitating and aiding the Saudi terror bombing of civilian targets in Yemen, including numerous schools and hospitals, in the full knowledge that this will only exacerbate the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
Since the war in Yemen started the UK has exported over £4.6 billion worth of arms, including Typhoon and Tornado aircraft as well as weaponry and Paveway IV bombs which have been used with appalling consequences in Yemen. We have even been training the Saudi air force.
The same day as the protest against the welcoming of Mohammad bin Salman at Downing Street, the British corporate owned mainstream media embarked on a massive campaign to whitewash the crown prince who has become Saudi Arabia's feared absolute ruler and who's corrupt regime has a cosy relationship with many of Britain's biggest businesses.
The deaths of tens of thousands in Yemen was, several newspapers claimed, of little or no importance in comparison to the prince's reforming zeal. The decision to allow women to drive and the reintroduction of cinemas was highlighted as the evidence that this was a regime Britain could and should support economically and diplomatically. That the Saudi government has just launched a brutal purge of political opponents and the country's Shia minotiry was not considered important or relevant.
Not since Hitler instigated a purge of his paramilitary SA in 1934, has the British press gone so far out of its way to praise a murderous dictator. Then Hitler was lauded as a moderating influence on the Nazi party. This was a deception carefully cultivated by Hitler's minister of propaganda Jozef Goebbels. Today the Saudi dictatorship have also become highly skilled in developing a propaganda campaign of which Goebbels would have been envious and the British Spectator magazine has even honoured MBS, a standard shortening of the Saudi tyrant's name, with the title "Prince of PR.."
MBS clearly understands that images of dead and dying children in Yemen could cost him dearly, so he has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to influence the British media and public, buying numerous pages of advertising in multiple newspapers, but especially in The Financial Times, so crucial in influencing Britain's business elite. Similarly billboards went up across London lauding Bin Salman as a "great reformer."
For anyone who might feel even partially persuaded by the media attempt to whitewash the Saudi regime, try and imagine how the media would react in another similar situation. Let us suppose Iran, which has been introducing extensive reforms and is now far more democratic than Saudi Arabia which makes no pretence at holding elections, had been bombing Israeli civilians for three years killing tens of thousands. Let us suppose the British government now not only welcomes the Iranian leader to visit London, but promises to continue supplying British aircraft and bombs to Iran in the full knowledge that this would mean that more Israeli schools and hospitals would be bombed and that a large part of the Israeli population could die from cholera and famine. Would the British media be so supportive then ? Of course, not, they would almost certainly demand military action against Iran. The very opposite of what they are doing now !
Surveys conducted by the Yemen Data Project, a group of academics, human rights and national security experts, showed that as of 2016 at least one third of all Saudi air strikes had hit civilian targets with the United Nations estimating in 2017 that 5,000 civilians had been killed by the Saudi bombing. The predictable indirect consequences of the bombing however have been even more catastrophic.
Britain continues to be complicit in one of the worst war crimes of the twenty first century by supplying the aircraft and weapons and the diplomatic support for Saudi Arabia's three year bombing campaign. This together with a tight blockade on basic imports of food, fuel and other essentials has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis with 76% of the population in need of humanitarian aid and 8.4 million at risk of famine, according to the United Nations World Food Programme. Additionally, over one million Yemenis have now contracted cholera while a recent outbreak of diphtheria is spreading rapidly.
While British media outlets focus on alleged Iranian violations of the arms embargo on Yemen, there is a deafening silence on the devastating role played by British aircraft and weapons, with the government granting arms export licenses worth £1.12 billion to Saudi Arabia during 2017 alone.