Do not expect to hear a good word about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on any Western media outlet these days. There is growing evidence of an international campaign built on exaggerations to blacken the country’s reputation and undermine its regional leadership standing. This only serves as a gift to the Iranian media and will embolden our enemies.
American and British politicians, as well as human rights agencies, are falsely accusing the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen of deliberately targeting civilians in its effort to restore the legitimate government and protect the kingdom’s territorial integrity.
These seemingly orchestrated attacks come on the heels of the United Nations (UN) secretary general’s disgraceful inclusion of Saudi Arabia on a UN children’s rights blacklist, stricken-off days later amid Ban Ki-moon’s fabricated claims that Arab states had used financial blackmail to force his hand.
Human Rights Watch, known as a revolving door for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the American department of state, has been engaged in an anti-Saudi hate fest for years, and is now joined by Oxfam, a supposedly impartial charity rather than a politically-driven entity, which has entered the bash-Saudi act.
One of Oxfam’s senior executives is lobbying in the UK government to cease arms sales to Saudi Arabia, asserting that the British government is not an “enthusiastic backer” of the Arms Trade Treaty but “one of the most significant violators”.
The UK, which pledged to support the campaign in Yemen “short of engaging in combat”, denies its sales contravene the treaty’s regulations. The UK’s minister for Middle East and Africa, Tobias Ellwood, told the House of Commons that the UN report’s claims were based on false witness testimony, noting its authors had not carried out their research in-country.
“We are aware that the Houthis, who are very media-savvy in such a situation, are using their own artillery pieces deliberately, targeting individual areas where the people are not loyal to them, to give the impression that there have been air attacks,” he said.
Kudos to Ellwood for pinpointing the problem, but he is one of the few voices defending truth from vicious propaganda. Conservative member of parliament and member of the defence committee Colonel Bob Stewart is another. He says the coalition has made a few mistakes but is doing its utmost to avoid civilian deaths. A UK court has now authorised a judicial review into whether or not UK weapon sales to Saudi Arabia flout British and European Union export laws.
There is no such thing as a war in which all civilians are guaranteed safety from bombs, as the Americans and their allies understand only too well given the hundreds of thousands who were killed in Iraq during the invasion and occupation. White phosphorous was illegally used in developed areas and depleted uranium was blamed for causing birth defects years later. The pentagon knows exactly how many US military personnel died, but did not even bother to count the numbers of Iraqi victims.
In 2001, untold numbers were bombed in Afghanistan and since, the Obama administration drone attacks have killed more than 2,600 people in various countries, according to officially announced statistics. But because every military-age man is designated a combatant without evidence to the contrary, it is impossible to judge how many were civilians.
Likewise, Israel has for over more than a decade killed thousands of mostly civilian Palestinians and Lebanese, including a large number of children. Just a few days ago, it was bombing Gaza, destroying homes and lives. Social media is awash with videos of children being roughed up by Israeli soldiers and dragged away screaming, or shot. Palestinians have no rights, let alone human rights, yet criticism of Israel is off-limits, while hurling abuse at Saudi Arabia is seen as fair game.
Last year, the pentagon rubber-stamped the supply of $1.9bn worth of arms to Israel without a peep from the US congress which invariably defends Israel’s right to defend itself. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia’s right to prevent pro-Iranian Houthi hordes from invading its territory is swept aside. Worse, some members of congress led by US senator Rand Paul are pushing hard for a vote to block the sale of automatic weapons, tanks, and ammunition to Saudi Arabia, which Paul characterises as “an unreliable ally with a poor human rights record”.
That move comes on the heels of a vindictive bill, approved by the senate, designed to grant permission to families of 11 September 2001 victims to sue Riyadh, even though the Commission Report vindicates the Saudi government from any wrongdoing.
If this scurrilous bill, supported by both presidential candidates, is passed into law, the kingdom warns it will sell-off hundreds of billions of dollars in US assets, according to the New York Times. Saudi has denied making any such statements, but doing so would make perfect sense. Why would anyone wish to keep assets in any country acting against it with apparent hostile intent?
It is time for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the League of Arab States to take a firm stand. These attitudes and strategies are wholly unacceptable from supposed allies, and if they continue, they must face repercussions.
For some time now, I have suspected that in its determination to maintain dominance over the Middle East, the west uses covert methods to keep regional states from taking charge of their own destiny. Independence is frowned upon, as Gamal Abdel Nasser, the former shah of Iran Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, and others discovered.
The Obama administration took Egypt to task for bombing Islamic State terrorists who beheaded Coptic Christians, and its efforts to revitalise the Israel-Palestine peace process have been belittled or ignored. The absence of tourists, resulting from the cancellation of flights in reaction to the downing of the Russian aircraft in October 2015, has forced foreign reserves-strapped Cairo to negotiate a hefty International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan, laden with strings.
Clearly, the new assertiveness of Saudi Arabia and its Arab partners in Yemen is not appreciated in the halls of power of certain capitals. In short, I am beginning to believe that the underlying message is: know your limits, or else, we will bring you down. Seems to me it is beyond time we delivered a few pertinent messages of our own.
Khalaf Al Habtoor is a businessman and chairman of Al Habtoor Group. Al Habtoor Group is a Dubai based cooperation with extensive business interests in the region and worldwide, including: hospitality, education, automotive and real estate.