SANNA, March. 18 (YPA) – The Saudi crown prince’s recent visit to Britain highlighted the foreign policy differences between Theresa May’s Tories and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour. For the Tories, Mohammed bin Salman’s visit was an opportunity to secure arms deals. For Labour, the visit was an opportunity to defend the people of Yemen and the region from belligerence and arbitrary intervention by the crown prince.
The sharpest expression came with the clash at Prime Minister’s Questions. Jeremy Corbyn called out the British government and military for directing the Saudi attacks, including upon children. May continued to defend British involvement and support for the war. This was despite the obvious strategic deadlock in the fighting; and despite that, according to the UN, 11 million Yemeni children are in acute need of aid as a result of the war.
The Tories have begun to fear international isolation after Brexit. This has pushed them ever closer to Donald Trump’s grisly embrace. Trump’s most significant policy shift in the Middle East has been to confront Iran, challenging the international agreement on Iran’s nuclear power programme. To confront Iran means to rely more heavily on the Saudi regime. Both Trump and May are following this course.
Instead of challenging the powerful popular militias, the Saudis are terrorising the civilian population with endless bombing and a cruel siege for a country that imports 90 per cent of its food staples. The country’s infrastructure is being destroyed from the air, by largely British-made planes piloted by Saudis who are trained by Britain. The only conclusion to draw is that the crown prince hopes the demoralisation of the people, under such suffering, will isolate the fighters and force surrender.
The crown prince is a destabilising factor in a region desperate for peace and diplomatic progress. In a short period, he has started the war on Yemen, creating, according to the UN, the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.
He has imposed a blockade on Qatar, undermining the survival of the Gulf Co-operation Council, imposing hardship on Qatari residents and reducing the rights of Gulf citizens to travel and meet family members.
The Tories’ approach is based on the conventional hypocrisy of British foreign policy. It is premised on the suggestion that it is the responsibility of the British government to raise the “concerns” of the public – the lack of democracy, human rights, political liberties, etc – in Saudi Arabia, but in reality to prioritise promoting trade and commerce.
Jeremy Corbyn made it plain that the British government should not supply arms to Riyadh “while the devastating Saudi led bombing campaign of Yemen continues”. Addressing the Scottish Labour Party conference, he said: “what’s needed now is both a ceasefire and a concerted international effort to achieve a negotiated political settlement”. Many other Labour frontbenchers have reinforced this message and added to it.