The journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul has caused ructions throughout the world. The Saudi government claimed that he died in a spontaneous fist fight, but Turkish government sources claim that he was tortured and murdered by a hit squad. Khashoggi was a critic of the Saudi government, condemning their merciless treatment of women’s rights activists and, in particular, its brutal part in the Yemeni Civil War, where Saudi Arabia is trying to drive out the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels by bombing the country to dust, little heed paid to any collateral damage this might cause.
World leaders have been at the forefront in condemning the murder of Khashoggi, treating the official Saudi version of events with scorn. Angela Merkel has called the murder a ‘monstrosity’ and vowed to stop arms exports to the country until everything is ‘cleared up.’ Theresa May has expressed similar disgust and even Donald Trump said he was ‘not satisfied’ with Saudi Arabia’s explanation. The Tory big names are keen to join the condemnation frenzy, with Jeremy Hunt threatening to act accordingly and Boris Johnson saying that Britain cannot ‘turn a blind eye’ to the incident and that pressure should be put on Saudi Arabia to end the Yemeni conflict.
The hypocrisy of this is blatant. Saudi Arabia is a brutally oppressive regime which beheads hundreds of people every year, yet it was only when the spotlight was shone on the regime by the high-profile Khashoggi case that Western politicians became outraged. Western nations, Britain among them, have been selling the planes and bombs to Saudi Arabia that the country is using to decimate Yemen.
Their justification of this has been that if they don’t sell the weapons, other nations will, perhaps Russia or China, an argument that the former British defence attaché to Riyadh, Brigadier John Deverell, has condemned as ‘complete rubbish.’ The UK’s level of complicity goes deeper still, with many of the Saudi bomber pilots having received their training at RAF bases.
It would be a mistake, though, to dismiss the British establishment as merely war profiteers. The western capitalist class has a vested interest in the dominance of Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Middle East, regimes that invite western corporations in and defend the West’s geo-political interests against the likes of Iran. With this in mind, it seems likely the condemnations of the Western world leaders will amount to little more than hot air.
By Kieran Coghlan