Vinoth Ramachandra

Unholy Alliances

Posted on: May 30, 2017

The United States has signed the biggest arms sale in its history (a staggering $100 billion) with Saudi Arabia. There is much irony here, not to mention moral revulsion. For consider:

(1) The Saudi Arabian air-force (comprising predominantly American and British aircraft) has indiscriminately and brutally ravaged the country of Yemen over the past year- leaving a people devastated by famine and facing what the UN has called the gravest humanitarian crisis of the present time (even surpassing that in Syria!). The Saudi military is not held accountable for war crimes. Since militant Islamist movements thrive in failed states, Yemen will be the breeding ground for the next version of al-Qa’ida or ISIL that rises against the West.

(2) Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states being wooed by the Trump regime are apartheid-type societies which do not acknowledge religious liberty nor the equality of women. They have done precious little by way of offering shelter or financial help to refugees from Syria or Iraq, despite their status as fellow-Muslims.

(3) Saudi Arabia has played a central role in the nurturing of a violent form of Islamism. It is home to the most intolerant form of Islam known as Salafist or Wahhabi. Until the mid-twentieth century this was a theological movement of only localized significance; but the oil wealth of modern Saudi Arabia has allowed the Salafists to spread their militant brand of Islam through the funding of extremist religious schools, charities and mosques across the Islamic world. The Saudi kingdom took in Salafist leaders expelled by secular regimes such as Syria, Egypt and Iraq. It was among Saudis engaged in the Afghan conflict of the 1980s that the fatal fusion took place between Wahhabi puritanism and the jihadist ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood, leading to the creation of the al-Qa’ida network.

Many of the conflicts within the Muslim communities of Asia and Africa are fuelled by Saudi-funded Salafist organizations that claim to possess a purer interpretation of the Qur’an and therefore condemn as “heretics” Shi’ites, Sufis and others who have lived relatively peacefully with their non-Muslim neighbours Salafism does not necessarily advocate global political violence. It does, however, tend to view the world in Manichean terms, with the West the source of all the impurities that have contaminated the world of Islam and obscured the message of God.

(4) Arabs and Persians have very different civilizations, and their differences were exacerbated by the Sunni-Shia conflict in early Islamic history. Iran, heir to both Persian and Shia Muslim traditions, boasts a much richer intellectual community of scholars than any Arab nation. It does not pose a threat to the USA or Europe. It is clear that the US, with its fear of both ISIS and uncritical defence of Israel, is being manipulated by Saudi Arabia into an irrational anti-Iran hysteria that trades on seeing the Middle East in simplistic black-and-white terms.

Why has the Trump regime’s politically short-sighted arms deal not elicited howls of protest among political and religious conservatives in the US and Europe?

The other part of Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia involved securing deals for American corporations to the tune of several billions of dollars. This reveals once more the hypocrisy of those conservatives who accuse advocates for social welfare of wanting a Nanny State. What the Republican Party wants is not really “limited government” but a government that subsidizes the rich rather than the poor, that uses its political and military muscle to open up global markets to American corporations. Trump is only the latest embodiment- though perhaps the most blatant- of the unholy alliance between American government and Big Business. Doesn’t this make a mockery of “free markets”, let alone of democracy?

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5 Responses to "Unholy Alliances"

Absolutely excellent. I couldn’t agree more Vinoth.

Thank you Vinoth! Since reading your first chapter in Subverting Global Myths, I’ve tried to take an active interest in what the US is doing in the Middle East. Recently I have been surprised to find so little analysis from the major news outlets on the US’s massive underwriting of Saudia Arabia’s military objectives. So, this post is very helpful. Please keep writing. What you say makes a difference for how I teach the Bible.

Thanks Vinoth. Yesterday I heard a similar story from John Pilger regarding the UK: “Last month, Prime Minister Theresa May was in Saudi Arabia, selling more of the £3 billion worth of British arms which the Saudis have used against Yemen… The Manchester atrocity on May 22 was the product of such unrelenting state violence in faraway places, much of it British sponsored.”

The current assault on Qatar’s sovereignty by Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia is a direct consequence of Trump’s visit. Emboldened by the visit and the ratcheted-up rhetoric against Iran, Saudi Arabia is asserting its hegemony over Sunni Muslims. Qatar has angered the regimes in Egypt, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia by its support for the “Arab Spring” and by adopting a more conciliatory stance towards Iran. The sad political fact (of which most Americans and Brits are unaware) is that while Iran is a functioning democracy and has a moderate Muslim at its head, the West continues to support financially and militarily all the brutal dictatorships in the Sunni Muslim world.

Dubai (an apartheid state beloved of Western financiers) must also be rubbing its hands in glee at the prospect of its airline Emirates ousting Qatar Airways from the regional market. And Egypt which has jailed several al-Jazeera journalists for their criticism of the Sisi regime, wants Qatar to evict al-Jazeera.

Wheels within wheels.

I´m a bit confused …

I thought Iran had the trappings of democracy but was truly an authoritarian state. Also … while I would agree that Hassan Rouhani is apparently a more moderate president who wants improved relations with the west, isn´t the real mover and shaker in Iran Ali Hosseini Khamenei who is not at all moderate?

I´ll admit I´m probably not as informed as you are about these things Vinoth, but for me at least I have nearly as many problems with Iran as I do with Saudi Arabia both from a human rights perspective and a geo-political perspective.

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