Saudi Arabia: Geopolitics in troubled Region
London 1st April 2017
Session 1: Overview of Arabia politics
Jonathan Fryer (journalist, Middle East specialist)
My connection with the region
|I was with the BBC during the occupation of Iraq and subsequent war. I have visited all GCC but after 2011 I have been banned from Bahrain. Over past 25 yrs I understood not only that Gulf goes through oltiics but the whole world is going through tatonic shift.
The Gulf region will play more important role thatn the present one.
There policy shifts since king came to power in SA to keep control of the agenda of the reion. Saudi Arabia is much bigger than other countries. Other countries are nervous about SA. Qatar has historic antagonisms with SA. Others are concerned that SA is determined to maintain domination. GCC unbalcned group but powerful, not only because of oil and gas but its strategic location.
Geopoliticas of the region; Saudi, Iran, Egypt. Their importance changed. Egypt saw itself as leader of Arab world. It can no longer claim that. Sissi does not have same charisma as Nasser. Egypt pushed to one side. It has been coping with terrorism in Sinai. It tries to cope with impact to cope with migrant workers returning to Egypt influenced by ideologies from SA.
Iran; for years was crippled by sanctions and negative policy of much of the Western world. That has changed over past two years. Nuclear deal, iran’s past and strategic importance. I argue that Iran must be seen as major player in regional politics. It has more opportunity to play major role. Iran has potential to grow economically and politically.
SA: For some yrs has oil wealth. Succession of brothers has kept society from making domestic political advances. When new king took over, we would see some positive reforms that improves the society and rights of women. Many have studied abroad and we hoep they will open SA.
With regards to war on Yemen. Clealry there is conflict between expectations of outside world and Saudis who study abroad. I see some of them at SOAS and they half different lives than at home. Most influential people in SA r determined to make the kingdom storng force militarily, and assert itself as the region’s leader. Inevitably I would not over emphasised the bi-polar nature of the situation.
I am more optimistic about Arab Spring. I felt from beginning that will take decadws to work through, probably 20 years. There has been setbacks. I don’t believe it is over. I spoke to many people form Arab people and they realised that they need not keep quiet. They can through social media and direct action exert themselves. Even in Syria. There are still millions of Syrians who are determined to make their opinion heard
If Arab awakening is still continuing. Given SA population is overwhelmingly young then thee system that is there needs to be very worried. It is very worried. It tries to buy off those young people who are lured to extremism, offer them homes and wives. In 21st century is it feasible to have absolute monarchy in which few people determine the role of that country in the region and the wider world. We will see more unrest in most parts of the countries. We will see present status quo challengd.
Sami Ramadani (Iraqi academic, author)
Some of what I say is to do with a forth key state; Israel.
Without tking the role of Israel we will miss out.
The gradually process of making Saudi-Israeli relations public. Arab regimes have had secret relations with Israel since its foundation in 1948. But after invasion of Iraq the serelations started to become public. After 2006 we started seeing this alliance. The American influence is part of this alliance. In Asharq Al Awsat today American General Jones called for Gulf Nato.
Libermann and Saudi FM used similar speeches in New York that the existential threat is from Iran. Both stressed that there is need to stop Iranian threat in the region. It is preparation for war on |Iran. The politics of the region show that alliance between SA and |Israel is natural development. It follows decades of US backing of Saudi family in Arab and Islamic world. This became pronounced in post WW2. President Turman, Eisenhower who asked Saudi king to establish Islamic alliance. The power of petrodollars could be channelled to serve US imperialist interests.
SA and Israel have become linchpin of American policy in the region. They fund Wahhabi literature. Invasion of Iraq in 2003 dragged US into quagmire. Israeli and Saudi politicians became alarmed at US losses in Iraq. Green zone became non safe area.
New policy emerged. In 2005/2006 new policy emerged; promotion of sectarian conflict. As American in Iraq you would like to see Iraqis fighting each other rather than attacking you. Shia were targeted, Christians. This is most helping factor to help US leave Iraq but leave it in turmoil
Saudi role is financial and ideological
Their ideology were against women, c hildren, other sects. This formed lethal composition.
Simon Hersh revealed this poloicy became official in a meeting between Hariri of Lebanon who is also a Saudi citizen, Feltman, Assistant secretary of state and prince Bandar of SA. They agreed to make Iran and terrorist groups allied to Iran and Palestinian resistance organisation as the main threat. While threats from AlQa’ida were less of a threat. Thus we should focus on Iran and allies in the region. They concentrated on Lebaon. Israel invaded Lebanon. Saudis and Qataris funded terrorist organisations. This has been de facto alliance.
Israel targeted lebanion and hezbullah and abetting Alqa’ida.
This is what Saudi policy anchored on. Destruction of Iraq is US policy but backed by SA and Qatar. Within Syria joined that alliance and became logistical base in destroying Syria.
We need to see that broad picture and not bogged down by Shia Sunni war. Saudi wants to dominate area with Israeli, Qatari, Saudi help.
Events in Mosul, with America killing many civilians confuses the situation. They need these terrorist groups. They overthrew Maliki gov because he wanted Americans out after Mosul fell to ISIS. He went to Russian to get arms, that angered US.
Do not underestimate the role of terrorist groups in endangering the region because of Saudi help. Inflaming sectarian tensions. These groups serve islamophobia. Exposing them not only as being extreme forms of islam but because they serve imperialist
Dr Ali Qabbany (Egyptian writer, journalist)
There are several factors
Absence of leadership in arab world. Egypt’s image and ability destroyed in 1967. Iraq destroyed in American invasion. Syria destroyed after Arab Spring.
There is kingdom of SA established in 1932 by Abdul aziz on two factors; agreement with US to defend them in return for Saudis accepting us dictates except for Wahhabism
The third factos is oil fields and petrodollars.
We have Saudi army and national guards. These armies have never moved to help Islamic or arab causes. They only moved to attack Bahrain and quash people’s revolution and Yemen in 1962 and now. What did SA do? They would not allow change in Bahrain or Yemen. Changes there would threaten their rule.
They removed Ali Abdullah Saleh and appointed his deputy for two years. They tried to fool the people by removing head of regime while keeping the regime.
After the two years expired they extended the time of Abd RAbbo Mansoor Hadi. We then saw ari strikes on Yemen. They said they were responding to legitimate gov but Hadi said he did not know of it.
Saudi is regime of deception and lies. People accepted transitional period but when it ended they took matters in their own hands.
SA attacked yemen in defiance of UN and Arab charters.
If we live in a world which supports people then SA should be first target of that.
SA says war in Yemen is sectarian between Houthis and Sunnis. But no Yemeni wants this war, Shia or Sunni.
Role of SA is tool of Israeli American alliance and to start another Sykes pico to divide Arab world. Israelis supply them with info on Yemen and arms. Netanyaho said that they had ideal relations with SA and military regime in Egypt.
Now we are facing Arab regimes who are cooperating with Zionist regime to stop awakening of Arab world.
When US says it wants to promote democracy I said it is lip service. When you have freedom and democracy you cannot control them. You cannot make ME your front against your enemies in China or Egypt.
They use SA regime and Egypt to implement these policies.
They are providing regimew tih military aid and info against the American law itself. Israeli influence on Congress makes this possible.
There is invasion in Yemen and Bahrain. Int community should call for stopping these wars and allow people of Syria, Iraq to determine their futures. End blockade on yemen. More than 10 million Yemenis are suffering. Stop the war and end siege
Lindsey German (Socialist activist, writer)
Some of the regimes who are waging wars on others like SA on Yemen. It is now two years of this war. It has been period of misery and anger. It is rarely reflected in our media in UK. We are not told about the general setting for these wars. We need to put this in the context of what is going on. It is not about sectarian divisn but political
The people have the right to form their own future and democracy.
It is amazing that in UK we speak of British values; women rights etc. it is incredible that its allies do not observe these values.
We see this clearly in our lives. They view iran as main enemy of US.
We need to look at US imperialist role especially with Trump.
What he said in his campaign that we did not want to be involved in wars that we can lose, only the ones that we can win.
It is attractive narrative that won him votes.
But what he did in past two months shows that he is not faithful to his slogans.
His raid on Yemen resulted in death of civilians. He also sent troops on the ground to Syrian. There have always been covert troops in Syria. This is first time that us troops are sent to Syria.
In Mosul thousands were killed in past two months.
There is more in Yemen. They are supporting SA. Obama banned guided bombs to SA but now that is not the case.
More wars, more instability, more backing for their allies, especially |Israel. Netanyahoo visited Trump, embassy transfer to Jerusalem.
Finally there is Muslim ban on six countries. Most of these countries are bombed by US at different times.
This is met with widespread opposition including from judges. They halted second limited ban on Muslims coming to US>
This is situation. WE have to look at policy of our country. Mrs May stands by Trump and they are involved in bombing Yemen. Teresa May desperate to hang on to the speciall relationship with US. After Brexit they will become worse.
One of the questions for us in UK; how do we break our government form this speciall relationship which only brought danger to people in world.
There is no doubt that war on terror has increased the threat. Western gove aided some of these groups. It is threat to west and countries in Muslim world. It is threat to people here. WE can deal with terrorism poltically. WE need political settlement on matters of grievances.
Islamophobia is threat to us all. The attack on WEstminister appears to be lone wolf act. Immediately anybody who has Islamic name is seen as terrorist attack. This is feeding far right politicas, feeds racism. We cannot separate question of destruction in Syria, Iraq, Yemen with the response from West which is driving wars.
As stop the war we are committed to challenge and oppose SA and oppose arms sale. People are fighting for better future.
These are important issues that need to be reaching to wider audience. O|ur politicians must know this
Saudi domestic and regional politics
Message from Sinn Feinn to the Conference
Ahmad AlM’ayyad (Sheba Human Rights)
Film on Yemen and then commentary
There is law of the junge; the strong eats the weak,
HR exist if people are strong and rich
One child dies every ten minutes
There are those who stand against political settlement.
Everyone claims to be fighting terrorism,, but not in Yemen
SA main source of terrorist ideology, no one cares
Continuous supplies of arms to SA
Our people will resist SA aggression.
Dr Hamza Al Hassan (Saudi activist and thinker)
SA: Saudi Arabia
SA involved in many conflicts
How long is this war going to last?
If anyone thinks it will end within weeks or months they are wrong
Four reasons why it is continuing:
- SA launched four wars; first in 1934 captured AlHodaida, led to TA’if agreement. Second 1962 against Imamate regime. After 1967 war ended. Saudis controlled Yemen until 2014. Third war 2009/2010, two wars in one. First against Houthis, the second against Ali Abdulla Saleh. Forth started March 2015. SA say they would continue regardless of destruction.
- Saudis see this war as defending the Saudi state. They fell that if they lose this war the Saudi state would fall.
Why do they insist on this war? Why do they sacrifice their influence in Yemen?
- Historical experiment tells them that their reign when tribe and religion combined. There is Zaidi movement. There is youth movement. SA is leader of Arabian Peninsula because Yemen is neglected. SA kept Yemen outside investment. They want Yemen marginalised, no political role.
- If they stopped the war now the next war will be internal. The war would shift to SA itself. It will be between AlSaud and Wahhabis. There is agreement between AlSaud and AlQa’ida that if they fight against Shia then they would not operate in SA. It is expected that 2017 is year of revivalism of ISIS and AlQa’ida. They feel they have to continue war on Yemen
- They do not want competition role for Yemen. If it becomes strong SA dominance will be challenged by Yemen.
- There is Western umbrella. There is political protection even in the media. With Trump it is open time for Saudis. At beginning of war Obama admin thought to keep SA busy as they finalised Iran’s nuclear deal. Trump is concerned with money. UK is concerned with economy. They want to strengthen relationship with GCC and also Iran to improve business. This is why war is continuing.
- Absence of pressure from outside. I am disappointed that the Arabs and Muslims are silent. Malaysia, Indonesia silent. |Yemen spread Islam in South East Asia. There is an internal mood against the war. If there is not pressure the Saudis would continue.
Do we expect military defeat?
Not probable. Saudis and |Yemenis are fighting on equal footing. Do humanitarian issues lead to stop the war? Nobody cares. Numbers will not affect the situation
If we start stopping wars in Syria, Yemen then no business.
I don’t see hope in this war. It is our responsibility to exert pressure to stop it.
Zena Tahir (European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights)
SA launched 20/30 vision which foresees vibrant society. SA elected to Human Rights Council. Situation with regards to HR violations is bad. Shrinking civil society has collapsed. War on yemen cannot be criticised.
Use and abuse of security measures to target any dissent. They equate HR activists as enemies of the state or terrorist. They use terrorism laws to prosecuted individuals. Activists tried at criminal courts. \People sent to lengthy prison sentences. Secret courts, notorious for crackdown on civil society.
In 2016 prosecution of all founding members of Saudi NGOs, given lengthy prison sentences.
ESOHR director in Berlin is sentenced in absentia.
These courts famous for trying Sheikh Nimr Al Nimr who called for fair policies. He was arbitrarily arrested, tried in secret, not allowed to examine the other side claims.
Counter terrorism tools used against him
He was taken alongside self-confessed terrorists and executed to mislead the public and legitimise their action.
Sheikh Nimr was subjected to defamation by media, accused of being terrorist.
Increased use of death penalties.
Last year more than 150 executions.
Political executions is worrying development.
Internaitonal law prohibits killing minors
This trend is set to continue.
There are several minors on death row; Ali AlNimr, Abdulla Al Zahir.
This counter terrorism narrative is dangerous
CIA gave them medal for their counter-terrorism.
In absence of active civil society these killings are chilling. Fear of reprisal is there, and silence of international community encourage them to carry out outrageous acts.
Sheikh Musharraf Hussaini
After WW1, Saudi regime created. After ww2 zionist state created.
WW3 already started without notifying anybody.
Everywhere there is war. Women, children, places of worship, hospticals, H|R activists killed. No body is able to do anything for that.
System of governance is supporting them
Slogan for democracy are silenced
Bullying in schools and streets.
Global powers and countries are now involved in bullying.
Terrorism in Muslim states; 9/11 we see Saudi role.
Same powers promoting HR are supporting Saudis
This is global problem
98 percent of people are against war.
People here are thinking of finding solutions to this global fire.
Humanity will suffer.
Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Gaza, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Burma
This extremist ideology must be challenged.
We are 98 percent but divided.
We need to come to same platform. We need to clear the world of extremism or terrorism
Terrorism is terrorism
In Palistan there was bomb killing 24 people in Parchanar.
In Yemen destruction everywhere. |Yemen is transformed into big prison
Awareness needs to be brought to the people.
We are against extremism, terrorism
Jawad Fairooz, former MP, president of Salam for HR in Bahrain
We agree on goals that we must acheve;
Peace, justice, stability in the world, self-determination of people, civil states with democracy and devolved powers, implementation of HR values and principles, fighting terrorism and sustainable development.
How can we achieve this?
UN bodies must have powers to achieve these, dialogue, peaceful process, implementaiotn of international protocols and conventions, matching local legislation with international codes.
How Saudis are doing?
Are they trying to maintain peace and prevent war?
When they interfered in Bahrain they did not want to have peace. It was uprising for sectarian demands, but national demands. Saudis did not call for dialogue.
Second: Do they want to establish justice?
HR activists are persecuted.
Third: Do they want to establish stability?
Are Saudis civil state? Democratic? Separation of powers? Implementation of HR? Fighting terrorists? Leaders of isis and alqa’ida are groomed by SA.
Are they maintaining development and economy?
Saudi role is not on these lines.
Strength international bodies; They should act independently
When UN mentioned SA as violators of children rights they were forced to change it.
UN must have teeth and power. Bahrain case will be studied by UPR procedure. The only thing that will come out is recommendations
Improve ICC functions; but it is biased, selective.
Stop arms sales to SA
Chair: Carol Turner (CND activist)
London CND has toured two of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who toured London, Manchester etc.
Andrew Smith (CAAT)
The court has not issued a verdict on UK supply of arms to SA.
Central role of UK in arms supplies to SA
At beginning of war, Philip Hammond said that he would support SA except in combat.
UK licensed over 3 billion, 2 billion for aircrafts and 1 billion for ammunition.
UK’s role is not just onlooker but participants. Thousands killed, schools, hospitals etc.
10,000 dead, bare minimum.
Terrible and horrible fashion. Violation of international law has been great.
Saudis denied that they bombed meeting hall and cluster bombs but it was proven
Bombing campaing that is indiscriminate
UK is relying on SA reports.
Saudi Arabia is investigating SA itself
Military support by UK is underpinned by political support.
This September SA will be invited to London’s arms fair.
This is nothing new. Thacthcer sold billions to SA.
Blair refused investigation of bribe
Prince Charles participated in dance party in SA
Hypocrisy unending and unwaivering.
UK does not sell arms to Syria. That is right.
SA conducting crimes against Yemen every day.
UK officials say selling th em arms make them more influential.
If 40 yrs of engagement is so ineffective
SA is bound to share info on terrorism
We are told that arms sales are vital for jobs, but it is too tiny
Two thirds of UK arms export go to ME
Cluster bombs were used, sold to SA in 90s
Gaddafi brought from cold in 2004 and sold weapons. He used weapons against his own people.
Outcome of arms fair is not only dealy in yemen, but on UK policies
Court verdict will not be end of story.
If we win the case it will challenge UK policy
Arms trade lobby will press against adopting it
If court stands by UK gov it will send wrong message; UK is right to sell arms that kill civilians,.
All parties condemned SA indiscriminate bombing in Yemen,
We have to take the right stand
James Florey (Veterans for Peace)
We have members from ww2
Soldiers disagreed with actions of gov overseas.
Veteran for Peace started and campaigned against nuclear power, against overseas deployment of uk troops, militarisation of britihs public.
We can go back to the days of the crusaders. History is repeating itself several times.
British involvement in war has been by proxy
Boots on the ground, public opinion are terms widely used.
Right wing have their own agenda. British military involvement is big
Last week we commemorated the Balfour Declaration.
This year we will mark Sykes Picot
Lawrence of Arabia etc
British gov still believes that these characters are still alive and well.
If you visit FCO you think empire is still alive and well
By proxy means arming others to fight each other so that arms suppliers get richer and richer
We campaign against all wars. We disagree with wars of overseas occupation, aggression. We campaign in every forum we go to.
SA is great for war by proxy.
Arms manufacturers are sophisticated. They sell them to SA to use them for war.
We can see this happening. It is serving certain people; it is not serving us or the Yemenis, but only small clique.
Veteran for |Peace stands to end the wars and arms sales and to educate the public against wars by proxy.
Murad Queishi, Chair of Stop the War, Greater London Councillor
As chair of stop the war I am here to express solidarity with peple of Yemen.
One aspect of toda’ys deliberations.
The UN told the world that yemen is on brink of famine.
There was famine in Bangladesh in 1974. The scope of this in Yemen means we will go to millions dying.
What is UK doing on this front?
It set aside 100 million for emergency assistance.
But we sold 3 bn worth of arms.
This is not natural disaster. The Saudis are bombing Yemen day and night.
The left arm of the gov does not know what the right arm is doing
Saudis expelled Yemeni migrants in the 90s because of the war
For first time, Saudis will start paying taxes.
For Saudis this will have profound changes.
After American and China they spend 80bn on arms, more than Russia
They want others to fight their wars.
British military are supporting them with logistics in their war on Yemen.
We have not heard much of the 2nd anniversary of the siege they laid on Yemen.
British public were generous to donate for Yemen.
I think there are changes in SA. Arabs here and elsewhere need to point out that SA will bomb Yemen to the stone age.
I want changes in British policies and alliances.
British establishment is completely in cahoot with SA
It is our duty to tell other Brits about the Saudi war on Yemen.
Let us help Yemenis
This is not natural disaster, but man-made one.
What you might not know has long and honourable history of opposing foreign aggression. He was leader of GLC in 80s which was abolished by Thatcher.
He was coucher of the committee against the war in 1990s. He campaigned against `
In year after 9/11 Congress conducted investigation into who was behind it. Report published in 2002, with 28 pages redacted. They were published in July last year.
These pages show strong links between SA officials and the 9/11, links between the terrorists who blew up the airplanes and supported by high officials.
If they were published Tony Blair would not have gone to war.
In 1960 elections, Kennedy won because there was claim that Russians were arming stronger than US. America had 400 intercontinental missiles while Russia had 4 only. The lie was uncovered but only after the elections.
100 yrs ago British and French empire promised Ottoman empire to have Arab entities. Then they promised jews to have their own state.
The simple reality is that we are not told the reality.
In parliament we wanted to discuss the Al Yamamah arms deal.
]Tony Blair stopped the investigation into the bribes.
After he left office, he became advisor to Saudi govenmenrt.
How many people know about appalling attack on Yemen?
They know a lot about the events in Syria, but the arms made in UK and killing hundreds of Yemenis.
After promises of having arab regimes after ww1, it was only after overthrow of egypt’s monarchy that you had regime looking after their own people.
In 1964 progressive left of centre gov targeted the American companies and it was overthrown. Any regime that does not support US interests is removed.
I went in Algeria in 1966 after the war of independence, the West wanted puppet regime.
British MI6 passed list of trade union activists to Saddam Hussain.
When he decided to invade Kuwait he told American ambassador, and she did not say anything.
We have to tell people the truth.
In recent months I was attacked
The creation of |Israel was a result of agreement between Hitler who agreed to give pistols to underground gewish movements. That is fact. When I said that I was denounced that I was anti-semitic. We should not give in to that pressures.
I just had two grilling days of disciplinary settings about that.
Corbyn inherited a machine filled with Blairites.
10,000 were removed from labour party just before last elections in order to defeat Corby.
I campaigned for Nav Shah and that she was not anti-semitic.
They also say that I was not careful about using my words
You may be lied about.
They want subservience.
Wave of anti-corbyn media.
We have to ensure that peple take part in debates like this.
In 1964 I was working as researcher at hospital.
Ben GUrion was in a row with his foreign secretary. He said; The old will die, the young will forget
Today, people still live in cmaps in Gaza.
Natanyahoo spoke of building more settlements in West Bank.
With collapse of Soviet Union, the multinational companies became global elite. What we have not got is global working class. We end up fighting against each other.
WE have to make certain that working class people understand the links and the reality and to identify those imperial regimes. They want to keep the wealth.