Despite condemnation from around the globe, Saudi Arabia is in the midst of securing some of their biggest arms deals in recent history. The juxtaposition between what politicians say and what they do is almost impressive in its duplicity. With one breath countries in the West such as Canada, the UK and the US condemn mass executions of government activists, floggings of bloggers and the indiscriminate bombing of Yemen. Then, hoping nobody is looking, they stuff their pocketbooks while sending tanks, artillery and fighter jets to the kingdom.
However a number of activist groups, particularly those in Canada, are questioning the current arms deals taking place. Perhaps that’s because Saudi Arabia just executed 47 people in one day. Perhaps it’s their massive violations against 50 percent of their population, their treatment of migrant workers and their indiscriminate shelling of Yemen. Or perhaps because Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest financiers of terrorism in the world.
Yet citizen anger seems to matter very little in Canada, where the government said it would go ahead with a $15 billion dollar arms deal to the kingdom. This comes at the same time their foreign affairs minister is condemning the kingdom’s mass executions.
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This also comes at a time when a new study, from the Campaign Against Arms Trade, is showing that under the UK’s conservative government around £5.6 billion pounds worth of military gear has been sold to Saudi Arabia. These include fighter jets and artillery. These weapons are currently being used by Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen. A war that has cost 2,800 civilians their lives.
And let’s not forget one of the biggest arms dealers in the world: the United States. In November of last year the US managed a $1.29 billion dollar package of bombs and various military hardware to the kingdom. Joe Stork, the Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director of Human Rights Watch urged the Obama administration not to go through with the deal in November. “The US Government is well aware of the Saudi-led coalition’s indiscriminate air attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians in Yemen since March,” he said. “Providing the Saudis with more bombs under these circumstances is a recipe for greater civilian deaths, for which the US will be partially responsible.”
There are also worries these weapons will be used against activists and civilians within Saudi Arabia. Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, told Free Speech Radio News that some of the items being purchased by Saudi Arabia are incredibly troubling from a human rights perspective: “The armored vehicles, which are not so very expensive, but are being bought in large numbers. Or the machine guns and the rifles, which are the things which are usually used first against demonstrators or internal rebellion.”
To round this all out let’s also consider the vast amount of evidence linking Saudi Arabia to terrorist cells around the world, including the Islamic State. This was confirmed by Hillary Clinton in a leaked diplomatic cable when she was secretary of state. Saudi collusion with terrorism was reaffirmed by Joe Biden during a speech at Harvard, and the Vice Chancellor of Germany has also voiced serious concerns about where their money and arms end up. Saudi led financing and proselytizing has also been the subject of numerous investigative pieces throughout the past decade.
So why are Canada, the US and the UK making arms deals with a country that has one of the most atrocious human rights records on earth, engages in warmongering and funds numerous terror cells? Obviously in the short term, money is the biggest driver. However according to Daniel Lazare this might come back to haunt the west.
“No matter how hard the West tries to seal itself off against the disorders that it itself is creating, it will find that a cordon sanitaire is impossible to maintain,” Lazare writes. “This is wonderful news for arms manufacturers not to mention politicians desperate for an uptick in GDP, but somewhat less so for masses of ordinary people in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Paris who are now at the receiving end of all that weaponry and violence.”
But hey, according to Canadian officials their deal will create 3,000 jobs for 15 years, so it must be worth it, right?