Do not expect to hear a good word about Saudi Arabia on any Western media outlet these days. There is growing evidence of an international campaign built on exaggerations to blacken its reputation in almost every sphere, and to undermine its regional leadership standing. This serves as a gift to the Iranian media, and will embolden our enemies.
US and UK politicians, as well as human rights agencies, are falsely accusing the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen of deliberately targeting civilians in its effort to restore the legitimate government and protect the kingdom’s territorial integrity.
These seemingly orchestrated attacks come on the heels of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s inclusion of Saudi Arabia on a UN child’s rights blacklist, stricken-off days later. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has been engaged in an anti-Saudi hate fest for years. It is now joined by Oxfam, which is supposed to be an impartial charity rather than a politically-driven entity.
One of Oxfam’s senior executives is lobbying the UK government to cease arms sales to the kingdom, saying the government is an “enthusiastic backer” of the Arms Trade Treaty but “one of the most significant violators.”
The UK, which pledged to support the campaign in Yemen “short of engaging in combat,” denies its sales contravene the treaty’s regulations. Its Africa Minister Tobias Ellwood told the House of Commons that the UN report’s claims were based on false witness testimony, saying its authors had not carried out their research in-country.
“We are aware that the Houthis, who are very media-savvy in such a situation, are using their own artillery pieces deliberately, targeting individual areas where the people are not loyal to them, to give the impression that there have been air attacks,” he said.
Kudos to Ellwood for pinpointing the problem, but he is one of a few voices defending truth from vicious propaganda. Colonel Bob Stewart, a Conservative MP and member of the Defense Committee, is another. He says the coalition has made a few mistakes, but is doing its utmost to avoid civilian deaths. A UK court has now authorized a judicial review into whether or not weapons sales to the kingdom flout British and EU export laws.
In its determination to maintain dominance over the Middle East, the West uses covert methods to keep regional states from taking charge of their own destinyKhalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor
There is no war in which all civilians are guaranteed safety from bombs, as the Americans and their allies know all too well. Hundreds of thousands were killed in Iraq during the invasion and occupation - white phosphorus was illegally used in built-up areas, and depleted uranium was blamed for causing birth defects years later. The Pentagon knows exactly how many US military personnel died, but did not bother to count the number of Iraqi victims.
In 2001, untold numbers were bombed in Afghanistan. Drone attacks by the administration of US President Barack Obama have killed more than 2,600 in various countries, according to official statistics. However, because every military-age man is designated a combatant without evidence to the contrary, it is impossible to judge how many were civilians.
Likewise, Israel has over little more than a decade killed thousands of mostly civilian Palestinians and Lebanese, including a high percentage of children. Just days ago it was bombing Gaza, destroying homes and lives.
Social media is awash with videos of children being roughed up by Israeli soldiers and dragged away screaming or shot. Palestinians have no rights, let alone human rights, yet criticism of Israel is off-limits, while hurling abuse at Saudi Arabia is seen as fair game.
Last year, the Pentagon rubber-stamped the supply of $1.9 billion worth of arms to Israel without a peep from Congress, which invariably defends Israel’s right to defend itself. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia’s right to prevent pro-Iranian Houthi hordes from invading its territory is swept aside.
Worse, some members of Congress, led by Senator Rand Paul, are pushing hard for a vote to block the sale of automatic weapons, tanks and ammunition to the kingdom, which Paul characterizes as “an unreliable ally with a poor human rights record.”
That comes on the heels of a vindictive bill, approved by the Senate, designed to free families of 9/11 victims to sue Riyadh, even though the 9/11 Commission Report vindicates the Saudi government from any wrongdoing.
If this scurrilous bill, supported by both presidential candidates, is passed into law, the kingdom warns it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. assets, according to the New York Times. Saudi Arabia has denied making any such statements, but doing so would make perfect sense. Why would anyone wish to keep assets in any country acting against it with apparently hostile intent?
It is time for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab League to make a firm stand. These attitudes and strategies are wholly unacceptable from supposed allies, and if they continue they must face repercussions.
For some time now, I have suspected that in its determination to maintain dominance over the Middle East, the West uses covert methods to keep regional states from taking charge of their own destiny. Independence is frowned upon as late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Shah of Iran Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and others discovered to their cost.
The Obama administration took Egypt to task for bombing terrorists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), who beheaded Coptic Christians. Cairo’s efforts to revitalize the Israel-Palestine peace process have been belittled or ignored.
The absence of tourists, due to the cancellation of flights in reaction to the terrorist downing of a Russian plane, has forced foreign reserves-strapped Cairo to negotiate a hefty International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan laden with strings.
Clearly, the new assertiveness of Saudi Arabia and its Arab partners in Yemen is not appreciated in the halls of power of certain capitals. I am beginning to believe the underlying message is: “Know your limits or else we’ll bring you down.” It seems to me that it is beyond time we delivered a few pertinent messages of our own.
Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group - one of the most successful conglomerates in the Gulf. Al Habtoor is renowned for his knowledge and views on international political affairs; his philanthropic activity; his efforts to promote peace; and he has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad. Writing extensively on both local and international politics, he publishes regular articles in the media and has released a number of books. Al-Habtoor began his career as an employee of a local UAE construction firm and in 1970 established his own company, Al Habtoor Engineering. The UAE Federation, which united the seven emirates under the one flag for the first time, was founded in 1971 and this inspired him to undertake a series of innovative construction projects – all of which proved highly successful.