7 Dec 2010

The uncomfortable facts about Saudi Arabia

I little thought, in penning my last two Snowblogs, that they would lead to such an elision. Last week ended with rising concerns about the leadership of Saudi Arabia. This week begins with Wikileaks revelations about…er…yes Saudi involvement in providing cash to just about any ‘terror group’ anyone cares to mention.

Exactly one year ago, according to the latest tranche of Wikileaks, Hillary Clinton wrote: “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashka-e-Taiba (which carried out the Mumbai attacks in 2008), and other terrorist groups”. She added: “Donors in Saudi Arabia remain the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups world-wide.”

In September 2009, Wikileaks shows an assessment from the then US Ambassador in Baghdad, Christopher Hill, that Saudi Arabia, not Iran, is “the biggest threat to democracy in Iraq”.

On the UK domestic front, last month it was revealed that Saudi cash had funded the publishing and distribution of radical Islamic text books to Muslim weekend schools.

In almost every conflict in which UK and US forces (Special or otherwise) are currently deployed – in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia (to name but four) the ‘enemy’ is funded by Saudi money.

In September of this year the US announced the biggest-ever arms to deal to Saudi Arabia – $60 billion (£38bn) of missiles, bombs, 190 helicopters, 84 F15 fighter jets and the rest.  So was this to assist Saudi’s ailing leaders to defend themselves against radical forces within their own territory? When the Israeli government asked this very question in September, Washington was candid. The deal was to assist Saudi Arabia in defending her borders against external threats and her oil infrastructure ‘which is central to our economic interest’. Congress approved the deal not least because it secured a large number of US jobs.

Hillary Clinton has called Saudi Arabia a ‘key partner and friend’. So what are we to make of these Wikileaks disclosures – they may not surprise, but do they alarm?

As Swedish prosecutors mysteriously withdraw and then restore the rape and sexual assault investigation against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, is this the moment for the UK to accede to Stockholm’s warrant for his extradition? Or is there absolutely no connection between the warrant and Wikileaks activities?

Tweets by @jonsnowC4