Leading article: Not a regime that Britain should be honouring

Share

Today, the Saudi Arabian monarch King Abdullah will begin a state visit to Britain. No honour will be withheld and no expense will be spared in making the king feel as welcome as possible. It is difficult to know where to begin when it comes to expressing the inappropriateness of this visit.

Since its foundation in 1932, Saudi Arabia has been one of the world's most flagrant abusers of human rights. According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, scores of Saudis are executed and tortured by the regime every year. It even imprisoned and tortured three Britons living in the country five years ago, though our own Government has repeatedly tried to sweep the affair under the carpet.

Despite token efforts to appease foreign pressure to reform, Saudi Arabia remains a stonewall autocracy with no freedom of association and a shackled media. The religious police are constantly on hand to make sure that all are "modestly" dressed, which for women means being covered from head to toe. Allegations of corruption swirl around the ruling elite. Many ministries are reserved for members of the sprawling Saud family. Prominent royals have been accused of taking huge kickbacks from foreign public acquisition deals.

Saudi Arabia is also one of the main global drivers of the terrorist threat that confronts the West. The regime promotes the most intolerant strain of Islamic theology. It has founded and funded religious schools around the world from Indonesia, to Pakistan, to London, that have encouraged a toxic hatred for "non-believers" among their young students. The Saudi heritage of Osama bin Laden and many of the September 11 hijackers has been well documented.

So why is Britain continuing to deal with such a regime, let alone honouring it with a state visit? Britain has a commercial interest in maintaining cordial relations with the country. Manufacturing jobs at the defence manufacturer, BAe, would be under threat if Britain was to offend the Saudi regime. It has been alleged that a Saudi threat to cancel a lucrative Eurofighter deal put pressure on the Serious Fraud Office to drop its investigation into corruption in a previous arms deal. And of course the bigger picture is that Saudi controls 40 per cent of the word's proven oil reserves, the fossil fuel on which the world's economy presently runs. This is the reason the regime continues to enjoy the friendship and protection of Washington.

But the West's kowtowing to the regime is not only immoral, it is short-sighted. Not only are the vast sums in petro-dollars it pays the regime being re-exported as religious extremism, there is also a question mark over how long this monarchy can last. The Saud family did a deal with powerful clerics long ago to spread their poison abroad but keep a tight lid on dissent at home. But now social control is breaking down within the country itself. The bombings for which the three Britons were scapegoated in 2002 appear to have been the first stirrings of an internal Islamist threat from within the kingdom. There have been a number of attacks since then. Then there is the threat posed by economic mismanagement. The regime has utterly failed to diversify out of its reliance on oil. And there is a vast pool of unemployed Saudi men thanks to the policy of importing millions of south Asian labourers.

Domestic discontent is rife. And history teaches us that dissent cannot be suppressed forever. The apparent inability of the Saudi regime to tolerate even minimal reform indicates that the final reckoning, when it comes, could be bloody. Britain is not only honouring a corrupt and oppressive regime this week. It could be honouring a doomed one.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Manager (Junior)

Negotiable: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Account Manager (Junior) Account ...

Solar Business Development Manager – M&A

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Accountant,Reconciliations,Bristol,Bank,£260/day

£200 - £260 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Accountant, Reconciliations, Bristo...

Test Analyst

£20000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Voices in Danger: The innocent journalist kidnapped by Russian separatists for 'spying'

Anne Mortensen
A Bengal tiger captured by a camera trap in Nepal  

Save the tiger: The success of the Bengal tiger in Nepal shows you can make a difference

Harvey Day
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried