British arms sales to repressive regimes in the Middle East may be helping to fuel the growth of Isis, a Labour leadership contender has said.
Jeremy Corbyn said the availability of weapons in the region, from which British firms make billions of pounds a year, was a “contributory factor” in the on-going conflict.
“Isis didn’t come from nowhere, its weapons don’t come from nowhere. We sell vast amounts of weapons to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and a number of other places – how many of those end up in the hands of Isis? With all that money in their hands,” he told a BBC Question Time audience.
“There is a contributory factor in pouring arms into the region – just as much as there is a contributory factor in all of the Western powers not putting for the Geneva conference in the early days of the civil war which may have made a difference.”
In 2013 the Independent reported that the UK made £12.bn from arms sales to repressive regimes around the world, most of which are in the Middle East and Africa.
Though British firms are not believed to have sold directly to Isis, the so-called Islamic State is awash with cash after having captured banks and oil reserves.
The group has captured large parts of Iraq and Syria and says it wants to establish an Islamic ‘caliphate’ or religious state.
UK weapons exports are controlled by a licencing system, but campaigners have criticised the process as being too lax.
The Government has, for example, granted 37 export licences for military goods for Saudi Arabia since 25 March 2015.
“The human rights situation in Saudi Arabia is dire,” said Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade.
“The fact that it is also the world’s largest buyer of UK weapons is a sign of the real hypocrisy at the heart of UK foreign policy.
“What right does the UK have to talk about human rights and democracy when it’s ministers are directly promoting arms sales to a regime that tortures bloggers?”
Mr Corbyn is one of four remaining contender for the Labour leadership. The other three are Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, and Andy Burnham.
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