Tear Gas, Tyrants & Foreign Trade

By Hamid Chaudry–  As the grass roots revolution spreads across the entire Middle East, it is with a mixture of disgust, incredulity and jaw dropping aghast watching the bare-faced hypocrisy of western politicians, as they jockey for position in a new era for the Middle East and Arab lands.

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While not all of us are experts in interpreting ‘politic speak’, the fast moving events expose the double standards, lies and hypocrisy of the western nations in their relationship with these now discredited and now soon to be homeless despots. It further demonstrates that western leaders have no allegiance to any of their purported values, but only their own self vested interests. It is now time for all citizens to expose the duplicity of the governments in their own countries, and stand up for justice and truth. Here we take a look at the nature of relationships between the UK / US and the countries with two longest serving leaders in the Middle East, Egypt and Libya.

 

Egypt

The dictator Hosni Mubarak subjected the Egyptian people to 30 years of oppressive rule. This would not have been possible without complicity from his western sponsors like the US and Britain.

It was with impeccable timing that David Cameron arrived in Egypt only yesterday with an entourage of representatives from eight companies with links to the defence sector, including BAe and Rolls Royce. Plans to visit Kuwait and Abu Dhabi (where another 93 British companies will be promoting wares such as rubber bullets, CS gas and heavily rumoured riot vans at the largest arms fair in the region) remain, despite the hasty decision to revoke export licences to Bahrain and Libya following an indiscriminate show of force from these regimes.

At the same time as condemning the use of violence and force against the peaceful protestors, the British government was already lining up future arms contracts to suppress the next generation of protestors. Such actions expose the hypocrisy of the governments’ public statements calling for ‘restraint of force’ from all sides, and partnership in political and economic reform.

Britain also exported the engines for the drones the Israeli regime uses to target Palestinian territories. What will it take for Britain to review its arms export agreement with Israel? What will her excuse be when the Saudi regime shows a similar show of strength in response  to the inevitable peaceful protests against the ruling monarchy, once all other mid-east regimes have been swept aside?

Only last year, Barack Obama finalised plans to sell Saudi Arabia advanced aircraft and other weapons worth up to $60bn (£39bn), the biggest arms deal in US history, in a strategy of shoring up her Gulf Arab allies. The Obama administration backed Mubarak for re-election in the September elections, with the most likely successor being his son Gamal.

Amnesty International reported that the UK sent £4.7 million worth of arms to Egypt, including parts for machine guns, grenade launchers, armoured vehicles and targeting and surveillance equipment.

Wikileaks cables reported: “The tangible benefits to our… relationship are clear: Egypt remains at peace with Israel, and the US military enjoys priority access to the Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace. In exchange, we (US) willfully paid little or no heed to the Egyptian dictatorship’s abuse of human rights…. In fact, our strategy of rendition in the wake of 9/11 — sending terror suspects to other countries for interrogation — took advantage of Egypt’s torture cells.” 5th February 2011

However, the US administration was compelled to move from initially supporting Mubarak  – ‘the United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people and work with their government in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free, and more hopeful’ –  to abandoning him within 48 hours, as the will of the people prevailed.

On his visit to Egypt yesterday, David Cameron spoke of being inspired when he met with a coalition of opposition groups, which did not include the Muslim Brotherhood. This was an attempt to ‘counteract the popular appeal and organisation of groups like the Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere’, promising ‘that Britain will do more to support alternative pro-democracy opposition groups’. Hence, democracy is only desirable as long as the popular opinion is not for Islam.

Foreign Secretary William Hague used double speak to pass the same message, stressing that the UK has relationships with countries based on ‘certain things regarded as universal, such as human rights, political rights and political freedoms’, and was ‘not telling individual countries who should be running their countries.’ However the Prime Minister saw it fit to urge the Egyptian generals he met to reverse their decision to grant permission for two Iranian warships to sail through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean, the first time since 1979. No doubt they will have a view on the lifting of border restrictions to Gaza too.

Tony Blair took time out from his consultancy firm, Tony Blair Associates (the self confessed socialist has amassed anywhere between £25m – £60m from lucrative speeches), to describe Mubarak as a “force for good” and said there should not be a “rush to elections“.

 

Libya

In 2004, the North African leader agreed to join the fight against al-Qaida, stop fund terrorism and abandon his weapons of mass destruction program. In return, British businesses set up profitable operations in the country. That same day, Libya announced a $900 million exploration deal with Anglo-Dutch energy giant Shell. Three years later, BP signed a comparable offshore oil-exploration deal with Gaddhafi.

Britain’s arms relationship with Libya, stretching back over a decade is well documented. NMS, a UK company, have sold more than £1bn worth of exports to Libya in the last decade and was also hired to train Libyan police officers to use so-called “non-lethal weapons” to contain demonstrators. The weapons included guns which fire teargas. NMS took up to 50 British companies to arms fairs in Libya in 2008 and again in November last year. The last exhibition reportedly showcased military wares such as artillery systems, anti-tank weapons, and infantry weapons. Richard Northern, Britain’s ambassador to Libya, and Whitehall’s arms sales unit also attended the fair.

More recently, in the first nine months of 2010, the U.K. government approved the sale to Libya of military and crowd-control equipment worth $325 million. Items authorized for export included tear gas canisters, small arms ammunition, weapon sights and sniper rifles…no doubt the least of what is now being unleashed on the civilian population.

William Hague justified Britain’s policy towards Libya, arguing that ‘things would be lot worse if Libya hadn’t been brought in from the cold…to fight Al-Qaeeda.

So the greater ‘terrorist’ threat justified extending hand of friendship (literally, in Tony Blair’s case) a relationship with a known despot. Again, principles are sacrificed in favour of interests.

 

Any Rule….But Islamic Rule

The rules of engagement clearly show that the western stance that they will support any regime, as long as it does not implement Islam. Dictators, fine; despots, even better. The madder, the better…they don’t get any madder than Colonel ‘Mad Dog’ Gaddafi.

While privately aware that this is the beginning of an Islamic grassroots uprising, politicians and a compliant media take every opportunity to deny this reality, and warn of the dangers if these popular were to be ‘hijacked’ by ‘Islamist’ forces.

So David Cameron stressed that ‘what is so refreshing about what’s been happening is that this is not an Islamist revolt, this is not extremists on the streets; this is people who want to have the sort of basic freedoms that we take for granted in the UK.’

Orator Tony Blair was equally direct with his recent comments, indicating the need for strength and partnership.

Quoting extensively, he said ‘you’ve got basically three elements, you’ve got regimes that have often been in power for a long time, somewhat out of touch, but they can be allies of the west. You’ve then got this great democratic, modernising movement. But you’ve also got Islamist forces that would take instability off into a different and negative direction.  Our task has got to be to stand up for those modernising democratic forces and in a sense to partner the regimes that are interested in a process of change in making that change in an evolutionary way … whatever they say about us  what they actually want are the types of freedoms that we have.

All said and done, the people have found their voice. However the west tries to control the intensity or magnitude of the call, it will find its own direction and move with its own unadulterated energy wherever the people desire.

The tsunami has spread outwards from Tunisia, eastwards to the Atlantic, and westwards it will not be impeded until it crashes into the heights of the Himalayas. Already, Pakistan is preparing for its day of revolution, and this will have its own ripple effect in neighbouring ‘Stans in Central Asia. Given the natural disposition of waves to spread out in all directions, it is only a matter of time before the waves ripple across to sub-Saharan Africa, and northwards across the Mediterranean, once more knocking at the gates of Vienna, this time venturing past the 45th parallel to liberate Europe from the fallacy of selfish self-interest.

 

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