By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
“What’s needed is visionary leadership. There are not enough big characters, big people, men or women, who are willing to reach out beyond their Sunni or Shia or whatever group to the other side and bring people together and to develop a national story again…That is what’s lacking. And that’s the tragedy,” said UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. “That’s why you’ve got the Saudis, Iran, everybody, moving in and puppeteering and playing proxy wars.”
Stop the presses.
The UK’s highest ranking diplomat has told the truth about Saudi Arabia and Iran. “That’s one of the biggest political problems in the whole region. And the tragedy for me – and that’s why you have these proxy wars being fought the whole time in that area – is that there is not strong enough leadership in the countries themselves.”
Stop the presses.
We can’t have that.
So the spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May said the views of the foreign minister were not those of the Prime Minister. “Not the government’s position on, for example, Saudi Arabia and its role in the region.” May had just returned from paying tribute to Saudi Arabia while on a mission to the Gulf where she met with other local leaders. “We are supporting the Saudi-led coalition in support of the legitimate government in Yemen against Houthi rebels,” said the Downing Street statement.
The BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale was quick to join in to supporting Saudi Arabia. The comments by Johnson were “awkward if not embarrassing for the foreign secretary..Once again Mr Johnson’s use of language is causing headlines that his diplomats will need to explain.”
You’d think that beheading people, having millions of foreign workers who don’t receive basic rights, not allowing women to drive, forcing women to ask permission of male guardians to travel (basically treating half the adult population as second class serf-like citizens), would be embarrassing more than Johnson telling the truth. But no.
The list of abuses in the Kingdom is almost endless. Probably one of the most repressive regimes in the world. A country where basic freedoms are denied to all, and especially denied to women and minorities. And yet the Western governments fear any critique. Not even an iota of truth. A Saudi regime that has bankrolled religious extremism and intolerance throughout the world, and yet any critique is unacceptable.
Beyond that the comments Johnson made about “proxies” is entirely accurate. There are proxy wars, especially in Syria and regimes do bankroll groups and expect those groups to do the fighting while others watch from the sidelines. Regimes do provide clandestine support without providing enough support for groups to do real damage, such as providing the Syrian rebels with MANPADS to shoot down planes. Because proxies are in the interest of policy-makers, not outright war.
It illustrates the reach and power of Saudi Arabia that the UK’s foreign secretary is even muzzled by its long arms. And yet today the front page of the International edition of The New York Times revealed “Saudis bankroll Taliban even as the king supports Afghanistan’s government.” The report by Carlotta Gall noted “Saudi Arabia is critical because of its unique position in the Afghan conflict: It is on both sides.”
“That’s why you’ve got the Saudis, Iran, everybody, moving in and puppeteering and playing proxy wars.”
Oh, wait, that’s what Boris Johnson said, which was unacceptable.
So the New York Times just reports on its front page the exact issue that Johnson revealed, but the UK and other countries are afraid to mention it. Lest the “ally” be offended. Whose ally is Saudi? “A longitme ally of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia has backed Islamabad’s promotion of the Taliban.” Remember the Taliban who blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas and committed massacres, filled soccer stadiums so men could cheer the execution of women; the Taliban that hosted Bin Laden?