Reuters report today that British Foreign Secretary William Hague has accused Iran and Hezbollah of backing the Assad regime in its efforts to defeat the insurgency in Syria. ‘It is very clear that the Syrian regime is receiving a great deal of support, increasing support in recent months from outside Syria, from Hezbollah and Iran’, said Hague, his tone, as is made clear from the context, obviously disapproving.
And given that the Syrian regime is a nasty, brutal and authoritarian one, likely responsible for all manner of human rights abuses and latterly war crimes, there is plenty to criticise and critique about those who do support it (the accusations against the regime to this end surely aren’t just propaganda, even if they’re being used by some in a blatantly propagandistic fashion in the service of a regime change agenda).
I thought the timing of Hague’s speech was quite unfortunate, however, coming as it did the day after arms trade watch dog CAAT had revealed that in 2012 alone, the British government had ‘approved licences worth £112m’ for military sales to the regime in Saudi Arabia, ‘including crowd control ammunition grenades, components for military aircraft and combat vehicles, and components for electronic warfare’. Arms and military services worth £433m and £4.6m respectively were also approved for sale to Oman and Bahrain.
Let’s just take a closer, albeit brief, look at the nature of these regimes:
According to Amnesty International’s 2012 country report, the regime of Sultan Qaboos (pictured above meeting William Hague):
‘used excessive force against peaceful and other protesters; at least two people were killed and others were injured. Hundreds of protesters were arrested; at least 80 were tried, many of whom were sentenced to prison terms. The authorities tightened restrictions on freedom of expression’.
According to Amnesty International’s 2012 country report, the regime of King Abdullah (William Hague is pictured above meeting the Interior Minister) oversaw a situation where:
‘Planned protests inspired by events elsewhere in the region were ruthlessly suppressed and hundreds of people who protested or dared to call for reform were arrested; some were prosecuted on security-related and political charges’, while ‘ Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, particularly flogging, continued to be imposed and carried out’, and ‘human rights defenders, peaceful advocates of political change, members of religious minorities and others who called for reforms were among those detained without charge or trial’.
According to Amnesty International’s 2012 country report, the regime of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah (William Hague is pictured above, meeting the Foreign Minister):
‘used excessive force against peaceful protesters and detained hundreds of people, including prisoners of conscience’, amidst an ‘acute human rights crisis’. It goes on to say that ‘Many detainees were tortured and otherwise ill-treated’, while ‘hundreds of civilian detainees received unfair trials before military courts’, and ‘leading opposition activists were sentenced to up to life imprisonment’.
Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman then – as of course anyone even vaguely familiar with the middle east must know – are not what you might call shining examples of democracy. Indeed, they are all run by regimes who systematically abuse human rights, who suppress dissent (violently and murderously if need be), and who severely curtail basic civil and political rights.
The British government, in which William Hague is in charge of Foreign Policy, materially and militarily supports these regimes, and so by extension strengthens them – quite deliberately.
For Hague to criticise Iran and Hezbollah for doing something similar in Syria is akin to him striding up to Iain Duncan Smith at a cabinet meeting and passionately denouncing him as a ‘bald Tory bastard!’.
That is, utterly nasty and hypocritical.