UK Govt Essentially Fuelling War In Yemen- Lawmaker

The UK government has been accused by UK parliament member Chris Williamson, of fueling the war in Yemen rather than find ways to alleviate the crisis.

Williamson’s comment follows the UK government’s decision to receive Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who according to Williamson is the architect of the Yemen war.

The crown prince would arrive in London on Wednesday for a three-day visit, during which he will meet with Prime Minister Theresa May, the royal family and UK government officials in spite of planned protests from the UK Stop the War Coalition (STWC) group.

“We should be a force for humanitarian good in the world and we are quite the opposite of that, we’re actually helping to prosecute the war in Yemen rather than ending it.

“Rather than taking a humanitarian stand, the government is actually hosting the architect of this war,’’ Williamson told a press conference.

According to the lawmaker, the current UK government has been “essentially fuelling the war in Yemen” and consequently is “entirely implicated” in the country’s humanitarian crisis.

Activists from a number of groups, such as the Campaign against Arms Trade and Human Rights for Yemen, intend to stage a rally outside May’s Downing Street office, reportedly at the time of her meeting with the crown prince.

Stephen Bell, a spokesman for the STWC, told newsmen in January that London had to withdraw its invitation to the crown prince, stating that Riyadh was responsible for the humanitarian catastrophe in war-torn Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes against the Shiite Houthi movement at Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s request, but the human rights organisations have sounded the alarm over the toll this campaign has been having on civilians.

The UK has faced its share of backlash from anti-war campaigners for selling arms to Saudi Arabia.

Report says the UK government insists that such exports are legitimate policy, but critics have pointed to the possibility of these weapons being used in Yemen on civilian targets.


Returning Saudi Arabia To Moderate Islamic State Is My Goal, Crown Prince Says

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has vowed to return the country to “moderate Islam” and asked for global support to transform the hardline kingdom into an open society that empowers citizens and lures investors.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman told investors gathered in Riyadh that his economic modernisation plans would go hand-in-hand with political reforms to guide the conservative kingdom away from severe reactionary Islam

He said the ultra-conservative state had been “not normal” for the past 30 years, blaming rigid doctrines that have governed society in a reaction to the Iranian revolution, which successive leaders “didn’t know how to deal with”.

Expanding on comments he made at an investment conference at which he announced the launch of an ambitious $500bn (£381bn) independent economic zone straddling Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, Prince Mohammed said: “We are a G20 country. One of the biggest world economies. We’re in the middle of three continents.

Changing Saudi Arabia for the better means helping the region and changing the world. So this is what we are trying to do here. And we hope we get support from everyone.

“What happened in the last 30 years is not Saudi Arabia. What happened in the region in the last 30 years is not the Middle East. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, people wanted to copy this model in different countries, one of them is Saudi Arabia. We didn’t know how to deal with it. And the problem spread all over the world. Now is the time to get rid of it.”

Earlier Prince Mohammed had said: “We are simply reverting to what we followed – a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions. 70% of the Saudis are younger than 30, honestly we won’t waste 30 years of our life combating extremist thoughts, we will destroy them now and immediately.”

The crown prince’s comments are the most emphatic he has made during a six-month reform programme that has tabled cultural reforms and economic incentives unimaginable during recent decades, during which the kingdom has been accused of promoting a brand of Islam that underwrote extremism.

The comments were made as the heir of the incumbent monarch moves to consolidate his authority, sidelining clerics whom he believes have failed to support him and demanding unquestioning loyalty from senior officials whom he has entrusted to drive a 15-year reform programme that aims to overhaul most aspects of life in Saudi Arabia.

Central to the reforms has been the breaking of an alliance between hardline clerics who have long defined the national character and the House of Saud, which has run affairs of state. The changes have tackled head-on societal taboos such as the recently rescinded ban on women driving, as well as scaling back guardianship laws that restrict women’s roles and establishing an Islamic centre tasked with certifying the sayings of the prophet Muhammed.

The scale and scope of the reforms has been unprecedented in the country’s modern history and concerns remain that a deeply conservative base will oppose what is effectively a cultural revolution – and that the kingdom lacks the capacity to follow through on its economic ambitions.

The new economic zone is to be established on 470km of the Red Sea coast, in a tourist area that has already been earmarked as a liberal hub akin to Dubai, where male and female bathers are free to mingle.

It has been unveiled as the centrepiece of efforts to turn the kingdom away from a near total dependence on oil and into a diverse open economy. Obstacles remain: an entrenched poor work ethic, a crippling regulatory environment and a general reluctance to change.

“Economic transformation is important but equally essential is social transformation,” said one of the country’s leading businessmen. “You cannot achieve one without the other. The speed of social transformation is key. It has to be manageable.”

Alcohol, cinemas and theatres are still banned in the kingdom and mingling between unrelated men and women remains frowned upon. However Saudi Arabia – an absolute monarchy – has clipped the wings of the once-feared religious police, who no longer have powers to arrest and are seen to be falling in line with the new regime.

Economically Saudi Arabia will need huge resources if it is to succeed in putting its economy on a new footing and its leadership believes it will fail to generate strategic investments if it does not also table broad social reforms.

Prince Mohammed had repeatedly insisted that without establishing a new social contract between citizen and state, economic rehabilitation would fail. “This is about giving kids a social life,” said a senior Saudi royal figure. “Entertainment needs to be an option for them. They are bored and resentful. A woman needs to be able to drive herself to work. Without that we are all doomed. Everyone knows that – except the people in small towns. But they will learn.”

In the next 10 years, at least five million Saudis are likely to enter the country’s workforce, posing a huge problem for officials who currently do not have jobs to offer them or tangible plans to generate employment.

The economic zone is due to be completed by 2025 – five years before the current cap on the reform programme – and is to be powered by wind and solar energy, according to its founders.

The country’s enormous sovereign wealth fund is intended to be a key backer of the independent zone. It currently has $230bn under management. The sale of 5% of the world’s largest company, Aramco, is expected to raise several hundred billion dollars more.

Source: The Guardian