The Saudi connection - Rodolfo Ragonesi

The Saudi connection - Rodolfo Ragonesi

Kill Me! My legacy will not fade.  A call for justice made outside London’s Saudi Arabian Embassy. Photo: Katherine Da Silva/

Kill Me! My legacy will not fade. A call for justice made outside London’s Saudi Arabian Embassy. Photo: Katherine Da Silva/

The whole world and his aunt, barring Donald Trump, is up in arms over the Khashoggi murder at the hands of the Saudis. It has finally stirred from its deep slumber, to the realisation that there is something rotten in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The Khashoggi killing, tragic and heinous as it may be, cannot be seen as an isolated incident. It is rather like a piece of flotsam that has floated to the surface from a ship of state that has sunk. It is a symptom of something far more sinister.

Right up to Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi relations with many Western states, particularly the US and the UK, were still all hunky dory. Despite the illegal war against Yemen, Saudi Arabia has never featured in the list of ‘bad boys’.

 This list includes Iraq and the other nations revealed by General Wesley Clark as being in the line of fire of the neo-conservative hatchers of the plot called “the Project for the New American Century”.  The other nations he mentions are Iran, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Somalia and Sudan.

Then the power elite playing their global power games also started aiming the guns at Russia and China.

Even Saudi Arabia’s horrendous track record in human rights, social freedoms, democracy, constitutional government and separation between religion and state, did nothing to incur the sanctimonious wrath of some western powers.

The latter’s media mouth pieces had furthermore diligently and dutifully steered diplomatically away from unduly criticising “our friends in Riyadh”. 

Those courageous enough asked why this was the case. Why indeed, when Saudi Arabia had been implicated in the 9/11 events, according to the Congressional report, and when it has exported a very radical, extremist form of ideology known as Wahhabism?

It also applies strict Sharia law, which by definition goes counter to some of the fundamental principles of the rule of law.

It is a dictatorship, with an autocratic monarchy and royal family being one of the wealthiest dynasties on the planet. It executes more people than any other nation, through beheadings. It blatantly disregards the fundamental human rights of equality based upon gender and the freedom of religion.

Saudi Arabia is in effect one of the most backwater nations on the planet when it comes to socio-political, constitutional development.  It is for all intents and purposes a pariah state, a leper among the community of nations.

It has exported terrorism to Syria, contributing largely to the chaos there. The Syrian conflict has in fact been a war against foreign elements, more than a civil war, though it has been mistakenly portrayed as such by the mainstream media. Eris, the goddess of strife, has journeyed there from the Arabian Peninsula, to prevent Syria from building a competing petrochemical pipeline to the Mediterranean, in collaboration with Iran and Russia.

To understand a crisis you always have to follow the money. That should be obvious by now. But that same money is tied to some western interests, and there lies the rub.

Saudi Arabia has played its cards astutely. It has diligently retained the petrodollar, using it when selling its vast oil reserves. Then it further props up this Ponzi currency, keeping it afloat by buying American bonds. This in turn finances the explosive American debt, which makes up a third of all global debt. Another chunk of dollars is used to purchase vast supplies of arms from the US and the UK.

Saudi Arabia is in effect one of the most backwater nations on the planet when it comes to socio-political, constitutional development

These Anglo-American stalwarts of democracy have been very tongue tied and tight lipped when it comes to speaking out against the Saudi dictatorship, Sharia law, appalling human rights, and the horrific war crime against Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Anti-war activists have long claimed that one of the reasons for this bare faced hypocrisy is the staggering arms sales to the Saudis.

In 2017 alone the UK sold them over £1.1 billion in arms, despite the government’s claim that arms sales are being controlled. Prince Charles even helped to seal the deals.

In 2016, President Barack Obama had informed Congress of plans to sell $5 billion in arms to the Saudis. After a little twinge of conscience, or just PR, Obama suspended a $500 million order of laser-guided bombs just before leaving office. The suspension was immediately lifted weeks after Donald Trump’s inauguration.  Since Trump took office, Saudi Arabia has signed about $14.5 billion in commitments to buy US weaponry. 

Trump has recently argued that he does not want to quarrel with the Saudis over the Khashoggi murder, because continued relations “will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States”.

Thus steamrolls ahead the inexorable military industrial complex!

Well there you have it. We have it from the horse’s mouth. It is as good as saying, ‘we do not treat Saudi Arabia like Syria or Iran, because we are selling the Saudis a fortune in arms’; which incidentally they need, so that they can butcher their neighbours in Yemen.

Then one fine day that flotsam floats to the surface in the form of the Khashoggi murder, leaving some Western powers in a massive conundrum with their pants down. Oh how embarrassing!

It is a bit like the police constantly closing their eyes to some low life criminals because some little brown envelopes just happen to pass under their desks. Then one fine day those same criminals, emboldened and hardened by the free rein given to them, carry out a street massacre.

The police force is compromised, arms twisted, suddenly in the spot light for letting the criminal gangs grow to become dangerous, untouchable outlaws.

Wolfgang Goethe and Christopher Marlowe had each explored the theme of chickens coming home to roost after Faust/Dr Faustus had sold his soul to the devil for personal gain. Making a pact with evil forces is never going to end well. What goes around eventually boomerangs back in your face. 

It is no different on the international scene, only more so.

Goethe was somehow more optimistic than Marlowe in holding the view that redemption was possible, if the miscreant realised the error of his ways, and sought salvation. But are the miscreant Western powers, who fall over to kiss and wipe Saudi Arabia’s well-oiled boots, ready to redeem themselves?

In all their suffering of amnesia, when they pontificate over democracy, human rights and western values, while selling killer weapons and debt bonds on the Saudi market, are these nations getting any closer to seeking redemption after Khashoggi? Will the western leaders, who serve the power elite and their military, banking, oil complex, take affirmative action against the tyranny in Saudi Arabia?

Or will it be more of the same, as they wait for time to heal the wounds of Yemen and the Khashoggi affair, after administering a little slap on the Saudi wrist? 

Will people not forget about Khashoggi and get on with their lives? After all, people are ignoring the thousands who die in Yemen. Will they not be distracted soon enough by a new crisis? You know, some horror allegedly concocted by one of those off-the-shelf bogeyman nations, trying to build their own pipeline, in direct competition with the oil-rich House of Saud?

Saudi Arabia is not just a pariah state. It is a nation that exposes Western geopolitics for what it is, a power game built on arms, oil and debt; and a forging of unholy alliances that have very little to do with the principles we claim to uphold in the west.

Yemen and Khashoggi will eventually fade from human memory. But the bond with power and wealth will remain forever strong.

Rodolfo Ragonesi is a lawyer and researcher in history and international affairs.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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