By John Newsinger
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House of Saud: A Family at War

This article is over 3 years, 11 months old
Issue 432

The British ruling class has for many years made a habit of grovelling to the Saudi royal family. The reason for this is clear: huge amounts of money. The Saudis have spent billions on British weapons. This trade has been recently given a great boost by the Saudi war on Yemen.

Consequently one was entitled to expect that the BBC4 three-part series, House of Saud: A Family at War, would be very much an apology for the Saudis, celebrating the supposed huge strides that have been made in liberalising the regime in recent years.

Against all expectations, instead of kiss-arse, the series is absolutely kick-arse, arguably one of the most hard-hitting documentaries that the BBC has put out in years.

Many years ago the Saudi monarchy struck a deal with the Wahhabi religious establishment whereby the latter would turn a blind eye to the corruption, criminality and obscene extravagance of the royal family in return for the imposition of their intolerant, reactionary and viciously misogynistic brand of Islam on the Saudi population at home and massive support for its export abroad.

According to House of Saud, in the two decades before 9/11 the Saudis spent $90 billion exporting Wahhabism throughout the world, financing mosques, schools and Wahhabi clerics.

Much of this Wahhabi crusade was directed against other more liberal schools of Islam, but it also created a convenient recruiting ground for jihadi fighters who the regime could make use of in its various foreign adventures.

The Saudi prince most involved in arranging the covert financing of armed Islamist organisations is today the country’s King Salman.

One problem for the Saudis is that when these movements become either too independent or too powerful they inevitably turn on the Saudis, outraged by their alliance with the United States and by their corruption.

Nevertheless, the Saudis still continue to foster such organisations. The programme reveals that the Saudis have spent something like one billion Euros covertly arming jihadi groups in Syria, committed to imposing Wahhabism on the population by terror.

The series exposes Saudi corruption. Saudi Arabia is the most corrupt country in the world. One deal struck with the Dutch construction firm, Ballast Nedam, saw 57 percent of the half a billion dollar contract going in kick-backs, an incredible $330 million going to one prince.

The greatest corrupt business deal in history, however, was the Al-Yamamah arms deal with Britain, worth £43 billion of which at least £6 billion was paid in bribes to Saudi royals. Investigation into this was closed down by their good friend Tony Blair on the spurious grounds of “national security”.

Today Crown Prince Mohammad is busy trying to transform the kingdom from semi-feudalism into a modern authoritarian police state, something that is celebrated as progress in the West. A few token gestures towards women’s rights have been enough for the West to ignore the fact that the position of women remains in effect one of religiously sanctioned slavery.

The supposed crack-down on corruption is contradicted by Mohammad’s own recent purchases of a new yacht (£452 million), a French chateau (£275 million) and the Salvator Mundi painting (£335 million).

And this modern police state combines some of the most advanced electronic surveillance systems courtesy of the West, with the torture and beheading of peaceful dissidents calling for democratic rights.

Mohammad is going down the road pioneered by the unlamented Shah of Iran. Economic recession, military failure abroad and the growing demand for democratic change and social justice make a Saudi revolution inevitable.

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