Tory prime minister Theresa May is in trouble, and it is has nothing to do with Brexit negotiations or Grenfell Tower; it has to do with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. May is sitting on a report that purportedly links the Saudis to the funding of jihadist terrorism. Now, as David Kirkpatrick reports, a London think tank, named after Washington State's historic "senator from Boeing," has published a report of its own accusing the House of Saud of not only funding jihadists but actually training the preachers who preach violence in Britain:
The government of Prime Minister Theresa May has acknowledged in recent days that it is withholding a study on the Saudi role in fostering extremism in Britain, and opponents have accused her of pandering to the Saudi royals to protect British trade deals.
On Wednesday, a report from a hawkish think tank in London called new attention to the debate by arguing that Saudi Arabia had, in fact, played a singularly important role in promoting extremist strains of Islam in British mosques and religious schools — including the training of British preachers who have advocated jihadist violence.
Over the last 30 years, “Saudi Arabia has spent at least £67 billion,” or about $87 billion, on this endeavor around the world, said the think tank, the Henry Jackson Society, named for a United States senator from the Cold War era.
The attention to Saudi Arabia also comes at a time when Ms. May’s political opponents are ratcheting up their denunciations of her Conservative government’s support for the two-year Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has plunged that impoverished country into a humanitarian catastrophe of disease and famine with no end in sight. (Saudi Arabia says the campaign there is essential to keep power away from the Houthis, a Yemeni faction aligned with Iran.)
The study of Saudi extremism was initiated more than a year ago by Ms. May’s predecessor, Prime Minister David Cameron, also a Conservative. He agreed to it partly to win the support of another party, the Liberal Democrats, for airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, and on Wednesday the Liberal Democrats accused Ms. May of putting Saudi business deals ahead of public safety by declining to disclose the study’s findings.
“We hear regularly about the Saudi arms deals or ministers going to Riyadh to kowtow before their royal family, but yet our government won’t release a report that will clearly criticize Saudi Arabia,” Timothy Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said in a statement.
Britain is “cozying up to one of the most extreme, nasty and oppressive regimes in the world,” he said. “You would think our security would be more important, but it appears not.”
The Home Office, which conducted the study, denied that the government had withheld it to avoid offending or embarrassing the Saudis. But a spokesman declined to comment on whether the findings of the study had highlighted a Saudi role in spreading extremism. “Ministers are considering advice on what is able to be published in the report and will update Parliament in due course,” the office said in a statement.
The Saudi Embassy in London did not respond to telephone calls.Something Western voters understand and understand viscerally is that the Saudis have rigged the system. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an absolutist monarchy that exports a puritanical interpretation of Islam by means of a global network of madrassas, yet it depends upon the "great" democracies Britain, France and the United States, for its defense.
An example of al-Saud's reach was on display yesterday when new French president Emmanuel Macron had to walk back an earlier proclamation that there was no legitimate successor to Assad. According to Reuters, "After criticism, France's Macron seeks to reassure Syria opposition":
Macron on Wednesday appeared to try to refine his comments after speaking to Riad Hijab, head of the Riyadh-based High Negotiations Committee, which represents a group of military and political opponents at U.N.-mediated talks between Syria's warring parties in Geneva.The High Negotiations Committee is a Saudi creation.
In a statement the presidency said Macron had confirmed to Hijab that France supported the HNC in the Syrian peace talks being held under UN auspices.
May's Tories are not the only ones in trouble. It is a perilous time for the Saudi royal family. Their blockade of Qatar is close to collapse; so too is Yemen. Palace intrigue, already intense with reports of the deposed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef under house arrest, is likely spiraling out of control.