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    In this photo released by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Saudi King Salman, right, presents a gift to British Prime Minister Theresa May, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, April 5, 2017

    Tory MP's Take Saudi Gifts, Play 'Good Muslim, Bad Muslim' in Middle East

    © AP Photo / Saudi Press Agency
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    Recent revelations about Saudi gifts to senior Conservative politicians in the UK is a reflection of the connection between British foreign policy and the UK arms industry, Dr. Binoy Kampmark told Radio Sputnik.

    Last month, the UK Parliament published its Register of Members' Financial Interests, which revealed that Tory MP's have received £99,396 ($128,035) in gifts, travel expenses, and consulting fees from the government of Saudi Arabia since the Yemen war began, The Intercept reports.

    Saudi Arabia gifted the presents as it conducted a bloody, controversial campaign of airstrikes in neighboring Yemen. The Conservative government has been criticized for approving £3.3 billion ($4.2 billion) in arms sales to the Saudi military since the Yemen campaign began.

    The gifts included a £1,950 ($2,514) watch from the Saudi ambassador for then-Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer. As well as gifts, the Saudis also paid the costs of accommodation, travel, and meals for the lawmakers ranging from £2,888 ($3,724) to £6,722 ($8,668).

    Dr. Binoy Kampmark, Senior Lecturer within the Legal and Dispute Studies program at RMIT University in Melbourne, told Radio Sputnik that the gifts are "simply an indication of the situation of British foreign policy, its connection with the arms industry and its desire to influence the Middle East."

     Riyadh is keen to foster a good relationship with the UK in order to burnish its reputation and get hold of military equipment, Kampmark said.

    "Riyadh stands to gain an enormous amount of prestige and military capital. The reality of it is that they have had an ongoing deal, especially with BAE Systems and British Aerospace, in the context of the funding of fighters and of course in the context of their campaign in Yemen."

    "The issue between Saudi Arabia and the UK is of course in many instances a convergence about arms sales on the one hand and the deployment of weapons in such conflicts as the Yemeni conflict."

    Under Margaret Thatcher, the UK agreed its biggest-ever arms export deal with Saudi Arabia, which earned BAE Systems and its predecessor British Aerospace £43 billion ($56 billion) between 1985 and 2005.

    The arms sales were accompanied by accusations of corruption, as BAE was alleged to have bribed Saudi princes. A UK government probe into the arms deals was stopped on the orders of Prime Minister Tony Blair after Saudi government officials threatened "another 7/7" and the "loss of British lives on British streets" if the inquiry continued.

    A 2008 hearing was told that Blair made the order to the Serious Fraud Office after Prince Bandar, the head of the Saudi National Security Council and son of Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud visited the UK in December 2006 and threatened to withhold information about potential suicide bombers and terrorists unless the investigation was halted. 

    The hearing was told that Prince Bandar alone received $1 billion in bribes from BAE Systems. Prince Bandar, the former Saudi ambassador to the US, was one of several Saudi officials implicated in providing financial assistance to the 9/11 hijackers, according to last year's declassified congressional report on the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

    "The reality is that there is a very intimate connection and a very problematic one that also makes it very topical when it comes to discussing foreign policy values and the relationship between the two countries. It's a case of money on the one hand and also a contradiction between the values in terms of their respective foreign policies," Kampmark said.

    "Western governments are essentially trying to work out the concept of the good or the bad Muslim, which is a very dangerous concept – the idea is, which government works, which government doesn't – is it Sunni, is it Shia."

    "Western governments generally seem to prop themselves up with the Sunni leader, which is Saudi Arabia. They tend to disregard, ignore and denigrate in fact the Shia leader, which is of course Iran. In the power play of the Middle East, that is the way the chess pieces tend to fall into place."

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    arms deal, weapons, arms, Philip Hammond, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
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