Theresa May Is Wading Into a Dangerous Sectarian Conflict By PATRICK COCKBURN
The British Government’s fawning on the absolute monarchs of the Gulf, whose authority is enforced by beheadings, lashings and the torture chamber, is at once contemptible and pathetic. It is a measure of Britain’s decline as a great power that it is only in tiny, toxic, sectarian Bahrain, where Sunni rulers suppress the Shia majority, that Theresa May can expect a regal reception.
May added her own few drops of venom to the raging sectarian warfare betweenSunni and Shia in the region by targeting Iran. She said she was “clear-eyed” about the Iranian threat to an audience of largely fundamentalist Sunni Gulf leaders for whom the words “Iran” and “Shia” are demonic and interchangeable.
In Bahrain, the monarchy blamed the peaceful democratic uprising during theArab Spring in 2011 on a deep-laid Iranian plot.
I spoke later the same year to doctors who had worked in a hospital in central Manama, the Bahraini capital, where they had treated injured protesters. After the demonstrations were crushed with the backing of Saudi troops, the doctors had been savagely tortured for using a complex piece of medical equipment that the Bahraini security forces had convinced themselves was the means by which Iran gave the protesters their instructions. It is this type of paranoia that May is feeding, though an independent inquiry found no evidence of Iranian involvement in the protest movement.
Downing Street’s rebuttal of Boris Johnson’s demonstrably correct view that Saudi Arabia wages “proxy wars” in the Middle East is equally mendacious. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have taken a leading role in funding and supplying weapons to extreme jihadi insurgents in Syria, as US leaders – including President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, supplemented by leaked documents – have made clear.
The Saudi intervention in Yemen, where airstrikes have devastated a country of 25 million people, differs only from its other interventions in that the Saudi role is overt and the suffering even more massive.