Friends Reunited

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recognizes the principle of freedom upon which the United States was founded, including the freedoms enshrined under the first amendment of the United States Constitution. (Joint Statement by President Bush and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, 25th April, 2005)

I wrote yesterday about Bush and his “awfully difficult decisions.” Today we learn of another Bush decision which is more imbecilic than ”awfully difficult.” In his two day trip to Saudi Arabia, a country already armed to the teeth courtesy of Britain, Bush announced plans to sell Saudi Arabia £120 million of 'sophisticated' missiles as part of a $20 billion arms package for the region.

He certainly makes some contradictory decisions. On the one hand he announces his intended Middle East trip is all about making peace and assuring ‘democratisation’ of the region and then we learn of this £20 billion arms deal. Nice one, George. If you want peace, prepare for war. And with democratisation high on his agenda, just who else does he go kowtowing to? None other than the Saudi regime, some of the worst human rights abusers in the world (see a previous piece on this blog). Did he slate King Abdullah for his outlawing of trade unions, the ban on political dissent, demonstrations, the lack of democracy, the oppression of women? Not on your nelly!

As Michael Hirsh, writing for Newsweek, observes :

“What could not be found on Bush's schedule was one Saudi dissident or political activist, much less a democrat. Just a day after his speech in Abu Dhabi—and three years after declaring in his second inaugural address that "it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture"—the president made time for a tour of Saudi Arabia's National History Museum but not for a meeting with Fouad al-Farhan. Farhan, Saudi Arabia's most popular blogger, was arrested in Jidda last month for daring to defend a group of Saudis who wanted to form a civil rights group.”

Creating an alliance against Iran aside, high on Bush’s agenda is the oil crisis back home. At the moment oil stands at almost $100 dollars a gallon, a four fold increase in recent years, and Bush is desperate the price comes down – well, there’s an election coming up and oil prices might reflect badly on the repukes -and thus he urges the Saudis to increase production:

"I would hope, as OPEC considers different production levels, that they understand that if . . . one of their biggest consumers' economy suffers, it will mean less purchases, less oil and gas sold."

In a round table talk with reporters, whilst in Saudi Arabia, Bush was asked about the alleged incident in the Strait of Hormuz. His reply was reminiscent of that he gave when asked about Osama bin Laden and replied that he didn’t give a shit, that he wasn’t a priority any more:

"It's not going to matter to me one way or the other if they hit our ships, and the Iranian government has got to understand that"

And days after Bush’s historic visit to Israel, to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace we find violence erupting on two fronts, with an Israeli air strike killing 17 Palestinians in Gaza and a car bomb destroying a U.S. Embassy vehicle and killing four in Beirut.

Interestingly, at a press conference in Israel this week, a spokesman for the Israeli government said that the missiles they were getting from the US were smarter than those being sold to Saudi Arabia.

I wonder if King Abdullah will take Bush aside and say: “Yo, Bush, about these weapons you’re giving Israel. How come they’re better than the crap you’re selling us?”

And I can just see Bush answering: “And what’s all this about you sucking up to Iran? Here’s me trying to form an alliance against Iran these past two years and there’s you at the Gulf Council of Cooperation walking hand in hand with Ahmadinejad! Let’s just say I’m hedging my bets.”

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