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Ed Webb

BBC News - Saudis Arabia 'insulted' by UK inquiry - 1 views

  • Saudi Arabia says it is "insulted" by a parliamentary inquiry into how the UK deals with the country and Bahrain. Saudi officials have told the BBC they are now "re-evaluating their country's historic relations with Britain" and that "all options will be looked at".
  • In September, the British Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) announced it would be opening a wide-ranging review into the UK's relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain
  • The FAC said its new inquiry would look closely at how the UK balances its various interests in these countries in defence, trade, security, counter-terrorism and human rights.
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  • Saudi Arabia, long sensitive to western criticisms of its human rights record, believes the inquiry has been prompted by Shia activists from Bahrain, including those striving to overthrow the Sunni monarchy there
  • "Saudi Arabia's relations with the GCC is an internal matter among the six countries and we will not tolerate or accept any foreign interference in the workings of the GCC"
  • Saudi Arabia is a huge trading and defence partner for Britain with nearly £4bn of bilateral trade last year. According to the UK Trade and Investment Office there are approximately 200 UK/Saudi joint ventures with total investment of more than £11bn. Defence deals include the £7bn BAE Systems contract supplying the next tranche of Typhoon jets. Thousands of British expatriates work in Saudi Arabia and British companies involved there include Shell, GlaxoSmithKline, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and Marks & Spencer
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    The FAC inquiry may embarrass both the British and Saudi governments. There's not much to be done about that, though. It will be drawing attention to well-known existing tensions and contradictions in western, including British, policies toward the MENA region, rather than revealing anything new. The old bargain, propping up dictatorships in return for stability, has shown itself to have been based on false premises. The GCC states are very different from Tunisia or Egypt. But the demographic factors are there, and the transnational public sphere overlaps significantly. Choppy waters ahead, whether or not the FAC proceeds with tact.
Ed Webb

Chinese drones: Cheap, lethal and flying in the Middle East | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • China’s new hit product: the CH-4 Caihong, or "Rainbow", drone.
  • The Middle East is no stranger to drones flown by the US, which have killed thousands of people over the last decade.But more nations are entering the game thanks to a new player in the market: Chinese manufacturers offering cheap hardware with a no-questions-asked sales policy.China has been aggressively marketing the CH-4, which bears a striking resemblance to the US MQ-9 Reaper and has similar capabilities.
  • Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are now believed to operate variants of Chinese armed drones
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  • China has not signed the international Arms Trade Treaty, or ATT, meaning it has fewer restrictions on the sale of drone technology
  • “Countries with less-than-ideal human rights records tend to use their weapons in less-than-ideal human rights manners, whether it’s a drone or a water cannon."
  • Saudi Arabia and the UAE are believed to have used the drones in their war in Yemen. While there are not verified reports of drone attacks, evidence of their use includes satellite photographs, as well as images of a drone resembling a CH-4 shot down by Houthi fighters.Saudi Arabia has been condemned by a host of bodies including the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the European Parliament for apparent indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Yemen.
  • while drones offer safety for operators, leaked reports from the US drone programme suggest that up to 90 percent of those killed in drone strikes may be unintended targets, or "collateral damage". 
Ed Webb

Can China replace US hegemony in the Middle East? - 0 views

  • "China is not interested in replacing the US' hegemony in the region as a whole. From the point of view of its strategic culture and military doctrine, the Chinese do not want to take on this kind of commitment and probably neither can as China is not militarily prepared,"
  • While the US and EU may limit their investments in the Gulf region due to concerns over human rights and other issues, China's approach makes it easier for the Gulf states to achieve their goals.
  • Beijing has a long-standing relationship with Tehran, and the Chinese leadership has carefully managed this relationship to maintain neutrality and safeguard its own economic, political, and security interests.
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  • From the perspective of Gulf countries, Xi Jinping's visit to the region was meant to show the United States and the European Union that they are not without options and can use their increased strategic importance to gain the best from both the West and China.
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