The Arabian Connection: The UK Arms Trade to Saudi Arabia
Campaign Against Arms Trade’s new report on UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia, an Amnesty International listed torturing state, is now available.
The bulk of the UK arms trade to Saudi Arabia resulted from the reluctance of the United States to supply the kingdom… Thatcher’s government, however, had no qualms. The UK stepped eagerly into the gap, signing Al Yamamah I, the largest ever UK arms contract with a foreign customer.
Despite the lessons of the Gulf War, the UK and the US continue to supply large quantities of arms to the region.
Chrissie Hirst, author of the report, believes that UK policy has too often been dictated by the need to retain the Saudi market, often eroding public accountability and the integrity of government institutions:
Corruption and human rights issues are ignored in the rush to export she says.
Claims that vast commissions were paid to intermediaries began almost as soon as the deals were signed, finally prompting a National Audit Office investigation into Al Yamamah I, which concluded in 1992. To this day the report remains unpublished despite pressure from CAAT and parliamentarians.
The CAAT report concludes that it is clear that no one has profited from UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia except the middlemen and the arms traders. The continuing culture of secrecy and
unaccountability in which Al Yamamah and Aitken flourished will continue to produce similar deals and similar politicians.