Tag Archives: saudi arabia

Observations of an Expat: Middle East Movement

Finally, there appears to be a glimmer of progress on the Gaza front.

In the unlikely venue of a New York ice cream parlour, President Joe Biden, revealed this week that he is hopeful for a ceasefire by Monday.

And almost simultaneously, Muhammad Shtayyeh, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, resigned to make way for a reorganised government for the West Bank and Gaza Strip which could provide an outside chance of leading to recognition of a State of Palestine.

The departure of Shtayyeh comes amidst a flurry of diplomatic meetings involving American, British, EU, and Arab state officials in Riyadh, Paris and Doha.

What appears to be emerging is an agreement for a “temporary” ceasefire of “some weeks” which would involve the release of all the remaining Israeli hostages; the freeing of an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners and a massive influx of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

That appears to be the bones of a short-term agreement. The long-term is more problematic because it involves a revival of the two-state solution and recognition of a reconstituted Palestinian Authority as a Palestinian state.

The idea was mooted back in January by British Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron as part of a carrot and stick approach that involved British support for Israel as the flip side of the diplomatic coin.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

USA

America’s looking glass politics dominated the news agenda again this week. Donald Trump is not a perp. He is a victim. And he is exploiting his victimhood to the maximum political advantage.

The ex-president has re-galvanised his base with classic hyperbolic claims about Democratic witch hunts. The sad thing is that in the case of this week’s indictment – the first of a past or present American president – he may actually be right.

The office of District Attorney for South Manhattan is an elected one, and Alvin Bragg won the vote on the back of a promise to bring Donald Trump to trial and convict him. Lady Justice is portrayed blindfolded with her sword and balancing scales. She is not elected.

The law is meant to be based on precedent.  No man (or woman) should be protected by their political position but neither should their political position be the determining factor in their innocence or guilt.

Of course, Donald Trump, is more than prepared to play both sides of the legal coin. His 2016 campaign rallies were marked by the endless chant/rant of “Lock her up” related to Hillary Clinton’s use of private emails for government use. The demand was dropped as soon as Trump entered the White House.

Possibly the saddest aspect of Trump’s indictment is that DA Bragg’s case is the weakest against the ex-president. Secret documents at Mar-a-Lago, the January 6 riots and attempts to fix the Georgia election returns all look more promising. Legal eagles believe he can beat the rap on the Stormy Daniels case – if only on one of several technicalities. If Trump is acquitted then he could use that acquittal to fight off other legal challenges and ride the victimhood express all the way to the Republican Party nomination and possibly beyond.

China

Diplomats say interesting things sometimes. Fu Cong, Beijing’s ambassador to the EU was certainly in expansive and interesting mode when he spoke to the New York Times on the eve of the Macron/von de Leyen state visit to China.

At the top of President Emmanuel Macron’s agenda in Beijing was Ukraine. In fact, his feet had barely touched Chinese soil when he was telling Xi Jinping: “I am counting on you to bring Russia to its senses.”

France, America and the rest of the West are terrified that the Xi/Putin “friendship without limits” will eventually lead to Chinese weaponry supporting Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Ambassador Fu, however, dismissed the “limitless” phrase as “rhetoric.” He also pointed out that Beijing has refused to recognise the 2014 annexation of Crimea or the more recent Russian land grabs in the Donbas.

All of the above is true. It is also encouraging that a senior Chinese diplomat has gone on record to try and balance the debate. But friendship with Russia and Putin remains at or near the centre of Xi’s world strategy. To put it bluntly, Xi sees Russia as key to his plan of eroding the Western-oriented world order and replacing it with one that is more autocracy-friendly.

The Chinese president hinted at his big picture plan in his opening remarks to Macron’s visit when he said that China and France have the responsibility to transcend their differences “as the world undergoes proposed historical changes.”

To realise this plan, Xi wants to drive a wedge between European and American policymakers. To do this he is dangling the financial incentive of improved Sino-European trade links. That is why EU Commission President Ursula von de Leyen and an accompanying herd of French businessmen have been tacked onto Macron’s state visit.

The question remains whether the fine words that come out of the Macron/von de Leyen visit will be mere “rhetoric.”

Finland

Russia’s border with NATO is now 800-miles longer. Finland has ended decades of neutrality and joined the Western Alliance. Simultaneously it has changed its government.

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Observations of an expat: Shifting playing field

The diplomatic playing field has shifted this week. The cause is China’s successful brokering of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Middle East arch-enemies and regional super powers Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Of course, the fact that new embassies will appear in Riyadh and Tehran does not mean that all will now be sweetness and light. Deep-seated differences remain between the founts of Sunni Islam and the world’s Shi-ites. But there is no doubt that jaw jaw is better than the undeclared war that has existed in the Gulf region for decades.

The biggest regional winner is Saudi Arabia. Iran has been sniping away at the kingdom’s oil and communications infrastructure and backing Yemen’s Houthi rebels. The eight-year Yemeni civil war has cost an estimated 300,000 lives; badly tarnished Saudi Arabia’s international reputation and drained the treasury. If diplomatic communications can shift the Iranian position on Yemen then it will enable Crown Prince to focus more on his economic plans as well as improving his platform on the world stage.

A definite loser in the current shift is Israel. Jerusalem’s implacable enemy is Iran. The Iranians support Hezbollah and Hamas and are on the cusp of developing a nuclear weapon which they say would be an existential threat to their existence.  Maintaining tensions between Arabs and Persians was a key element in Jerusalem’s divide and conquer diplomacy in the Persian Gulf.

The biggest loser, however, is the US. The biggest winner is China.  From 1945 to 1990 there were two super powers who competed for dominance on the world stage—America and the Soviet Union. Since the end of the Cold War the United States has been the go-to nation for any government seeking support in a diplomatic struggle.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Ukraine

Drones are playing an increasingly important role in the Ukraine War, especially on the Ukrainian side. Russia may have more ships, men, missiles and tanks. But the Ukrainians are proving masters at producing drones to counter them.

At sea they have pioneered the development and use of naval drones which have successfully attacked Russian ships and shore side storage depots at the Russian naval base of Sevastopol. The drones are equipped with a souped-up jet ski engine; a camera in the bow and one amidships, a satellite dish and 200 kg of high explosives. They are operated by a “captain” sitting hundreds of miles in a bunker with a joystick not dissimilar to the one he used aged 10 in the local video arcade.

Each naval drone costs about $250,000 and the Ukrainians plan to have another 100 produced early in 2023. In the air, the Ukrainians have remodelled Tupolev TU-141 reconnaissance drones left over from the Soviet era. They have simply fitted the Russian-made drone with high explosives. The aerial drones were used this week to target Russian airfields from which the Russians were launching crippling attacks on Ukraine’s power grid.

But there is a political problem with the Ukrainian air drone counter attacks. The airbases are inside Russia and NATO is keen to geographically contain conflict to Ukrainian soil so that it does not escalate into a World War Three. It has therefore limited the range of the weapons it has supplied to Ukraine. But the aerial drones used this week were from Ukraine – not NATO. So, it could be argued that Kyiv is sticking to the approved script. But to be on the diplomatic safe side, the Ukrainians are refusing to confirm or deny responsibility for the attacks. No one, however, thinks it could be anyone else.

Germany

Several disturbing – and so far not fully discussed – revelations have emerged from this week’s crushing of an alleged German coup plot. Briefly, leaders of far-right terrorist group known as the Reich Citizens Movement were arrested for plotting to storm the Reichstag (German parliament), overthrow the government, return Germany to is pre-World War I Imperial government, and install a German aristocrat businessman as Kaiser Heinrich XIII.

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World Review: Coups, budget, Brexit, hypersonic China, dictatorships and weaponizing energy

This year the world seems to be suffering from a pandemic of coups. Myanmar, Guinea, Mali, Chad Ethiopia (although technically it is a civil war) and now Sudan. There were also attempted coups in Madagascar and the Central African Republic. It is not surprising. The combined forces of covid-19, Jihadism and long-standing ethnic divisions are taking their toll and the first victims are almost always the poorest countries. Sudan is a prime example. The per capita income is just under $4,000 a year. It ranks 181 out of 225 countries in the wealth stakes. In Sudan’s case neither covid nor Jihadism appear to have played a direct role in the military power grab, although both contributed to general dissatisfaction. It seems, however, the prime driver was good old fashioned greed coupled with fear and a hunger for power. For the past two years the country had been in a political transitional period following the removal of Omar al-Bashiri. The military was gradually returning control to civilians, in particular to Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. But according to the military, problems arose when competing civilian politicians tried to develop individual power bases within the army, thus raising the spectre of civil war. Their argument carries little weight with either Washington or Brussels, both of whom have cut off aid to Sudan. The Western capitals are concerned about Sudanese developments because of the danger of the civil war in neighbouring Ethiopia spreading into a destabilised Sudan and the combined problems of the two countries destabilising the upper reaches of the Nile River basin and the Horn of Africa.

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Observations of an expat: Shifting Arabian sands

Embed from Getty Images

The recent establishment of diplomatic relations and business ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates raises a host of questions, hopes, problems, issues and consequences.

Is it good or bad?  In the constant shifting sands of the Middle East where tribal loyalties overlap with religious and ethnic rivalries it is probably best to say that it is a bit of both, and the need for a supreme balancing act will continue to be the order of the day.

The UAE has at least partially opened the diplomatic floodgates and other Arab countries are expected to soon follow. It is reckoned that the next Arab country to establish links with Israeli will be the Gulf island kingdom of Bahrain. King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa was among the first to congratulate both Israel and the UAE on their bold move. The reason? Sunni king Al Khalifa is terrified of Iran. The Persians have long claimed the island as part of their territory, and 60 percent of the population is Shia.

Next on the likely list is Oman. The late Sultan Qaboos regularly acted as a mediator between Arab and Israeli interests. In 2018 he hosted a visit to Muscat by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Omanis have been praised for their regional diplomacy, not only between Israel and the Arab world, but also between Iran and Arabia.

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7 July 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Davey: we need a devolution revolution to drive the green revolution
  • Govt decision on arms sales to Saudi Arabia shows lack of humanity
  • Govt green recovery plans do not match ambition of other countries

Davey: we need a devolution revolution to drive the green revolution

Today Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey has delivered a keynote speech to the Local Government Association outlining his plan for a devolution revolution to drive a green revolution.

Ed Davey called for the government to make £45bn new funding available to local authorities over three years alongside a range of new powers so that local government can …

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3 December 2018 – today’s press releases

It’s been a busy day, perhaps not a great surprise as the Brexit debate in the Commons reaches its denouement…

  • Cable: Halt “egregious imbalance” of May vs Corbyn Brexit debate
  • Lib Dems back amendment to stop no deal Brexit
  • Lib Dems: Govt have held Parliament in contempt
  • Govt remain clueless on immigration
  • Lib Dem peers defeat Government on civil liberties (see here for our earlier coverage)
  • PM must stop pandering to the Saudi regime
  • Lib Dems lead fight for renters’ rights
  • Govt must publish Brexit legal advice

Cable: Halt “egregious imbalance” of May vs Corbyn Brexit debate

Today Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable has called on the …

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20 October 2018 – today’s press releases…

There were two press releases today, one of which has already been covered on these pages. Here’s the other one…

Cable: Arms sales to Saudi Arabia “embarrassingly compromising”

Responding to Saudi Arabia’s claim that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a fight in its consulate in Istanbul, Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said:

This situation gets murkier and murkier – Saudi Arabia seems to have forgotten about a death in its own consulate.

The UK’s heavy reliance on Saudi Arabia for arms sales is embarrassingly compromising in these circumstances.

The government should have already suspended arms export licences to Saudi Arabia

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Jo Swinson calls on Boris to stand up to Saudi ruler

Back in the day, Vince Cable, then acting leader, famously  boycotted the state visit of the Saudi King 

At the time, he said that

I think it’s quite wrong that as a country we should give the leader of Saudi Arabia this honour.”

He said that although Britain has a “business-like” relationship with the country, Britain would not dream of extending the same invitation to other controversial leaders like Libya’s Colonel Gadaffi..

Eleven years on, the party is still calling out the appalling human rights record of the Saudi Government. Jo Swinson today lambasted Boris on the eve of the visit of the ruling Saudi Prince. She said:

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Tom Brake on human rights in Saudi Arabia

Tom Brake has written a letter to the Prime Minister urging her to raise human rights issues in her meeting with Saudi Arabia.

Here is the letter:

Dear Theresa,

I am writing in advance of your visit to Saudi Arabia tomorrow, to ask you to raise urgently with the regime a number of serious human rights concerns.

1. The targeting of civilians in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition
According to the United Nations, over 7,600 people have been killed and 42,000 injured since fighting began in March 2015, the majority in airstrikes led by the Saudi coalition. The conflict and a blockade imposed by the coalition have also triggered a humanitarian disaster, leaving 70% of the population in need of aid, including millions on the verge of famine.

The Saudi coalition, in contravention of humanitarian law, has repeatedly targeted civilians, including at funerals, weddings and in market places.

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YEMEN: Boris bleats, Libdems lead

Headline news last week was Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s speech in Rome where he criticised Saudi Arabia for ‘puppeteering and playing proxy wars’, by implication against Iran, and promoting sectarian extremism for political ends across the Middle East. He was immediately slapped down by PM May, who had seemingly instructed him to get even closer to the Saudis for trade purposes in the wake of Brexit.

Emphasising he had the war in Yemen in mind, as well as Syria, Boris then made a further speech in Bahrain on 10th December about the Saudi bombing of civilians in Yemen, and criticising his own government … which allegedly has special forces in Yemen assisting the Saudis, has trainers in Riyadh, and is a major weapons supplier to the Saudi regime.

Boris was expressing widely held views about the Saudis’ war in Yemen … and about their role in creating Islamic State.

A few days earlier in Warsaw, Poland, the Lib Dem delegation was busy in the annual Congress of ALDE. ALDE is the pan-European party of liberals and democrats with seven parties in government currently across the EU. On the agenda in Warsaw was a motion from the UK Lib Dem delegation, on Yemen, which was passed with an overwhelming majority and greeted with loud applause.

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William Wallace writes… Sources of UK extremism

Part of our role in both houses of Parliament is to hold the government to the commitments they – often reluctantly – give.  One of the five conditions Lib Dem parliamentarians established in return for supporting the extensions of air operations over Iraq to Syria was that the government should set up an enquiry into sources of funding for extremist versions of Islam within the UK.  Alastair Carmichael in the Commons, and myself in the Lords, are holding the Conservatives to the promise they made to report on this by ‘the Spring of 2016’. Alastair has pressed ministers on the size and quality of the ‘Extremism Analysis Unit’ set up in the Home Office to cover this.  I asked an oral question in the Lords yesterday (February 3rd) on how thoroughly overseas funding will be investigated, from both foreign government and from private sources. In both cases, the answers have been that the government is acting on this commitment, but there are clear reasons why we should continue to put pressure on them to deliver.

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Farron slams UK’s billion pound arms deals with Saudi Arabia

The Guardian reports that human rights groups have expressed concern at a major rise in UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Last month Saferworld and Amnesty commissioned a legal opinion from Professor Philippe Sands QC and other lawyers which concluded that British arms sales to Saudi Arabia, in the context of its military intervention and bombing campaign in Yemen, were breaking national, EU and international law.

UK arms sales in the three-month period from July to September 2015 for the export category that covers missiles, rockets and bombs amounted to £1,066,216,510, the BIS documents show. They were sold under five separate licences.

You can see the official figures showing the details of the export licences here.

Tim Farron has accused David Cameron of putting profits before human rights.

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Tom Brake slams “shamefully weak” UK government statement on Saudi executions

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesperson Tom Brake has torn into the Government’s statement on the executions of 47 prisoners in Saudi Arabia in a series of tweets this evening.

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Paddy: Tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia “a far greater danger” than ISIL

Paddy Ashdown has told the Independent that the growing tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the wake of the Saudi executions carried out over the weekend is “a far greater danger” than ISIL. He said that the UK Government should be robust about calling the Saudis out for their actions:

Lord Ashdown said Saudi Arabia’s sudden mass execution of prisoners – including the prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and a number of young political protesters – may have been intended to derail the ongoing Syrian peace talks in Vienna.

These executions are deeply, deeply destabilising to the very delicate situation that exists in the Middle East and the danger of a wider Sunni and Shia conflict. The West, including the UK government, is only just realising the danger of this and its implications for long term peace in the region. It poses a far greater danger in the long term than, for example, Isil,” the former Lib Dem leader added.

The UK Government should be making it explicitly clear that it regards this act as extremely destabilising. These executions are shocking in human rights terms and reveal the real nature of the people with whom we are dealing. The UK’s stance underlines its deeply illogical position of ignoring the funding of jihadist groups, including Isil, which is coming from within Saudi Arabia.

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Tim Farron says UK Government should challenge Saudis over executions and human rights

Tim Farron went on Sky News yesterday to describe the execution of 47 people in Saudi Arabia as both “morally wrong and politically foolish” and to criticise the UK Government for being too soft on the Saudis and not calling them out for their appalling human rights record.

I remember being very proud when one of the first big things Vince Cable did as acting leader back in 2007 was to boycott the state visit of the Saudi King. I was not so chuffed last year when there was a chorus of silence from Liberal Democrats when flags were flown at half mast following the death of the Saudi King.

So, it’s good to see Tim Farron slamming the Saudis for their actions and the UK Government for being too soft on them. I’m also interested that he made the point that the relationships between the two governments benefit the most powerful people in both countries but don’t do much for those who aren’t well off. Watch the whole thing here.

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Heathrow and Saudi banks – where Boris invests London taxpayers’ millions

Well, well. Boris is against Heathrow expansion, isn’t he? You have to then wonder why his office is investing millions in Heathrow airport. According to the Independent on Sunday, the Mayor’s office invested £3.54 million in the airport just two weeks ago. Liberal Democrat Assembly member Stephen Knight is quoted:

The GLA said that notwithstanding Mr Johnson’s trenchant views on Heathrow, it remained a suitable investment. But critics of the Mayor, who is ultimately responsible for GLA investments, said there was a clash between the mayor’s public position and his officials’ investment decisions.

Mr Knight said: “Only Boris Johnson would not be able to understand the total contradiction between publicly opposing a third Heathrow runway, whilst behind the scenes pouring millions of pounds of London taxpayer’s money into Heathrow bonds, which will help finance such an expansion.”

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Flags at half mast – the right way to mark the passing of an illiberal despot?

You can probably guess that my answer to this question is a resounding “No.” When I saw yesterday that Westminster Abbey of all places was flying the flag at half mast to mark the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, I was horrified. The vomit-inducing tone of the tributes portraying him as some sort of reformer added to my irritation. If he was a reformer, Brian from the Magic Roundabout is a world champion sprinter to rival Usain Bolt.

I guess what intensified my overall sense of injustice was the chorus of silence from Liberal Democrats. Surely at least one of our parliamentarians should have openly criticised such a ridiculous decision. The only honourable exceptions I can find are Meral Ece and Mike Thornton, both of whom have been retweeting human rights information about Saudi Arabia and wry observations about the reaction to Abdullah’s death:

Most annoying was that it fell to a TORY to heap the most condemnation on the flags decision:

It’s all so different from 2007 when Vince Cable as acting leader boycotted the State Visit of King Abdullah, saying:

Mr Cable added: “I think it’s quite wrong that as a country we should give the leader of Saudi Arabia this honour.”

He said that although Britain has a “business-like” relationship with the country, Britain would not dream of extending the same invitation to other controversial leaders like Libya’s Colonel Gadaffi..

He said he had also been critical of the Saudi regime’s treatment of Britons.

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Opinion: Apostasy and Saudi Arabia

Jeddah Corniche - Some rights reserved by CharlesFredRaif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian liberal writer, was arrested on June 17 in Jeddah and charged with ‘insulting Islam through electronic channels’ and ‘going beyond the realm of obedience’. His ‘crime’ at that point appeared to be setting up an online forum, Free Saudi Liberals, and attending a meeting in Cairo on May 7 of the Arab Alliance for Freedom and Democracy, but the words that constitute the offence were not specified.

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How to defeat Al Qaeda

The cover of Bruce Riedel’s The Search for Al Qaeda shows a group of armed men working their way up a hillside overlooking a beautiful valley that stretches away to rolling hills. It captures the wonder and the tragedy of Afghanistan in one frame.

The book itself is similarly crisp, packing a wide-ranging history of Al Qaeda and its key figures into only 150 pages of moderate size print. It is penned by an ex-CIA man of thirty years service who was frequently closely involved with the figures and events painted in the book, but not so closely as to make the reader fear it is more a justification of his career than a fair account of events.

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Conservative Party faces investigation over controversial donations from Said family

The Electoral Commission is investigating tens of thousands of pounds the Conservative Party has received from the Said family, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Wafic Said was a key figure in the highly controversial Al-Yamamah arms deal between Saudi Arabia and the UK. Allegations of corruption surrounding the deal were being investigated by staff at Britain’s Serious Fraud Office – until they were ordered to drop the investigation because it was supposedly against the national interest. Tough on crime? Only when it suits.

Although the Liberal Democrats – and Norman Lamb in particular – have been vocal in their criticisms of …

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Two key figures sacked in surprise government reshuffle

In an unexpected reshuffle that is likely to see a shift in government policy, two powerful figures have been sacked and a woman appointed to the highest post ever held by a female.

The news is from Saudi Arabia, where King Abdullah has sacked Sheikh Salih Ibn al-Luhaydan, who was the country’s head judge and had talked about it being acceptable to kill the owners of TV channels that broadcast immoral shows.

Also gone is Sheikh Ibrahim al-Ghaith, the former head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (aka Saudi Arabia’s religious police).

Norah al-Faiz has become …

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What will happen to oil prices?

This is the first of a regular series of columns from economist Tim Leuning.

January is the time for predictions. Every year economists make them. Sometimes we are right, and sometimes wrong. Some predictions, like inflation, are easy, but others are not. The oil price is not.

For fifty years, 1921-71, the oil price was fairly stable at c. $20 a barrel (in today’s terms). That was surprising: the price yo-yoed in the mid-nineteenth century and was fairly volatile 1880-1921. But neither the booming 20s nor the great depression, a world war, nor a post-war boom seemed to affect oil prices at all. Oil prices were one thing you just did not have to worry about.

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Vince boycotts Saudi honour

Acting Lib Dem leader Vince Cable has – shock, horror – decided to put principle ahead of protocol by turning down the chance to hob-nob with Saudi King Abdullah at a state banquet tonight.

You can hear Vince give his reasons – citing Saudi Arabia’s “appalling” human rights record – on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme here. And the Lib Dems’ Corruption is a Crime website has more here.

Proof that Vince was doing the right thing arrived with the typically pompous condemnation of the Tories’ ultra-right-wing defence spokesman Liam Fox (he sneered that the Lib Dems were …

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Opinion: Why we should condemn the academic boycott of Israel

The University and College Union’s (UCU) proposed academic boycott of Israel has attracted opposition from many people who might usually be numbered among Israel’s harshest critics. The (Palestinian) President of Jerusalem’s Al Quds University is among those opposing the boycott, in a joint statement with the (Israeli) President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

As a Liberal Democrat, my opposition is rooted in our party’s fundamental liberal belief in free expression, particularly in situations involving conflict resolution.

To boycott Israeli academics, including liberal individuals who strongly disagree with the Israeli government, is not only illiberal, it is also perverse. Imagine a boycott of British universities and academics, based on our government’s disgraceful conduct of the war in Iraq!

Almost worse is the suggestion that Israeli academics might be exempted from a boycott if they distance themselves from their government’s policies. Presumably the proponents of the boycott are planning to summon up the shade of Joe McCarthy to supervise this exercise in thought control?

The proposed boycott is also perverse because it singles out Israel among all the countries of the world. Israel, for all its faults, is a parliamentary democracy. Its universities, like British universities, are open to all citizens, regardless of religion or ethnicity. I have been to the Hebrew University and met Arab students, including some who came from the Palestinian territories, and some who came from Israel itself. There are also many overseas students at Israel’s universities. Israel enjoys the same academic freedom as does this country and other democracies.

The tragic irony of singling out Israel is that no other Middle Eastern country has academic freedom, so why only boycott Israel? When other Middle Eastern countries are infringing human rights in ways that directly affect academic freedom, why is the UCU silent?

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OPINION: Corruption is Corruption is Corruption

Imagine you’ve been burgled and (by a small miracle!) someone is up in court, charged with the burglary. How impressed would you be if the accused said, “OK, I did do it – but you have to understand. I’m a poor student at the local university and all the French and US students there steal things too, so it wouldn’t be fair if I was left out and had to make do without the proceeds of crime too?” Not very I think! But that’s pretty much the excuse so often rolled out to brush away corruption around international arms deals – everyone else gives out bribes you know, and it would be so unfair and unforgivable if we didn’t too.

So – despite the allegations involving huge sums of money and numerous senior people – both Labour and the Conservatives have been happy for the corruption investigation around the Al Yamamah arms deal with Saudi Arabia to be dropped. And it’s the only area of crime (other than graffiti!) where – when campaigning against it – I’ve encountered a handful of people saying, “but it’s ok”.

Well – I beg to differ on several counts!

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How far will Brown go to protect BAE from corruption charges?

The Labour Government could soon be faced with a stark choice: to co-operate with the US department of justice’s investigations into the BAE bribery allegations, or risk reciprocal co-operation and intelligence-sharing with the US.

Those who’ve been following the biggest scandal of Labour’s time in office – and, if you haven’t, why not visit the Lib Dem’s Corruption is a Crime website – will know that the US authorities began an inquiry last year into the £2bn payments made by BAE to the Saudi royal family and its agents in the 1980s (with the complicit approval of …

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The ConHome verdict on Tories’ BAE bribes silence

It isn’t only Liberal Review and the Lib Dems’ Corruption is a Crime website which have noted how quiet the Tories have been about BAE’s Al Yamamah deal, and the Labour Government’s decision to squash the Serious Fraud Office’s investigation of advance commissions cash bribes.

Surely this should be the ideal opportunity for David Cameron to take the attack to Labour on precisely the same ground – dodgy foreign arms dealing – that so damaged the Tories in the 1990s?

Yet as the Conservative Home website notes:

The Conservatives, unlike the LibDems, have been as quiet on the

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Opinion: A stench that starts at the very top

Yet more news, as reported in today’s Guardian, of the Labour Government’s complicity in bribes paid by BAE to a Saudi prince to secure a huge arms deal:

British investigators were ordered by the attorney-general Lord Goldsmith to conceal from international anti-bribery watchdogs the existence of payments totalling more than £1bn to a Saudi prince, the Guardian can disclose.

The money was paid into bank accounts controlled by Prince Bandar for his role in setting up BAE Systems with Britain’s biggest ever arms deal. Details of the transfers to accounts in the US were discovered by officers from the Serious Fraud

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