United Kingdom

Boris Johnson is Right: Saudi Arabia and Iran Wage Proxy Wars Across the Middle East

Was wrong to oppose a ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

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ETTORE FERRARI/EPA/Newscom

U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson identified regional political leaders who were "twisting and abusing different strains of the same religion in order to further their own political objectives" as one of the biggest problems in the Middle East, saying at a conference on Mediterrenean dialogue in Rome this week that it led to puppeteering and proxy wars by countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The comments came on the heels of a visit to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region by Prime Minister Theresa May, The Guardian reported, where she celebrated the century old alliance between the two countries. The government distanced itself from Johnson's remarks, with a spokesperson for 10 Downing Street saying they did not represent the official views of the British government.

Johnson's comments were characterized in the media as a "gaffe," although they were not incorrect. "Most observers of the Middle East would say this is a mostly fair analysis," the Washington Post noted. "But the problem is that Johnson, in his capacity as Britain's foreign secretary, stepped out of line in calling out Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest customers for British weapons." Yet refusals to acknowledge the reality of such situations makes advancing coherent foreign relations more difficult.

It would be important for the U.K., like the United States, to stop selling weapons around the world in order to have healthier international relations. The U.K. is in the top 10 arms exporters in the world—accounting for about 4 percent of international arms sales between 2010 and 2014. The U.S. was responsible for 31 percent. Russia is not far behind, at 27 percent, with China in third place at 5 percent.

While Johnson acknowledged Saudi Arabia's role in destabilizing the Middle East, when he had the chance he did not support a ban on U.K. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, just three months ago, insisting Saudi human rights violations in Yemen had not been proven. Iran has been accused of supporting the other side in the Yemen civil war. Saudi Arabia and western powers insist the government ejected from the capital by Houthi rebels remains the legitimate government in Yemen. Earlier this summer, meanwhile, Hezbollah admitted all of its financial support came from Iran.

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64 responses to “Boris Johnson is Right: Saudi Arabia and Iran Wage Proxy Wars Across the Middle East

  1. “twisting and abusing different strains of the same religion in order to further their own political objectives”

    You don’t say!! I have absolutely never heard of anything like this happening before.

    /sarc

    1. Surely, it must be fake news.

  2. I love how telling the truth about how vile Saudi Arabia is is considered a nearly traitorous suggestion.

    Wait, no, not love.

    What’s the word that means the opposite of that??

    1. Hitler?

      1. Love Trumps Hitler.

    2. Huh, and even though Saudi is pretty shit country, it’s not like he even called them that vile

      puppeteering and proxy wars by countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran.

      Oh look, they engage in power politics like regional powers did world-wide since first Empires were born. UK Foreign Secretary of all people should recognize the local variant of The Great Game…

    3. “this”?

  3. Johnson’s comments were characterized in the media as a “gaffe,” although they were not incorrect

    This is not much different than the recent media-pearl-clutching over Trump receiving a phone call from Taiwan

    The US official-policy is to vocally endorse the “one china” policy, and never technically recognize Taiwanese indepedence. Yet its also official US policy to arm the shit out of Taiwan so that China can never unilaterally assert its sovereignty over Taiwan by force.

    Basically, everyone’s agreed to “pretend” on a pleasant fiction.

    that the Saudis and Iranians have been waging proxy wars against one another…. has been true for ~ 40 years. that the Sunni-Shia conflict is the underlying problem of the entire middle east is a given. Yet you’re not supposed to say it out loud, lest citizens in the US or the UK ever wonder why it is we chose the Sunni side of this argument, when those same Sunni-fundamentalist politics are what fostered the terror-groups we consider our prime enemies today.

    the “Romancing the Sunni” piece from 2015 is essential reading… and helps clarify how US ME policy has gone completely adrift ever since the first Gulf War.

  4. Hi everyone, I am new here- long time reader of Reason and comments but have not posted much. I am here to dispel your myths of the Female Unicorn Libertarian 🙂

    1. Whatever. We all know you’re just Tulpa.

      1. Totally not Tulpa. I am a living breathing woman on the east coast that has been reading here for years.

          1. Hi! Glad to be a part of this crazy commentariat. I finally have a job where I can get away with this.

            1. I finally have a job where I can get away with this.

              So, government work?

              1. Nope, got a management job. I am a project manager in subject recruitment for clinical research. I could never get a government job.

                  1. I kinda figured, but still wanted to say what I did cuz its awesome. I get to push the boundaries of the FDA and I like that.

                    1. I get to push the boundaries of the FDA and I like that.

                      Libertarian heroine! Keep up the good work!

                1. I am a project manager in subject recruitment for clinical research.

                  Ah, you sucker people into taking new meds (“Don’t worry about those antennae you just grew, that’s ‘totally’ expected; here sign this release…”), putting them into sensory deprivation tanks after watching pr0n, and/or sticking their various and sundry body parts into the latest widget, no? *grins*

                  1. Hey, if the antennae is a risk told to them and they sign, whose fault is that!! They are being fully compensated for that antennae, and a future study might even let it access free porn. Win win.

            2. Welcome

            3. Welcome inannas7! It is customary for new people to send fake pics of their selves(preferably nude).

              1. I have tons of nude pics, but they are all of dudes. Still want ’em?

                1. I have tons of nude pics, but they are all of dudes. Still want ’em?

                  Yes.

                  1. Anything warm and concave, Crusty always says.

                  2. Maybe this will satisfy both genders (we allowed to even say that anymore….)

                    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRbfF6Tp3q0

                    1. You need to tag that as NSFW, otherwise people will start to think you are strange – trust me.

                    2. Noted. I am strange, but noted.

                    3. People who aren’t hella strange don’t comment on Hit’n’Run, it is known.

                    4. Does this mean I am really NOT supposed to send naked pics?? Tough hazing around here. Im Tulpa, or CIA apparently

                    5. In accordance with Hit and Run tradition, please all dude nudes to mel.famie@hotmail.com.
                      That is our official clearing house for cock shots.

                    6. No. Definitely send naked pics.

                    7. Maybe this will satisfy both genders sexes (we allowed to even say that anymore….

                      FTFY.-) And no, it violates a number of intersectionality rules, and the actual law in NYC and few other places.

                    8. I cant keep any of this nonsense straight. I just found out the Gadsden flag mug I keep on my desk for tea is apparently racist. Ugh.

                    9. I think you’ll fit in fine.

                    10. Awesome. Maybe it will be a first.

                  3. ^You beat meh.

        1. I am a living breathing woman on the east coast that has been reading here for years.

          *feints*

    2. Hello, obvious CIA infiltrator. Did Riven call you after her cover was blown?

  5. Howard Johnson is right about Boris Johnson being right!

  6. The Arabs are not entirely wrong about their grievances the West has its part to play in their mess.

    1. Like with Israel, there’s the legitimate grievances and then there’s “the Jews are putting chemicals in Palestinian water to make them sterile.”

      1. “the Jews are putting chemicals in Palestinian water to make them sterile.”

        It doesnt seem to be working.

        1. Tell that to the Palestinians who peddle that theory. The Middle East is rife with batshit conspiracy theories that make no goddamn sense.

          1. So just like here then?

            1. More batshit. Anti-Freemasonry is still a legitimate thing in the ME.

            2. We’ve got nothing when it comes to batshit conspiracy theories.

    2. “The Arabs are not entirely wrong about their grievances”

      If we had never set foot there things would be no different so it doesnt really matter if they are or not.

      1. I was gonna say something about them living under Ottomans still, but I think Ataturk wasn’t alone when he decided that fuck it, Turks have better things to do than fuck around with Arabs anymore.
        I mean, Erdogan started making friends with Assad and the mullahs, then they shat on his peace overtures, then his support of Sunni rebels went sour, to the point I think he himself is done with their shit.

        It’s also weird how 45 years of Soviet-inspired and advised (but never fully listened to) economy, politics and culture in Syria, Iraq, Egypt (though more like 25ish years there), Libya and Maghreb states gets ignored. Brutal one-party states wiping out anything that looked like pro-liberal, pluralistic politics sure was West’s fault…

      2. Certainly the facts of history would generally concur with this.

  7. It would be important for the U.K., like the United States, to stop selling weapons around the world in order to have healthier international relations. The U.K. is in the top 10 arms exporters in the world?accounting for about 4 percent of international arms sales between 2010 and 2014. The U.S. was responsible for 31 percent. Russia is not far behind, at 27 percent, with China in third place at 5 percent.

    Sooo… it’s healthier if Saudis go get their weapons from China, Russia or Czechs? Which, if they weren’t so obsessed with prestige, they should be doing anyway, it’ll serve them about as well and require less expertise to maintain. But what self-respecting Saudi prince wants to field the same tank as…ugh, Syria? When even Jordan gets to drive around in Western kit?

    Those petro-dollars are getting spent on weapons whether you like it or not. If not UK industry, someone else will get them, and the maintenance and parts contracts. Iranians can make due without US and UK, Saudis can too.

  8. Would someone tell me what the fuck we get out of all this? Besides dead and crippled soldiers I mean.

    Lets suppose Trumps number “we spent 6 trillion dollars in the middle east wars” is a wild exaggeration. If we only spent 1 trillion what have we gotten that is worth more than 1 trillion?

    1. I think you have it right, dead and crippled soldiers. That’s pretty much it.

      1. So what are you saying? Dead and crippled soldiers aren’t worth anything? Why do you hate our troops?

    2. Is the ME better off for all of Bushbama’s dicking around over there? Is terrorism greater or lesser since we spent all that money?

      And how the fuck does it make any sense whatsoever to kick a hornets nest out of the tree and then gather up the hornets and bring them into your house?

      The more I think about all of this the crazier it gets.

    3. Based on extensive calculations, I’d estimate we’ve gotten somewhere in the neighborhood of fuck all. The payments these (literal) salvers have given us are a small fraction of what the US taxpayers have paid, not even considering the deaths and injuries sustained by people who wished to defend their free country – and not religious dictatorships.

      Of course, it’s the “serious” people in DC would never entertain the idea of getting the fuck out of the Middle East, because reasons. Let’s hope Trump is as un-serious as Boris was during his “gaffe”.

      Also, Ed, BJ was obviously looking for a fist bump in that pic.

    4. Judging by my Facebook feed, I get a weekly dressing down about how those troops are the only thing keeping us safe from living under a caliphate, that I am a chicken shit coward for not having been in the military, and how my lack of support for warmongering in the Middle East means that I want the US to be over-run by fanatical jihadis.

  9. OT: John Glenn 1921-2016

  10. Johnson’s comments were characterized in the media as a “gaffe,”

    Reminds me of when Romney finally started making pointed criticisms of the Obama administration during the ’12 campaign, and the media characterized his comments as “gaffes”.

    I’m not sure if I even care of the government became intertwined with the media anymore. The so-called gatekeepers of democracy have become such shills for status-quo and the expansion of state power, I’d say any “intertwining” has already firmly in place.

      1. Don’t get smart with me. I don’t know what to do when people get smart with me.

  11. Boris Johnson is funny. So whatever he is saying, it’s probably good.

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