By Mohammad Mazhari

Key Western states turn blind eye to rights violations by friends: ex-British MP

August 14, 2020 - 14:46

TEHRAN – Matthew Gordon-Banks, a former British Conservative MP and senior research fellow at the UK Defense Academy says certain western countries try to “turn a blind eye” to gross human rights violations by their friends in the Persian Gulf region.

As civilian casualties increase in Yemen, the pressure is mounting on some Western countries like Britain and Canada, to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Canada sold a record amount of military hardware to Saudi Arabia in 2019. Britain has also resumed arms sales to the kingdom despite concerns about flagrant human rights violations by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

However, Gordon-Banks says, Western powers “hypocritically” criticize and even impose sanctions on countries who “are not close friends”.

“Key Western countries are willing to turn a blind eye to the human rights failures of their allies but hypocritically criticize, even raise sanctions against others who are not close friends,” Gordon-Banks, who now runs International Institute for Strategic Affairs IISA, tells the Tehran Times.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: How do you assess the relationship between the Western powers, including the U.S. and Britain, western Arab Persian Gulf states? 

A: With the exception of the U.S.-UK close relationship, I find that the EU may well have good relations with most (P)GCC countries, but overall, it tends to be a series of bi-laterals on the part of many all vying for diplomatic and trade influence both ways. The U.S. and UK act in harmony.

“It is, of course, hypocritical of the West to tell other countries like Iran what to do, when not following their advice themselves.”

Of course, it is hypocritical of the West to tell other countries like Iran what to do when not following their advice themselves. Also, when Washington breaks an agreement or imposes sanctions, it is very much expected European countries should follow the U.S. example.
A rare recent disagreement is when President Trump canceled a major nuclear deal with Iran, which Iran has kept to play internal politics with the previous Obama administration merely. The remainder of Western Europe has been reluctant to follow suit, including the United Kingdom.

The values of Western Europe's allies in the (Persian) Gulf appear to take no recognizance of countries like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its poor human right record; even to the extent of working behind the scenes at the U.N. to help ensure Saudi Arabia has a place on the U.N. Human Rights Committee. Much of these matters are historical, but it is time to review strategy all over The (Persian) Gulf.

Q: What is your comment on Western states' approaches toward human rights failure in West Asia? 

A: I consider that key Western countries are willing to turn a blind eye to the human rights failures of their allies but hypocritically criticize, even raise sanctions against others who are not close friends. In the long term, this is insupportable.

A number of key countries in the West have a huge number of people employed in the armaments industries and "war machine." There is a huge hunger by many Americans to go out and look for more conflict, to sell more arms, to destabilize other governments.
Q: How about Western countries' reactions to U.S. protests? Suppose if these protests were happening in Russia or China, how would they react to it?

A: Some criticisms by the West of other suppression of protests are legitimate. For example, China has not maintained as per one country two systems of government relating to Hong Kong. Elsewhere Western countries often around the so-called NATO axis say one thing to one country and do something else themselves. China is under attack after COVI 19 and the President being elected for Life. China economically is the biggest threat to the West and especially the UK and U.S.

“China economically is the biggest threat to the West and especially the UK and U.S.”What British and UK citizens see in their mainstream media is not fair and balanced reporting. Indeed, it is not very in-depth reporting, especially in the U.S. Thus, its peoples often do not entirely know what is going on in their name. Take, for example, UK and interventions in Libya and Syria.

Q: Do you confirm that Britain has been betting on the Persian Gulf after Brexit? 

A: I am very concerned about where British economic markets will come from, how and with what tariffs added when it leaves the transitional year soon having left the E.U. already. Our biggest market for what is very much a service economy is in the E.U. area itself. I do not see food being imported and having been grown in the (Persian) Gulf countries. I do not see Australia or New Zealand replacing current markets. Yet the UK will always want to trade with (Persian) Gulf countries, and it is time a more enlightened view towards trading with the Islamic Republic of Iran is taken. Sanctions hurt ordinary people, not elites wherever they may be. The UK believes it is a strong position to continue trading with the E.U., but at what cost?

Q: Do you think ordinary people are satisfied with British foreign policy? Are they aware of or concerned about foreign policy?

A: There is a hardcore minority within the UK that is extremely concerned about British foreign policy. We have been having too many wars and too little dialogue with countries we ought to be talking to, even if we do not always agree. This is especially true of our politicians as diplomats tend to follow the lead of the respective country of origin. I wish to see more ministerial visits from the UK and the U.S. to Iran, China, and Russia. Many younger people, millennials, are taking to other forms of media than state broadcasters to gain their information. The UK is in a better position than American viewers and readers.

Q: Why has Britain always pursued different policies from Germany and France in the EU? It is not an exaggeration if we say Britain follows American policies. For example, Britain under Tony Blair became a party to the invasion of Iraq led by the U.S.?

A: It is true that there often differences of nuance or even substance between how the UK, France, and Germany behave towards other key countries, especially in the (Persian) Gulf. France and Germany are on the European mainland and have a more pragmatic view of Russia's relations. Yet on the issue of the nuclear Treaty of the Obama era with Iran, torn up by President Trump, even UK is sympathetic for the detail to be stuck to. Perhaps the November elections in the U.S. may see a change. I think it is a choice between a war-mongering Biden team versus a difficult President Trump, but one less likely to start new wars.
It was VP Dick Cheney that pushed for war in Afghanistan, and Blair is still largely hated in the UK by people on all sides of the political spectrum for taking part in a war that was illegal and not approved by the U.N.

Q: Why have European countries, including Britain, failed to honor their obligations toward the nuclear deal with Iran after the U.S. exited the agreement? 

A: Circumstances made it difficult for the UK to "go against" the Trump White House view on the nuclear treaty. For one thing, the UK needs some American support post-Brexit. In Brussels, NATO tends to have a vested interest and hold even though its remit does not cover Iran and requires serious reform. COVID 19 has also made governments weaker, but I believe the UK, in particular, needs to "stand up" a little more to the huge internal deep state, with a vested interest in aggression, which we see today in America.

Europeans doing things differently will take courage. It is not impossible and renowned people like former nuclear inspector Scott Ritter have made clear that in their view, Iran has stuck to the Treaty from its side.
I have spent many years in and around the (Persian) Gulf, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The Islamic Republic of Iran is a very proud nation with a long history. Certainly, talk to them.

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