One would have a hard time trying to remember when the situation in the Middle East was even remotely stable. As the interests of various states get knotted up in this region, perhaps, some of them are trying to assume the role of “regional policeman” to obtain more influence among regional players. For instance, Britain has been trying to use its influence in the region to get an upper hand for centuries.
Once the Ottoman Empire was defeated amid World War I, the United Kingdom found itself consumed with redrawing regional borders by initiating the notorious Sykes-Picot agreement under which London established direct control over areas of the Middle East, including Palestine.
So it’s of little wonder that the UK still tries to pay special attention to the Middle Eastern region, as seen in July 2013 when the British Foreign Secretary William Hague would state:
The Middle East is vital to our national interests and security. It would be a major strategic error for our country or our allies to turn away from the region.
For many years, the UK has been advancing the interests of such Middle Eastern players as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Libya, while assisting them in conducting military exercises and providing their armed forces with modern equipment. It comes as no surprise that the United Kingdom has been selling arms to the absolute majority of states the region, with the exception of Syria and Iran. In 2010, the British government signed a deal with Libya and Bahrain for the supply of tear gas and light weapons. Shortly after the deal, this gas was used by the Bahrain authorities for the brutal suppression of local Shia protesters.
British politicians have long made a wide range of statements, commenting on Middle Eastern matters, which can be explained by the fact that aside from pushing forth their own agenda in the UN Security Council, they are generally ignored by local players when regional discussions and negotiations are taking place.
It is therefore not surprising that former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, after leaving office in 2007, advertised himself to the international community as the ideal candidate for the position of Special Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, despite the fact that he had no record of peacemaking activities to back up the claim. The West simply preferred to ignore the critical role he played in advancing illegal armed aggression against Iraq. The warmongering intent of Tony Blair in the destruction of Iraq was uncovered by the investigative committee of the British Parliament, led by the former Deputy Under-Secretary at the Home Office, Sir John Chilcot.
It comes as no surprise either that Tony Blair couldn’t be less interested in the peaceful resolution of conflicts in the Middle East, since his reasoning behind becoming a special UN envoy was that it would be beneficial for his business activities. In 2014, a number of former British ambassadors singed a letter that would demand Tony Blair’s resignation, which is curious since the UK has been doing pretty much the same thing that Blair has been doing, preventing the peaceful resolution of the Yemeni conflict by abusing the UN framework to ensure that arms sales to aggressors continues unabated. According to both the Guardian and the Independent, in just a year the UK sold over 5 billion dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia to provide it with an upper hand in this conflict. And then London decided to curate the Yemeni dossier to ensure that nobody pays attention to the mounting pile of civilian bodies produced by these British weapons.
Today it is safe to say that the UN is the best possible example of how corrupt international institutions have become. Any Western government willing to bypass the United Nations or just ignore it does so with ease, as we’ve seen in Yugoslavia, Libya and some Middle Eastern states. In local conflicts, the UN is no longer protecting anyone, while perpetrators of unauthorized armed interventions carry on with their bloody business, unpunished. There’s been a lot of attempts to imitate peacemaking activities, however such imitations bring little to no relief to those attacked or oppressed.
One cannot help but ask the logical question: how can the UK who is thoroughly invested in the continuation of the armed conflict in Yemen, be entrusted with helping to resolve this very conflict?
Jean Périer is an independent researcher and analyst and a renowned expert on the Near and Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”