Francois Hollande’s ‘war’ with Isis won’t stand in the way of France’s arms deals with Saudi Arabia

Robert Fisk

Despite the President’s huffing and puffing about war the spiritual mentors of the militants will be left untouched

The country which lent its Sunni-Wahhabi creed to the Isis
killers of Paris will care nothing for François Hollande’s huffing and
puffing about war. The Saudis have heard it all before, this New World
Order stuff, way back in 1991 when George W Bush dreamed up the
sub-Hitlerian expression for the Middle East he thought he could
produce: an oasis of peace, a place of weaponless wealth in which swords
would be turned into ploughshares – or at least into bigger oil
tankers and longer pipelines.

Saudis are far too busy blowing up bits of Yemen in their crazed war
against the Shia Houthis to worry about the Sunni-Wahhabi crazies of
Isis. Their enemy remains America’s new best friend – Shia Iran – and
they are as keen as ever to dethrone the Alawite-Shia President of
Syria, even if Isis is in the front line against Bashar al-Assad. They
know that French foreign policy has favoured Saudi trade as fervently
as it once opposed the Iranian nuclear agreement – and that billions of
dollars’ worth of US military supplies will still flow to the kingdom
despite their countrymen’s links to the cult which destroyed 129 lives
in Paris.

If anyone thinks that Barack Obama is going to discipline Saudi
Arabia’s monarchical theocracy, they have only to glance at the proposed
$1.29bn sale of US weapons to the 79-year-old King Salman to realise
that the US doesn’t care to curb the kingdom’s ferocity.

It has largely stopped bombing Isis – surprise, surprise –but
desperately needs more weapons after burning up its arms inventories on
the poverty-stricken Yemenis. The proposed weapons deal – already
approved by the US State Department – includes Boeing direct attack
munitions and Paveway laser-guided bombs from Raytheon.

The Houthis, needless to say, still control a lot of Yemen, including
the capital Sanaa, even though the Iranian military assistance to them
– much trumpeted by the Saudis – is mythical. Human rights groups have
long accused the Saudis’ air strikes of indiscriminately killing
civilians – the UN put the total civilian dead at 2,355, each one, of
course, as precious as the 129 lives destroyed in Paris on Friday.

The Americans – and the French – would presumably like the Saudis to
kill 2,355 members of Isis, but that is not to be. The US Congress has
already permitted Obama to sell another 600 Patriot PAC-3 air defence
rockets – putting £5.4bn in Lockheed Martin’s pocket – although the
Houthis have not a single aircraft in their possession. The missiles are
presumably intended to protect Saudi Arabi from the Iranian air attack
that no one in the Gulf really believes will ever take place.

As for France’s new emergency laws, they will bother neither the
Saudis nor any other Arab nation. In a Middle East in which the local
dictators, kings and emirs – almost all of them the West’s allies –
regularly spy on their citizens, tape their telephones and torture their
own people, no one is going to care if the new Hollande laws restrict
the egalité or liberté of the people of France.

For the Saudis, the family battle between the Crown Prince and
Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef, and the 30-year old Defence
Minister and deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Saud – who has
led the disastrous Saudi bombing of Yemen – is of far more interest
than the future of Isis.

And of far more interest to France will be its own lucrative arms
deals with Saudi Arabia, where Hollande still hopes – forlornly, one
might add – to supplant the US as the kingdom’s main arms supplier. He
may think he’s “at war” with Isis – but the spiritual mentors of the
so-called Caliphate will be left untouched.

Hollande making the Sabre Dance during an official visit in Saudi Arabia, December 2013