What will happen to the world’s oil and gas supply if the US follows this UK rhetoric?
From the Guardian
Prime minister will tell Kuwait national assembly that Britain was wrong to prop up ‘highly controlling regimes’ as way of ensuring stability
* Nicholas Watt in Kuwait
Britain has been guilty of a prejudice bordering on racism for believing that Muslims cannot manage democracy, David Cameron will say as he recasts foreign policy in light of protests across the Arab world.
In a speech at the national assembly in Kuwait, the prime minister will abandon decades of so-called “camel corps” diplomacy by saying Britain was wrong to prop up “highly controlling regimes” as a way of ensuring stability.
Cameron – who is facing anger in the UK for placing defence exports at the heart of his long-planned visit to the Gulf – will use the speech to show that Britain is promoting political reform in the region.
The prime minister, who attended a ceremony in Kuwait with Sir John Major to mark the 20th anniversary of the first Gulf war, said: “Now, once again, this region is the epicentre of momentous changes, but pursued in a very different way. History is sweeping through your neighbourhood.”
Cameron, who on Monday visited the scene of the demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Cairo that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, said the protests had highlighted a hunger for freedom across the Middle East.
He depicted the protests as “movements of the people” that were not ideological or extremist.
But he indicated that the demonstrations presented a challenge for Britain as he dismissed as a “false choice” the old calculation that authoritarian regimes needed to be supported as the price of ensuring stability.
“For decades, some have argued that stability required controlling regimes and that reform and openness would put that stability at risk,” Cameron said.
“So, the argument went, countries like Britain faced a choice between our interests and our values. And to be honest, we should acknowledge that sometimes we have made such calculations in the past.”
He added: “But I say that is a false choice. As recent events have confirmed, denying people their basic rights does not preserve stability – rather, the reverse.”
The prime minister said Britain and other western countries cannot impose any democratic model on the Arab world, but stressed: “That’s not an excuse, as some would argue, to claim that Arabs or Muslims can’t do democracy – the so-called Arab exception.
“For me, that’s a prejudice that borders on racism. It’s offensive and wrong and it’s simply not true.”
Cameron’s speech has been designed to lay to rest decades of British foreign policy which held that authoritarian regimes in the Gulf must be supported to guarantee stability. The strongest example is Britain’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia.
The prime minister will not be visiting Saudi Arabia during his three-day tour of the Gulf. This is because King Abdullah is in poor health and not because Cameron wants to distance the UK from the kingdom.
He is also distancing himself from US neocons who believe democracy can be imposed.
Cameron outlined his thinking on this issue on Monday in Cairo, when he said: “Democracy is an important part of our foreign policy.
“But I am not a naive neocon who thinks you can drop democracy out of an aeroplane at 40,000ft or that, simply by holding an election, you have satisfied the needs of democracy. You have had plenty of elections in Egypt, but that does not mean you have had a functioning democracy.”
He developed this theme in his speech at the Kuwaiti national assembly in which he said the “building blocks” of democracy – an independent judiciary, free media and a “proper place” for the army – had to be laid with care.
“Democracy is the work of patient craftmanship – it has to be built from the grassroots up,” he said. “It can’t be done overnight.”
The prime minister outlined his approach to foreign policy in Kuwait because Britain believes its national assembly is a strong example of democracy in the Gulf.
Its 50 members are elected by universal suffrage, though the majority of the population, many of whom come from the Indian sub-continent, do not have the vote. There are four woman members.
The Kuwaiti prime minister, Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmed al-Sabah, who was summoned for a grilling last year, only survived a confidence vote by 25 votes to 23.