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P2_Shard_261200k

In his darkly comic dystopian novel ‘1985’ Anthony Burgess portrayed a future London increasingly dominated by Arab oil money. In that depiction, many of the famous London hotels have the ‘Al’ prefix added to them (Al-Dorchester etc….) and the high society haunts previously reserved for bowler hats and tails, contain instead an elite of keffiyeh-draped Saudis, Omanis and Qataris.

Despite being dubbed a reactionary at the time of the book’s release, Burgess has since been largely vindicated. Even if not to the point of open sponsorship (the Al-Dorchester has yet to materialise), and even if in a quieter and more insidious fashion, great swathes of London have still been bought up by Gulf petrodollars and the ecosystem of superwealth implanted with a new easterly orientation.

If you look at the skyline of London today, you will almost certainly be transfixed by one building above all others – The Shard. This iconic structure, with its diagonal slant and cold translucence, is designed to resemble a shard of broken glass (hence the name) and is the most dramatic alteration of the London skyline for many decades. It is also almost wholly owned by a Qatari Investment fund and subsidiary of the Qatari state.

From this vantage point, the Daily Mail later described the extent of Qatari power across the metropolis –

“To the east (of the Shard), Qatar owns swathes of the Canary Wharf financial district through its majority holding in Songbird Estates plc… When Barclays was in trouble at the height of the banking turmoil, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) emerged as a white-knight investor, and became the biggest shareholder… Over at Stratford stand the buildings of the Olympic Village – once the Games are finished this summer, QIA will take ownership… Due west lie Harrods and, close by, No 1 Hyde Park, the world’s most expensive block of flats, also Qatari-owned… A sovereign wealth fund with tens of billions of pounds in assets and a global reach, QIA has already invested £10 billion in Britain, with more planned. Its influence is everywhere… If you walk into any Sainsbury’s across the UK, remember that Qatar is a major investor. It owns 20 per cent of the London Stock Exchange and, at the other end of the scale, it owns 20 per cent of Camden market, the biggest grunge emporium in the country… Qatar is smaller than Belgium yet seems to be laying claim to the future of our capital.”

Remember that this is only the extent of Qatar, a relatively miniscule player in the larger Arabian Gulf. It says nothing of the holdings of Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Bahrain, and Abu Dhabi, states and emirates also drowned in dollar bills and energised by the same strange religious-corporate mission.

Should we be worried? Yes, of course we should.

In a globalised world, financial centres and corporations are just as strategically important as naval ports, missile bases and army barracks. As well as contributing to its prestige, companies are integral to a nation’s combined strength. They provide – in the form of tax – much of the cash reserve necessary to launch, or – more importantly – to repel – military aggression. To have an increasingly Muslim-owned economy at this point in history is obviously foolish. It has the potential to override all the military advantages the West currently enjoys and which prevent the advance of stronger Muslim powers like Turkey.

This isn’t just a European problem. In 2004, it was estimated that 9% of the entire US economy was owned by the states of the Arabian Gulf. If Saudi Arabia withdrew all its investments simultaneously they estimated, the value of the dollar would plummet and the economic outlook of the West would be vastly diminished.

It’s true that the energies of finance are largely undirected and apolitical. Governments – even it they think otherwise – cannot intervene to make them adhere to a national security policy, and even if they could, it would risk leading to authoritarianism. Nevertheless, we do reserve the right to be wary of who owns what in our country, and to make sure that our most vital industries remain either under our control or the control of our friends. To this end, we can boycott, protest and make trouble wherever it suits our objectives. America and Europe must not become the debt-slaves of Eastern Sheiks. Especially not those Wahhabis who, even if they publically embrace the profanities of earthly power, privately yearn for a more spiritual victory.

D, LDN

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