IT’S appalling how certain stories don’t get the attention they deserve. Britain’s arms trade with Saudi Arabia is one of them.

With a General Election pending, no doubt the UK Government has more to worry about right now, but ticking away in the background, questions over the whole legality of UK-Saudi arms sales is currently the subject of an ongoing judicial review. For those unfamiliar with such a procedure, this simply means a type of court proceeding in which judges review the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body. In this case it’s the UK Government in the shape of the secretary of state responsible for export controls.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (Caat) brought the legal challenge in February, and now , some 16 weeks on, we are still awaiting judgement. This delay does nothing to help those Yemeni civilians subjected daily to a Saudi-led military campaign that has killed thousands, seen hospitals bombed and a siege imposed that has condemned millions of Yemenis to poverty, slow starvation and brought the country to the brink of famine.

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The plight of those caught up in this conflict rarely makes the headlines. Yet, in this southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula, the UK Government is complicit in what the veteran Middle East watcher Patrick Cockburn has called “one of the worst and least noticed crimes against humanity in the 21st century”.

Under UK arms export licensing rules, weapons should not be exported if there is a “clear risk” they will be used to commit “serious violations of international humanitarian law” (IHL), the rules that govern war. Since the start of the conflict in Yemen in 2015, Britain has approved export licences for arms worth £3.1 billion to Saudi Arabia. This figure is significant on a number of levels.

Whenever I find myself in discussions or writing here about Britain’s arms trade with Saudi Arabia, I almost always come across the same arguments wheeled out from among those opposed to any ban. First and foremost is that if the UK didn’t flog the Saudis their weapons of mass destruction, then they would simply buy them from someone else, putting British jobs on the line. Putting aside the purely moral argument over selling arms, as Andrew Smith, a spokesman for Caat has made clear, arms sales don’t just provide military support, they also send a message of political support for the buyer.

Anyone who doubts this need only look at a 2013 Foreign Affairs Committee report into arms exports to Bahrain. “Both the government and the opposition in Bahrain view UK defence sales as a signal of British support for the government,” the report concluded. While this might have been about Bahrain, it applies just as readily to Saudi Arabia and any other country buying UK arms.

Another factor worth considering for those putting forward the “jobs” argument. s that while the arms export trade may have been booming under the Tory Government, the number of jobs created by exports has been falling steadily for years. Other industries would be more than willing recipients of the kinds of government support given to defence deals, and many of the same engineering skill sets are required in other sector. There are those too who will always refer to oil as the crucial factor, but often they forget than in this regard and in a shifting marketplace the Saudis depend more on Western buyers than many realise.

For those in favour of arms deals with the Saudis, their jobs or oil argument usually runs in tandem with another that claims our intelligence sharing with Riyadh helps keep Britain’s streets safe from terrorism. In this regard we really do need to take a long hard look at ourselves and start by realising that Saudi Arabia is already bound by international law under UN resolution 1373 to work with the UK and other states to help prevent terrorist attacks.

Anyway, whether you buy into the idea that Saudi Arabia is the kind of committed, fully signed up partner to such an obligation, as Riyadh would have us believe, is quite another matter. The simple inescapable fact is that Saudi Arabia remains one of the biggest state sponsors of Islamist-inspired terrorism in the world today.

While not all Sunni extremist movements find their roots in Wahhabism, the puritanical and regressive type of Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia, it remains the source of most radical Islamic extremism and forms the basis of groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS). Ultimately it’s from Wahhabism that those who bring terror to Britain’s streets find their inspiration. People like Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber of the Manchester Arena, to mention but one.

People can bang on all they like about the importance of intelligence sharing with the Saudis, and doubtless the UK has on occasion benefited, but there is just no getting away from the fact that Riyadh has always been utterly duplicitous with regard to being part of the “team” combatting jihadist-inspired terror.

Every year Saudi Arabia spends millions on public relations firms in order to ensure it is not viewed as a state sponsor, or even enabler, of terrorism. Some seem only too willing to be convinced by this grand campaign of illusion and duplicity.

It really is time Theresa May and others in the UK and elsewhere stopped lauding Saudi Arabia’s efforts in regard to fighting terrorism as a genuine partnership. It is nothing of the sort.

The bottom line here is that the UK’s security strategy cannot be dependent on arms exports and providing uncritical political support to a country that violates international humanitarian law abroad, and at home has one of the world’s most brutal and repressive human rights records.

A few months ago in February, just around the same time as the judicial review was getting under way, a poll conducted by Opinium revealed that 62 per cent of UK adults oppose arms exports to Saudi Arabia, with only 11 per cent of participants supporting them.

How wonderful it would be if those judges presiding over the judicial review brought home a decision that reflected these concerns of ordinary people. What a message it would send out to the world about what is happening in Yemen.