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The death, at the beginning of the year, of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, after a nine-and-a-half year reign and the accession to the throne of his half-brother, Salman bin Abdulaziz, seems to have marked no turning point in Saudi policy either at home or abroad.
With the change of rulers, things in fact seemed to have escalated to a worse state of affairs.

One wonders if King Abdullah might’ve been a vaguely moderating influence during his reign. Saudi Arabia isn’t a country that changes much or really even feels like it can change, but the late ruler was credited with having at least instituted some minor improvements, bringing about marginal advances for women and in education, though broadly failing to advance fundamental rights of Saudi citizens to freedom of expression and association. Abdullah’s successor, King Salman, however, appears to have no interest in reform or in social modernisation.

 
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It was curious that the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen came about just two months after the death of Abdullah, almost as if there were decision-makers just waiting for the elderly Abdullah to pass away. Abdullah’s successor had in fact been one of the most hawkish elements of the Saudi regime prior to inheriting the throne and had been one of the key pushers of the War in Syria.

To quote Human Rights Watch, since the death of King Abdullah, ‘Saudi Arabia has pressed on with arbitrary arrests, trials, and convictions of peaceful dissidents, and forcibly dispersed peaceful demonstrations. Authorities continue to discriminate against Saudi women and girls and do not adequately protect the rights of migrant workers. The country’s anti-terrorism regulations can be used to criminalize almost any form of peaceful criticism of the authorities, and dozens of human rights defenders and others are serving long prison sentences for criticizing authorities or demanding political and human rights reforms’.

Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, a young man who encouraged pro-democracy demonstrations when he was just 17 years old, is still, we are told, going to be crucified – yes, crucified – for that ‘crime’. When I first saw this story a while ago, I had to double-back and check I was reading it correctly. Sure, the Saudi state practises amputations and yes, it beheads people; but crucifixion? Since when? Last year when the Philistine thugs of ISIL/Daesh were marauding across Iraq and executing people en-masse and there were stories and images of Iraqi civilians being crucified in the streets, we all reacted with horror, marveling that such brutal, sadistic behavior could be going on in the 21st century. I did not know then that the Saudi state itself actually practiced crucifixion as a form of punishment. It’s a little baffling, as it has no real logic (given other existing forms of execution in the kingdom), nor any basis in Islamic traditions.

This is just one manner in which the Saudi state can be viewed as comparable to the so-called ‘Islamic State’ in parts of Iraq, Syria and Libya. This info-graphic below was doing the rounds in social media a while back and rather pertinently illustrates the similarities between the Saudi state and the so-called ‘Islamic State’, the only difference being that one is seen as legitimate and the other isn’t.

 
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There’s no real surprise in this, however, as the Salafist extremists of ISIL/Daesh are essentially a bastard-child of American criminality and Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi state religion and indoctrination programmes.

I’ve already posted at length about the influence of Saudi-funded Wahhabist literature on Salafism and jihadism across the world, as well as on the degradation of the Muslim world via the Saudi state’s dissemination of the most intolerant form of Islam. It has been clear for a long time that Saudi Arabia is the root cause and supporter of violent jihadism in the region and of extremist indoctrination across the world. The Saudi state, or agencies within the Saudi state, have been key players in the destruction of Libya, the war in Syria, the spread of extremist Islamist groups in various countries, and even the activities of Al-Qaeda (with various researchers indicating Saudi involvement in the 9/11 plot). And yet for all that, the Saudi state has remained the West’s key regional ally and has not once been subject to official questioning, sanctions, investigations or condemnation.

In regard to the plight of young Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, Jeremy Corbyn recently wrote a scathing letter to prime minister David Cameron demanding that he call on Saudi Arabia to “commute the unjust and horrific sentence”. But it seems unlikely the Saudi state will take heed of any such requests.

Riyadh has sanctioned more than a hundred beheadings so far this year – more, it is reported, than its Salafist ‘Islamic State’ offshoot in Iraq and Syria. At this point in time, it is reported that Saudi Arabia now executes someone every two days. Not that the Saudi state is the only one that executes people; Iran does it too, as do numerous nations, including the United States. But crucifying a teenager for the mere act of protest seems to clearly go beyond any kind of grim logic and into mere sadism.

No prominent American official has been willing to speak out against the Saudi government’s sentence or the plight of al-Nimr. When the press asked the US State Department’s spokesman for his thoughts on al-Nimr’s case, he claimed that he was “not aware of the trial” (despite the widespread international outrage). Please do contrast this with Western officials like Hilary Clinton, David Cameron, etc, tripping over themselves to constantly condemn Muammar Gaddafi throughout 2011 when he used force to try to put down a Salafist-led bloody revolt or the constant condemnation of the Syrian government’s oppression of political opponents.

The Saudi state of course doesn’t just reserve harsh punishment for criminals, but uses it effectively against political figures, activists or reformists. Mohammed al-Bajadi, for example, co-founder of the Association for Civil and Political Rights has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after being accused of organising a protest, while blogger Raif Badawi has also been given 10 years simply for writing some minor criticisms of the Saudi state. These are just higher-profile examples among many more.

And at the precise same time as this is going on, Saudi Arabia was recently and unbelievably appointed to the UN Human Rights Council.

Which is a bit like appointing Gary Glitter  to a child protection agency. It has also been widely reported that Britain conducted secret vote-trading deals with Saudi Arabia to ensure that both states were elected to the human rights council (UNHRC), according to leaked diplomatic cables; which again, as reprehensible as it is, is no real surprise, as Britain and Saudi Arabia have a very close relationship, as does the United States, which has openly approved of the Saudi position on the human rights council.

This is a country that has absolutely zero tolerance for expression, personal liberties or ‘human rights’ within its own kingdom. It’s also a state that has been funding extremism and ultra-violent jihadism in Syria and in Libya; a position that it has still not withdrawn from even in spite of the spectacular failure and catastrophe of its policy. Even in recent weeks, the Saudis continue to insist Syria’s President Assad ‘must go’, despite Saudi Arabia’s five years of billion-dollar funding of the armed jihadists having accomplished nothing but a massive death toll, enormous infrastructure damage, a refugee crisis, and the destabilisation of Syria, Iraq and Libya.

Moreover, this same Saudi state that is now sitting on the Human Rights Council is currently waging relentless and mass-destructive war upon the small nation of Yemen, at maximum humanitarian cost to the Yemeni people and with little or no accountability to the international community. Amnesty International has outright accused the Saudi coalition of War Crimes. And Human Rights Watch has written a statement on probable Saudi-led war crimes in Yemen here.

And to make matters even more reprehensible, Western countries have ditched plans for a United Nations-led inquiry into these alleged war crimes by Saudi Arabia and others in Yemen, instead backing an investigation by the Saudi-allied Yemeni regime. In essence, the Saudi regime is being allowed to ‘investigate’ its own War Crimes, which is rather extraordinary. Funny how someone like Gaddafi wasn’t also given that option for the crimes he of course never actually committed in 2011. Being able to investigate one’s own crimes seems like a privilege only few are afforded. To this day, the ICC’s formal accusation against Saif Gaddafi in Libya still stands, despite the remarkable lack of evidence, and there are still persistent calls for Syria’s President Bashar Assad to face war crimes accusations. Still not a peep about the Saudi regime.

Indeed, the fact that Saudi officials – presiding over one of the most repressive dictatorships in the world – can make public statements condemning the ‘dictator’ Bashar Assad for his regime’s oppression of its citizens is of course ludicrous; but the geo-political state of affairs is so ludicrous in general terms that it actually makes perfect sense. When organisations, states or rulers become so powerful and are able to act with such impunity, they become less and less discreet, more and more arrogant. We see that in Israel, we see it in Washington, but most of all we see it in Saudi Arabia, where a state that wants to crucify a teenager and that imprisons a blogger for ten years has the extraordinary gall to call for the downfall of the Syrian President for supposed oppression of his people. Which is not to portray the Syrian regime as angelic, by any means, but simply to highlight the absurdity of Saudi officials.

But the reason Saudi Arabia is able to behave that way is because it is presently all-powerful.

Saudi Arabia’s campaign in Yemen has killed over 5,000 people and wounded 25,000, among them many civilians, and displaced over 1.4 million people, with 13 million Yemenis now regarded as being ‘food insecure’. The invasion has caused 21 million people to be denied life-sustaining goods and services. Saudi Arabia has also further exacerbated Yemen’s humanitarian crisis with a naval blockade and a deliberate restriction of access to humanitarian aid. Doctors Without Borders declared in July that the Saudi blockade was in fact killing as many people in Yemen as the bombing itself. US Navy ships have reportedly been patrolling alongside Saudi ships to prevent arms from entering Yemen, while disclaiming any involvement in the Saudi-led blockade of food, fuel and medical supplies. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said more than 114,000 people had fled and predicted the figure could reach 200,000 by the end of 2016. 84 percent of the Yemeni population is in immediate need of humanitarian aid, according to Oxfam.

 
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Yet the Saudi state is subject to no condemnations from international powers, no sanctions, no formal investigation. The obvious double-standard in international affairs is extraordinary; but the Saudis being appointed to the human rights council in the midst of all this goes into the farcical and makes an utter joke of the human rights council and the UN itself. This is a world in which a rich, superior-armed nation like the Saudis can decimate a poor, sovereign nation (Yemen) for several months and not only are they not held to any account for it, but are actually *rewarded* in all respects. But yet a Gaddafi or an Assad, when trying to combat a purely domestic terrorism problem and committing no contravention of international laws, are portrayed as super-villains and come under attack from the world’s powers.

To make all of this even more farcical, it was the Saudi regime itself that largely funded the terrorism in both Libya and Syria. And this wasn’t covert; it was out in the open, with the Saudis and Qatar creating a one-billion dollar fund for so-called Libyan ‘rebels’ in 2011 to overthrow Gaddafi and creating a $300 million dollar ‘fund’ for the Syrian jihadists and foreign mercenaries in the same year.

And while Al-Qaeda was largely used to accomplish the ‘revolution’ in Libya and to destabilise Syria, the Saudi-led assault on Yemen also appears to have rescued Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula from the brink of annihilation, which is precisely what I predicted would happen as soon as the Saudi bombings began in March. While the Saudis claim to be doing this to counter a perceived proxy war by Iran and also to maintain stability in the region, had any other nation tried to do something like this with one of its neighbours (except for possibly Israel), there would be an international outcry and the UN Security Council would’ve gotten involved from day one. And, again, the Saudis themselves did exactly what they accused of Iran of doing; except they did it in Libya and Syria; and while they might argue that Iran’s influence in Syria might’ve been a justification for Saudi involvement, they have no such excuse for their funding of Libyan Salafist rebels and foreign mercenaries/jihadists.

The sale of arms to the Saudi state meanwhile provides further cause for concern; and embarassment.

The US has approved over $90 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia since 2010 and continues to steadily supply the Saudis with arms and logistical support even as the decimation of Yemen continues. The ‘Leahy Law’ prohibits the US government from providing military aid to countries guilty of “a gross violation of human rights”; however, the US continues to arm Saudi Arabia in clear violation of this prohibition, just as it continues to arm Israel, which is also in violation of human rights principles.

Washington isn’t alone in this; the British government is also arming the Saudis to a massive extent (and has been doing so for years); which raises the question of the extent to which British weapons are being used to decimate Yemen and carry out war crimes, as well as the extent to which British and American weapons are being channelled through to groups like ISIL/Daesh and Al-Qaeda in places like Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya and via the Saudi regime, which has been the key patron of those groups. Saudi Arabia is in fact Britain’s biggest arms purchaser, even more so than Israel. The Saudi state is said to have purchased some £3.9billion worth of weapons from the UK during the Tory-led government between 2010 and 2015; this includes fighter jets, explosives, bomb components and grenades.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence has confirmed it is providing technical support and arming Saudi Arabia in its ongoing war against Yemen. This site is a good resource for understanding the arms sales. The Campaign Against Arms Trade also has a comprehensive analysis of the UK/Saudi arms trade.

 
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The House of Saud ensures that global oil trade is conducted in US dollars, whereas Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein both famously threatened to do the opposite.  And the Saudis in turn pour much of their oil revenue into the British and American military-industrial complexes. Anything the Saudi state does is okay.

For further perspective and in summation, essentially the same Western leaders and governments who destroyed the Libyan state in 2011 for alleged crimes that were never proven (and were purely domestic), is nevertheless arming and endorsing a Saudi state that is not only far more oppressive than the former Libyan regime was, but has actively waged war on a sovereign nation (Syria) and is currently decimating another nation (Yemen), all while continuing to oppress, execute or torture its own citizens. More than that, the same Saudi state is being allowed to legally sidestep any investigation or War Crimes accusations and is even allowed  to sit on the UN’s Human Rights Council.

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And this is also the same Saudi state that has been disseminating Islamist/extremist indoctrination across the world for decades and is essentially the ideological root of Al-Qaeda, ISIL and all the rest of the terrorist scourges of our time.

The nature of the Saudi/Wahhabist indoctrination process has been the same for decades now. Saudi-funded religious or ‘educational’ literature and curriculums are distributed to madrasas and Islamic ‘schools’ in various countries, particularly poor areas such as in parts of Pakistan, Yemen and Indonesia, and are used to indoctrinate children into the Wahhabist interpretation of Islam; essentially the most puritanical and intolerant version of the religion. Saudi wealth funding educational facilities or mosques ensures that their material is used and taught instead of a more natural, moderate form of the religion, and this ensures the constant indoctrination of scores of young people who subsequently grow up with that form of Islam instilled in them, instead of the more moderate versions of Sunni Islam that their parents or grandparents might be familiar with.

This has been going on for a long time, and has also been allowed to occur in places like Britain either because the British intelligence community has wanted radicalisation of young people to occur or because the British state values Saudi Arabia too much in financial terms and so knowingly turns a blind eye to Saudi-funded radicalisation programmes. Again, this has been covered at length in this older post; but essentially a high percentage of the radicalisation of young men that has occurred recently in the UK or in many other places, can be traced back to Saudi money and Saudi ideology, and organisations like ISIL/Daesh therefore can be seen to be full of young men indoctrinated by Saudi materials from a young age; not the central leadership of ISIS, of course, which is primarily Iraqi and born out of the US-led invasion, but I mean the scores of young men from various countries who’ve gone over to join the movement.

It is worthy of note that key societies where this Saudi-funded literature and indoctrination was traditionally not allowed to flourish, such as Gaddafi’s Libya or pre-Civil War Syria, have now been destabilised to the extent that the Saudi-rooted ideologies can now flow into them and drastically alter the religious and societal fabric.

The point is that Syria and Gaddafi-era Libya were not highly religious states, but were more nationalist in outlook and were striving for many decades to be strong, independent Arab nations not defined by religion but by national interest, national unity and a sense of national/cultural identity. On the other hand, the various Saudi/Gulf-State backed groups now marauding in Syria and Libya (and Iraq) have no interest in national unity or identity but are following a purely religious/Wahhabist agenda to ultimately transform those lands into extremist/Sharia ‘caliphates’. This was the sole reason Saudi Arabia and Qatar donated that one-billion dollars to Libyan ‘rebels’ in 2011 to overthrow Gaddafi and the Libyan state, and is the same reason the Saudi/Qatari money has been financing five years of bloodshed in Syria (in concert with the US/Neo-Con game plan and the Zionist ‘Yinon Plan‘).

But while the Saudi and Saudi-aligned states have been able to act overtly in regard to Libya and Syria, elsewhere they’ve been acting more covertly for some time, creating the radicalisation and indoctrination in various carefully-funded pockets of societies via their immense wealth and apparent ‘generosity’ in paying for educational facilities or religious centres. It’s from this process over many years that the apparent scores of willing jihadists have been created in different parts of the world, allowing organisations like Al-Qaeda or ISIL to find a steady flow of recruits to their operations. This process is ongoing and can be seen even now in, for example, the way King Salman recently offered to build 200 mosques in Germany for arriving refugees, many of whom are Muslim; he offered no money for resettlement or for funding basic logistical or humanitarian needs, but specifically only for Wahhabi mosques. That’s how it works; that’s how it has always been working.

If Western governments wanted to end the radicalisation problem and the growth of extremism they only needed to put a stop to this Saudi-funded indoctrination problem and turn away Saudi money. Ironically, not only did Western governments not do this, but they actively funded and endorsed Saudi activity, continued to reward Saudi Arabia for its actions, and even directly aided Saudi-influenced extremist groups and terrorists in destroying countries that had for a long time rejected the Saudi/Wahhabist influence and money (most of all Libya and Syria).

 
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The US, Britain and key allies also went about destroying as many modern, progressive Arab states as they could in the years after 9/11, essentially ending secular Arab states and allowing them to be replaced by feuding Islamist militias and terror groups, most of which are either directly funded by Saudi Arabia or otherwise ideologically inspired by Saudi-funded Wahhabist material.

I wrote previously about what I have perceived to be the decline of the Islamic world, which I ascribe largely to the influence of Saudi Arabia, whose aggressive dissemination of the most intolerant strand of Islam has been wiping out traditional, moderate Sunni Islam wherever it can and creating sectarian breakdown in multiple societies that were previously existing in states of relative harmony. I wrote then, ‘This harsh, regressive school of Islamic thought is the ideological root of present-day radicalization on a mass scale. And its cardinal architects remain under the permanent protection of the US, UK and several other Western governments, while all of its enemies and all those Muslim countries that don’t subscribe to the Saudis’ Wahhabi-inspired school of thought are conveniently hounded or picked apart by international campaigns and then turned into ‘failed states’ that can be freshly *made susceptible* to the influx of that intolerant ideology. Societies that had no culture of religious extremism were transformed, via bloody destabilisation, into societies suddenly flooded with foreign-funded extremist agitators and ideologies’.

 

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A young Gaddafi (left), with Yasser Arafat, Egypt’s Abdel Nasser and the Saudi Royals.


 

The question of whether the Saudi state has been doing the bidding of its Western masters in all of this (a possibility that is amplified by the suspicious historical roots of Wahhabism in the first place, which is covered in this older article), or whether it’s actually the United States, the UK and other nations that are actually in bondage to the Saudi state, is a difficult question to resolve. It is probably a mixture of both; though it is worth remembering that the House of Saud was installed into power by Britain and the Colonial Powers after the First World War a hundred years ago, and it’s probably also worth considering that the minute the Saudis stop being useful the whole dynamic might shift.

Aside from the immense oil wealth, the other thing that the Saudi regime has always played upon is its role as custodians of the holy sites of Islam and the centre of the Islamic world.

Irrespective of the legitimacy of the House of Saud’s claim to the custodianship of Islam’s holy land (which I choose to regard as a side-issue), the Saudi state has done nothing at all in all these decades to stabilise the Muslim world or contribute to any kind of enlightenment or Golden Age, but rather the exact opposite. With the kind of money the Saudis and some of the Gulf States have had, as well as some of the other Arab states until relatively recently, an age of learning and enlightenment and broad reconciliation and bridge-building could’ve easily been embarked upon, encouraging the Muslim world towards a harmonious state of affairs where tradition and religion could exist beside modernisation and development; and creating a modern ‘Golden Age’ perhaps in keeping with previous golden ages in the Muslim world, in which Islamic societies were places of philosophy, intellectual intercourse, medicine, science and astronomy, at a time when barbarous Christian Europe was engaged in inquisitions, witch-burnings, torture, persecution, sectarianism and Crusades.

 
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Instead, the Saudi regime, in its role as centre of Islam and guardians of the holy places, has used its wealth and influence to degrade the Muslim world and essentially try to set it back centuries (in cultural and religious terms, not economic terms), creating sectarian conflicts within Arab or Muslim societies and helping create a perceived ‘clash of civilisations’ between Islam and the Western secular world, though it has of course done this in concert with the disastrous policies of its major Western allies, who – in concert with this long-term radicalisation programme – have been carving up the Middle East with invasions, regime-changes, and proxy wars (which is what 9/11 was ultimately for).

The notion that the Saudi regime is the protector of the Muslim world’s holy sites and its pilgrims has also become a farce in recent years, highlighted this year by the deaths of hundreds in Mecca, which the Saudi state chose to blame on Black African Muslim pilgrims, and more broadly by the fact that the ultra-capitalist Saudis have essentially bulldozed various historical sites and turned its cities into a sea of skyscrapers, expensive hotels and malls and centres for big money. This hasn’t always been the case in regard to Saudi custodianship of the holy cities, however, but seems to have developed over time as the Saudis have become more and more like Muslim/Arab supremacists.

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Why has all of this come to pass? The simplest explanation is that Saudi Arabia has continued prop up the US petro-dollar, whereas leaders like Gaddafi, Saddam (or Iran’s Mohammad Mosaddegh in the 1950s) all tried to be independent or nationalise their oil. It had been in a plan to prop up the value of the dollar that Richard Nixon had negotiated a deal with Saudi Arabia that in exchange for arms and permanent protection, all future oil sales would be denominated in US dollars. In a self-perpetuating vicious cycle, Saudi oil wealth is then channeled back into American and British economies via the mass purchase of arms. That’s the basic, surface-level explanation; there remains, however, a case to be made (or at least pondered) that the creation of the Saudi kingdom in the first place might’ve been part of a long-term plot, in tandem with the creation of the Zionist state and later the Iranian Revolution (which was only enabled by America’s covert regime-change operation to remove the moderate Mosaddegh in the fifties), for various purposes.

But if Saudi Arabia does rule the world, as I only half-sarcastically suggested in the title, it only rules the world for now; and only by the consent of key Western powers.

That rule might in fact be nearing its end, with possible imminent financial problems for the kingdom and the additional possibility that its own monster/love-child with the United States, the so-called ‘Islamic State’, might eventually return to consume its parent. Saudi Arabia right now might be comparable to the super-villain in all good comic books or superhero movies; because the villain’s arrogance and hubris is always the most pronounced and ludicrous towards the end and when their downfall is near. It’s then, at the end, that they typically commit their worst offences and make their biggest errors. Saudi Arabia doesn’t really rule the world, of course; but is part of a larger programme that does. And nor is Saudi Arabia really responsible for all the problems of the Middle East – there are too many other factors involved for the blame to placed just on them; the United States, Britain, France, Iran, Israel, can all be portrayed as just as much the causal influences of the crises – but Saudi policies have certainly been one of the main causes, especially in recent years.

Suggestions that Saudi oil may run out by 2030 might be contested by most experts, but aside from the oil issue, as previously stated, the very same extremist groups that have sprung up out of the Saudi state’s Wahhabist ideologies and have been used to destroy other nations may one day return to wreak chaos in the central nexus of the Islamic world. Such is troublingly indicated in, for example, this interview with an ISIL member, who says, ‘We will annihilate the Saudi Kingdom. Not a single Saudi soldier will survive, I guarantee’.

The illegitimate ‘Islamic State’ that has carved out parts of Iraq and Syria for its ‘caliphate’ will undoubtedly seek expansion of its territory, and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina would undoubtedly feature importantly in that design. So, as it happens, there is something worse than the current Saudi state. Perhaps that’s something that might be said about the Saudis in the future, if a worst-case scenario were to unfold with ISIL: that they might’ve been bad, but they weren’t as bad as what came after. It’s not much of an epitaph though.

 

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Comments
  1. […] but in the spread/import of extremist terrorists in Syria, Libya, Iraq and elsewhere. The Saudi role in the spread of extremism and terrorism cannot be understated. But the Saudis are only part of the […]

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