When any military buys our weapons or signs a military deal, it knows that it is also buying silence, writes Andrew Smith
Amnesty International activists march with homemade replica missiles during a protest over UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia, 18 March 2016
Our strongest ever UK-Gulf ties.” This is how James Cleverly, the UK’s Middle East minister, enthusiastically summarised his recent visit to Qatar and Oman. It was a busy trip. While there, he was greeted by royalty, welcomed at trade shows, and rubbed shoulders with high-level dignitaries across both kingdoms. The visit was his first to either country since assuming the role, but it follows years of increased diplomacy and focus.
As people across the region are all too aware, the UK has never left the Middle East. But that didn’t stop Philip Hammond, then foreign secretary, from paternalistically proclaiming that “we and our European partners will be expected to take a greater share of the burden in the Gulf, the Near East and North Africa” as part of a 2014 “pivot” in UK military policy. Cleverly’s visit was the most recent step in the “return” strategy that Hammond had alluded to.