Delicate Relationship Where National Interests and Morality Often Conflict
Nonneman, Gerd, The Independent (London, England)
The relationship between Britain and Saudi Arabia - or, more accurately, the ruling Al Saud family - dates back just over a century to when the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz Al Saud, aiming to obtain counterweight to Ottoman attempts at control, looked to Britain as the regional hegemon.
Today, it is King Abdullah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz Al Saud who rules. Some 30,000 Britons live in the kingdom, with another 100,000 thought to go on the Hajj every year.
London's and Riyadh's policies towards each other have been driven primarily by pragmatic considerations of political and economic advantage. Certainly religious and political issues of conviction, matters of pride and intercultural communication have, on occasion, come to the fore - such as King Faisal's decision to impose an oil boycott, the furore in 1980 over the documentary Death Of A Princess, or the often ill-informed British media commentary about the nature of Saudi politics. On their own, such issues tend not to reorient policy very significantly or for very long. Yet they do have the potential to complicate relations even when neither government wants them to.
In some years, arms and related sales to Saudi Arabia have been worth half of Britain's total visible trade with the kingdom. The huge Al-Yamamah contracts with BAE Systems have been estimated to have supported some 30,000 British jobs. Yet similar deals also inadvertently highlight some of the more problematic aspects of the relationship.
Persistent allegations of corruption over the original 1980s contract against both BAE and members of the royal family fed into the often simplistic negative image-making in the British media. The halting of the Serious Fraud Office's investigation into the case in 2007, after the intervention of the Prime Minster, highlighted both the UK's economic interest and Saudi-British intelligence cooperation on the containment of violent jihadism. …