The real face of London’s foreign policy posture:
Britain is training Saudi Arabia‘s national guard – the elite security force deployed during the recent protests in Bahrain – in public order enforcement measures and the use of sniper rifles. The revelation has outraged human rights groups, which point out that the Foreign Office recognises that the kingdom’s human rights record is “a major concern”.
In response to questions made under the Freedom of Information Act, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed that British personnel regularly run courses for the national guard in “weapons, fieldcraft and general military skills training, as well as incident handling, bomb disposal, search, public order and sniper training”. The courses are organised through the British Military Mission to the Saudi Arabian National Guard, an obscure unit that consists of 11 British army personnel under the command of a brigadier.
The MoD response, obtained yesterday by the Observer, reveals that Britain sends up to 20 training teams to the kingdom a year. Saudi Arabia pays for “all BMM personnel, as well as support costs such as accommodation and transport”.
Bahrain’s royal family used 1,200 Saudi troops to help put down demonstrations in March. At the time the British government said it was “deeply concerned” about reports of human rights abuses being perpetrated by the troops.
“Britain’s important role in training the Saudi Arabian national guard in internal security over many years has enabled them to develop tactics to help suppress the popular uprising in Bahrain,” said Nicholas Gilby of the Campaign Against Arms Trade.
Analysts believe the Saudi royal family is desperate to shore up its position in the region by preserving existing regimes in the Gulf that will help check the increasing power of Iran.