William Hague knew Saudi troops were going into Bahrain

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague knew the day before Saudi Arabia sent scores of UK-made Tacticas armoured personnel carriers into Bahrain on 14 March 2011.

On 5 March 2013 Sir Tom Phillips, former British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia (2010-2012), was questionned by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.

  • Mike Gapes MP asked: Did we, as the UK Government, at the time have concerns about this GCC intervention?
  • Sir Tom Phillips answered: Did we have concerns? Well, they explained to us the terms on which it was being done, that it was under the GCC mutual co-operation and defence agreement or whatever invitation. So we were able to talk to them about it. They also explained to us from the start that their troops would not be in "front-line positions", you know, at the roundabout. They would be protecting critical national infrastructure behind. There was a dialogue from the start.
  • Mike Gapes MP: So, did we express any reservations or concerns to them?
  • Sir Tom Phillips: I am trying to remember. As I remember it, they actually proactively explained to us what those troops would be doing, so the question of our expressing concern as it were did not come up in that way. However, I was not at every exchange on that.

As a result of this exchange, CAAT made a Freedom of Information request to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) asking for dates of meetings / correspondence where the Saudi representatives explained what their troops would be doing in Bahrain; and when and what was the UK response.

The FCO responded on 28 June 2013; the letter was accompanied by a press release issued following a meeting on 23 March 2011 between William Hague and Prince Saud, Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia.

The letter reveals that on 13 March 2011, the Saudi Arabian authorities informed the British Embassy in Riyadh ahead of Peninsula Shield Forces entering Bahrain on 14 March 2011. Foreign Minister Prince Saud also called the Foreign Secretary on 13 March. Embassy officials also met Saudi Arabian authorities on 28 June 2011, who confirmed that the Saudi Arabian forces had only been used to secure infrastructure.

With the UK-made armoured vehicles guarding the infrastructure, the Bahraini security forces were free to suppress pro-democracy protesters.

Page updated 16 August 2013
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