Brits fear Gulf backlash over refusal to join strike on Syria

Special to

LONDON — Britain appears anxious over the prospect that Gulf Arab
allies would retaliate for parliament’s decision not to join any attack on

The London government has denied concerns that Saudi Arabia and the
other five Gulf Cooperation Council states could retaliate for Britain’s
refusal to join in any U.S.-led strike on Syria. Officials said none of the
six GCC states has raised this during bilateral talks.

Britain is concerned Saudi Arabia could suspend its planned purchase of additional Eurofighter Typhoons.  /
Britain is concerned Saudi Arabia could suspend its planned purchase of additional Eurofighter Typhoons. /

“We have no reason to believe that the UK parliament’s decision on Syria will impact our trade and investment relationship with Saudi Arabia,” the British embassy in Saudi Arabia said.

The British statement came amid concerns by industry executives that Riyad could suspend major purchases from British companies. A key effort has been that of BAE Systems, which sought to renew deliveries of the
Eurofighter Typhoon fighter-jet to the Royal Saudi Air Force.

The British government has reported a significant increase in exports to Saudi Arabia in 2013. Officials said British sales to Riyad increased by 26 percent during the first five months of this year.

“We expect that growth to continue,” the embassy said.

Saudi Arabia has led the GCC in urging NATO to intervene militarily in
Syria. Officials acknowledged that most GCC members opposed a Russian
proposal that Syria would surrender its chemical weapons in exchange for a
U.S. pledge not to attack the regime of President Bashar Assad.

“There won’t be any formal decision by any of the GCC states
against Britain,” an official said. “But the Gulfies have a way of dragging
their feet when they want to show displeasure.”

Britain has also sought to supply major combat platforms to Qatar and
the United Arab Emirates. A key deal has been an effort by BP to win a major
energy project in the UAE.

“The UK parliament and public are no longer prepared to give their
government the benefit of the doubt on military operations, and the
government will be constrained in what it can do in future as a result,”
Britain’s Royal United Services Institute said. “The consequences for UK
defense and foreign policy will be examined with interest by allies and
potential adversaries alike.”

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