The United Kingdom has trained dozens of Saudi cadets at a prestigious British military college since Riyadh began its intervention in the 2015 civil war in Yemen, according to a report by the British newspaper, the Guardian.
Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the civil war, has led to the deaths of tens of thousands and has contributed towards what the UN describes as world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence has not shared the amount of the money it received for training the Saudi cadets, but such cooperation is just one aspect of a close relationship between the two states, which also includes massive arms deals, and diplomatic lobbying on Riyadh’s behalf.
Here we look at several ways in which the countries operate together.
Training Saudi soldiers
The UK government was forced to share information on its training of dozens of Saudi military officers at the RAF school at Cranwell and the Royal Naval College, after a Freedom of Information request by the Guardian.
Such cadets are highly likely to become involved in the war in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is accused of causing the deaths civilians and imposing blockades on imports that have left the country on the brink of famine.
The UK and Saudi Arabia agreed on the sale of 48 British-made Typhoon fighter jets, in March 2018 despite Riyadh’s involvement in Yemen.
The deal has been under discussion for years but had proven tough to seal.
“ The Crown Prince’s (Mohammed bin Salman) visit has opened a new chapter in our two countries’ historic relationship,” British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said when it was finally passed through.
Anti-arms trade activists took a different view.
If agreed, this shameful deal will be celebrated in the palaces of Riyadh and by the arms companies who will profit from it, but it will mean even greater destruction for the people of Yemen,” said Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade.
Allegedly paying bribes for contract
The Al Yamamah deal between the UK and Saudi Arabia was one of the biggest arms deal in history.
The deal involved the UK’s biggest arms company, producing fighter jets, military equipment, and support services over the period between 1985-1993, and was worth $50bn.
In order to secure the contracts, arms manufacturer, BAE Systems allegedly distributed billions of dollars in payments to Saudi officials.
BAE Systems is accused of making regular payments to Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who was Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005.
The corruption scandal surfaced immediately, but the investigation was later blocked under Saudi pressure by then Prime Minister Tony Blair.
BAE Systems rejected all allegations relating to the bribes.
Despite international outrage over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the UK reportedly tried to convince Germany to lift its ban on weapons sales to the country, a move made partly in response to the killing.
Britain said Berlin could damage its commercial credibility if it did not lift the ban, according to the German magazine, Der Spiegel.
“I am very concerned about the impact of the German government’s decision on the British and European defence industry and the consequences for Europe’s ability to fulfill its NATO commitments,” British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt wrote in a letter to his German counterpart Heiko Maas.
The British foreign secretary asked for an exemption on such projects, to enable British companies to fulfill their contracts with Saudi Arabia.
Germany imposed restrictions in response to Riyadh’s role in the Yemen conflict and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.