British – Saudi relationship on the rocks

The Saudi ambassador to the UK has claimed that he has witnessed an “alarming change” in the British attitude towards Saudi Arabia, warning that a continuing attitude problem could have serious repercussions for the British Isles.

Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, writing in the Daily Telegraph, spoke about the British refusing to continue with training Saudi prison guards, a move which was apparently influenced by new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

The defiant Saudi Prince seemed to enjoy the posturing stance he was able to take up in the British paper, suggesting that his country would “not be lectured by anyone.”

Saudi is notorious for its human rights abuses and archaic laws dictated by teachings from thousands of years ago. Many human rights organisations, and indeed countries like the UK, have questioned the validity of such outdated laws, and point to the Saudi refusal to move into the 21st century as a barrier between their acceptance by the modern world as a country to be taken seriously.

Under pressure

The UK has put Saudi under continual pressure in relation to its human rights record, its penchant for public beheading and the treatment of expats and nationals who break the law, although it has always been tempered by its need to keep relations open so as oil can be imported.

The prince also said his country “always had to deal with a lack of understanding and misconceptions”, although quite what they are was not put forward. He went on to point out that the Saudis respect the UK’s traditions and laws, and he expects the same courtesy to be extended.

The UK’s traditions and laws have historically been readily updated to set the country up to accept people from all cultures, traditions and values to help its international appeal, to make it a leader in civilised behaviour, and making it one of the safest and most welcoming nations in the world.


The repressive nature of Saudi Arabia is one that has a number of critics, not just from political backgrounds. Saudi’s treatment of their people, women and their general outlook on the rest of the world are all aspects that have not done much to win favour with the Great British public, and many would sooner see ties severed with the country altogether.

This will not happen in the foreseeable future, because Britain does still have a reliance on the fuel coming out of the country. But this won’t last long. The cost of fracking in the US has continued to tumble with advancements in the technology, and Saudi’s terrible misjudgement on the threat of the new technology and dwindling barrel cost looks set to be detrimental to their long-term future as a country with any kind of global hold.

No diversity

The country relies on oil for a staggering 90% of its revenue, and it is its failure to diversify its business interests (which would require an awful lot of amendments to its laws in order to gain traction for global appeal) could easily result in future bankruptcy, according to global economists. In spite of the gathering clouds, King Salman recently shelled out $32 billion in a coronation bonus for national pensioners and workers.

The future of Saudi as a potential global power is uncertain at best. They are currently engaged in a number of costly wars, as well as a long running battle with Iran to take control of the Middle East, which threatens to boil over at any moment. They are also seeking to build their military capabilities, reliant completely on foreign imported weapons, in the hope that it will become the fifth most well-equipped in the world. This doesn’t come cheap.

If and when the global requirement for oil from Saudi relinquishes, it will be an extremely interesting moment. While, in the Gulf posturing and flexing is something accepted and encouraged, in the international world it is not received half as well, merely serving to further dilute the already thin appeal of the nation.

Will developed countries such as the UK wish to accommodate Saudi when they have nothing to offer them? Or will the country effectively move backwards 50 years to the time before the discovery of oil? It would be a brave prediction to suggest not.