Archive for the ‘Saudi Arabia’ Category

Did the UK and France get around the Missile Technology Control Regime in order to sell Saudi Arabia the Stormshadow air-launched cruise missile just by draining off some of the fuel to get the range under a key number? This should probably get more publicity than it has.

I’ve finally got around to reading Ahmed Rashid’s Taliban and Descent into Chaos. They are as good as everyone says. Specifically, there are perhaps three things that set Rashid apart as a writer on Central Asia. (His contacts book is outstanding, but then, he’s not the only one.)

First of all, he writes about Central Asia, rather than about American politics as expressed through the foreign-policy establishment. He writes about Central Asia in the sense that he places the complex regional politics, the competition for power among Pakistan, Iran, and Russia, at the centre of the story. In fact, you could make a case that the Taliban as a phenomenon is almost irrelevant; if it didn’t exist, and the political situation was otherwise unchanged, something else would be playing the role of Durrani Pashtun caucus, drugs logistical system, sink for Saudi malcontents, and Pakistani proxy.

He also writes about Central Asia in the sense that he emphasises the intelligent agency of the regional powers, the Afghans of all allegiances, the Pakistani political parties, and the intelligence agencies. This implies taking a very calm view of the actual extent to which the Americans ever controlled anything in the area – in fact, one of his key points is that the current chaos is largely due to the absence of a US policy in the 1990s, and in many ways, its continued absence up to 2005 and even now.

Rashid also provides an interesting view of Taliban sociology – his version of them is essentially another of the child-soldier and refugee camp movements of the 90s, strongly mutually similar across an arc of suffering from Afghanistan to Liberia. He suggests that their ideology is more of a substitute for Islam and for Afghan culture than anything else – a cut-down set of tropes for people brutally removed from the real things.

Of course, there are certain functions that any good tyranny needs to fulfil. You have to have outward signs, so that it is possible to enforce conformity and identify a hated target-group; it may actually be better if they are content-free, so as not to limit flexibility. You have to have exemplary violence, and again, it may help if it isn’t actually directed towards victory. Eliminating people for no reason is the ultimate costly signal that anyone could be a target. No tyranny can function without denunciation – arguably, it’s more important than all the other functions. And you need the possibility of competitive observance, in order to get individual initiative on your side. “Working towards the Führer” is the classic example. This may actually be a more useful view of the Talibs of the 90s – a sort of minimal dictatorship.

Finally, he provides an integrated systems view of the politics, economics, and societies involved. The creation of the Taliban, in his view, involved many overlaid political networks, those of the Pakistani trucking industry and its partners in organised crime, those of the Sindhi feudal landlords who were frequently investors in the trucking and smuggling business and also powers in the PPP, the Saudi-financed system through which international jihadis were recruited, fetched to the training camps, supplied, and sent out as cannon fodder to pursue Pakistani aspirations in central Asia, and the ISI.

From a purely Anglo-British point of view, it’s worth noting that he is very hard on the Americans about the intelligence picture available to the NATO powers in 2005 when Rumsfeld finally dropped his opposition to ISAF deploying outside Kabul. He strongly supports the line that, having maintained practically no presence there and diverted their satellite and other reconnaissance resources to Iraq, the Americans let 16th Air Assault Brigade deploy into a zone of the unknown, which in the way of these things turned out to be full of the enemy. If true, this is the second occasion on which they’ve welshed on the agreement under which the UK doesn’t operate its own imagery satellites. Rashid argues that there was a vital window of opportunity to get a broad-based political settlement in 2002-2003, which the Cheney administration squandered in the interests of invading Iraq and pleasing the ISI/Saudi intelligence services.

In general, I can’t escape the conclusion that Kashmir is still the issue.

Jamie Kenny watches the Lebanese elections and asks if the Saudis could spend so much money on British politics. The answer is simple: they already have.

Consider the original Al-Yamamah contract, and the famous National Audit Office report that was shown to two MPs and then buried for good. We’re still not trusted to see it. Consider all the many, many people around the 1980s Conservative Party involved with them – Aitken, Archer, Hart, Calil, Thicky Mork himself. Consider the whole complex of turds that was the arms-to-Iraq affair.

Then consider the BAE Systems case and, of course, Anthony Bailey, the lobbyist who integrated the Labour Party’s finances, the City Academies program, Prince Charles, BAE, and the Saudis in one dubious political kebab.

And look at this; Aitken clearly still wants to be an MP.

I may even receive some relief from the tabloids. Under the act it is ­defamatory to report a spent conviction if done maliciously. I shall not be ­rushing to instruct Messrs Sue Grabbit and Runne for breaches of this law, not least because I so often speak and write from the perspective of an ex-offender. Yet I hope that fair editors will think about their obligations under the act towards all ex-offenders before ­regurgitating, pejorative labels such as “disgraced ex-jailbird”.

How dare you threaten us, you old bastard.

You think things were bad in Pakistan? Think again; if Dawn‘s sources are worth anything, it’s now the policy of the British government, in the person of David Miliband, to get behind Nawaz Sharif and the Saudi lobby in Pakistani politics. We warned you; it looks like they’re heading for a kind of negative excellence ticket, like that time Chris Lightfoot and I were worrying that John Reid and Hazel Blears would get to be leader and deputy leader of the Labour Party.

The deal; Nawaz gets to be prime minister by hitting the squelch on his demands for Musharraf’s head, which can get awful literal in these parts. Mush stays on as president, at least until the army wants him out. And the elections might just be forever delayed. The Punjabis get total political control; the PPP gets to rage impotently, or burn shit down. Those parallel networks and Saudi intelligence links stay well and truly in place (they’re uncontrollable, you see).

Mr 10% isn’t sitting back; he’s pushing for elections to go ahead and threatening to take the bloody shawl on a tour of the Punjab, right into Musharraf’s and Nawaz’s back garden. For once he’s right, even though this sentence makes you wonder what the Urdu for chutzpah is: He snubbed the messengers and made it clear that he was not interested in any government office for the next five years and he would only look after his party. Right. And this is Lance-Bombardier Mirriband’s policy? Doesn’t he know Bradford is PPP country? Doesn’t he know Nawaz’s number one fan is the Saudi ambassador? This could go wrong in so many ways it’s not funny.

The Obscurer is usually Blairite Pravda, but now and then it does something worth reading. Have a read of this story. One Anthony Bailey, a rich PR man, is apparently running a Labour Party entity called the “Faith Task Force” charged with raising donations from the rich and religious.

What is fascinating is exactly what Jamie Dowson’s story doesn’t point out. For a start, Mr. Bailey claims to have raised £7 million for the City Academies program. Yes, the same one at the heart of the police investigation into cash-for-honours. And honour – or rather, influence – is what he got for the cash. He is, it turns out, an “advisor” to the Department for Education and Skills and a member of its “Gifted and Talented Task Force”.

Wonderfully, even Lord Levy was suspicious of where his money came from, rejecting a £500,000 donation to the Labour Party from Bailey’s own pocket on suspicion that it came from abroad, in breach of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 1999. That law, let us point out, does not restrict donations to a nonparty pet project like the academies.

Bailey appears to be the Vatican’s chouchou flack, running a supposedly ancient order of chivalry for them. But let that pass. What worries me more than that is his client list – including the House of Saud and the Syrian Government. Lovely. And what about this?

As chairman of ‘Painting and Patronage’, a regular cultural exchange of artists between Saudi Arabia and Europe, Bailey has presented paintings by Prince Charles at exhibitions sponsored by British Aerospace.

Paintings by Prince Charles? In Saudi Arabia? Sponsored by BAE? And this chap gets to “advise” government on the prime minister’s pet policy? Actually, let’s not let the order pass. His order of chivalry “bestowed honours” on Margaret Thatcher and donated charitable funds to “pro-life causes”. I wonder how much of the charity came from either the Saudis or BAE? And did any of that money wander into one of the Blair academies?

It all has a smell of John Latsis’s £2m bung to the Tories, which was also backed up by lavish funding of Prinny’s various hobbies. It goes without saying that the link with the cash-for-honours case is tastefully elided.

Update: Via Labour Humanist, Bailey’s official biography according to his website. And what do we find? Not only is he on the board of a thing called the United Learning Trust that has been given not less than 12 schools to run, but he’s an Ambassador-at-Large for the Gambia. Yup, that’ll be the same Gambia whose president claims to be able to cure AIDS by magic, and whose private Ilyushin-62 C5-GNM is on a UN Security Council blacklist.

Via Pat Lang’s, the American Enterprise Institute’s plan for yet another atttempt to secure Baghdad. You won’t be very surprised to learn that neither Lang, nor I, think very much of it. Peter Kagan’s strategy – a PowerPoint presentation, natch – is risible. The first and most basic fault is the frantic insistence on victory, victory, victory – there is no consideration of how it could fail or what to do if it does. This is Lysenko-esque. I know they say that if you fail to prepare you prepare to fail, but that isn’t an argument that if you prepare for the consequences of failure, you are more likely to fail. At every point where he is challenged, he simply asserts away criticism. Will it break the Army? It will not. No why given. Analysis of possible enemy reactions goes beyond trivial; he merely suggests there might be a surge in violence and attacks on civilian and coalition targets. No consideration at all of the long MSR down to Kuwait.

When he does try to think about it, it’s noticeable that, somehow, everything is vitiated of meaning. Apparently, the enemy might respond by launching attacks in already secured areas. Well, they obviously aren’t secured then, are they? That would signal the failure of the whole strategy. He suggests that better intelligence might deal with this threat – well, yes, and a pony. No word on how.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, General Chiarelli hands over to Raymond Odierno, who brought the 4th Infantry Division into Iraq after the invasion and was responsible for all those silly operation names like RIFLES FURY and PLANET X, not to mention the silly operations and worse they designated. The learning process appears choked with Lysenkoist crap – the change of command comes just after Chiarelli launched an effort to recommission some of the state-owned industries Paul Bremer’s merry men shut down, in order to cut the unemployment rate. So, it’s taken him his entire tour to get a clue, and now a freshly clueless general is rotated in to replace him. They did that in Vietnam, too. I’ve said before that if you want to understand Iraq, you nneed to read Neil Sheehan’s A Bright, Shining Lie – I get my copy out every so often to check what’s going to happen next.

But the worst assumption of Kagan’s paper is that “we must not be defeated in Iraq”. Kagan defines defeat as withdrawal from Iraq, which is a very silly assumption he doesn’t trouble to make explicit. If everything had gone as he and pals predicted, we’d have been out in months, after all. I’d agree that we must not be defeated in Iraq in the sense of losing a major battle, being routed, but this isn’t what concerns him.

What would the consequences of Kagan-defeat in Iraq be? The civil war would go on, and get worse. How this differs from the current position is not clear. Iranian influence down south would rise, as would Saudi and Syrian influence up north. Multiple tension would continue to exist about Kurdistan. This is no different to the current situation. Whether the worst-case scenarios for all of these came to pass would depend on how retreat from Iraq was managed, militarily and politically. If it was botched, we get most or all of the bad consequences plus a military disaster. If it was carried out in an orderly fashion, with regional agreement to contain the crisis (for example, the Kurds agreeing to continue their Shia alliance and abstention from formal secession, the Saudis and Iranians observing mutual nonprovocation) and the US forces in the region moving out to ships and existing bases (Qatar and Kuwait, but please, not Saudi Arabia), it would be no worse than the position at the moment, and possibly bettter.

Why “must” we not face this? Any discussion of operational level changes around Baghdad or tactical level changes in the streets must start with a discussion of what the total strategy is that these serve. Bad strategy cannot be saved by good tactics or operational art.

Well, where to start with my utter rage at the kiboshed Al-Yamamah investigation? It’s a total map of state direness, New Labour subtype: we have hypocrisy, we have a good day to bury bad news, we have cash, we have Lord Goldsmith, the professional get out of jail card himself. Obviously, this being a blog, we’ll start by abusing a leader-writer.

In today’s Guardian, we have Martin Kettle, who wants to say that we aren’t serious enough and we don’t understand how tough it is for politicians. In fact, our understanding is so minimal we will slide into fascism, and be raped by the dogs of a British Pinochet. No, this is not snark. Mr. Kettle actually threatens the nation at large with a British Pinochet, which put like that sounds pleasingly like some kind of baroquely obsolete firearm. Look at him! Look at Martin Kettle!, as Withnail would say.

I’ve said before that I’m not comfortable with the fisking tradition, but then, consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Here goes.

It had been Tony Blair’s day of infamy, the veteran pundit Anthony Howard told Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight. By yesterday morning, having drunk deep from Thursday’s heady cocktail of police interviews, discontinued fraud inquiries, and furtively announced airport expansions and post office closures, the amalgamated union of right thinking people all seemed to agree with him.

Well, count me out of this facile consensus. A difficult and politically damaging day, yes. A shaming day too, in some respects, particularly on the killing off of the BAE Systems probe. Further evidence of the Blair government’s terminally battered condition? Certainly. But a day of infamy? Get real. Kenneth Williams rather than Franklin Roosevelt spoke with more relevance about Blair’s real predicament. Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it infamy.

Ipswich Killer: “By yesterday morning, having murdered five women, I found the amalgamated union of right-thinking people all seemed to agree that killing them was wrong. Count me out of this facile consensus!” Yes, I know it’s tasteless. I know it’s not serious. But if seriousness and good taste are what Kettle defines them to be – and we’ll get to that – you can, ah, count me out of this facile consensus. “Seriousness”, “responsibility”, “consensus” – these are all words that are very useful translations of “in the interests of power”. Kettle:

The government has accumulated many failings over the years. Yet it is not alone. Especially since the 2005 general election, much of the wider political culture, of which the media also forms part, has failed too. As a society, we seem to be living through a collective suspension of seriousness about how politics and government should be carried out in modern Britain. This is doing sustained damage to our ability to think clearly about what we expect from politicians and ministers. Of course, some of this deepening disengagement and cynicism is the government’s doing. But it is time there was more honesty and self-criticism about the role of the wider political culture too.

The issues of the week exemplify what’s wrong. Yes, it is embarrassing that a serving prime minister should be questioned in Downing Street as part of a criminal investigation into political donations. And yes, part of the issue lies in the way Blair leads his party and his government. But the fundamental failing is not his. As a country and culture we have not worked out an open and fair system of financing necessary political life in a rapidly changing world. We wish for the end, but persistently ignore the means. Yet with a general election to fight in 2005, the parties had to act. The rest of us can afford to hold our noses. The parties needed big money in the bank. In that sense, Blair is a victim of our collective failure, not the perpetrator of his own individual one.

Note the tropes of establishment journalism, the false balancing (yes, the government has failed, but so has the media, and apparently the nation, every man jack of us, too, so no-one is responsible), the false generalisation that lumps the government in with the opposition, the politician and the bureaucrat with the journalist and the activist, the worker and the boss. Everyone is to blame, so nobody is responsible – it’s not new, but it’s effective, something bound to go over well at the Glasgow Empire.

So, what would have happened if all of us – tweed-makers on Harris, tarts in Ipswich, programmers in Reading, immigrant cleaners in the West End, unemployed ex-miners in Featherstone, BAE bagmen in Mayfair (they have rights too!) – had bent our minds to designing a state funding scheme for political parties? Precisely nothing, if the government had not wanted to find parliamentary time for a bill to make it so. Let’s be clear: Tony Blair did not find the parliamentary time for such, and he’s the man who decides. Of course, the opposition could have, but they didn’t – and do you think the Government would have voted with them?

The parties had to act, the poor dears. Well, they could have cut down on TV and billboard display ads, on tele-harassment, and sent the MPs to hammer the streets more. Perhaps they might have had to reconsider their policies, if they had discovered a lack of activists. Perhaps, with less money for neat debate-framing tricks and mass bullshit, we might have had some token of a real debate on institutions, aims and values. Who knows? Instead, they accepted bribes.

Or take the BAE Systems inquiry. Yes, it is humiliating that a multi-million pound corruption investigation should be pulled in the interests of keeping onside with the Saudis. Lord Goldsmith’s announcement that the rule of law at home has to be sacrificed to our failing foreign policy entanglements will haunt him – though he also says, and it can’t be merely ignored, that he thinks a prosecution would fail. The whole saga underlines that close relations with the House of Saud come at a price – which others remain happy to pay – that is neither politically perverse nor materially trivial. Oil supplies matter. Middle Eastern peace, stability and security matter, even though, Lord knows, we get these things badly wrong. Defence contracts and jobs matter too. It is too easy to brush aside the complex web of practical issues as if they are of no account. Ministers do not have that luxury.

So – it is wrong to kill the SFO inquiry, our foreign policy is failing, Goldsmith will be “haunted” (may I suggest a donation to Combat Stress? some people have had to do more haunting things than give the Prime Minister what he wants, when he wants it), but nobody should be responsible. Trebles all round. We don’t import very much oil, although we will more and more, and Saudi Arabia is not the obvious place to get it (Norway isn’t far). Obviously, if they were to stop exporting, the price would shoot through the roof – but why, pray, would they do that rather than just buying French?

The TYR research staff recently did a simulation of Saudi Arabia stopping oil exports, and we gave up at the point where the king was lynched by a screaming mob. It is not, by the way, beyond the bounds of possibility that they might export a lot less in the future simply because they run out – perhaps a more useful topic to direct a national newspaper column at. Anyway, “Middle Eastern peace, stability and security”? Have these ever been served by sending more guns? Is Tony Blair really the best man to ask what might lead to them? (After all, Lord knows, we get these things badly wrong.) And these jobs? Well, the aircraft being sold to Saudi Arabia are the ones the RAF was told it couldn’t have by the Treasury. They are not additional airframes. Had Lord Drayson not signed his historic piece of paper with Lockheed – on the same day! – they might have gone to the Navy. BAE would have got rid of them somehow.

Similar realities dog every decision across the political board. It’s what politics and government are about. Expand our airports or keep them as they are? Things to be said on both sides. Close down lots of barely used post offices or maintain them as a community resource? Pros and cons again. But in the end, decisions must be made. I think the way we raise political donations is wrong. I think the government should not have killed the BAE probe, especially, post-Iraq, for security reasons. But I can see what was at stake, and even respect its seriousness. The bigger the issue, the bigger the stakes and consequences, as John Major rightly said about withdrawal from Iraq yesterday.

This is not to maunder about how difficult everything is. It is to insist that we must not oversimplify. For the past five years, far too much of the British political conversation – disproportionately dominated, as ever, by the educated middle class of both right and left – has been reduced to an assumption of contempt and superiority, above all towards Blair himself, but also towards the Labour government and to politics in general. This is both wrong and dangerous. Our politics has never been as sleazy as we pretend, either in the Major years or now. Our politicians are not moral pygmies. Ultimately such talk paves the way for a Le Pen or a Pinochet – or worse. We may be drifting towards such a point.

Worse than Pinochet? Worse than thousands of dead, 40 per cent unemployment, electric shocks, death squads sent abroad? Apparently, we now have a duty as citizens to forget our citizenship, to ask no questions, to help the enlightened ones (and who the hell are they but the educated middle class?) in power in their aims – or face the slide to fascism.

The bigger the issue, the bigger the stakes and consequences. Very true. Doesn’t that mean that “the issue” affects all the citizens? Kettle seems to argue that the more important something is, the less scrutiny is required. This is roughly how the state functions, anyway – it is true that planning decisions in local councils go through tortuous examination and careful precautions against corruption, and civil servants’ mileage expenses are scrupulously audited. But the odd open-ended guerrilla war goes through on the nod. This is, at a deep level, the whole Kettle argument – that pomposity sanctifies. He argues that

The continuing and inevitable disappointments of the last decade have been legion. Thursday was a shabby day.

But:

It is whether the particular record of compromises and best efforts that they make over a generation means that they have passed on a better country than the one they inherited.

So if the disappointments were legion, surely things ain’t quite just so peachy as all that? Ah, no. We are the adults, and we know best. We are Serious. The rest of you refuse to realise our problems. You ought to be grateful. Peter Hennessy remarked, apparently, that all British males are products of empire. Kettle, here, is a very specific one. He is the Sirkar, the “ruler as the gift of God” in the Moghul honorific hijacked by the Indian Civil Service.

Within months of the invasion of Iraq, Saudi Arabian sources began hinting at a contingency plan to obtain nuclear weapons from Pakistan. Now, some more. I’m not sure whether to take The Business seriously, but they seem to have been briefed in some detail:

Western and Middle Eastern sources have told this magazine that, if and when it is clear that Iran has the bomb (or is close to it), the Saudis will respond by buying one from Pakistan, a fellow Sunni state. They would also likely purchase Pakistani ballistic missiles to replace the Chinese ones they bought in the 1980s. Everything is already in place for this to happen.

When it comes to nuclear weapons, the Saudi-Pakistan connection has been close for some time. Western intelligence services are now convinced that Saudi Arabia played a large role in financing Pakistan’s nuclear bomb project. Riyadh’s aim was to guarantee it immediate access to a nuclear arsenal to counter the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran. The Business has learnt that British Intelligence (MI6) already regards Saudi Arabia as a surrogate nuclear power, able to join the club whenever it chooses.

Riyadh’s long-standing links with the Pakistani bomb are only now being scrutinised. A senior Saudi who defected to America in the 1990s warned Washington that Riyadh was financially supporting the nuclear ambitions of Islamabad to ensure access to nuclear weapons of its own in the future. The Pakistani nuclear scientist and leader of the world’s biggest nuclear proliferation ring, AQ Khan, was invited to Saudi Arabia by its Defence Minister, who toured Pakistan’s nuclear facilities in 1999 and 2002 (the 1999 visit prompting a diplomatic complaint from Washington). A Saudi Prince was a guest of honour at a 2002 Pakistani missile test. Pakistan was given almost $2bn-worth of Saudi oil after the international community initiated sanctions against Islamabad following its 1998 nuclear test.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

Within months of the invasion of Iraq, Saudi Arabian sources began hinting at a contingency plan to obtain nuclear weapons from Pakistan. Now, some more. I’m not sure whether to take The Business seriously, but they seem to have been briefed in some detail:

Western and Middle Eastern sources have told this magazine that, if and when it is clear that Iran has the bomb (or is close to it), the Saudis will respond by buying one from Pakistan, a fellow Sunni state. They would also likely purchase Pakistani ballistic missiles to replace the Chinese ones they bought in the 1980s. Everything is already in place for this to happen.

When it comes to nuclear weapons, the Saudi-Pakistan connection has been close for some time. Western intelligence services are now convinced that Saudi Arabia played a large role in financing Pakistan’s nuclear bomb project. Riyadh’s aim was to guarantee it immediate access to a nuclear arsenal to counter the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran. The Business has learnt that British Intelligence (MI6) already regards Saudi Arabia as a surrogate nuclear power, able to join the club whenever it chooses.

Riyadh’s long-standing links with the Pakistani bomb are only now being scrutinised. A senior Saudi who defected to America in the 1990s warned Washington that Riyadh was financially supporting the nuclear ambitions of Islamabad to ensure access to nuclear weapons of its own in the future. The Pakistani nuclear scientist and leader of the world’s biggest nuclear proliferation ring, AQ Khan, was invited to Saudi Arabia by its Defence Minister, who toured Pakistan’s nuclear facilities in 1999 and 2002 (the 1999 visit prompting a diplomatic complaint from Washington). A Saudi Prince was a guest of honour at a 2002 Pakistani missile test. Pakistan was given almost $2bn-worth of Saudi oil after the international community initiated sanctions against Islamabad following its 1998 nuclear test.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

So Mike Turner, CEO of BAE SYSTEMS, and friends are moaning about being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office over the Al-Yamamah kickbacks. They are claiming that thousands of jobs are at stake if the Saudis pull out of their order for Eurofighters, and therefore the government ought to quietly call off the SFO and give them a free pass. God knows I’ve been critical enough of BAE before, but this is mendacious.

Right. BAE will not build any more Eurofighters as a result of the Saudi deal. The planes for Saudi are the ones the RAF decided it didn’t need, Tranche 2 of the original order. They could flog them elsewhere. Much of the cost is already paid, largely from the public purse.

But the Al-Yamamah contracts – the guns-for-oil deals – are more complicated than that. Al-Yamamah 1 and 2 included, essentially, a turnkey air force. Not only would BAE deliver fighters, and bombers, it would provide training aircraft. Not only that, it would provide flying instructors to teach Saudi pilots to fly them. Not only that, but some of the work would be done in Saudi Arabia, and the necessary technical experts would be supplied. Not only that, but Saudi maintenance personnel would be trained.

Another detail of the contracts is that they were signed between the governments of the UK and KSA, with BAE being a mere contractor to the MOD. Now, one trick in this is that if the civilian flying instructors – grizzled veterans in reality – employed by BAE quit, the UK must fill the gap with RAF officers on secondment, at the public charge. Presumably similar arrangements apply for other trades.

Since 2003, many of the instructors – not men who are easily scared – quit and left the Magic Kingdom, for fear of…you can guess. They were replaced. Please, King Abdullah, don’t throw me into that not-training-your-air-force-at-my-expense patch.