The Business of Politics and the Politics of Business
: Anglo-Saudi Relations in the Contemporary Era, 1991 -2006

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the Anglo-Saudi bilateral relationship in the political, security and economic spheres in the period between 1990 and 2006. This was a decade and a half that saw the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent US-led international coalition to remove him from Saudi Arabia’s smaller neighbour. It also saw the birth of Saudi-born al-Qaeda, the September 2001 (9/11) attacks on the United States and the subsequent US-led invasion of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003). All of these events had a profound impact on Saudi Arabia’s security situation. But they also impacted on the socio-economic direction of the country and forced the nation to look inwards to identify its failings as well as its strengths. Through all this Britain was one of the external parties that worked most closely with the Saudi leadership in every sphere. As chapter one of this thesis shows, the British engagement with the founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz AlSaud (aka Ibn Saud), can be traced back to the very beginning of his rise to greatness. As the dominant western power in the Middle East at the start of the twentieth century, Britain had a major influence on the evolution of the Saudi state in its earliest years. This chapter highlights the highs and lows in the bilateral relationship both in the years between World War I and II and during the Cold War era as Britain saw its status as the dominant western player in the Middle East be superseded by the United States. This chapter ends on the eve of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Chapter two examines the bilateral Anglo-Saudi relationship in the context of this unprecedented crisis. Chapter three examines the economic relationship between these two countries from the end of the Gulf crisis of the early 1990s until the end of the period under study in 2006. In particular, it examines this important issue in terms of the arms trade between the two countries and the record breaking al-Yamamah arms deal of the 1980s and 1990s. Chapters 4 and 5 looks at the strains and tensions, as well as opportunities for cooperation, in the areas of counter-terrorism, human rights and democratisation that followed the 9/11 attacks on the US. Chapter 6 examines how the US-led invasion of Iraq impacted on bilateral relations between London and Riyadh. Throughout the major contention at the heart of this thesis is that despite major strains and stresses on bilateral relations, Anglo-Saudi ties between 1990 and 2006 not only developed positively in many areas but flourished.
Date of Award2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorRory Miller (Supervisor)

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