COLONIAL FREEDOM NEWS
SEPTEMBER, 1957 3d.
BRITAIN AND THE SHAKY SHEIKS
The Oman affair started years ago as a sordid quarrel between feudal despots over the disposal of the Cadillac-buying oil royalties they hope might one day flow from the desert.
It took a Tory Government, moving with the sure, heavy-footed inefficiency that has become the trade mark of Mr. Selwyn Lloyd, to make of it a major propaganda disaster for Britain and a clear demonstration of the dangers of our paternalistic and out-dated policies on the Arabian Coast.
The Sultan of Oman asked for British help in dealing with the Imam, a reactionary would-be leader of the sheiks of the interior.
No legal right
It is doubtful if we had any legal right to interfere. The Government relies on a treaty signed in 1920, the terms of which the Foreign Office refuses to publish.
It is certain that once the RAF Venoms started dropping their bombs and sweating National Servicemen began marching through the desert, the whole thing ceased to be an unimportant private quarrel.
The Arab League unanimously denounced this " imperialism." The United Nations took note. The newspapers of the world showed Britain as a blundering aggressor.
THIS IS THE REAL DANGER THAT LIES BEHIND THE BLUNDERING CAMPAIGN IN OMAN
The Sultan has now won. But before the matter is allowed to drop, let us note that this is the third time in 12 mouths that British force has been used in the area.
In January in Aden British planes fought against the Iman of Yemen. At the time of the Suez fiasco, our troops dealt with an uprising in Bahrain.
This last was more serious than the others in that we were not settling a quarrel between despots, but putting down a genuine popular movement.
And it is safe to predict there will be more affrays involving Britain. We have treaties with no less than ten shaky sheiks on the Trucial Coast, apart from our obligations to the rulers in the Aden Protectorate and our "friendship" with Muscat and Oman.
More and more, as education spreads. British Servicemen are likely to find themselves helping to defend reactionary slave-trading rulers against the popular movements demanding reform.
Why should we interfere in this way — invariably on the wrong side and always greatly to our detriment throughout the rest of the Middle East ?
Because we need the oil. the Tories reply.
But the Americans, the French and the Dutch manage to get oil out of the area very efficiently without also bullying their way into the politics of the various countries.
20th Century facts
The facts are that in these modern times a commercial treaty is more effective without political strings — it is to the advantage of everyone to keep the oil flowing, no matter what the political situation.
But Oman has shown that the Tories are still a long way from seeing this, that they still cherish dreams in which the whole of the Middle East was inhabited by obedient children, that they still have compulsive desires to play at being policemen.
The only hopeful thing about Oman was that it was so thoroughly bungled. That even the Daily Express could find little to glory in and even the Times was moved to protest.