Britain Never Left Persian Gulf

New base, but Royal Navy have had presence for some time.

Back in Bahrain? Britain Never Left Persian Gulf

Peter Harris

It was announced earlier this month that Britain would establish its first permanent military base in the Middle East since the 1970s.  Located at the port of Mina Salman in Bahrain, the naval installation will be a boon to the Royal Navy’s efforts to police the strategically (and commercially) important sea lanes of the Persian Gulf.  While a meaningful development, however, the base’s implications should not be overstated.

On its face, news of a British return to the Middle East could raise some eyebrows.  In 1968, the Labour government of Harold Wilson announced its intention to withdraw “East of Aden” (in fact, British troops had ignominiously been forced to pull out of Aden itself in 1967 following a local uprising), an overdue response to Britain’s waning global influence and the country’s dire financial footing.  Concomitant with this strategic withdrawal, Britain came to rely much more on cooperation with Commonwealth nations—as well as, of course, the United States—to ensure the security of the Indian Ocean from the Persian Gulf to the Malacca Strait.  With London now set to recreate a permanent presence in the region, does this mean a resurgence of British influence and assertiveness in the region?

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