Minister for the Armed Forces Mark Lancaster visited Iraq, Bahrain, and Oman during his visit to the Gulf.

“Gulf security is our security”, Defence Minister Mark Lancaster reaffirmed whilst visiting Iraq, Bahrain and Oman. As part of the five-day visit, the minister also officially opened the UK-Oman joint exercise, Saif Sareea 3, alongside Oman’s Minister Responsible for Defence Affairs, Sayyid Badr bin Saud bin Harub Al Busaidi.

Defence Minister Mark Lancaster said:

“The security of the Gulf is of the utmost importance to not only regional stability, but to the world’s economic stability.

Our commitment to our international responsibilities in the region is unwavering. Saif Sareea is far more than just a bilateral military exercise, it is a demonstration of our commitment and will leave behind a legacy for decades to come.”

The official opening of Exercise Saif Sereea 3 signals the start of the UK’s largest military exercise in 17 years, which will see over 5,500 UK troops train alongside Omani counterparts. It is the largest and the most complex of a series of events which will see the UK Armed Forces work with every single one of its Gulf partner nations in a combination of engagements on land, sea, and in the air over the coming months.

Mr Lancaster also visited Duqm port, opening the Joint Logistics Support Base, which will support UK forces operating and exercising in Oman and the region, including Queen Elizabeth Class carrier operations from 2021.


  1. Good grief. We could buy our gas from the Americas and Norway and Russia. We are still extracting hydrocarbons here. Never mind other sources of energy. The Gulf is a sandy sh*thole full of hatred. We should steer clear.

    • You’re honestly going to suggest Russia is a better source of energy than the Gulf? We’ve got our oil from the Middle East for over a century, we have multiple standing commitments in the region regardless, and countries like Oman are amongst our biggest customers for defence exports

      • The 1950’s have called, can they have their foreign policy back please? 😉

        As for Russia I believe in diversity of supply. Would I become another Germany? No. Would I buy from them at a fair price? Yes. Why not?

        The Russians have never ever turned the gas off on Germany. The Gulf states did try it with oil in the 1970’s; not that it did them much good. All that happened was it forced other sources of supply to be considered and then utilised.

        You are right partially about defence sales. Some companies (and individuals) make a lot of money from the Gulf, and it is because of that HMG seems obsessed with tying us to the region. Post Cold War we shouldn’t have got out as soon as we could. Let the Americans stay if they want to be there. We don’t have the resources to make any meaningful impact there anyway.

        • We are now back in a cold war… The gulf states are useful as strategic partners. Russia is not (not while Putin is in power anyway).

          However we will soon not need to rely on oil so much and so ties we have to Gulf states will change from dependence on oil to them depending on our tourism and business.

      • I agree Callum, why would we give business to a nation who uses chemicals weapons on our soil and which could never be trusted when we have solid business partners in the middle east.Crazy idea Mr taylor, Russia right now is getting closer and closer to a nazis Regime.

          • The gulf is of minor importance for oil, it’s stategic importance is due to it being a major shipping route. Freighters have to pass through it to use Suez – unless your advocating reverting to sending shipping round the Cape of Good Hope, a massive and expensive detour.

            You’re correct the Russians have never turned off gas to Germany yet… It was the Ukraine they turned off gas supplies to, in winter.

          • @ Sean

            I don’t care about oil I care about the natural gas we get from Qatar. We should never have painted ourselves into that corner..

            And the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean aren’t the Gulf.

            I don’t care about whether the Russian did turn the gas off on the Ukraine. The difference between ourselves and Germany compared to the Ukraine is we pay our bills. Ukraine is bad news, something that seems to pass most here by.

      • The sooner Saudi influence in this country is gone the better it’s wealth corrupts everything it touches as for it’s damned “religion” don’t get me started grrhhh.

      • the way the u.k has botched up what should have been an endless financial asset for the nation the bounty of oil and gas from the north sea, instead as usual, most of the revenue went as usual to the americans.criminal mismanagement in this country is like the plague, its everywhere.

  2. Our ‘presence’ in the Gulf is purely symbolic. A frigate and a mine countermeasures vessel are target practice for whoever wants to take a shot at us.

    The Saudis have a very powerful Air Force and the Iranians have hundreds of anti ship missiles. We can be targeted anywhere in the Gulf.

    We should pull back from the Middle Eastern powder keg and leave it to the Yanks to police the area. Why should our sailors due to protect two-bit scumbag ArabKings, Emirs and Presidents from the anger of their oppressed and long suffering citizens?

    • You know there is a higher percentage of Americans incarcerated by their own country than Saudis etc. In fact more than any other country on earth…
      Saudi Arabia provides free healthcare, the US does not
      The Gulf states are all signatories of the Paris Climate agreement while the US is withdrawing.

      I am not saying that the US is not a great partner and ally but we need to be careful about how we assess the freedom in countries. This is also not to say that I agree with the way some people are treated in Saudi Arabia etc. However I also disagree with the way some people are treated in the US too.

      • It’s only a token force if you start from the premise that nobody else is helping out. It’s an international effort to police the trade routes.

    • You do know Britain trains Saudi pilots! And we sell billions in weapons ect!. They are our Allie!, and we have had the 3 mine ships out there for many years with a bay class RFA ship acting as mother ship!!, they help keep the waterways open in the region!!… and for you to think they will be attacked by Iran or Saudi Arabia shows you know jack shit about it!.

    • pull back? abandon ‘friendly nations? is that what you’d have us do? retreat behind our borders and hope the problem goes away. we are great britain not samoa. we should be glad that other nations see our forces as a valuable tools for their own maritime development.

  3. I am sure some of our forces will be happy to do some exercises in the ME instead of Northern Norway or Estonia in the winter. A few days of sun and sea will help, and provide different challenges. Oman is a great place to visit. A real country as opposed to the plastic s.h. DUBAI.

    I do agree we should not be repeating our huge political/military errors of the recent past. Our inept politicians do not realise limited our Armed Forces now are due to the recent and ongoing parliament approved capability cuts. Let’s not make any serious military efforts to supporting the M.E. A token ship or aircraft will not make a jot of difference when the real shooting starts.

    Leave them to it.!!!

    • The Middle East even with aircon is ‘orrid. Norway is much nicer.

      I think the Omanis would still buy off us. Also Oman strictly speaking isn’t the Gulf. And as we need to look towards the Indianian Ocean ‘we’ will always be in the neighbourhood.

  4. I do rather believe if Britain maintains a presence in the Gulf region in particular Oman, the royal navy could expand even more into the Indo-Pacific region. In my own opinion if Britain can maintain a large presence in Oman only not the Gulf region as a whole naval expansion into the rest of the Indo-Pacific region can be achieved

  5. How do we work out where our friends are. Europe or the Gulf ? It’s almost impossible of course but one way would be to look at who is purchasing military gear from us. Believe me when you find out what the balance of trade is with Europe and has been for a long time it will well and truly open your eyes. We should get a bulk order in for sunscreen.

    • Perhaps friends, a term I’ve used, is rather simplistic. Long term strategic partners like the United States, relationships of convenience like Qatar, through to basket disguised competitors like Russia. We can’t necessarily judge every state by our own standards but perhaps state sponsored murder on UK soil is a fair indicator of where states fall on the spectrum.

  6. Arms sales to KSA and other Gulf states mean that the basic rate of income tax in the UK is some 5 p lower than it could be.
    Ask Joe Blogs if he would rather have an extra 5 p in the pound in his pocket or a nice Politically Correct pink and fluff ruler in a Gulf state that he has never been to , never will go to and probably doesn’t even know where it is on the map and he will take the 5 p every day.

    Example from above ref geography… Oman has an Arabian Gulf coast line and a Gulf of Oman coastline. Both are very rugged and a great place to visit should you get the opportunity.
    Suez is in the Red Sea not the Gulf.

    As someone who has lived in KSA with my family and is currently living in another Gulf state ref oppressive emirs and Sheiks… you have no idea what you are talking about. Live there and then comment.
    The UK was no better when it used its dirty tricks and oppressive methods in Northern Ireland during the troubles. It used similar methods in Kenya, Malaysia and Palestine during the fights for independence. The UK has a long an dark history of oppressing others. Thankfully those days are behind us.

    • Considering the state of the Arabian Peninsula pre House of Saud and KSA, the current Gulf States are better than the alternative. Their is no rosier realistic scenario. The alternative to the KSA, UAE, or Oman governments is something like Yemen. Which is a tribal based dictatorship that implodes every 20 years or so in a round of civil war between the tribes.

      • Agreed. I’m a member of the Realist school of International Relations. Case in point: If we had just held our nose and left Saddam in power in Iraq there would be far, far, less turmoil in the region. He was doing his job – 1. Keeping Iran in check, 2. Keeping his thumb on extremist groups, and 3. There would have been no ISIS (which was born of the disaffected Sunni tribes and former Baath party military men in Western Iraq).

        Removing current regimes in the region now would triple the problems we are experiencing and probably spiral them out of our ability to influence. We need to recognize “good enough”…. JMHO


    • Where did you get your 5p increase income tax figure from?
      I’ve read that a 1p rise in the basic rate of income tax would raise well over 5 billion pounds. So I would assume that arms sales to the Middle East would generate the UK 25 billion bounds of tax revenue a year.
      I’ve read that according to the DTI arms exports to Saudi Arabia were £1.13bn and those to the United Arab Emirates were £260m in 2017. If all this money was paid in tax (in my dreams!) then income tax would have to rise by 0.3 p
      Why are our figures so different?

      • The figure is what the sales where and the additional revenue/tax from the UK manufacturers supporting those sales. The figures you quoted are export sales figures and do not including support contracts etc that have been running for many years.

  7. It troubles me that while we cut our forces drastically, we commit so much to the Gulf. I know we have interests there, but we need more strength in ships, aircraft, personnel etc to maintain effective & balanced deterrent defences to the UK & NATO in addition to other worldwide commitments. It smacks of mear tokanism & soundbite if we cut capabilities whilst spinning commitments.

  8. Where did you get your 5p increase income tax figure from?
    I’ve read that a 1p rise in the basic rate of income tax would raise well over 5 billion pounds. So I would assume that arms sales to the Middle East would generate the UK 25 billion bounds of tax revenue a year.
    I’ve read that according to the DTI arms exports to Saudi Arabia were £1.13bn and those to the United Arab Emirates were £260m in 2017. If all this money was paid in tax (in my dreams!) then income tax would have to rise by 0.3 p
    Why are our figures so different?


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