TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Dozens of Saudi officers have been trained at prestigious British military colleges since the start of the Saudi-led war on Yemen in 2015, findings by one of Europe’s leading research institutes in defense and security show.
More than 40 Saudi cadets – including a dozen who came last year – have been training at Sandhurst, the RAF’s school at Cranwell and the Royal Naval College since 2015, according to FOI, the Swedish Defense Research Agency.
The details were released following a freedom of information request by the Guardian that was initially rejected by the British Ministry of Defense but overturned on appeal.
However, the ministry still refused to state the amount of money that had been earned from the Saudi contracts, arguing it could prejudice Britain’s relations with the Saudis and that the financial information could be used by other companies or states competing with the UK to train Saudi cadets.
The release of the details comes as the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has become involved in a row over his lobbying of Germany to relax its arms sales ban on Saudi Arabia.
The leader of the Houthi movement in Yemen condemned him last month, saying it was not possible for the UK to be both a peace broker and arms seller in the country.
The majority of the 43 cadets have been training at the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. While the actions of Saudi air and land forces have had a high profile, the kingdom’s naval forces have been accused of killing Yemeni fishermen risking their lives to go to sea at a time when famine is ongoing, FOI said.
The Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle said Britain’s training of Saudi officers in the UK was “the tip of the iceberg of British enablement of the Saudi war machine to devastate the people of Yemen”.
“The government argues that helping Saudi prosecute its war crimes is stabilizing the (Persian) Gulf. This is a cynical, morally bankrupt and, most importantly, erroneous position taken to make money out of human suffering.”
Priyanka Motaparthy, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch, said, “These revelations confirm once again how the UK military is working hand in glove with the Saudis. Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt claims that maintaining these military links – and the controversial decision to continue arms sales to Riyadh – helps the UK government exert influence over the Saudi-led coalition in its disastrous war in Yemen. But there is not a shred of evidence this so-called influence is helping to protect Yemeni civilians”.
“In fact, Human Rights Watch is currently investigating repeated attacks by coalition naval forces on civilians at sea, including fishermen. These incidents follow a ghastly 2017 attack in which refugees trying to flee Yemen by boat were gunned down in a joint helicopter and warship attack. This apparent Saudi-led coalition attack killed 32 people and wounded scores more, including young children,” she added.
A ministry spokesperson said, “Basic initial officer training is conducted by all three services with participants from a multitude of countries, including allies and nations we have existing defense relationships with.
“The training enables cadets to learn how to be a leader alongside our service personnel, and assists in understanding and breaking down cultural barriers to improve military-to-military and national relationships.”
The UK has sold at least £5.7bn worth of arms to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen since 2015, according to a Sky News analysis of figures published last month.
Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia and some of its Arab allies, including the UAE, have been carrying out deadly airstrikes against the Houthi Ansarullah movement in an attempt to restore power to fugitive former president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh.
According to a recent report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, the Saudi-led war has so far claimed the lives of around 56,000 Yemenis.