The Prospect of Britain’s Withdrawal
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In November 1965 the British Government made a decision that significantly changed the military framework on which Britain’s policy in the Persian Gulf was based, when it agreed to give up the military base in Aden by 1968.1 This decision was taken in the context of the Defence Review that was being conducted by the Cabinet Defence and Oversea Policy Committee as a result of the Chequers conference of November 1964. During his election campaign, the new Labour prime minister, Harold Wilson, had stressed that a government under his leadership would maintain Britain’s military presence East of Suez,2 and, once elected, he assured the House of Commons that Britain could not afford to relinquish its world role.3 However, it soon turned out that it would not be easy for him to keep this promise, given the grave financial difficulties that the Labour Cabinet had inherited from its Conservative predecessors. Faced with a balance of payments deficit of £800 million, Wilson scheduled a meeting with all senior ministers who were concerned with defence issues, and they gathered at Chequers on 21 and 22 November 1964 to discuss Britain’s defence expenditure and commitments. During this conference, Wilson accepted the warnings of the Treasury and the newly created Department of Economic Affairs that because of the precarious financial situation, the British defence budget could not be allowed to continue increasing at the present rate.
KeywordsSaudi Arabia Arabian Peninsula Local Ruler Protected State Military Presence
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