Interestingly, though, while the Tunisians were having a revolution and the Egyptians were planning one, the British Government was actually giving detailed consideration to a contingency plan for evacuating UK nationals from a major crisis in the Middle East. If this story in the Daily Telegraph from the 28th of December can be trusted (now there’s an if…), that is.
The only problem is that they got the wrong country and the wrong kind of crisis. The planners were supposedly looking at the problem of evacuating British citizens from Dubai and the UAE more broadly, in the event of a war between the UAE or its allies and Iran. Could they have got it more wrong?
This does, of course, reveal a great deal of the thinking. “Our” dictators were fundamentally stable and non-problematic, and any problems would be the work of international terrorists or Iran or some other alien bogeyman. The article refers to a defence cooperation agreement to be signed with the UAE in “the first half of 2011” - perhaps on Cameron’s Democracy: Free with Every Barrel of Teargas tour? - and states that it’s considered so much a priority it’s been “protected from defence cuts”.
Apparently we’d be helping keep the UAE’s infrastructure running under attack - because Boris Johnson’s done such a great job on London, after all. William Hague is named as a big fan of the project, which is probably because the French already have such an agreement and are building up a base in the country. Theirs is in Abu Dhabi, the Mr. Serious of the UAE. Presumably ours is going to be in Dubai, the Las Vegas of the Gulf. Different priorities, eh.
The evacuation plan itself sounds…impressive. Apparently, it includes cruise liners being taken up from trade and anchored in the Gulf of Oman and convoys of evacuees moving over land to join them. It is actually a very good point that there are several countries with large UK expatriate populations and that this is a foreign policy problem.