Monday 3 May 2010
An archive of secret papers which shed new light on Britain’s role in the formation of Iraq and Saudi Arabia has been unearthed after almost 90 years.
The documents, relating to talks between the diplomat Sir Gilbert Clayton and Ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia, show that many of the most delicate issues in the region, including munitions and oil, were just as pertinent in the 1920s as they would become in the 21st century.
Sir Gilbert’s delicate negotiations included references to Iraq’s difficult relationship with its neighbours, arguments about Britain’s presence in Iraq and the area’s emerging importance as a centre of oil production.
In a scenario which would be repeated with Saddam Hussein almost eight decades on, there were also fears that British armaments sold to the region’s rulers could later be used against British forces in any future conflict.
The archive, which has been in private hands since it was declassified more than 30 years ago, is to be sold at auction by Sotheby’s in London on May 6, when it is expected to fetch £100,000.