The language was revealing (when exactly did Britain see democratic change as a problem?) But it is probably to be expected given Britain’s investment in the preserving the regional status-quo.
Take Oman. My colleague Simeon Kerr has a filed a fascinating dispatch from the Omani port where protests have erupted. At least one demonstrator has been killed.
When we passed through the capital Muscat with David Cameron this week, it certainly appeared defiantly placid. But even Oman, a sleepy sultanate on the tip of the Arabian peninsular, seems to have succumbed to the fever reshaping the Middle East.
Now why does this matter for Cameron?
1. A closer ally still: Cameron was embarrassed by the recent crackdown in Bahrain, an old UK friend. Oman is in a higher league — it has the closest diplomatic, security and trade relationship with Britain of any country in the region.
2. A British backed regime: Sultan Qaboos of Oman — a Sandhurst graduate and devotee of Gilbert and Sullivan — overthrew his father and consolidated power with the help of British troops, spies and kit. It remains an absolute monarchy.
3. A friend of the coalition: Cameron has deflected some fallout on Libya because it was Tony Blair who sealed the deal in the desert. Oman, on the other hand, is a coalition priority. William Hague has visited (twice I think). The Queen spent three days in Muscat celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Qaboos reign. Cameron was dining in the sultan’s palace only last week.
4. A friend of the defence industry: British exports include Corvettes (the so-called Omani frigate), hawk jets, Lynx helicopters, Challenger tanks…the list goes on. Oman has also promised to buy some Eurofighter Typhoons. The MoD was so sure the deal was going ahead, it cunningly booked £400m of proceeds, before Oman paid a penny.
5. A friend of the British military: There’s a strong presence in Oman. The most visible are the RAF personal based there as part of the “air-bridge” to Afghanistan. But there is also a lot more activity below the radar.