Blair urged Kuwait to buy UK artillery as payback for Gulf War support
Records recently released reveal that UK's former prime minister Tony Blair asked Kuwait to buy the UK’s latest artillery as payback for supporting Kuwait during the Gulf War.
Tony Blair, the UK's former prime minister, in his late war ventures, urged Kuwait to buy London's latest artillery as payback for British support in the Gulf War, according to papers newly released.
Between 1998 and 1999, Blair lobbied for Crown Prince Sheikh Saad and called in on him during a stopover from a flight home from South Africa.
According to internal briefing notes, the UK government believed that it was “due the award of a significant defence equipment contract in recognition of its defence of Kuwait” after former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's invasion in 1990.
In January 1999, meeting minutes reveal that Blair took note of the Foreign Office officials' demands to send AS-90 155 mm howitzer as concerns rose that the arms contracts would reach the US and its M-109.
A memo, restricted from London's private secretary, Philip Barton, written to his Foreign Office colleague, Tim Barrow, covered the meeting between Blair and the crown prince. It wrote: “The prime minister raised the AS-90. It was an effective weapon, although he knew the US had offered the M-109. He hoped very much that all the support we had given Kuwait would be remembered," adding, “The crown prince said that the price of the AS-90 was very high. The prime minister pointed out that it would do the job properly. The defence minister said that they would take the state of relations with the UK into account.”
According to internal briefing notes a day before the visit, the government was "frankly disappointed" to have "won so little Kuwaiti defense business since end of Gulf war," and that it had been a "loyal friend to Kuwait over many years."
Kuwait, according to Barton, “would keep [the UK] in mind” before making a firm decision.
Blair's pressure comes as one in many attempts to get support from Kuwait. Three months earlier, a letter from the former PM to the crown prince described the AS-90 as “the best 155mm gun in the world today”, revealing its specification superiority to the US equivalent.
Blair wrote, “This order from Kuwait is very important to the UK and to our industry at a difficult time. We will await your decision eagerly.”
Two months after Blair's visit, Kuwait revealed its intention to buy US artillery.