In February 1971 the Conservative Government announced its plans to withdraw British forces from the Persian Gulf by the end of 1971, in accordance with a plan originally drawn up by the Wilson government in January 1968 and accepted by the Conservatives only after they had come into office. Britain, formally in control of nine Gulf states, was to hand independence to them. The British had hoped to unite this group of states into a neo-colonial federation, the Union of Arab Emirates, but internal disagreements between the rulers have so far prevented this Union from emerging in its intended form.
The British ‘withdrawal’ is in many ways less significant than is officially claimed. Britain pretends that the Sultanate of Oman is an independent state and will therefore keep her military installations there after 1971, and continue to run the Sultan’s army. In the areas she is formally quitting Britain will continue to train and arm the local armies, either through defence agreements or through mercenaries organized by covert government agencies. The us is also prepared to back up local reactionary forces: it has an air base in Saudi Arabia, at Dahran, and naval facilities on the island of Bahrein. These imperialist military forces could be made available to local states if their own forces were unable to suppress oppositions, and if the leading neocolonial régimes in the area, Iran and Saudi Arabia, were unable to provide necessary support.
The active revolutionary movements in the area fall into three groups: Communist Parties (Saudi Arabia, Bahrein, Iran, Iraq); Ba’thi revolutionary groups (Bahrein, Ras al-Kheima) and ‘Marxist-Leninist’ organizations. The third group are the most powerful. They are former branches of the pan-Arab party, the Arab Nationalist Movement, which desintegrated in 1968. Three of these former branches are active in the Gulf area: the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arab Gulf, in Dhofar; the National Democratic Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arab Gulf, in Oman; and the Popular Revolutionary Movement, in Trucial Oman, Bahrein, Qatar and Kuwait. The pfloag is by far the most important of these, and after five years of guerrilla war, it controls almost the whole of Dhofar. The British were forced in July 1970 to depose the reigning Sultan Said and install his son Qabus instead, in an attempt to stem the opposition by token reforms and by opening Oman to colonial capitalist development of the kind taking place elsewhere in the Gulf. The interview we print here was recorded on February 21st, 1971 and covers the major strategic conceptions of the allied revolutionary groups in the area. Talal Saad is a member of the General Command of pfloag, and Said Seif is a member of the prm.