6 August 1966 – The British deposed Sheikh Shakhbut of Abu Dhabi in a military coup because he was failing to reward British military support by spending enough on British goods, although in the words of historians the serious problem his prudence presented has been more tactfully termed as “impeding development plans.”(2)

The Foreign Office had put a plan into motion for his removal as early as May 1963, when Alec Douglas-Home, then Foreign Secretary, decided his removal might be arranged quietly with other members of the Sheikh’s family so that it could be presented as merely an internal family feud.  The most important consideration was that British involvement should remain deniable.

In 1964, when Labour won the election, Patrick Gordon-Walker who succeeded Douglas-Home, was not initially as enthusiastic about what he termed “this James Bond scheme,”(2) but he soon succumbed to the prevailing Whitehall view that Britain’s economic interests necessitated the Sheikh’s removal.

The British then coached Shakhbut’s brother, Zaid, in the proper diplomatic etiquette for such a takeover, which required he obtain a letter of approval from other family members who had already been discreetly sounded out as to their likely support.  When in June 1966 Zaid visited London, he was given clearance to follow through with the plans, under which Britain placed its Trucial Oman Scouts on standby in case Zaid’s coup required outside military support.



1. Rory Cormac (2018), “Disrupt and Deny: Spies, Special Forces and the Secret Pursuit of British Foreign Policy,” Oxford University Press, Oxford p188.

2. Rory Cormac (2018), Ibid, p189.


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