Late last month, five jumbo jets from Riyadh touched down at Heathrow Airport in London. They brought with them 13 members of the Saudi royal family, including King Abdullah and his retainers -- and controversy. Over the last four years, the British government has been dogged by criticism of its relationship with Saudi Arabia, which is Britain's biggest trading partner in the Middle East.
The state visit, the first by a Saudi monarch in 20 years, was no exception, with much of the storm centering on controversial financial ties linking the British military contracting giant, BAE Systems, to Downing Street and the desert kingdom. The leader of one major British political party boycotted King Abdullah's visit while protesters turned out for his ceremonial carriage ride to Buckingham Palace.