Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia Approved Despite German Arms Embargo
“Apparently things are not going fast enough with new arms deliveries to the Yemen war coalition.”
Germany is selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who are involved in the Yemen war, despite extending an arms sales ban on Saudi Arabia just two weeks ago.
However, that extension, which extended the ban until Septemeber 30, also created a loophole. It created an exception for weapons that are produced jointly with other countries – France and Britain had slammed Berlin’s arms ban as the three countries produce armaments together.
The embargo was originally imposed after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate office in Istanbul, Turkey. Germany’s ban made it difficult for France and the U.K. to supply arms to the oil-rich nation.
France’s ambassador to Germany, Anne-Marie Descotes, said Germany’s arms export policy and its strict licensing procedure would threaten bilateral defense projects in the future.
What is Germany Exporting?
The approval for the weapons transfer goes through Germany’s Security Council, a closed commission consisting of Chancellor Angela Merkel and her chief ministers.
According to DW, the council approved a shipment of “technology for low-bed semi-trailer production” from the Ulm-based company Kamag to France, which will then send a finished product to Saudi Arabia.
Other approved or pending exports include German-French-produced accessories for “Cobra” artillery tracking radar systems to be shipped to the UAE, three “Dingo” armored vehicles and 168 warheads to Qatar, 92 electric drives for the “Fuchs” armored personnel carrier to Algeria,18,000 detonators for mortar grenades to Indonesia and 3,000 anti-tank weapons to Singapore.
Opposition groups criticized Berlin’s inconsistencies over arms sales. Germany generally bans arms export to conflict areas.
“Apparently things are not going fast enough with new arms deliveries to the Yemen war coalition,” said the Left’s deputy parliamentary leader, Sevim Dagdelen, in a DW report. She also described the approvals as “simply criminal and a violation of current European law.”
EU Regulation of the Arms Trade
The 2008 European Union Common Position on arms sales states “Member States are determined to prevent the export of military technology and equipment which might be used for internal repression or international aggression or contribute to regional instability.”
The position continues and states that member countries must maintain “respect for human rights in the country of final destination as well as respect by that country of international humanitarian law.
“Having assessed the recipient country’s attitude towards relevant principles established by international human rights instruments, Member States shall:
“Deny an export license if there is a clear risk that the military technology or equipment to be exported might be used for internal repression.”
However, while Germany may be attempting to adhere to the EU position against selling arms to conflict areas, Berlin ultimately has no authority to block arms exports of German subsidiaries in foreign countries.
For example, as an EU Observer article explained, “The decision will not affect weapons manufactured by RWM Italia S.p.A., a subsidiary of the German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall AG, because it is Italy that grants the export licenses in this case and not Germany.”
World’s Top Arms Exporters
Seven countries in Europe are among the world’s top 10 arms-exporting states, based on data (for the period between 2014 and 2018) from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), released last March. The seven countries are Russia, France, Germany, the U.K., Netherlands, Italy, and Spain.
The U.S. still tops the list and the SIPRI report showed that U.S. arms exports from 2014 to 2018 rose 29 percent from 2009-2013, and the U.S. share of total global exports rose from 30 percent to 36 percent.
Coming in second behind the U.S. was Russia, but the gap between the two top arms exporting countries is widening. U.S. exports of major arms were 75 percent higher than Russia’s in 2014–18, but only 12 percent higher in 2009–13. More than half (52 percent) of U.S. arms exports went to the Middle East in 2014–18.
Russia’s arms export numbers actually reflected a drop of 17 percent in 2014-2018 from 2009-2013 figures. While France increased its arms exports by 43 percent and Germany by 13 percent, and EU countries combined accounted for 27 percent of global arms exports in 2014-2018.
SIPRI data also revealed Arms imports by states in the Middle East increased by 87 percent between 2009–13 and 2014–18 and accounted for 35 percent of global arms imports in 2014–18.
Saudi Arabia became the world’s largest arms importer in 2014–18, with an increase of 192 percent compared with 2009–13. Arms imports by Egypt, the third largest arms importer in 2014–18, tripled (206 percent) between 2009–13 and 2014–18. Arms imports by Israel (354 percent), Qatar (225 percent) and Iraq (139 percent) also rose between 2009–13 and 2014–18. However, Syria’s arms imports fell by 87 percent.
West Wants End to Violence But Not End to Arms Sales
Western countries call for an end to bloodshed in Yemen and slam Saudi Arabia for being involved in the Khashoggi killing, yet they continue to export arms to conflict involved countries.
A report from Yemen-based rights group Mwatana for Human Rights (MHR) documented U.S.-backed coalition attacks from April 2015 to April 2018. The attacks killed 203 civilians and another 749 were injured.
The report entitled “Day of Judgment: The Role of the U.S. and Europe in Civilian Death, Destruction, and Trauma in Yemen,” also detailed how many U.S. and European weapons were involved in the attacks.
“Of the 27 attacks, 22 likely involved weapons produced in the U.S., two attacks likely involved weapons produced in the U.K. and three attacks likely involved weapons with parts produced in both the U.S. and U.K.,” the report explained.
“This report demonstrates a pattern of deadly coalition attacks involving weapons provided by Western states, particularly the U.S. the U.K. and others should immediately halt arms transfers and all other forms of assistance to coalition forces for use in Yemen,” said Radhya al-Mutawakel, chairperson of MHR, in a report to Al-Jazeera.
The Yemen conflict erupted in 2015 when Houthi rebel groups expelled the Western-backed Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. While the civilian death toll is difficult to track accurately, in October of 2018 a U.N. humanitarian coordinator said 16,000 civilians have been killed since 2016, based on data from health centers.