Dr. Seyyed Reza Mirtaher, Expert on International Security & Strategic Issues
The German government is accused of selling weapons and security systems to dictatorial regimes and supporting them against democracy calls of their nations, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. Selling arms to such regimes takes place despite the fact that Saudi Arabia has not been playing a peaceful role in regional developments during the past few months.
It has been suppressing the popular uprising in Bahrain, on the one hand, while playing a sinister and destructive role in the Syrian unrest, on the other hand.
Israel, another major customer of German weapons in the Middle East is still pursuing its warmongering policies in the region after being delivered very advanced German submarines. Tel Aviv continues to threaten Iran with the use of force over Tehran’s nuclear energy program and has frequently underlined the role of these submarines in any possible attack against Iran.
Germany and Saddam’s Regime The issue which cannot be easily ignored is the high-profile part played by (former West) Germany and German companies in providing Iraq’s former Baathist regime with all kinds of weaponry during its eight years of imposed war against Iran. Experts say no country ever helped Iraq with building weapons production complexes and a chemical weapons arsenal as much as Germany did.
In the meantime, Iraq imported a total of about 625 million dollars worth of military equipment from Germany between 1982 and 1986 to become the fourth biggest importer of German weaponry in the world. Of course, the figure only encompasses weaponry exports for which an official permit had been issued.
In those years, some state-run circles in Germany suspected that 170 German institutes and companies were bypassing legal bans for the transfer of arms or their technical know-how to Iraq and had launched an investigation into performance of 25 space research firms. The investigation led to incrimination of Karl Kolb and Pilot Plant companies from Darmstadt in addition to Water Engineering Trading Co. of Hamburg as being responsible for delivering chemical arms to Iraq.
However, although trial of 10 company managers in Darmstadt went on for many years, only three of them were handed suspended jail sentences. Therefore, although German state officials were trying to exonerate themselves of charges about involvement in transfer of necessary materials and technology to Iraq which was later used by that country to build chemical weapons, the pressure put on them by certain Western media and analysts made it clear beyond any doubt that German officials had helped Iraq to build chemical weapons on purpose.
This measure by German government had been taken in concert with other Western states, which also embarked on selling huge amounts of various weapons to Iraqi Baathist regime in addition to extensive intelligence which was provided to Baghdad about Iran’s activities in the warfronts. Latest Measures In the meantime, Germany has tried in recent years to keep a high-profile and effective presence in the Middle East weapons market.
In line with that policy, selling Leopard tanks to Saudi Arabia and Dolphin class submarines to Israel, as well as proposing to sell warplanes to the United Arab Emirates have been among the most important measures taken by Berlin to continue selling weapons to regional states. By increasing export and sales of weapons between 1998 and 2009, Germany has increased its global ranking in this area from the fifth to the third.
According to the German constitution, when it reflects on the country’s arms sales, the government must inform the German parliament every three months of requests for purchasing German arms by countries other than the member states of the European Union or countries which are at war with other states. According to this legal stipulation, the German government is not entitled to embark on exporting weapons without obtaining prior permission of the lawmakers.
Germany and UAE In its latest arms sales proposal, Germans have reportedly offered to sell Eurofighter planes to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In line with that proposal, Thomas de Maiziere, the German defense minister, paid a visit to UAE to discuss selling 60 Eurofighter planes to the Persian Gulf state with UAE officials. Eurofighter planes are jointly produced by major members of the European Union; that is, Germany, Britain, Spain and Italy.
Negotiations between German defense minister and UAE officials during his recent visit to Abu Dhabi were, therefore, focused on strengthening bilateral relations and cooperation especially with regard to military equipment. Net value of 60 Euroifgher jets has been estimated at about 6 billion euros. The German defense minister’s Abu Dhabi visit was part of his tour of a number of Persian Gulf littoral states. De Maiziere’s effort to sell Eurofighter jets to UAE followed France’s recent failure in its effort to convince UAE buy 60 Rafale fighter planes from Paris.
After the first Persian Gulf War in 1991, UAE decided to modernize its military forces and, in recent years, it has launched a far-fetched effort to equip its air force with long-range assault planes as well as air superiority fighter aircraft. As a result, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported that UAE has ranked the sixth in terms of buying arms between 2006 and 2010 with Germany being one of the four main suppliers of weapons to UAE.
Therefore, it is clear that Germans have taken another step in line with their warmongering policy in the Persian Gulf by selling Eurofighter planes to UAE. The UAE has been a strategic partner to Germany since 2004, which has also cooperated with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Meanwhile, this country has not signed many international treaties which are, one way or another, related to human rights and has been frequently chastised by the Amnesty International for violation of women’s rights and bad working conditions of foreign immigrants. Germany and Saudi Arabia After Germany announced its decision to sell 270 Leopard 2 tanks to Saudi Arabia, some German lawmakers objected to the decision.
They emphasized that before conceding to Saudi Arabia’s request for buying tanks, the German government should have raised the issue in the parliament. Just recently, the Germany daily Bild am Sonntag carried a report on Saudi Arabia’s decision to purchase 600-800 Leopard 2 tanks which were, at least, two times higher than the figure that Riyadh was already expected to buy from Germany.
Another agreement for buying 300 German tanks is expected to be signed soon. The daily also reported that despite opposition of German Chancellery, Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry, officials from German Ministry of Economic Affairs have supported the deal. Meanwhile, according to available reports, the German Federal Security Council, whose members also include the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had indicated its agreement in principle to selling the tanks to Saudi Arabia last year. German tank makers, including Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rhine Metal need immediate buyers because of the urgent need to reconstruct the German army, on the one hand, and to make up for the decrease in Germany’s military budget, on the other hand.
From the viewpoint of those companies, Saudi Arabia is an ideal customer. Last year, a spokesperson for the German government refrained, when asked, to explain about this agreement. German official sources have also denied reports about possible agreement with Saudi Arabia to export 270 Leopard 2 tanks to the kingdom. Since information on exporting military equipment by Germany to any country is considered classified, it cannot be confirmed officially and any leak of information about contents of such agreement will entail cash fine or even jail sentence.
Meanwhile, after reports were released about Germany’s confidential agreement with Saudi Arabia to sell tanks, opposition parliament members mounted pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel. They noted that the agreement was in violation of the country’s export policy with regard to military equipment. The daily Der Spiegel reported that during the past decades, former German governments had frequently deferred requests by Saudi Arabia for tanks because of their concern about security of Israel. However, it seems that Israel does not consider selling tanks to Saudi Arabia a threat to its existence anymore.
Germany and Israel Germany’s recent measure for selling the sixth Dolphin class submarine to Israel has been a clear act of warmongering which aims to fan the flames of war in the Middle East because such submarines are basically offensive vessels. Israel has been regularly and extensively threatening the Islamic Republic of Iran and from time to time, Tel Aviv has threatened that it will launch military, especially air, strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Therefore, giving Dolphin attack submarines to the Zionist regime which can deliver missiles carrying nuclear warheads, will only bolster combat and aggressive capabilities of Israel and encourage the Zionist regime to embark on further acts of aggression against regional countries, especially the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the meantime, Germany, as a member of the P5+1 group – which in addition to Germany includes the US, the UK, France, China and Russia as well – has always called for complete halt of Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy program.
At the same time, German officials are well aware that there has been no diversion in Iran’s nuclear program toward military purposes. On the other hand, Western and even Israeli experts have frequently admitted that Israel is now in possession of 200-400 nuclear warheads some of which have already been mounted on Cruise missiles carried by Dolphin submarines which is a clear threat to the security of the Middle Eastern countries.
Basically, Germany’s measure can only be considered a blatant example of double standards applied by Berlin to different issues. In addition to Germany, this approach has frequently been taken to various international issues by other Western countries as well. Dr. Seyyed Reza Mirtaher