Assisting Famine

BERLIN/RIYADH | | saudi-arabien

BERLIN/RIYADH (Own report) - This Sunday, Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected in the Saudi capital Riyadh for talks on the wars in Syria and Yemen, according to the Saudi media. Her talks in the Golf monarchy will therefore focus not only on expanding economic relations but on the proxy wars, Saudi Arabia is currently waging against Iran. Berlin supports Riyadh in these proxy wars - politically but also with the supply of weapons proven to have been used in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is strongly criticized for its war in Yemen, which is causing numerous civilian casualties. In addition, Riyadh's maritime blockade of Yemeni ports is causing a famine. 2.2 million children are malnourished, including half a million who are severely malnourished and at imminent risk of death. In March, Berlin authorized the delivery of supplementary German patrol boats to Saudi Arabia, in spite of them being used to enforce the maritime blockade. Aid organizations are sounding the alarm.

Countervailing Power to Iran

Within the context of the power struggle against Iran, Saudi Arabia holds an important position in Germany's Middle East strategy. Since a US-led Western coalition destroyed Iran's longtime rival, Iraq, the road basically has been cleared for Iran to assume the role of a Middle East regional predominating power. With its wealth in oil and gas, with its large, well educated population and its exclusive geo-strategic location, Teheran has the potential for taking on this role.[1] Due to the Iranian government's insistence on pursuing a policy independent from that of the West, Washington and Berlin are supporting Saudi Arabia, the only country in the region that can take on Iran at the level of power politics, while being considered more compliant in its relations with the West. Riyadh is systematically being positioned as a countervailing power to Iran - as far as Germany is concerned, since German Chancellor, at the time, Gerhard Schröder, visited the Saudi capital in October 2003.[2]

Proxy Wars

Soon the enhanced support for Saudi Arabia began to include arms deliveries. Under the SPD-Green coalition, the 2004 authorized arms exports exceeded 50 million Euros, for the first time. In 2008, the grand coalition, at the time, sanctioned deliveries worth more than 100 million euros - a record. The annual volumes have remained in the triple-digit millions since. In 2016, Berlin endorsed the delivery of 529 million euros worth of war material to Riyadh, in spite of the fact that, for years, Saudi Arabia has been supporting - and now even waging itself - proxy wars against Iran. Since the beginning of the armed struggle in Syria, Riyadh has been among the most important supporters of the militias - including particularly Salafist and jihadi units - seeking to overthrow Iran's ally, President Bashar al Assad. Since March 2015, Riyadh has been leading an Arab military coalition, waging war in Yemen against the Teheran-sponsored Houthis, with the objective of bombing a Saudi ally back into power.

Maritime Blockade

The Saudi war in Yemen, in particular, has repeatedly provoked vigorous international protest. Saudi air raids have killed numerous civilians. More than 140 mourners were killed, October 8, 2016, when Saudi pilots bombed their funeral service. In January, the United Nations announced that the number of civilian casualties in Yemen had surpassed the 10,000 threshold. According to research, more than a third of the Saudi air strikes have hit civilian targets; The Obama administration had even restricted, temporarily, its ammunition supply to Riyadh.[3] In addition to its bombings, Riyadh has imposed a maritime blockade of Yemeni ports, thereby exacerbating the desolate supply situation to a catastrophic level. Yemen is a country that is 80-90% dependent on imported food, medicines and fuel for its survival, which, to a large extent, enters the country by sea. The Saudi sea blockade impedes these deliveries, including even aid supplies from the United Nations. In the meantime, about 82% of the population - of the 27.5 million - are in need of humanitarian assistance, 40 percent are in dire need of this aid; 2.2 million children are malnourished, including half a million who are severely malnourished and at imminent risk of death.[4]

Man-Made

The situation is threatening even further deterioration. While Chancellor Angela Merkel will be holding her talks on the continuation of cooperation between the two countries, Sunday in Riyadh, the Saudi-led coalition is preparing a comprehensive offensive against the Yemeni port city Al Hudaydah, currently still under Houthi control. The destruction of the port facilities would further limit supplies of humanitarian aid, warn observers. The UN special rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures, Idriss Jazairy, sharply criticized the Saudi blockade and urged not only that the port of Al Hudaydah not be bombed, but that it be reopened for the passage for humanitarian supplies, as well as the dock facilities, damaged in previous bombing raids, be repaired so that the population can be adequately supplied. The population is suffering under "this man-made famine."[5]

With German Weapons

This proxy war Saudi Arabia is waging in Yemen against Iran is not only in Germany's interests, but is being waged with German weapons. It is a documented fact that the Saudi Air Force is using Tornado and Eurofighter jets, with many components Made in Germany. Unclear is whether Saudi Arabia is also using its three Airbus A330 MRTT refueling aircraft with German-made components. It is, however, certain that the Saudi Air Force had trained with the Bundeswehr for complex, multinational missions and for the establishment and operation of a multinational operations command center. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[6]) In addition, the German-made Luna drone is being used over Yemen. Houthi troops had been able to intercept one, back in April 2015. In an area bombed by Saudi forces, a Human Rights Watch staff member discovered a 1,000 lb bomb dud, whose code suggested that it had been manufactured in one of Rheinmetall's Italian subsidiary RWM Italia's munitions factories. In 2014 and 2015, RWM Italia and Rheinmetall Italia had exported 71.5 million euros worth of equipment to Saudi Arabia. The South African Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) has been involved in the construction of a munitions factory southeast of Riyadh, in Al Kharj. The factory produces artillery rounds and aerial bombs. RDM is also supplying the factory.[7]

No Embargo

Other deliveries are either in preparation or already underway. For example, the four - of a total of 72 - Eurofighters, Saudi Arabia acquired for its air force, will be delivered in the course of this year. In Riyadh, there is talk of acquiring another 72 Eurofighters.[8] Great Britain is transacting the sale, however a portion of the planes are being produced in Germany. Saudi Arabia is also being delivered patrol boats from the Lürssen dockyards in Bremen - officially to counter smuggling and fight piracy along its maritime borders. They are also being dispatched to enforce the Saudi sea blockade. Riyadh has ordered a total of 48 patrol boats. The German government has already approved the delivery of at least five of them. This is in spite of the European Parliament's having called for a strict arms embargo in February of last year.[9] Because this vote runs diametrically opposed to German interests, the German government simply ignores it.

[1] See Hegemonic Conflict at the Gulf.
[2] See Partners.
[3] See Ignored Wars (I).
[4] Jemen: Im Wettlauf gegen die Zeit, um Millionen Menschenleben zu retten. Gemeinsame Pressemitteilung von WFP und UNICEF. 25.04.2017.
[5] Lift blockade of Yemen to stop "catastrophe" of millions facing starvation, says UN expert. www.ohchr.org 12.04.2017.
[6] See German Arab Maneuvers and With Dictators, Headed for War.
[7] See Ein Spitzenkäufer deutschen Kriegsgeräts.
[8] Benjamin D. Katz: BAE Has Next Eurofighter Orders in Its Sights as Profit Jumps. www.bloomberg.com 23.02.2017.
[9] European Parliament resolution of 25 February 2016 on the humanitarian situation in Yemen. www.europarl.europa.eu 2016/2515(RSP) 25.02.2016.