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. 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.
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.
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.) 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.