Berlin, Germany—Despite promises to ban weapons sales to countries fighting in the Yemeni Civil War, the German government has approved a deal to Saudi Arabia.
The sale concerned is for four artillery positioning systems. The vehicle-borne systems are designed to locate incoming fire and calculate precise counter-strikes. The German government also authorised a package of 48 anti-air warheads and 91 anti-air homing heads for the navy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In 2015, the Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen. Its purpose is to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized government and defeat the Houthi rebels, who depend on Iranian support.
In March, the newly formed German government, which is comprised of the CDU (conservatives), CSU (conservatives), and SPD (socialists), agreed to an arms sales ban to countries involved in Yemen.
International human rights organizations have been very critical of Saudi Arabia, highlighting human rights abuses, famine, and possible war crimes accounts. The United Nations (U.N.), on the other hand, reports that more than 8 million Yemenis are starving and urge for both the immediate cessation of hostilities and implementation of global humanitarian relief efforts.
According to the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen (YemenGEE), a U.N. affiliated organization, political and military actors in the Saudi-led coalition are suspected of committing or sanctioning war crimes.
“There is little evidence of any attempt by parties to the conflict to minimize civilian casualties. I call them to prioritize human dignity in this forgotten conflict,” concluded Kamel Jendoubi, Chairperson of YemenGEE.
But Germany isn’t the only European country to retract its weapon exports policies. Spain, who also had a similar Yemen-ban, announced the sale of 400 laser-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia. Although the contract had been signed in 2015, the Spanish government suspended it over concerns that the weapons might be used in Yemen.
“After an intense week’s work by various ministries, including the foreign ministry, the decision is that these bombs will be delivered to honor a contract from 2015, which was made by the previous government and in which no irregularity has been detected that would bar it from happening,” said the Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell.
What’s behind the Spanish U-turn? A Saudi threat to scrap a warship contract worth around $2 billion, which would affect 6,000 jobs (Spain is plagued with high unemployment rate; currently, at 16 percent).
“The ministry of defense and the foreign ministry have been talking about this and analyzing it for a week. And I think we’ve come to the conclusion that this contract had to be honored,” she added.
Despite her fierce anti-war culture, Germany remains in the world’s top-5 weapons exporters.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in 2017, Saudi Arabia had the world’s third largest military expenditure with close to $70 billion.