The German parliament has passed a motion that extends an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia until September. German lawmakers cited the ongoing civil war in Yemen and the murder of U.S-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi for the decision.
The previous embargo, which was activated last October after the vicious murder of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, was set to expire at the end of March.
Although Germany hadn’t officially stopped the shipment of weapons for already-signed contracts to the Middle Eastern country, it had pressured the German defense industry to hold any deliveries. According to the Deutsche Welle, this affected contracts worth around $1.7 billion.
The extension of the embargo will not affect just the German defense industry. France and the United Kingdom are also to be affected given the transnational character of some of the banned contracts. For instance, the embargo affects the sale of 48 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets worth approximately $14 billion. Although the Eurofighter contract is led by the British BAE Systems and also involves spare parts and components, the fact that Germany also manufactures a number of the aircraft’s components is enough to stop the sale. The Meteor air-to-air missile, which is manufactured by the European MBDA, is another transnational contract to be affected.
However, it wasn’t an easy decision. The current German government is composed of a coalition between the right-wing Christian Democrats (CDU) and the left-wing Social Democrats (SPD). The conservatives accuse the socialists of jeopardizing Germany’s defense industry by supporting this decision, while socialists argue it’s the moral thing to do in the face of the overwhelming evidence of Saudi Arabia’s illiberal policies both domestically and internationally.
“The restart of arms exports to Saudi Arabia would be a fatal foreign policy signal and would contribute to the continued destabilization of the Middle East,” said Omid Nouripour, the Green party spokesman, in an interview with the Deutsche Welle. “We need a common European arms export policy that excludes exports into war zones.”
Despite its anti-war culture, Germany is the world’s fourth-largest arms exporter, while the U.S. Russia, France, and China fill up the rest of the top five. Conversely, Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s largest arms importers, with an impressive 12% of the global imports. But the German parliament’s decision is helping the U.S. defense industry, which already accounts for almost half of Saudi Arabia’s arms imports.
In the future, when Saudi Arabia considers buying weapons, it will take into account the past German reluctance and thus will be more likely to favor American-made systems.