Iran Commentary Evaluates Germany`s Security Role in Eastern Mediterranean
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Over the last decade, the German defense industry`s share of the global arms market has doubled to 11 percent. Here, a representative from the German company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann speaks with potential buyers of the Leopard 2 tank at an arms trade fair in Abu Dhabi in 2009.
Unattributed commentary entitled: “Germany`s Silent Move Into the Middle East; How Did Germany Also Get Into the Region?”
With its extremely active presence in the region, Germany has turned itself into one of the main sellers of weapons to the region`s repressive Arab regimes after the United States, and over the past year it has sold more than $15 billion of weapons to two Arab countries in the region. According to reports published by the media, two launch platforms for the Patriot missile and a 170-man team from NATO will soon leave for the Syrian border to carry out limited and symbolic operations. Among the soldiers that will enter the field on behalf of NATO, the German military will have a more pronounced presence than ever before.
Some time ago, Turkey officially asked NATO to support this country against possible attacks by the Syrian army. In accordance with the United States` commitment to NATO members, it is under obligation to keep its forces on constant standby in regions that are involved in war such as Syria. As a result of friction between the White House and Congress over issues such as the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, the Israeli strike on Gaza and the White House stance regarding both issues, this responsibility is falling on the shoulders of other NATO members such as Germany, which is not particularly inclined to do this but is becoming more powerful every day. After the controversial issue of selling weapons to the region`s repressive Arab regimes, do these operations indicate a more active presence by Germany in the region?
Germany, the world`s third supplier of weapons
The US publication “Foreign Policy” has written in this respect: “Germany has a complicated role in the Middle East. It often takes a step back with a lot of noise and then quietly takes a step forward. This country`s liberal government refused to take part in the Iraq war and its conservative government refused to cooperate in the operation to overthrow Qadhafi in Libya. Nevertheless, this country has always shown comprehensive support in other multilateral operations. The dispatch of a ship to fight pirates in the Gulf of Aden, sending forces as part of the UN`s buffer zone in southern Lebanon, and although Merkel has not yet interfered directly in Syria, this country`s latest move to help Turkey, is a prominent step forward so that Germany can once again confirm its status, not just as a NATO member but as an independent power.
Over the past decades, Germany has been seeking to liberate itself from the limitations imposed on it after WWII with regard to the use of military forces. This country has always dispatched its forces worldwide for peace keeping operations and after its new decision to change their system of enlistment from compulsory to voluntary, the German army will have considerable more capacity for sending forces abroad. This country has recently been placed third for providing weapons based on the volume of trade and Angela Merkel has overtaken Britain and France in selling weapons to both Israel and Arab countries in recent years.
But these changes have also led to protests in Germany. In 1980 (1359), the chancellor at the time, Helmut Schmidt, announced that Saudi Arabia is this country`s most influential partner for attracting support for the widespread sale of Leopard tanks and fighter planes. He succeeded in reducing Germany`s long standing restrictions in the field of weapons sales to regions where tensions are rife, but ultimately he was unable to bring this contract to fruition because of significant opposition in the Bundestag (German parliament).
Last year, the revelation of the proposal by Angela Merkel`s government of the sale of 200 Leopard war tanks to Qatar worth $2.5 billion, 600 tanks to Saudi Arabia worth $12.6 billion and almost half a billon dollars in new transactions with Algiers, met with serious opposition. Last year, Germany`s Green party even filed a lawsuit against the Merkel government after these contracts were brought out in the open.
Deal between the West and Israel over the Arabs` oil dollars
Opposition to these deals has led to more controversy inside Germany than from its allies in the region such as Israel. For a long time now, there has been an agreement between Israel and the main providers of weapons in the Middle East such as the United States. They are not protesting against the sale of weapons to Arab countries as long as they are provided with advanced technologies in return.
Germany has played this game very skilfully. Tel Aviv and Berlin have established a good balance between the continuous sale of Dolphin submarines to Israel and Leopard tanks to Saudi Arabia. But this method is not always effective because the sale of German submarines to Egypt has created serious concerns for Israel. According to the Mashreq website, the Dolphin submarine has the capacity to carry more than 16 surface to surface missiles or torpedoes. The Dolphin`s surface to surface missiles are of the Harpoon variety with the ability to be launched from under water, each of which has a warhead weighing 227 kg and a range equivalent to 130 km at subsonic speeds.
Germany and its historical responsibility toward Israel
Germany`s highly important relationship with Israel has not been without its consequences. This long standing partnership has deep roots and it is intensified because of cultural heritage and these two countries` memories of the holocaust. As Merkel announced in his speech in Israel`s Knesset in 2008 (1387): “All German governments and all chancellors who have preceded me, have assumed Germany`s special and historical responsibility toward guaranteeing Israel`s security.” The author and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Gunther Grass, wrote a controversial poem at the beginning of this year in criticism of the deal over submarines that can carry nuclear warheads and this country`s silence in the face of Israel`s weapon arsenals: “We as Germans burdened enough, could be the suppliers to a crime (by Israel).”
Just before the Iraq war, Turkey requested NATO`s help in protecting its borders against retaliatory actions by Iraq but because of German elections that were taking place at the time, Gerhard Schroeder, the German chancellor refused to help Turkey. Germany`s current chancellor Angela Merkel is less concerned over domestic opposition and now intends to provide help for region that is rife with tension and is in a considerably more unstable situation. But one must wait and see if she will be able to obtain the Bundestag`s support for this mission or not. This action on the part of the Germany to support Turkey with the two launch platforms for the Patriot missiles can be considered as part of a greater strategy for encouraging Turkey to get closer to the European Union (EU) and trade between the two countries has increased significantly in past years. But there are still obstacles in the way because Turkey has not yet become a fixed member of the EU and its status has been an issue of contention in European capitals. It would have been a great achievement had Germany used its defining role in Europe to award membership to a Muslim country. It is obvious that Germany is determined to play a more prominent role on the global scene. Several years ago, the former US secretary of defense asked his European counterparts to allocate a bigger budget to military defense. However, it is unlikely for such an event to take place because the Euro region is putting a financial crisis behind at a very slow pace. But it appears that Germany is once again weighing the situation as far as international security is concerned but according to its own conditions this time.
Will Berlin put on the robe of leadership in the field of international security? It is highly unlikely. Is it gradually becoming distanced from NATO? Maybe. But in circumstances when the US military budget has been intensely reduced and instability in the Middle East has increased, a definite and reliable ally is exactly what is needed; both for the United States and for countries that dream of a new em pire in the region.
(Description of Source: Tehran Jomhuri-ye Eslami in Persian conservative daily officially licensed to Supreme Leader Khamene`i, but aligned with Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani)
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Germany`s Maiziere Sees Bundeswehr `in More Rather Than Fewer` Missions Abroad
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Unattributed report: “Defense Minister Maiziere Worried About Development in Iran”
Hamburg -- Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere (Christian Democratic Union) has voiced his concern about developments in Iran. With reference to the diverse power centers in the country, he said that it was difficult to calculate which steps the government in Tehran would take.
There were only few states “where we know so little about the internal power structure as we do in the case of Iran.” The Cold War between the East and the West had been the result of rational decisions made by either side, the minister said in a discussion organized as part of a series of events by Der Spiegel and the Koerber Foundation on Monday (30 January). “I am not so sure about Iran,” Maiziere added.
Western governments accuse the regime in Tehran of working to build nuclear weapons under the guise of civilian nuclear research and have, therefore, imposed extensive sanctions on the country. The European Union lately approved a strict oil embargo against Iran, while the Iranian Government on its part warned that the oil price would tangibly increase should deliveries be interrupted.
With reference to Afghanistan, the minister admitted that Germany`s original goal of building up democracy in the country had been too ambitious. Since the change of strategy in 2010, the only intention had been to prevent Afghanistan from exporting terrorism to the entire world. “No Rose-Tinted Glasses”
However, security in the country needed to be guaranteed. “We have a realistic view of the security situation and do not wear rose-tinted glasses,” the minister said. Nevertheless, it was correct to bring back Bundeswehr troops by 2014. Without a specific date, the Afghan Government would not feel forced to take action. In a recent interview with Spiegel Online, the defense minister had urged NATO to act with caution when withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan.
Maiziere has a critical view of how the German legal authorities deal with pirates caught off the coast of Africa. “It would be great if it did not take 14 months before the court in Hamburg is able to let the prosecution counsel give his speech.”
He would prefer to see the court in Cologne refrain from banning the Bundeswehr from sending pirates to prisons in Kenya because of the conditions there. If legal assistance could only be rendered under German conditions, “we can safely forget legal assistance arrangements with three-quarters of all states,” Maiziere said. With reference to Hamburg and its numerous shipping companies, he also pointed out that Operation Atalanta did not protect the merchant fleet, rather than the ships providing food aid. On Saturday, the Berlin, the largest ship of the German Navy, set out on its assignment in the EU anti-piracy mission off the Somali coast.
Among his most important responsibilities this year, according to Maiziere, are the organization of the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and the reform of the Bundeswehr. The momentum gained last year should not be lost. “This is a top priority to me.”
In addition, he also wanted to open a discussion in society about Germany`s security policy. In his view, Germany should become a country like any other in the world. “It is no longer in our favor to refer to the last century; now, it is to our disadvantage.” Germany should not claim a special role any more. “We will have to get used to being involved in more rather than fewer foreign operations of all kind.”
(Description of Source: Hamburg Spiegel Online in German -- News website funded by the Spiegel group which funds Der Spiegel weekly and the Spiegel television magazine; URL: http://www.spiegel.de)
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Democracy or Dollars? Weapons Sales to the Arab World under Scrutiny
Benjamin Bidder / Clemens Höges
Spiegel Online International
April 01, 2011
In recent years, Western countries have made a bundle selling arms to Arab despots. But, as with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, some of yesterday`s buyers have become today`s enemies. Now major weapons exporters must seek a new balance between arms profits and human rights.
The revolutions in the Arab world caught British Prime Minister David Cameron off guard. For some time, diplomats had been planning a trip for Cameron that would take him to several countries in the Middle East. In fact, it was meant to be more of a trade mission, with Cameron`s delegation consisting largely of high-level executives from Great Britain`s weapons industry.
But then came the revolutions in Arab countries and the fighting in Libya. Ignoring them was impossible, and Cameron added a six hour stopover in Cairo to his already tight schedule. It was almost exactly a month ago that he visited Tahrir Square in the center of the city, the focal point of mass demonstration which ultimately forced Egypt`s aging leader, Hosni Mubarak, out of office.
“Meeting the young people and the representatives of the groups in Tahrir Square was genuinely inspiring,” Cameron said. “These are people who have risked a huge amount for what they believe in.”
From Egypt, Cameron flew on to Kuwait, where he got down to the real purpose of his trip: selling weapons to Arab autocrats. When members of parliament back home attacked him for this lack of tact, the prime minister insisted there was nothing wrong with such business transactions and that, in any case, his government made weapons buyers pledge to not use them to violate human rights under any circumstances. Great Britain, he said, has “nothing to be ashamed of.”
Britain, though, has exported over €100 million ($142 million) in weapons to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in the last two years alone. Included in those shipments are sniper rifles that may currently be in use against the Libyan opposition. Furthermore, Gadhafi`s terror police are British-trained. Indeed, British officials were forced to hastily revoke 50 arms export licenses to Libya and Bahrain.
Friends of Convenience
Cameron now finds himself in a tight spot shared by many Western politicians. Policies that seemed fine prior to the revolutions are now questionable. Regional paradigms are shifting and, at a time when populations are throwing off the yoke of oppression, Realpolitik is a poor guide to Western policy.
Until recently, the West had been arming despots in the Arab world with a series of ever-larger, billion-dollar deals that served to stabilize their regimes. Some are close allies when it comes to Iran and al-Qaida, making questions about human rights and democracy secondary.
In addition, many of the region`s potentates were convenient partners for the West: They had their people more or less under control, and some provided oil. Even Gadhafi proved useful by keeping poor African refugees out of Europe. Likewise, many of the rulers bought whatever the West`s defense industry put up for sale.
The Ascent of German Arms
This was certainly also the case with Germany`s defense industry. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), though it still lags far behind the United States and Russia, Germany has become the world`s third-largest weapons exporter in recent years.
Indeed, SIPRI statistics show that, over the last decade, the German defense industry`s share of the global arms market has doubled to 11 percent. In 2008, the total value of these arms sales amounted to just under €6 billion. Germany primarily supplies high-tech items, such as submarines and military electronics. German defense corporations -- such as EADS, Rheinmetall and Heckler & Koch -- together employ roughly 80,000 people.
German military wares are so good that even Russia has become a reliable customer. Although Russia`s own products are perfectly suited for guerilla warfare in Africa, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov admits that they no longer meet “modern requirements.”
For this reason, Russia plans to order military hardware worth nearly €500 billion by 2020, including many items from the West. The Russian army would like to replace its T-90 tanks for the German Leopard 2, and Rheinmetall is to provide armored plating for other Russian vehicles. Even Russia`s mobile military camps will soon be “made in Germany.” Kärcher Futuretech, a company based in Winnenden, near Stuttgart, manufactures the finest in field kitchens and water purification systems.
A Brisk Arms Trade with Libya
Compared to these plans, Gadhafi purchases were only modest. Until October 2004, the EU had an arms embargo in place against Libya. By the next year, German companies had delivered all-terrain vehicles worth a mere €300,000. In 2006, orders for military equipment jumped in value to nearly €2 million. In 2007, orders totalled €24 million; in 2008 a mere €4 million; and in 2009, more than €53 million.
Gadhafi bought modern launching equipment for anti-tank missiles (the French-German “Milan 3”), helicopters, communications technology, battlefield radar technology and electronic jammers. These last items would seem to be serving the regime well in its current battle, given that the rebels in the country`s east primarily use cell phones to organize their largely chaotic operations. It is notable how often the cell-phone network collapses right before Gadhafi loyalists strike.
In Germany, every arms export deal must be officially approval. The Federal Security Council, made up of various ministers and the German chancellor, makes these delicate decisions behind closed doors.
Still, the prize goes to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who sold his buddy Gadhafi more weapons than any other leader in Western Europe. The total amount for 2009 was roughly €110 million, mostly for helicopters.
Indeed, Europeans have been fostering such business ties in a number of the Arab countries whose governments are now faltering. Great Britain`s Prince Andrew, for example, visited Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in San`a in late 2009. Over lunch at the royal palace, the prince-turned-government-trade-rep praised Yemen`s “unity, stability and development.”
Prince Andrew arrived in the country with investment money -- and then suggested that Saleh could take care of his weapons needs in the British isles. Which the Yemeni president then did. Shortly after the prince`s trip, the British government authorized the sale of ammunition and bulletproof vests worth €183,000 to Yemen. These days, of course, Saleh`s security forces are busy firing at demonstrators. Two weeks ago, 52 protesters were killed in a single day.
Germany, for its part, has had well-established ties to Egypt for several years. In 2009, Germany provided equipment worth nearly €80 million; most of it was tank components and military electronics, but it also includes submachine guns. It`s unclear whether these ended up in the hands of the army, which sided with the people, or whether they became the property of the detested police. When unrest broke out there, Germany temporarily revoked arms export licenses to Egypt.
Fear, Jobs and Profits
Meanwhile, the United States thinks on a very different scale, especially when it comes to Saudi Arabia. The House of Saud has money to spend, and Washington wants to arm Saudi Arabia against Iran. But on Monday, March 14, Saudi troops marched into Bahrain to help put down the rebels there.
Last year, Washington announced the largest arms export deal in history: Saudi Arabia plans to buy aircraft worth $60 billion over the course of the next five to 10 years. Money is no object, and the Saudi air force is to receive F-15 fighter-bombers, Apache attack helicopters, missiles, radar equipment and bombs. All together, according to the Wall Street Journal, the order is large enough to guarantee 77,000 jobs at Boeing.
For an additional $30 billion, the Saudi royal family also plans to modernize its navy. To calm Israeli fears, the country will receive cutting-edge F-35 jets (also known as “Joint Strike Fighters”) that, if necessary, will be able to shoot the older Saudi F-15s out of the sky.
A British soldier helps a military student from the United Arab Emirates with a laser gun sight at a weapons trade fair in Abu Dhabi: Until recently, the West had been arming despots in the Arab world with a series of increasingly larger deals worth billions and thereby helping stabilize their regimes. Since some of these leaders are close allies when it comes to Iran and al-Qaida, no one asks them too many questions about human rights and democracy.
Eager Customers, Happy Investors
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) are similarly lavish in their spending -- and equally afraid of their overly powerful neighbor Iran. According to a confidential diplomatic cable from the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi released by Wikileaks, the UAE`s sheiks have spent billion -- but without clear planning or an “obvious master plan for an integrated defense network.” The emirates want to buy only the best, the cable continued, and “the shinier the better.”
The UAE`s militaries reportedly even ask -- impatiently and often -- for weapons that are still in the development phase, the cable added, only to discover that the weapons system they`re looking for “had not yet been invented.” The downside, the dispatch continues, is that the sheiks prefer not to put “all eggs in one basket,” so they also buy from France, Britain and even China.
Even so, in 2010, the UAE ordered $40 billion worth of weapons from the United States. To be able to shoot down Iranian missiles, they also want to buy America`s most modern air defense system. The Americans would be happy to set up similar systems in the entire region.
Give the situation, one can`t really blame investors for viewing the conflicts and revolutions in the Middle East primarily as a signal to buy. When the United Nations declared a no-fly zone over Libya, the armaments index on the New York Stock Exchange shot up by 5 percent.
© Copyright 2011. Der Spiegel. All rights reserved.
German Bundeswehr Takes Over New Task in EU`s Atalanta Mission
Friday, September 28, 2012
Report by Peter Blechschmidt: “To Mogadishu”
Berlin -- German Navy soldiers will soon be seen in Somali ports. The Bundeswehr is taking over a new task within the framework of the EU`s Atalanta antipiracy mission at the Horn of Africa, as the Operations Command in Potsdam confirmed on Thursday (27 September). On 4 October an independently operating protection team for the first time is to board a freighter that is supposed to bring relief goods to Somalia at the order of the World Food Program (WFP).
The group, which consists of up to 18 men, is called Autonomous Vessel Protection Detachment (AVPD) in military jargon. Already so far, the Bundeswehr and other armed forces have deployed protection teams that travel aboard merchant ships in order to defend them against pirate attacks. The precondition was that a warship was always close by in order to provide military or medical aid in an emergency. “Autonomous” means that the force is now acting without such support.
The AVPD is part of the changed EU strategy, which, among other things, also permits operation against pirates on the shore. The Dutch were the first to provide such a unit at the beginning of 2012. Now they hand over this task to the Germans. Dutch Defense Minister Hans Hillen told the Parliament in The Hague on Wednesday (26 September) that it had not been easy to find a successor for this task, which can be dangerous. However, there have been no incidents up to now.
The Bundeswehr`s AVPD will accompany the freighter Caroline Scan, which travels under the flag of Antigua and Barbuda and has worked for the WFP for some time. The 100-m-long ship, which has 4,246 register tons, regularly docks at the Somali ports of Mogadishu, Bosaso, and Berbera. The soldiers of the protection team will not go ashore in the ports but stay on board to protect the ship and themselves against potential attacks. The duration of the stay in port depends on the respective commission and the volume of the cargo.
So far, the Bundeswehr has had one Vessel Protection Detachment (VPD) deployed at the Horn of Africa. Such a team consists of 12 soldiers of the Navy Protection Force. The AVPD will be reinforced by up to six men, including a fully trained doctor. The AVPD deployment is to make the back-up by a warship, which was usual up to now, superfluous so that the limited ship capacities can be used for other purposes.
In general, the EU has been reporting successes of Atalanta. The number of pirate attacks at the Horn of Africa has strongly declined this year. Thus, so far five hijackings (compared with 25 last year) and 28 unsuccessful attacks (2011: 151) have been registered.
(Description of Source: Munich Sueddeutsche Zeitung in German -- influential center-left, nationwide daily)
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German Commentary Praises Wider Anti-Piracy Mandate, Urges Halting `Masterminds`
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Soldiers on a speedboat pose for the media in front of German navy frigates "Karlsruhe" and "Mecklenburg-Vorpommern" before sailing out of Djibouti`s harbor December 23, 2008.
Commentary by Peter Blechschmidt: “Mandate Expanded by 2,000 Meters”
Finally -- that is what many soldiers will say who have already served in anti-piracy operations off Somalia. Finally, soldiers in the EU`s Atalanta mission will also be allowed to take action against pirates on land. Marine units from many nations, not just the EU, have been battling piracy off the Horn of Africa since 2008. This mission has also given the deployed soldiers much frustration besides a few successes. Operations had to be halted because hostages were at risk. Pirates taken prisoner had to be let go because no country wanted to put them on trial, And if pursued pirates reached the shore, they thumbed their noses at their pursuers, because the soldiers` authority to intervene ended at the waterline.
That is now going to change. In the future Atalanta soldiers are to be able to destroy the pirates` boats and material on a 2,000-meter-wide strip of land along the coast. The German Navy is also going to participate in such operations, according to the Federal Government`s wish. The British and French, above all, have tried to achieve such an expansion of the mission; the military was already in favor. In Berlin, however, there was predominantly skepticism for a long time, including from Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. That they have now together asked the Cabinet and the Bundestag to approve an expanded mandate is more out of solidarity with the alliance than conviction. In return, they are also taking the end of the current political common ground with the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany) and the Greens into account with regard to Atalanta.
In principle it is right not to halt the pursuit of a criminal because he has crossed a border -- in this case the waterline. Everyone involved knows that the beach in Somalia could become a minefield, figuratively speaking. Mistakes can never be ruled out in military operations. However, when adhering to the strict rules of engagement -- which is really obvious -- this risk would have to be controllable. Germany cannot afford to always just express reservations.
But the fact remains that expanding the mandate represents only tinkering with the symptoms. The real reasons for the piracy remain untouched by it. Establishing a government system in Somalia that effectively fights piracy from the inside is not likely to succeed in the foreseeable future. The Federal Government should be all the more insistent that the international community should take more decisive action against the masterminds. It has long since been accepted that piracy at the Horn of Africa is organized crime, whose masterminds are probably sitting in the major financial centers of this world. All attempts to curb these forces have been half-hearted so far -- and above all unsuccessful.
(Description of Source: Munich Sueddeutsche Zeitung (Electronic Edition) in German -- Electronic edition of Sueddeutsche Zeitung, an influential center-left, nationwide daily; URL: http://www.sueddeutsche.de)
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