Margin of Maneuver in the Middle East

GAZA/BERLIN | | israel

GAZA/BERLIN (Own report) - The news agency Reuters reported that a German shipping company is involved in arms deliveries for the war on Gaza. According to the report, a German ship took on an exceptionally voluminous cargo of US American combat material destined for the Israeli port Ashdod. A second delivery is currently being prepared. Because of its obvious connection to the war on Gaza, British military experts have characterized the shipments as "irregular." German participation draws attention to Berlin's arms exports to the Middle East, with which Germany has over the past few years been arming both Israel and several of the Arab states. German weapons have been helping to fuel the tensions that, from the outset, have been inflaming the region. On the other hand, as announced by Foreign Minister Steinmeier over the weekend, Berlin wants to help prevent the influx of foreign weapons that exceed Western control. This is referring to the suspected influx of Iranian weapons into the Gaza Strip.

Very Large

In December, a German shipping company received a contract to deliver a shipload of combat material to Israel. As reported by the Reuters news agency, the cargo comprised altogether 989 standard 20 ft. containers that were to be transported from Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point (North Carolina, USA) to the Israeli port of Ashdod. December 15 is given as the date of shipment, with charter duration of 42 days. In the contract, according to Reuters, mention is made of 5,8 million pounds (2.6 million kg) of net explosive weight, which in professional circles is judged to be a "very large quantity".[1] The German shipping company has, in the meantime, confirmed receipt of the contract, but did not give details.


Reuters reports that the next US arms delivery to Israel is currently being prepared. It will be comprised of 325 standard 20 ft. containers that will be shipped to Ashdod during the month of January from the Greek port Astakos in two shipments. The contents of the cargo are classified as munitions (explosives and detonators).[2] The contractor is the US Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC), which autonomously delivers weapons, but depending on the circumstances, sometimes falls back on private shipping companies, as in the current case. Since this shipment is in connection with the war on Gaza, British military experts have classified it as "irregular".

Both Sides

The legwork being carried out by a German shipping company for the war on Gaza, brings to mind the voluminous arms exports to the Middle East from the Federal Republic of Germany. Both the Arab as well as the Israeli sides were being supplied. The German government's Arms Export Reports denote that over the past few years, Israel has received exports valued at 15 - 20 million Euros - mainly anti-naval and anti-aircraft equipment as well as spare parts for tanks and armored vehicles. The Arms Export Report for 2007, published in Berlin just before Christmas vacation, denotes the export licenses for more than 28 million Euros in equipment: all-terrain vehicles, spare parts for tanks, ABC protective equipment, as well as communications and navigational hardware. The Israeli Dolphin class submarines are also of German production.


Egypt, a traditional recipient of German weapons is being supplied a similar amount of war material. The focus is on trucks and spare parts for armored vehicles, communications equipment and munitions. One analysis explains that "German scientists and technicians have taken an active part in building up the Egyptian arms industry."[3] During the 1950s former Nazi arms experts were working on site in Egypt, developing missiles, among other things. Among the experts, who were participating, with the knowledge and in part with the financial backing of the West German government, were a former director of the "Reichswerke Hermann Göring" and a specialist of the Nazi missile research facility in Großendorf.[4] The fact that Israel was among the possible primary targets of the missiles produced in Egypt, with the help of these German specialists, exposes the alibi character of the allegation that West Germany's Middle East policy, was primarily oriented toward the wellbeing of Israel, because of the Nazi crimes against humanity.


For years, Saudi Arabia, one of the Middle East Nations, has been among the most important recipients outside NATO of German armaments deliveries. The Arms Export Reports note that over the past four years German exports reached between 30 (in 2005) and 59 (2004) million Euros, mainly spare parts for planes, naval equipment, communication instruments and small arms. With its arms exports to Saudi Arabia, Germany is not merely arming an Arab country, but above all, one of Iran's rivals for the predominating influence in the Persian Gulf. Think tanks in Berlin are proposing an even more intensive cooperation with Riyad. For example the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) writes: "if Germany wants to expand its margin of maneuver in the Middle East, the strengthening of cooperation with Saudi Arabia seems imperative."[5]


But, on the other hand, the German government seeks to prevent the arms exports of reprehensible countries. As the German foreign minister announced on the weekend, Berlin will participate in preventing the delivery of Iranian weapons into the Gaza Strip. In a few days, a German group of experts is due to fly to Egypt for this purpose. "Many of those I have spoken to in the Middle East" said Steinmeier on Saturday, "told me that Iran threatens to become the big winner of the Gaza Conflict."[6] German help in the fortification of the Lebanese borders [7] was not least of all to thwart the influx of weapons to the Hisbollah from Teheran. Following the same pattern, the Gaza Strip is now to be cut off from an influx of undesired Iranian weapons. The West reserves for itself the control over the arms buildup of the competing Middle East states.

[1], [2] U.S. seeks ship to move arms to Israel; Reuters 09.01.2009
[3] Länderportrait Ägypten; Bonn International Center for Conversion, Januar 2007
[4] see also Ankerland
[5] Saudi-Arabien als Partner deutscher Nahostpolitik; SWP-Studie 2008/S 35, Dezember 2008
[6] Steinmeier warnt vor Krisengewinner Iran; Focus Online 10.01.2009
[7] see also Zur Zusammenarbeit bringen and Independent Presence