Bloody Alliance (I)

BERLIN/RIYADH | | saudi-arabien

BERLIN/RIYADH (Own report) - Saudi Arabia can use German technology of repression and skills provided by the German police for the suppression of its opposition, which last weekend culminated in a mass execution. In recent years, the German government has authorized the supply of telecommunication surveillance products to Riyadh, worth more than 18 million Euros. The German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation organized, among other things, training courses in counter-terrorism for Saudi Arabia's GID intelligence service. Saudi Arabia even treats non-violent protests by its heavily discriminated Shia minority as "terrorism." The German Federal Police is training Saudi border police officers within the framework of an official project, formally approved in 2009 by Germany's Interior Minister at the time, Wolfgang Schäuble. According to reports, the training includes exercising the use of assault rifles and crackdowns on demonstrators. It has also been provided, at least temporarily, to members of the religious police force. This cooperation in repression is an element of a comprehensive economic cooperation guaranteeing German enterprises large sales and billions in contracts. Above all, it serves Berlin's strategic Middle East policy objectives.

Shot or Beheaded

International protests against Saudi Arabia's bloody repression is still persisting in the aftermath of the mass executions last weekend. Forty-seven people, predominantly al-Qaeda members, many of whom convicted of having committed murderous terrorist attacks, were beheaded or shot by firing squad. However, also executed were four activists of the Shia opposition, including the popular Shia ayatollah Nimr Bakir al Nimr. Al Nimr was one of the most influential leaders of Saudi Arabia's Shias, a minority, suffering for years under discrimination in that country. Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia's state religion, is nearly identical with Salafism, a branch of Islam, which also forms the basis of alliances, such as the "Islamic State" (IS/Daesh) and treats Shias as heretics. The mass executions were met with large protests in Iran as well as in other predominantly Shiite areas of the Arab world. These protests continue and could escalate. In the West, which for decades has been closely cooperating with the Saudi rulers in Riyadh, embarrassed disavowals of the executions, particularly of al-Nimr, can be heard - disavowals with no consequences.

Paradise for the State's Peeping Toms

Saudi Arabia, which, following last weekend's outrage, is the focus of heavy criticism for its blood-thirsty domestic repression, has been systematically equipped with German technology of repression, for years - even with official support. The Foreign Trade Center of Bavaria, which is sponsored by the Chambers of Industry and Commerce (IHK) and the Bavarian Chamber of Crafts, had already reported in 2007 that it is assisting in the expansion of the businesses engaged in "security" also to Saudi Arabia. At the time, the Germany Trade and Invest agency (GTAI) had been promoting exports of surveillance technology to the Arabian Peninsula, noting that, no "legal or administrative obstacles" would have to be overcome, to deploy repression technology, the "Gulf region" could "quasi be dubbed the paradise for the state's peeping Toms." The "authorities in the Gulf region" not only want to "assess, channel and control ... significant parts of the foreign population" - the numerous migrant workers particularly from South Asia - but also to "keep an eye for political reasons on the domestic populations."[1] In 2007, the German government approved the export to Saudi Arabia of products for surveillance of telecommunications worth 18,254 million Euros.

Internet Spying

Reliable information is not available on exports to Saudi Arabia of other technology for repression, not requiring authorization by 2015. According to a report, German deliveries of various technologies could have also been used to repress liberal and Shia oppositions. For example, the "IMSI-Catcher for dragnet surveillance of mobile telecommunications" as well as "system solutions and software for the assessment and evaluation of emails, internet telecommunications and communication platforms such as Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook" have been sold to Saudi government administrations of repression. The Rohde and Schwarz company based in Munich, was among the suppliers.[2] It is unknown whether the exports were carried out in the context of the two "Terrorist internet Criminality" training courses, provided to the Saudi administrations by Germany's Federal Office of Criminal Investigation. These courses were held in October 2009 for officials of Riyadh's interior ministry as well as for its General Intelligence Directorate (GID).[3]

Strategic Partnership

What is known, however, is that without government support, the largest known deal with Saudi Arabia in surveillance technology could not have materialized. In 2009, when the (German-French) Airbus Consortium won the contract to modernize the fortifications along the entire 9,000 km long stretch of Saudi borders, with state-of-the-art surveillance equipment,[4] the German Federal Police began, at the same time, a long-term training project for Saudi border officials. This project had been dependent upon Riyadh granting Airbus the contract. German Minister of the Interior at the time, Wolfgang Schäuble, finalized these measures, signing the "Cooperation in Security" agreement May 27, 2009. According to official sources, Saudi border patrol officers were given courses in "personnel management," or "police decision-making processes." Already years ago, German officials on-location, began complaining that their duties extended far beyond these, to even include marksmanship training.[5] In September, it was reported that between April and June 2015 alone, 19 German Federal Police officers had been on call in Saudi Arabia. According to the German Ministry of the Interior, "German support for the modernization of Saudi Arabia's border security is an aspect of the strategic partnership in the realm of security."[6]

Crackdown on Demonstrations

Years ago, research had already uncovered that the project was in no way restricted to Saudi border control, and was even providing techniques that could serve to repress the opposition. The German ARD public television magazine "Fakt," broadcasted in June 2012, that not only Saudi border patrol personnel were taking part in the training project, but Saudi intelligence officers as well. Officers of the religious police force, which is an integral part of Saudi border management, had also participated in the project. They also participate in decisions on how to handle those arrested at the border. The training project involved not only exercising marksmanship with assault weapons - probably the Heckler and Koch G3 and the G36, Saudi Arabia produces both under German license,[7] - but also how to "handle major situations, such as demonstrations." "Fakt" quoted a German participant in the project, who reported that some of his colleagues had personally been present at executions.[8] For years, human rights organizations have been warning that even Airbus' technology of repression is not "limited to use directly at the border." There is "high risk of misapplication."[9]

Lucrative Business

German architects' construction projects are good examples of how the Berlin - Riyadh general business cooperation is inextricable from the question of Saudi repression. Their business relations are close. German companies annually sell around nine million Euros in products to the dictatorship at the Gulf and have landed lucrative contracts. The Deutsche Bahn, for example, had participated in the construction of an overhead railway in Riyadh and is currently engaged in building a high-speed rail line.[10] Siemens has over 2,000 employees on location in Saudi Arabia, where it is also involved in the construction of two Riyadh subway lines. The German architect, Albert Speer, had from 1977 - 1980 been involved in planning the construction of the Saudi capital's embassy district as well as taken part in the construction of the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The construction of the judicial complex in downtown Riyadh is one of his "favorite projects."[11] It was in that building, in 2014, that the Shia ayatollah Sheikh Nimr Bakir al Nimr was sentenced to death by beheading.[12]

The German-Saudi cooperation in matters of repression is not only serving profit-seeking economic motives, but in particular Berlin's strategic Middle East policy objectives. german-foreign-policy.com will report on this tomorrow.

[1] Sicherheitstechnik am Golf gefragt. www.bfai.de 25.01.2007. Germany Trade and Invest firmierte damals noch als Bundesagentur für Außenwirtschaft (bfai). See Boomdiktaturen.
[2] Deutsche Firmen lieferten Abhörtechnik an Saudi-Arabien. vorab.bams.de 08.02.2015.
[3] Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Andrej Hunko, Jan Korte, Christine Buchholz, weiterer Abgeordneter und der Fraktion Die Linke. Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 17/13185, 22.04.2013.
[4] See Water as a Weapon and Stabile Conditions.
[5] Panzer, Polizisten, Probleme. www.stern.de 13.07.2011.
[6] Andreas Maisch: Warum deutsche Polizisten Saudi-Arabien dienen. www.welt.de 07.09.2015.
[7] See Mit dem G36 gegen das G3.
[8] Sandro Poggendorf, Marcus Weller: Saudische Religionspolizei in deutsches Grenzsicherungsprojekt eingebunden. Fakt 26.06.2012.
[9] Mathias John: Waffen für Arabien. www.amnesty.de August 2011.
[10] See Expansion and Collapse.
[11] Lieblingsprojekte. www.albert-speer.de/werk/ .
[12] Abbas Baker: Königreich der Unterdrückung. www.taz.de 09.03.2015.