Assisting Famine (II)

BERLIN/RIYADH/SANAA (Own report) - Contrary to its announcements, Germany is continuing to furnish arms to Saudi Arabia - and is delivering patrol boats to the Saudi Coast Guard. Last week two patrol boats debarked from the Peene Shipyard in Wolgast headed for Saudi Arabia. They are part of a €1.5 billion deal, which includes the delivery of over 100 vessels to the country's coast guard and navy. The Lürssen Shipyard in Bremen is the main contractor. These ships are being delivered in spite of the worldwide criticism Riyadh is facing for its war against Yemen and its maritime blockade of Yemeni ports - provoking a devastating famine and aggravating a rampant epidemic of cholera. For its maritime blockade Saudi Arabia can rely on German patrol boats. According to a recent report published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), al Qaeda is benefiting from the war Saudi Arabia is waging in Yemen - also with German arms. The US ban to carry laptops on board certain passenger flights is allegedly connected to terrorist attacks planned by a reinvigorated al Qaeda in Yemen.

The €1.5 Billion Deal

The delivery of two patrol boats to Saudi Arabia began last week. They were built in the Peene shipyard - taken over by Lürssen in December 2012 - and loaded onto a Briese shipyard cargo vessel at Leer, in Wolgast, for transport to a Red Sea port for the Saudi coast guard. Reaching a speed of up to 40 knots they currently are only equipped with light weapons, but can, at any time, be re-equipped with guided weapons.[1] A patrol boat of this kind had already been delivered in November 2016; a second and third last April; and, according to unconfirmed reports, ten more are to be shipped to Saudi Arabia this year. They are part of a €1.5 billion deal with Bremen's Lürssen shipyard being the main contractor. According to specialized media reports, Lürssen has also involved shipyards in France (Kership, Couach), Italy (Fincantieri) and in Spain (Freire, Rodman) to produce the more than 100 vessels Riyadh has ordered for the Saudi Coast Guard and Navy.[2]

Simply Humbug

The delivery of the patrol boats shows that late April's media reports of "Saudi Arabia no longer buying German weapons" were simply humbug.[3] This is how Saudi Deputy Economy Minister Mohammed al-Tuwaijri was interpreted, when he told the press Riyadh does not want "to cause any more problems for the German government with new requests for weapons." In fact, the delivery continues and the German government is also approving new exports. Just a few days before the debarkation of the two Lürssen patrol boats, the German Federal Security Council had not only approved their delivery, but the delivery of 110 trucks, as well as "military tools and equipment" valued at €8.9 million.[4] The ten boats, still to be delivered this year, will also require the Federal Security Council's approval.

Artillery Shells for Riyadh

German arms manufacturers are supplying Saudi Arabia also from foreign locations. A large portion of the 72 Eurofighters, Saudi Arabia is using in the war on Yemen, were produced in Germany but formally sold to Riyadh by the British co-producer BAE Systems. Between 2014 and 2015, the Rheinmetall arms manufacturer in Düsseldorf sold military hardware to Riyadh worth €71.5 million via its Rheinmetall Italia branch and its subsidiary RWM Italia.[5] These sales never appeared in German arms export reports. The same applies to the ammunition factory opened last year in Al-Kharj, southwest of Riyadh. The US $240 million factory was built with the involvement of the South African Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) manufacturer, in which Rheinmetall holds a 51 percent majority shares. The filling plant in Al-Kharj was licensed by RDM, which is also acting as supplier. "Powder, cartridges and detonators are obtained by RDM and filled in Saudi Arabia," according to a report. "300 artillery shells or 600 mortar rounds can be produced daily."[6]

A Country Destroyed

The war in Yemen, which Saudi Arabia is waging - also with German weapons - together with several allied countries, including the United Arab Emirates [7] has already lasted two years and four months and is increasingly destroying the country. The Saudi war coalition has long since expanded its targets "from the purely military to the entire infrastructure," and has been "destroying ports, power stations, roads and bridges," as the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) notes in its recently published report.[8] "Numerous attacks on hospitals" have "seriously affected the already precarious medical service in Yemen." The August 2016 bombing of the Doctors without Borders aid organization's hospital, killing 19 people, was obviously only one of many similar cases. "Attacks on various other civilian targets, such as food factories," have been "on the agenda," resulting in "a complete collapse of Yemen's economy." The United Nations reported back in January that the number of civilian casualties in the war in Yemen has already surpassed 10,000.[9]

Famine and Cholera

Riyadh's maritime blockade is having catastrophic consequences. To implement its blockade, the Saudi government also relies on its coast guard, which already uses German patrol boats and is currently receiving more Lürssen vessels. Under the pretext of cutting off arms supplies to Houthi militias, Riyadh is seriously impeding the country's supply of food, medicine and other desperately needed aid, which is resulting in a famine. As the United Nations reported, 17 million of the 27.5 million Yemenis - or two thirds of the population - are starving, and 6.8 million are even suffering "extreme starvation." One million pregnant or breastfeeding women are severely malnourished and more than half a million children are at imminent risk of starving to death. The situation has been aggravated by a rampant epidemic of cholera, which is being drastically escalated by the destruction of medical and other infrastructure as well as through inadequate access to aid due to the blockade. Experts consider this epidemic to be the most desperate worldwide, already causing 2,000 deaths. According to aid organizations, there are already more than 360.000 suspected cases of cholera.[10]


Experts point out that, beyond the destruction it causes, the Saudi's war in Yemen is strengthening jihadi terrorism. SWP notes that the initial turmoil of the Saudi's war in Yemen had not only enabled al Qaeda to get control of the southern Yemeni port city of Mukalla, with its 300,000 inhabitants for almost a year, but also to capture "huge weapons arsenals and sums of money."[11] Al Qaeda still has a strong presence in the country and - according to SWP - is "not considered an enemy" by Riyadh's Yemeni allies, because it participates in this war against the common enemy - the Houthi. Obviously this constellation is helping to strengthen al Qaeda. Even though currently it is mainly engaged in the war in Yemen, terrorist attacks on western targets could again be expected in the future, notes SWP. The think tank points out that the ban to carry laptops on board certain flights bound for the US, could be due to fear of attacks with a Yemeni background. In the USA the assumption is making the rounds that lap top batteries could be filled with explosives. "Attempts to carry out this type of attack" have, "until now, predominantly been made by the Yemeni al Qaeda." Saudi Arabia, whose war in Yemen is strengthening al Qaeda in that country, is Berlin's main partner at the Persian Gulf and a privileged customer for German combat hardware.

[1] Frank Behling: Peenewerft liefert Boote an Saudi-Arabien. 18.07.2017.
[2] Wochenschau: Saudi-Arabien. 21.07.2017.
[3] Saudi-Arabien will keine deutschen Waffen mehr kaufen. 30.04.2017.
[4] Bundesregierung genehmigt Waffenlieferungen nach Saudi-Arabien. 13.07.2017.
[5] See Die Kriegszulieferer.
[6] Gerhard Hegmann: Über Umwege kommt Saudi-Arabien weiter an deutsche Waffen. 01.05.2017.
[7] See Kalter Krieg am Golf.
[8] Guido Steinberg: Saudi-Arabiens Krieg im Jemen. SWP-Aktuell 51, Juli 2017.
[9] See Assisting Famine.
[10] Christian Böhme: Schlimmste Cholera-Epidemie der Geschichte. 21.07.2017.
[11] Guido Steinberg: Saudi-Arabiens Krieg im Jemen. SWP-Aktuell 51, Juli 2017.