Weapons for Egypt

CAIRO/BERLIN (Own report) - Last year, the German government authorized a record number of arms exports to Egypt. As the government confirmed, permits, valued at around €428 million, were issued in 2017. Among the goods Cairo received are TyssenKrupp Marine Systems' submarines. The deliveries are being carried out in spite of serious accusations of grave human rights violations raised against the Egyptian military government. The case of an Italian post-grad student, who was possibly murdered in early 2016 by Egyptian police or secret service agents, has yet to be solved. In addition the Saudi-led coalition's war on Yemen is supported by the Egyptian navy. Germany is also providing arms to the coalition. According to reports, arms deliveries have recently been expanded to the United Arab Emirates. At the same time, even NATO countries are beginning to suspend their deliveries to the coalition, because of the humanitarian catastrophe caused in Yemen.

Record Arms Exports

Last year, the German government issued a record number of arms exports permits for Egypt. As was confirmed in an answer to a parliamentary interpellation posed by the LEFT in the Bundestag, the government had authorized the delivery of €428 million in combat material to that country in the period from January 1 to November 15. This included sidewinder air-to-air guided missiles, delivered from Diehl Defense, with headquarters in Überlingen, at Lake Constance, as well as jet fighters good for "dogfights" and submarines. Egypt will receive altogether four submarines from ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), two of which have already been delivered. The TKMS submarine deal had already placed Egypt among the top 5 German arms customers in 2016, where it will also presumably be in 2017.[1]

Mobile Training Teams

Last year, alongside arms exports, the Bundeswehr began to cooperate more closely with the Egyptian armed forces. In July 2017, for the first time, a new type of Mobile Training Team (MTT) comprised of German soldiers carried out a mission in Egypt. The MTT, made up of military training personnel, is dispatched to train national units in preparation for UN missions. Berlin had agreed in September 2015 to regularly provide this service in the future. The first of these missions, which lasted two weeks, was carried out last July in Egypt. According to the Bundeswehr, the mission was to train Egyptian soldiers in preparation for operations "involving patrols under threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs)," - "on the one hand, at the unit level," and on "the level of the principle, 'train the trainer'."[2] The specific objective was to prepare Egyptian soldiers for their mission within the framework of the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA), where the Bundeswehr is playing a leading role. From now on, the new MTTs will regularly train African soldiers. In November, another team trained Guinean troops for two weeks - also in preparation for their MINUSMA deployment.

Torture and Murder

Berlin is expanding its support for the Egyptian armed forces, at a time when serious accusations are being raised regarding Egypt's military regime. Human rights organizations have made reports on arbitrary mass arrests. Government opponents of various political orientations have been imprisoned as well as human rights activists and journalists. Hundreds of prisoners, arrested by the secret services, have disappeared. The repressive forces enjoy practical impunity. The murder of Giulio Regeni, the Italian post-grad student involved in a research project on trade unions, has still not been solved. The 28 yr. old disappeared January 25, 2016. His body was found February 3, 2016 - showing severe traces of torture, with his toe and fingernails pulled out. Regeni was also a journalist and considered to be critical of the ruling military government. Witnesses confirm that he had been arrested on the day he disappeared. Observers assume that police or intelligence agencies were responsible. Cairo denies this. In Italy, the public demand for the crime to be solved is still heard.[3]

Starvation and Cholera

Egypt is also supporting the war on Yemen, waged by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The Saudi-led war is provoking heavy criticism around the world because of its large number of civilian casualties. Between the 6 and 16 December alone, Saudi bombs killed at least 136 civilians, which had also hit a TV station, a hospital and a wedding celebration, according to the United Nations. It is particularly grave that Riyadh has imposed a blockade on Yemen, which includes the delivery of food and medicine. The United Nations sees the country's resulting famine as "unprecedented," and epidemics are spreading: Since April 2017, more than one million people have come down with cholera and more than 2,200 have died. For the first time since 1992 diphtheria is again spreading. Of the nearly 400 cases documented so far, doctors consider the nearly ten percent mortality rate to be extremely high. Egypt has begun to enhance its naval presence in the Red Sea.[4] Since May 2015, Egypt has already four warships in the area of Bab al-Mandab, the straits between Djibouti and Yemen at the entrance of the Red Sea to support the Saudi Arabian-led coalition.[5]

The Saudi War Coalition

Berlin not only continues to arm Egypt, but Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well, the countries primarily leading the war on Yemen. In late December, another two patrol boats from Wolgast's Peene shipyard (belonging to the Bremen Lürssen Group) were loaded onto transport vessels headed for the Saudi Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah. These vessels are part of a €1.5 billion deal for the delivery of more than 100 ships. The patrol boats can also serve military purposes.[6] Berlin is also supporting Riyadh in setting up its own arms industry. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[7]) Last year, the German government approved arms exports valued at nearly a quarter billion euros to Saudi Arabia and significantly increased its arms exports to the United Arab Emirates. Already in 2016, the Federal Security Council approved a €170 million supply of arms to the United Arab Emirates, and nearly €214 million worth in 2017.[8]

Top Customers

In the meantime, even NATO countries are suspending their support for the Saudi-led war coalition. On December 19, the Norwegian government decided to suspend arms exports to the United Arab Emirates - as a preventive measure. The Norwegian foreign ministry announced in early January, that it has "serious reservations" due to the humanitarian situation in Yemen, and Oslo, in any case, is not delivering arms to Saudi Arabia.[9] For the German arms manufacturers, however, Saudi Arabia along with several of its allies, the Emirates and Egypt, in particular, are among their top customers.


[1] Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Sevim Dağdelen, Christine Buchholz, Heike Hänsel, weiterer Abgeordneter und der Fraktion Die Linke. Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 19/333, 28.12.2017.

[2] Claudia Schenck, Florian Manthey: Mobile Training Team. Bundeswehr aktuell Nr. 36, 18.09.2017.

[3] See also Von Lagern umgeben.

[4] Ahmed Eleiba: Looking south: The expansion of Egypt's naval operations. english.ahram.org.eg 15.01.2017.

[5] Shaul Shay: Egypt strengthens its Strategic Presence in the Red Sea. israeldefense.co.il 10.01.2017.

[6] Frank Behling: Saudische Patrouillenboote im Kanal. kn-online.de 30.12.2017. See also Assisting Famine (III).

[7] See also Armed with German Help.

[8] Rüstungsexporte nach Saudi-Arabien brechen um die Hälfte ein. welt.de 18.12.2017.

[9] Norwegen stoppt Rüstungsexporte an Emirate. derstandard.at 03.01.2018.