Arab Brothers in Arms

BERLIN/TRIPOLI/ABU DHABI (Own report) - Despite the UN arms embargo, German military equipment is being deployed in the Libyan war. According to reports, this includes military trucks, produced jointly by the Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall arms manufacturer and the VW subsidiary MAN, which serve as carriers for a Russian air defense system. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) purportedly redeployed these trucks in to Libya in support of the warlord Khalifa Haftar. The Emirates also use German arms in the war in Yemen. This is no coincidence: The Gulf state, one of German arms manufacturers' major customers, is increasingly pursuing an offensive foreign policy, which includes a military component, as in cases such as Libya and Yemen. Abu Dhabi is also supporting German efforts to control the Sahel and has begun establishing military bases at the Horn of Africa. Germany maintains a "strategic partnership" with the UAE.

German Military Equipment in Libya

German MAN SX45 military trucks are purportedly being used in the Libyan war, fitted with Russian-made Pantsir-S1 air defense systems, with ranges of up to 20 kilometers. Following initial expert reports in June,[1] the journalist Hans-Martin Tillack confirmed that these military trucks are depicted on several photographs of Libya, circulating on social media. For years, Tillack has been doing research on German arms exports. The MAN SX45 is produced by the Joint Venture RMMV, a cooperation of the Düsseldorf-based arms manufacturer Rheinmetall and the VW subsidiary MAN. According to experts, the UAE is the only country, whose army uses MAN SX45 trucks fitted with Pantsir-S1 systems. In fact, the German government had approved the export of "low-loader trailers for artillery rocket systems" to the Emirates in 2010, writes Tillack [2] and, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the Pantsir-S-1 system was delivered to that country between 2009 and 2013. In the Libyan war, Abu Dhabi supports the warlord Khalifa Haftar, whose troops operate under the name Libyan National Army (LNA). It is speculated that the LNA may have been used Pantsir-S-1 systems, mounted on MAN trucks, last Friday, to down a fighter jet of the so-called Libyan Government of National Accord.

German Military Equipment in Yemen

The United Arab Emirates are also using German arms in the war in Yemen, as has been proven by the investigative research project #GermanArms, which includes not only "Stern" reporter Hans-Martin Tillack but also collaborators of "Report München" and the "Deutsche Welle." According to their research, not only FeWaS weapons stations - produced by Dynamit Nobel Defence, headquartered in Burbach near Siegen, whose export to the Emirates was approved by Berlin in 2009 - are being used in Yemen.[3] At least one Wisent Armored Recovery Vehicle from FFG (Flensburg) has also been in use in that country. With satellite images, #GermanArms could also prove that a missile boat - built by Germany's Lürssen shipyard and sold to the Emirates - had been cruising for a while in the strait of Bab Al Mandab between the Horn of Africa and Yemen. Documents of the French military intelligence service show that the boat was used not only for enforcing the sea blockade of Yemen, but for "supporting land operations in the Yemeni coastal region," as well.[4]

One of the Biggest Arms Customers

The use of German military hardware by Emirati troops - and perhaps their allies in various wars in the Arab world - is hardly surprising, given that the Emirates, on the one hand, are among Germany's biggest customers of military hardware, and on the other, are pursuing an ever further-reaching foreign policy, increasingly with a military component. The German government had permitted exports of around €2.2 billion worth of military equipment to the Emirates between 2008 and 2017. These included not only firearms of all sorts, with ammunition, but also military vehicles such as the Fuchs armored personnel carrier.[5] At the end of 2007, Rheinmetall formed a joint venture (Burkan Munitions Systems) with two Emirati companies, to build an ammunitions factory in the Emirates. The project developed into a new arms conglomerate, the Emirates Defence Industries Company (EDIC), in 2017. Although the Düsseldorf-based group withdrew from the joint venture in 2012, it continues to supply "components for munitions and furnish technical service" via subsidiaries in South Africa and Italy, according to reports.[6] In 2010, the German government also permitted Rheinmetall to deliver a state-of-the-art combat training center to the Emirates - the model used by the Bundeswehr for training in its "Schnöggersburg" training city, north of Magdeburg. Emirate military personnel had visited "Schnöggersburg" on various occasions to become familiar with the combat training center.

Abu Dhabi's Power Politics

Arming the United Arab Emirates is not without purpose. Since some time, Abu Dhabi has been engaged in an increasingly offensive foreign policy. It has not only positioned itself against Iran in the Middle East power struggle, but is also seeking to strengthen its position at the Horn of Africa.[7] For this purpose, it maintains a naval presence in the port cities of Assab (Eritrea) and Berbera (Somaliland, a self-declared autonomous region of Somalia).[8] The Emirates are moreover expanding their efforts for influence in northern Africa. They are participating with Germany in the attempts to control the Sahel and, in this context, supporting Berlin's efforts with the "G5 Sahel" intervention force.[9] And not least of all, the Emirates are becoming more active also in North Africa, particularly in Libya. The delivery of Emirati weapons to Libya's war zone has been documented for years.

Strategic Partners

Germany's extensive supply of weaponry to the United Arab Emirates is also due to the fact that Berlin has a "strategic partnership" with Abu Dhabi. June 12, following their talks in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, agreed to intensify their cooperation. In the joint statement, signed by both parties, they declared that the two countries were "advancing towards a more comprehensive strategic partnership." The statement also calls for not only seeking a more intensive cooperation in foreign policy, for example in the Middle East as well as the Sahel, but also for intensifying the "bilateral dialogue" between the armed forces of both countries. In reference to Libya, they "believe there can be no military solution to the conflict" and that "an escalation of the conflict ... must be prevented."[10] How this is should be achieved is hardly clear, given the fact that the Emirates are suspected of bringing German military hardware into that country - the United Nations has imposed a comprehensive weapons embargo on Libya. The German government declared on July 1, that it had "no ... knowledge" of German military trucks being used in Libya. Since the beginning of the year, Germany has chaired the UN's Sanctions Committee for Libya.[11]


[1] Jeremy Binnie: UAE may have deployed Pantsir-S1 to Libya. 19.06.2019.

[2] Hans-Martin Tillack: Luftabwehrsysteme auf Militärtrucks deutscher Hersteller offenbar im Einsatz in Libyen. 08.07.2019.

[3] Hans-Martin Tillack, Ruben Rehage: Saudis und Emiratis kämpfen im Jemen mit Waffentechnik aus Deutschland. 26.02.2019.

[4] Hans-Martin Tillack: Geheime französische Dokumente: Deutsches Kriegsgerät im Jemen im Einsatz. 15.04.2019.

[5] See also Der Bock als Gärtner.

[6] Otfried Nassauer: Hemmungslos in alle Welt. Die Munitionsexporte der Rheinmetall AG. BITS-Research Report 16.01. Oktober 2016. See also Die Schlacht um Al Hudaydah (II).

[7] The United Arab Emirates in the Horn of Africa. 07.11.2018.

[8] See also Einflusskampf am Horn von Afrika.

[9] See also Die Militarisierung des Sahel (III).

[10] Joint statement on the occasion of the visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United Arab Emirates, to Germany on advancing towards a more comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the United Arab Emirates and the Federal Republic of Germany. Berlin, June 12, 2019.

[11] Hans-Martin Tillack: Luftabwehrsysteme auf Militärtrucks deutscher Hersteller offenbar im Einsatz in Libyen. 08.07.2019.