"Germany has become a key arms supplier in the Middle East despite stringent export controls that have inhibited weapons sales in the past," writes UPI (via SeidlersSiPo) in a good summary of recent sales. In the current conflict in Libya, weapons manufactured by German defense companies are being used by both sides:
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces use tank transporters built by Mercedes Benz, German-made electronic jamming systems and Milan-3 surface-to-air missiles made by the French-German MBDA company. NATO forces employ the twin-engined Eurofighters for their air campaign against Gadhafi's beleaguered regime.
What I also find shameful is that apparently the German chancellery justified the recent sale of 200 Leopard tanks to Saudi Arabia by indicating to members of parliament that Israel approved it (FAZ, in German), although what seems to have happened was that "Berlin updated the Israeli government and Israel simply said nothing."
The FAZ article quotes former Israeli ambassador Stein saying that Germany should not use Israel as an alibi for or against the arms sale, but should rather conduct an honest debate about German interests in the region. Exactly!
While I recognize some Realpolitik arguments in favor of the sale (defense against Iran), I am strictly opposed to this sale, which the German government still has not confirmed or denied, in an effort to avoid a debate.
First of all, the sale would be a particularly bad contribution to the Arab spring, especially since Saudi Arabia participated in suppression of the uprising in Bahrain.
Second, I don't want to see a picture of German tank in front of protesters in Riyadh in a few years, similar to the tank man on Tiananmen square.
Third, Saudi Arabia has plenty of high-tech arms to defend against Iran. Another arms sale is not going to help us in negotiations with Tehran. The kingdom should rather spend its money to help the starving Somalis next door.
Fourth, Germany should not sell any arms to any country that does not respect human rights, freedom of religion etc. Dear Saudi Royal family, let me break it down for you: Before you order any tanks or just a crossbow, you need to let women drive, protect migrant workers and minorities, let Christians and Jews build houses of worship, host a gay pride parade, techno love parade and a slut walk, and stop promoting fundamentalism around the world.
Endnote: The Gloria Center has an interesting piece on The German Tank Sale to Saudi Arabia and Israel's Silence:
The golden mean on arms sales in the region from Israel's perspective has always been maintaining Jerusalem's qualitative military edge (QME). (.) QME is the prism through which Israel views arms sales to the region, and it is through QME that we must view the muted Israeli response to the German sale to Riyadh. Just as Israel and the US struck a balance between the F-35 sale to Israel and the F-15SA sale to Saudi Arabia, Jerusalem and Berlin struck a balance between the continued sale of the Dolphins to Israel, and the Leopards to Saudi Arabia.
Wonderful, Germany is also contributing to the arms race in the region.