The Intercept reports: A lawsuit filed last week in Canada is seeking to halt a major $15 billion sale of light-armored vehicles to the government of Saudi Arabia, part of a growing international movement to stop arms sales to the Saudi government over its alleged war crimes in Yemen.
The suit, filed by University of Montreal constitutional law professor Daniel Turp, argues the vehicle sales to Saudi Arabia violate a number of Canadian laws, including regulations on the export of military equipment, which prohibit arms sales to countries where human rights are “subject to serious and repeated violations” and there is a reasonable risk exported equipment “will be used against the civilian population.” Saudi Arabia, which has a deplorable human rights record at home, has inflicted considerable civilian casualties in Yemen as part of its yearlong bombing campaign in support of the contested government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
“The suppression of human rights in Saudi Arabia and the Saudi government’s actions during the war in Yemen make the sale of these armored vehicles legally unacceptable,” Turp said.[Continue reading…]
Defense News reports: The US State Department has facilitated $33 billion worth of weapons sales to its Arab Gulf allies since May 2015, according to department figures.
The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have received weapons including ballistic missile defense capabilities, attack helicopters, advanced frigates and anti-armor missiles, according to David McKeeby, a spokesman the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
“Consistent with the commitments we made to our Gulf partners at the Camp David summit last May, we have made every effort to expedite sales. Since then, the State and Defense departments have authorized more than $33 billion in defense sales to the 6 Gulf Coordination Council countries,” McKeeby told Defense News. [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: The Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office plans to reach out to U.S. industry in about a month for ways to put existing weapons technologies to new uses as the department scrambles to maintain its competitive edge over Russia and China.
“We’re looking for things we can put our hands on today, go test today,” said Will Roper, director of the SCO, or what he called the Pentagon’s “take risk” office, said.
This is the first time the office is broadly going out to industry for specific ideas on how to repurpose existing weapons, which could result in lucrative new contracts.
The secretive Pentagon office was set up in August 2012 at the behest of Defense Secretary Ash Carter, then the deputy defense secretary, who worried that the U.S. military was not ready for a return to great power competition after years of fighting extremist groups in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The office is now managing a nearly $1 billion dollar annual budget that is aimed at upsetting assumptions made by China and Russia about U.S. military capabilities. [Continue reading…]
Defense One reports: Lockheed Martin is expanding various munition factories to meet rising demand from the U.S. and its partners fighting the Islamic State — and to start equipping American warplanes for great-power wars at sea.
“We are seeing a lot of international demand for our product set,” Frank St. John, Lockheed’s vice president of tactical missiles, said Tuesday. “That’s causing us to do a lot of work in international partnerships and co-production and we’re very excited about those opportunities.”
In particular, U.S. and allies are burning through their stocks of Lockheed’s Hellfire missile, the signature weapon of Predator and Reaper drones. Helicopters and fixed-wing planes also carry the versatile laser-guided weapon.
“It requires a little bit of investment on our part to expand the factories, but the demand is there and we’re keeping up with it [and] we’re staying ahead of it,” St. John said.
It also requires Pentagon funding. Last June, the U.S. Army gave Lockheed $18 million to boost Hellfire production from 500 to 650 missiles per month. St. John said the company has added tools, test equipment, and floor space to its Hellfire production line.
With top military officials predicting that the ISIS campaign will run for years, demand for missiles and bombs is expected to remain high. [Continue reading…]
RT reports: The $500 million Russia spent on the military operation in Syria may soon pay off for the Kremlin, reports business daily Kommersant, as Moscow expects $6-7 billion worth of new arms contracts.
According to the newspaper’s source, close to military exports and technical cooperation, potential customers are looking to buy the weapons proved in action. These are armaments in the inventory of Russian military or already bought by another country.
“In Syria, we achieved two goals. On the one hand, we demonstrated the combat capabilities of our military technology and attracted the attention of customers. On the other hand we tested more than half of our fleet in combat conditions,” the source said. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: As Russia turned the Syrian conflict into an exhibition ground for its newly robust military over the past six months, its neighbors were watching with rapt interest.
This, after all, was a sterling opportunity to assess Russia’s new battlefield capabilities, in the form of ship-based cruise missiles, improved logistics and elite units. And on display, too, were Russia’s weaknesses.
“It is like a game of football,” said Janis Berzins, the managing director at the Center for Security and Strategic Research of the National Defense Academy of Latvia, a NATO member nation that borders Russia. “If you’re playing against Germany, then you go watch Germany play, right? It’s the natural thing to do.”
No one expects Russia and NATO to engage in a conventional war anytime soon. But with limited, consequential interventions in two conflicts, Ukraine and Syria, in the past two years, President Vladimir Putin had shown the Russian military’s growing proficiency as well as his appetite to use force to achieve his greater geopolitical goals. [Continue reading…]
Michael Weiss writes: The Syria war was as much a mediated weapons and hardware expo as it was a client rescue mission.
In October, Russian warships debuted the new Kalibr cruise missile, firing it across 900 miles of sea and land, across Iranian and Iraqi airspace (some of the missiles crash-landed in Iran, according to the Pentagon). But the display became a marquee event for Kremlin-run television, here acting as a multimedia brochure for Rosoboronexport, the Russian state arms dealer, which last year sold $15 billion in weapons to foreign purchasers.
The 45 or so fixed-wing aircraft deployed to Bassel al-Assad International Airport in Latakia, now a permanent Russian garrison and airbase on the Mediterranean, ranged from souped-up Soviet models to state-of-the-art killing machines. The Russian Air Force’s most modern ground attack jet, the Su-34, was showcased as a source of enormous national pride, with the state-owned outlet Sputnik reveling pornographically in the warplane’s ability to hunt “terrorists.” (The Su-34 was also documented cluster bombing populated areas, such as Hraytan, Aleppo.) Just before the New Year, Sergei Smirnov, the director of the Chkalov aviation factory, gave an interview with Vedomosti in which he said that Algeria, which has sought the purchase of the Su-32 export variant from Russia for the last eight years, recently made an official application to purchase the bombers from Rosoboronexport. Other potential buyers, according to “military expert” Igor Korotchenko, again hyping the Su-34 in Sputnik, are Vietnam, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Uganda, Nigeria, and Ethiopia.
Another sophisticated toy is the T-90 battle tank, examples of which have been spotted all over the Syrian battle space, at first guarding the Latakia airbase and now being driven by the Syrian army and Iranian-built Shia militias, such as Iraq’s Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, which in 2007 killed five U.S. soldiers in Karbala. In late December, Algeria announced that it planned to buy its third tranche of T-90s. Iran now also wants them. [Continue reading…]
William D. Hartung writes: According to a report released this week by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia have increased by an astonishing 279% between 2011 and 2015, compared with the prior five-year period. More then three quarters of the weaponry came from the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
There was a time when sales to the Saudis were more about money and politics than fighting actual conflicts. Multi-billion dollar sales from the Nixon administration onward were seen as a way to bolster U.S. weapons contractors and “recycle petrodollars” — earn back some of the funds that flowed out of the U.S. to purchase Saudi oil. It didn’t hurt that Saudi officials frequently skimmed off funds for their own use as part of these mega-deals.
Until recently, the military relevance of sending weapons to Saudi Arabia had less to do with the Saudis using U.S.-supplied arms than it did with cementing ties with Washington. The implicit understanding was that the purchase of large quantities of U.S. armaments was a form of payback for Washington’s commitment to come to the rescue of the Saudi regime in a crisis. [Continue reading…]
Amnesty: Campaigners are today calling on governments due to attend the latest round of discussions on the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in Geneva on 29 February to set their hypocrisy aside and stop selling billions of dollars worth of deadly weapons to Saudi Arabia being used to attack Yemeni civilians.
In a new report released today, the Control Arms Coalition names France, Germany, Italy, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK, and the US as having reported licenses and sales to Saudi Arabia worth more than $25bn in 2015 including drones, bombs, torpedoes, rockets and missiles. These are the types of arms currently being used by Saudi Arabia and its allies for gross violations of human rights and possible war crimes during aerial and ground attacks in Yemen. [Continue reading…]
The European parliament voted by a large majority for an EU-wide ban on arms sales to the kingdom, citing the “disastrous humanitarian situation” as a result of “Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen”.
The vote does not compel EU member states to act but it does increase pressure on Riyadh, in the wake of criticism from the UN and growing international alarm over civilian casualties in Yemen.
The resolution also turns up the heat on the British government, which has supplied export licences for up to £3bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia in the last year. The UK has been accused of direct involvement in the bombing campaign through the deployment of UK military personnel to the kingdom. [Continue reading…]
The Independent reports: British arms companies have cashed-in on Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen by ramping up arms sales to the country’s autocratic government by over a hundred times, new figures show.
Sales of British bombs and missiles to the Saudi Arabia surged to over £1bn just three months last year, according to an official record of arms export licences quietly released by the Government this week.
The sales, up from just £9m in the preceding three-month period, have occurred while the oil-rich autocracy conducts a military campaign in its neighbour’s territory, where the United Nations has said a “humanitarian catastrophe” is unfolding. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: Foreign arms sales by the United States jumped by almost $10 billion in 2014, about 35 percent, even as the global weapons market remained flat and competition among suppliers increased, a new congressional study has found.
American weapons receipts rose to $36.2 billion in 2014 from $26.7 billion the year before, bolstered by multibillion-dollar agreements with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. Those deals and others ensured that the United States remained the single largest provider of arms around the world last year, controlling just over 50 percent of the market.
Russia followed the United States as the top weapons supplier, completing $10.2 billion in sales, compared with $10.3 billion in 2013. Sweden was third, with roughly $5.5 billion in sales, followed by France with $4.4 billion and China with $2.2 billion.
South Korea, a key American ally, was the world’s top weapons buyer in 2014, completing $7.8 billion in contracts. It has faced continued tensions with neighboring North Korea in recent years over the North’s nuclear weapons program and other provocations. The bulk of South Korea’s purchases, worth more than $7 billion, were made with the United States and included transport helicopters and related support, as well as advanced unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles.
Iraq followed South Korea, with $7.3 billion in purchases intended to build up its military in the wake of the American troop withdrawal there. [Continue reading…]
Financial Times reports: As a known arms dealer for rebels fighting Isis in his east Syrian home town, Abu Ali was sure his days were numbered when, a year ago, two jihadi commanders stepped out of their pickup truck and walked towards him.
He was baffled when they handed him a printed paper. “It read, ‘This person is permitted to buy and sell all types of weaponry inside the Islamic State,’” recalls Abu Ali. “It was even stamped ‘Mosul Centre’.”
Rather than being detained or expelled as they had feared when the jihadi group swept through eastern Syria last year, many black-market traders such as Abu Ali were courted by Isis. They were absorbed into a complex system of supply and demand that keeps the world’s richest jihadi group stocked with munitions across a self-proclaimed “caliphate” spanning half of Syria and a third of Iraq.
“They buy like mad. They buy every day: morning, afternoon and night,” says Abu Ali, who, like others who have operated inside Isis territories, asked not to be identified by his real name.
Isis seized weapons worth hundreds of millions dollars when it captured Iraq’s second city, Mosul, in the summer of 2014. Since then, in every battle that it has won, it has acquired more material. Its arsenal includes US-made Abrams tanks, M16 rifles, MK-19 40mm grenade launchers (seized from the Iraqi army) and Russian M-46 130mm field guns (taken from Syrian forces).
But dealers say despite this, there is one thing Isis still needs: ammunition. Most in demand are rounds for Kalashnikov assault rifles, medium-calibre machine guns and 14.5mm and 12.5mm anti-aircraft guns. Isis also buys rocket-propelled grenades and sniper bullets, but in smaller quantities. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: There must be “proper investigations” to ensure that Saudi Arabia has not breached international humanitarian law in the war in Yemen, according to Britain’s foreign secretary, who said that shipments of UK-supplied weapons would be halted if the Saudis fell foul of those probes.
Philip Hammond’s comments came as Britain is being urged to halt the supply of weapons to Riyadh in the light of evidence that civilians are being killed in Saudi-led attacks on rebel forces in Yemen.
Amnesty International has warned that “damning evidence of war crimes” highlights the urgent need for an independent investigation of violations and for the suspension of transfer of arms used in the attacks.
Speaking during a visit to the US, Hammond told BBC’s Newsnight on Tuesday that he had discussed the use of the weapons in Yemen when he visited Saudi Arabia recently.
“The Saudis deny that there have been any breaches of international humanitarian law,” he said. “Obviously that denial alone is not enough. We need to see proper investigations. We need to work with the Saudis to establish that international humanitarian law has been complied with. We have an export licensing system that responds if we find that it is not. We will then find that we cannot licence additional shipments of weapons.” [Continue reading…]
Mother Jones reports: Citing “damning evidence of war crimes,” Amnesty International has condemned America’s continued support of Saudi Arabia’s air war in Yemen. In a report released yesterday, the human-rights organization called on the United States to stop selling bombs, fighter jets, and combat helicopters to the Saudis
The nearly seven-month-old conflict, which pits Saudi Arabia and a coalition of allied states against anti-government rebels, has claimed thousands of civilian lives. More than two-thirds of those were killed by Saudi-led air strikes, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. While Saudi Arabia claims to only be targeting military targets, bombs have been dropped on power stations, water supplies, schools, hospitals, and a camp for displaced people.
The United States has been aiding the Saudi-led coalition with weaponry, logistics, and intelligence support. Washington and Riyadh inked $90 billion in arms deals between 2010 and 2014, and at least another $7.8 billion in new arms deals have been announced since Saudi Arabia’s air campaign began in March. Among the remnants of American-made bombs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have found on the ground in Yemen are two types of cluster bombs. Cluster bombs are banned by more than 100 countries because of the risk they pose to civilians. [Continue reading…]
CJ Werleman writes: Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a mere 12 days into his presidency. Never had a recipient achieved so little to be lauded so much. Essentially it was a pre-emptive award given on the presumption Obama’s foreign policy record would eventually meet its promise.
In the six-years since becoming planet earth’s most recognised agent for world peace, Obama has failed to close Guantanamo Bay, which remains the symbol of the darkest chapter in modern US history; has assassinated US citizens around the globe sans due process; has suspended habeas corpus; has terrorised villagers in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere with the incessant buzzing sound of weaponised drones; armed Israel in the midst of its brutal and bloody invasion of Gaza, which left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead; toppled a government in Libya without so much as a consideration for what might come next; supported the toppling of a democratically elected government in Egypt, and, in turn, armed arguably the most brutal dictator in that country’s history; and has coordinated and guided Saudi Arabia’s terrorist activities in Yemen, which has left more than 4,000 Yemeni civilians dead.
It’s a record to behold with some awe, and it gets worse.
A newly released report reveals Obama is the greatest arms exporter since the Second World War. The dollar value of all major arms deals overseen by the first five years of the Obama White House now exceeds the amount overseen by the Bush White House in its full eight years in office by nearly $30 billion.
America’s arms-dealer-in-chief has flooded the most volatile corner of the world, the Middle East, with guns, bombs, fighter jets, tanks and missiles. [Continue reading…]
PRI reports: A Yemeni man described the chaos that accompanied an air strike near his village on a Monday morning in April, the day of the weekly market.
“Hundreds of people from the surrounding villages were in al-Amar when the bombs were dropped,” he told Human Rights Watch. “When people saw the parachutes they fled, leaving all their produce, cars and livestock. I went to find out what the parachutes had dropped. I do not know what it is, but I thought it was important to keep away from children who might play with it.”
He told Human Rights Watch he’d heard that the attack had wounded two people. HRW confirmed that several people injured in the incident were treated at a local hospital. The objects the Yemeni man discovered on the ground were later identified by HRW as parts of a US-made weapon, the CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon from Textron Systems of Wilmington, Massachusetts. [Continue reading…]
Giles Frazer writes: Somewhere in a Greek jail, the former defence minister, Akis Tsochatzopoulos, watches the financial crisis unfold. I wonder how partly responsible he feels? In 2013, Akis (as he is popularly known) went down for 20 years, finally succumbing to the waves of financial scandal to which his name had long been associated. For alongside the lavish spending, the houses and the dodgy tax returns, there was bribery, and it was the €8m appreciation he received from the German arms dealer, Ferrostaal, for the Greek government’s purchase of Type 214 submarines, that sent him to prison.
There is this idea that the Greeks got themselves into this current mess because they paid themselves too much for doing too little. Well, maybe. But it’s not the complete picture. For the Greeks also got themselves into debt for the oldest reason in the book – one might even argue, for the very reason that public debt itself was first invented – to raise and support an army. The state’s need for quick money to raise an army is how industrial-scale money lending comes into business (in the face of the church’s historic opposition to usury). Indeed, in the west, one might even stretch to say that large-scale public debt began as a way to finance military intervention in the Middle East – ie the crusades. And just as rescuing Jerusalem from the Turks was the justification for massive military spending in the middle ages, so the fear of Turkey has been the reason given for recent Greek spending. Along with German subs, the Greeks have bought French frigates, US F16s and German Leopard 2 tanks. In the 1980s, for example, the Greeks spent an average of 6.2% of their GDP on defence compared with a European average of 2.9%. In the years following their EU entry, the Greeks were the world’s fourth-highest spenders on conventional weaponry.
So, to recap: corrupt German companies bribed corrupt Greek politicians to buy German weapons. And then a German chancellor presses for austerity on the Greek people to pay back the loans they took out (with Germans banks) at massive interest, for the weapons they bought off them in the first place. Is this an unfair characterisation? A bit. It wasn’t just Germany. And there were many other factors at play in the escalation of Greek debt. But the postwar difference between the Germans and the Greeks is not the tired stereotype that the former are hardworking and the latter are lazy, but rather that, among other things, the Germans have, for obvious reasons, been restricted in their military spending. And they have benefited massively from that. [Continue reading…]