Stabilizing the Region

When Saudi Arabian tanks, on invitation of Bahrain’s King Hamad Al Khalifa, invaded the tiny Gulf island on March 14, what has been called the Arab Spring uprisings had their heyday. Tunisia’s dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had fled to Saudi Arabia on 14 January, his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak had resigned on 11 February. Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi had turned his tanks against his own protesting citizens; and NATO was about, in official terms, to implement the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 calling the international community for establishing a “no-fly zone”, which had led to another illegal war in the greater Middle East (ironically, Germany abstained in the final UNSC vote and was heavily criticized afterwards; but wait a minute). While huge protests are seen up to now in Yemen and Syria, those in Algeria, Jordan, Oman, even Kuwait have been brought under control. Deceptive graveyard peace.

It is not clear whether then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who had visited Bahrain only hours before Saudi Arabian tanks were deployed across the King Fahd Causeway had only discussed, with Al Khalifa, the possibility of letting Saudi troops and others from the Gulf Cooperation Council invade protect Bahrain, home of U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Or whether he had in fact given a green light. Obama, whose historic but hollow speech in Cairo two years ago has echoed all over the region, has long been disgracefully reluctant in supporting the struggle for democracy. In his remarks on the uprising a couple of weeks ago (“Moments of Opportunity”, but for whom?), he culpably did not mention Saudi Arabia and he called the severely oppressed Shi’a majority in Bahrain a religious minority. He even stressed that,

“Not every country will follow our particular form of representative democracy, and there will be times when our short-term interests don’t align perfectly with our long-term vision for the region.” (Emphasis added.)

For the Obama administration, the whole uprising came at the wrong time, one might have in mind. He might even have stabbed the people of the Middle East in the back.

German news magazine Der Spiegel had reported this week that Germany is about to secretly sell 200 fully armored Leopard 2A7+ battle tanks to Saudi Arabia. Yesterday’s  parliamentary debate ended in a debacle for the center-right government. Many opposition leaders consider the deal illegal since it violates German guidelines that forbid export of weapons to regimes that violate human rights and to regions facing military crisis. Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière refused to even confirm the deal, pointing to classified debates in the “Federal Security Council”. Lawmakers then departed for the summer break.

According to anonymous sources both the U.S. and, well, Israel, Saudi Arabia’s arch enemy, had approved the deal.

That Germany’s wavering government may be involved in barely legal tanker deals with Saudi Arabia, a country with a disastrous human rights record exporting Islamic fundamentalism and terrorists for several decades at a time when it becomes crystal clear that the Kingdom is desperately trying to scotch any democracy movement in its own territory and the whole region tells volumes about Merkel’s, Westerwelle’s and de Maiziére’s intentions.

Leader of Christian Democrats Parliamentary group Volker Kauder defended the deal , without confirming it either, in Germany’s public broadcaster’s morning show, by naming the usual foes, Al Qaeda in the Yemen and Iran working on a nuclear bomb. The deal, if it does exist, “serves stabilizing the region”.  

Last modification July 9, 2011.

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