6 February 2021 in Dossier The New Cold War, Military


The news came from the German newspapers: in Yemen, despite the bans in force since 1945, German weapons are being used – mainly against the defenseless population. The attacker is a coalition led by Mohammed Bin Salman (King Prince of Saudi Arabia), made up, among others, of al-Qaeda fighters and mercenaries from the Blackwater Company paid by the US government. Something that was made possible by a new wind in Berlin, which is inextricably linked to a new political position of the German Bundestag and the lobbies that work there.

German weapons have been used in Yemen since the start of the war: there are the Fewas and Clara guns of the DND Dynamit Nobel Defense GmbH Burbach, mounted on American Oshkosh tanks and on French Leclerc tanks, then the warships of the shipyards Lürssen in Bremen and finally the demining ships of the Frankenthal class[1]. These are mainly weapons that were sold to the government of the United Arab Emirates between 2006 and 2009. The country refuses to comply with the embargo imposed by the United Nations on the invasion of Yemen[2]. There are also missiles, cannons and ammunition for the Eurofighter and Tornado fighter-bombers, which are used by the Saudi Air Force against the civilian population[3]. Some of the rifles and machine guns even ended up in the hands of irregular al Qaeda forces[4].

This process is difficult to explain and justify, especially after the barbaric murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in Istanbul in 2018 on the orders of Mohammed ben Salman[5]. The federal government decided by a large parliamentary majority to block supply contracts with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – a block that has lasted six months since then and has been constantly renewed since then[6].

What is certain is that the involvement of the German military industry in Yemen cannot be explained by the multinational defense treaties of the Persian Gulf, where it faces a massive Iranian fleet, built in China, under the leadership of the IRGCN (Islamic Revolutionary Guard), a multinational fleet made up of the countries of the EMASOH agreement (arms and soldiers of the European Union, French command), those of the IMSC agreement (USA, Saudi Arabia , Bahrain, United Kingdom and Australia) and those of the CTF-152 Agreement (United States, Italy and Gulf States)[7]: Germany cannot participate in these military alliances on the basis of international agreements signed between the FRG and the GDR at the time of reunification – it is officially forbidden to do so[8].

However, when these weapons are used by armies in other countries, it is evident that the Berlin government has approved their sale. Even the German Institute for International Politics and Security[9] considers this unbearable – the institute which, on behalf of the government, states that Germany should take a neutral stance in the Persian Gulf and actively participate in the search for a peaceful compromise between the warring parties[10].

As the West German government approved the so-called “Project Monitor” in 1979, which allowed the delivery of German spy technology to Saudi Arabia[11], Bonn looked into this a few years later and blocked the export of arms, technologies and trainers to all countries of the Persian Gulf[12]. Of course, that didn’t stop the guns from being sold in secret: Chancellor Helmut Kohl owes the overthrow of his government and the end of his political parable to a scandal over the bribes his party collected (1 million marks, 561,000 dollars). The money came from the secret sale of German tanks to the government in Riyadh, camouflaged thanks to the mediation of businessman Karlheinz Schreiber[13].

During Angela Merkel’s years as chancellor, supplies to Saudi Arabia and its allies resumed, only to be blocked again[14] after the wave of outrage sparked by the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi[15]. This political decision was again bypassed by resorting to mediators – despite the backlash from most factions of the German party and humanitarian associations[16].

The dirtiest war of the last hundred years

The map of the civil war in Yemen[17]

On the night of March 25, 2015, Saudi tanks and fighter bombers attacked the regular troops of the Houthi army, which in 2012 overthrew the pro-Saudi regime that had ruled Yemen since 1978: in a few hours one of the most fertile countries in the Middle East has been turned into a hell of mud and rubble[18]. What Amnesty International calls “the worst man-made humanitarian disaster” begins: in addition to thousands of dead, almost all civilians, 24 million displaced people flee bombed homes as their fields are destroyed, herds killed and all the signs have been annihilated by civilization. The country is returning to the Stone Age and the population has been locked in concentration camps where only international NGOs provide water, food and medicine – the latter still in insufficient quantities due to Covid-19 and the explosion of a cholera epidemic[19].

Saudi Arabia wants the government and the Houthis to be wiped out because they are friends with the Iranian Ayatollahs and the Lebanese Hezbollah[20]. For this reason, international NGOs, particularly Human Rights Watch, are calling for an absolute embargo on arms sales to Saudi Arabia because diplomacy does not get results[21]. In addition to the Saudis, there is a surprisingly heterogeneous coalition whose countries traditionally belong to the Riyadh monarchy (such as the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Kuwait and Bahrain), but also the Europeans (France, United Kingdom) and especially the United States (which sends Erik Prince’s Blackwater mercenaries into battle[22]) and Al Qaeda[23] – all together, side by side, against the defenseless Yemeni people[24]. From a military point of view, the situation has stalled for five years, despite the massive use of the army and weapons – the only ones paying an unacceptable price are the citizens of Yemen, who are the subject of ‘a real “ethnic cleansing“.

The German Secret Service (BND), which is certainly not part of militant pacifism, urges the government not to deal with the new head of the Al-Sa’ud family, seen as a psychologically unstable man and basically a belligerent autocrat[25]. The result is a crisis that causes Berlin and Riyadh to disrupt diplomatic relations and divide the German governing coalition because one of the leaders of the Social Democratic Party, Sigmar Gabriel, personally countered Angela Merkel for her political decision and the one that followed the attacks: there was a risk of damage for the German industry[26].

As Angela Merkel announced that she would stop selling weapons, Prince Mohammed Bin Salman reacted angrily: in May 2018, he terminated all contracts with German companies and issued a decree which now bans the industry Germany to participate in tenders in Saudi Arabia. Almost 7 billion euros are at stake each year, as well as the sales of industrial giants such as Bayer, Daimler-Mercedes, Siemens, Boehringer and Deutsche Bank to take a stake in ARAMCO, the Saudi oil company[27]. In September 2018, after a phone call between Merkel and Prince Bin Salman[28], Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas flew to New York and met Saudi officials at the United Nations – and began negotiations on a compromise that would fail. not lose face to the Chancellor[29].

The UAE is also involved in the negotiations, in part because the man in charge of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, has been in friendly relations since 2014 (when he was already commander-in-chief of the armed forces but was not yet regent) to the leaders of the Social Democratic Party and to the then Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier – the man who has been President of the German Republic since March 2017[30].

Between 2017 and 2020, during negotiations with Riyadh, Merkel also met three times with Al-Nahyan to officially regulate the visa system for tourists, but in reality to resolve the crisis caused by the fact that the German ambassador in Dubai Haya Bint Al-Hussein helped (sister of the King of Jordan and wife of Prime Minister Emir Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum) who escaped repeated violence against her and her two children in Germany and later in Britain[31] – and during their meeting, they also discussed economic and military issues[32] and Abu Dhabi’s role in the Libyan civil war[33]. All this despite the fact that parliamentary groups in the Bundestag have repeatedly protested and claimed that Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan was the main culprit in the genocide in Yemen[34].

In the meantime, Ambassador Peter Fischer, President of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Hans-Gert Pöttering and Chancellor Angela Merkel have agreed to become members of the ECSSR (Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research)[35] Speakers Council, the think tank founded by Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. The ECSSR is used to build a network of political, industrial and military alliances in the rest of the world[36], which has been used by Tawazun Holding (Al-Nahyan’s military company[37]) to pay $ 20 million in bribes (disguised as a contribution to an environmental project), to be able to buy American weapons while bypassing the international embargo[38].

The contradictions of international lobbying

The Dubai Monarch Hotel, where the Germany-Iran working group meets – away from prying eyes and under the supervision of Daniela Calligaro, coordinator of the Germany-UAE Chamber of Commerce[39]

Obviously, everyone in lobbying and international diplomacy is opaque and contradictory as it aims to protect national interests in a situation of peaceful negotiation. An example: between 2007 and 2008, German exports to Iran increased by 40% to more than 11 billion dollars. Amid international sanctions that ban doing business with Ayatollahs, German government dissolves the German-Iranian task force and moves it to where no one will ever look for it – to Dubai, one of Iran’s most bitter adversaries: Daniela Calligaro, the coordinator of the Germany-Emirates Chamber of Commerce, which in the Emirates has reorganized the Germany-Iran working group in the halls of the Dubai Monarch hotel, despite Chancellor Merkel publicly reiterating that the Germany supports the sanctions and that even trade with Tehran would not continue through hidden triangulations[40].

Since the end of the Cold War (and since the signing of the peace treaty between united Germany and its allies during World War II[41]), every state visit by Chancellors Helmut Kohl, Gerhard Schröder and Angela Merkel has had representatives of the military industry in Bonn (and later Berlin) who negotiated arms deliveries during political and diplomatic negotiations[42]. Some of these contracts are part of calls for tenders in the United States, in which German companies participate with American companies, including negotiations in Germany, according to the Sunlight Foundation (an NGO close to the Democratic Party that analyzes and publishes data federal officials on economic exchanges[43]), 13 million euros per year[44].

The headquarters of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which for half a century has selected the future leaders of the CDU (left)[45], and Michael Hennrich, chairman of the Bundestag parliamentary group for Arabic-speaking countries (right)

Like other European parliaments, the Bundestag also has special interest groups which deal with bilateral relations between Berlin and various countries of the world. One of the oldest of these groups is that of the Arabic-speaking countries of the Near and Middle East[46], composed of parliamentarians from all parties of the constitutional ark and led by Christian Democrat MP Michael Hennrich[47] (Baden-Württemberg) since September 2013[48].

In his role as chairman of the group, Hennrich spoke in 2015 for the suspension (and not for the cancellation) of supply contracts to Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, then three years later, he had a voice in the Bundestag on resuming supplies[49]. In 2017, Hennrich expressed his opinion at a conference in his constituency: there is no war without weapons, but also no peace, because without deterrence linked to the military balance, it is difficult to avoid conflicts[50].

Hennrich is a lawyer in the Bundestag, specialized on health’s questions, who was not chosen by chance as chairman of the Arab group: in 2011, Hennrich followed then German President Christian Wulff on a trip to Abu Dhabi and Muscat, during which he followed Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and the heads of the armed forces of the Emirates[51] and the Sultanate of Oman[52]. Two years later, Hennrich was part of an economic commission at an international conference in Beirut – along with (among others) an executive from the Belgian military industry Herstal (whose name has been kept secret), the former Dutch Deputy Secretary of State for Defense, Jos Van Gennip, and former UAE Minister of Finance, Nasser Saidi[53].

The conference was sponsored by General Michel Sleiman, President of Lebanon, and organized by the local government with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation under the leadership of Hans-Gert Pöttering[54]. This foundation is one of the richest and most powerful lobbies in Germany and has always been actively interested in the military strategy of NATO countries and the integration of German industry in this area[55]. Since January 12, 2009 (or since the day the Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Foundation awarded the Konrad-Adenauer Medal of Honor), this organization has been one of the symbols of the UAE’s political and military lobbying work in Germany[56].

Since its inception, it has been impossible in Germany to lead the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) without the approval and support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation[57], which has always played a controversial role in German foreign policy – as has been the case during the years when the foundation funded the birth of the Inkatha party in South Africa to have strong opposition to the ANC of Nelson Mandela[58]. This makes it easier to understand why Chancellor Merkel is vaguely committed for or against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates: Ms Merkel is a politician who has been openly supported and promoted by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and since then. appeared on the stage of federal politics immediately after reunification[59].


[1] https://www.dw.com/de/beweise-f%C3%BCr-deutsche-waffen-im-jemen/a-47681315

[2] https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/12/1079232

[3] https://www.dw.com/de/beweise-f%C3%BCr-deutsche-waffen-im-jemen/a-47681315

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkUv2R97I-Y

[5] https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2019/09/26/Saudi-Prince-bin-Salman-accepts-responsibility-but-not-blame-for-Khashoggi-death/6231569504880/ ; https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-45775819 ; https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/9/10/audio-transcripts-of-jamal-khashoggis-murder-revealed

[6] https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/ruestungsexporte-saudi-arabien-101.html

[7] http://cesi-italia.org/articoli/1142/le-sfide-per-la-sicurezza-del-golfo-persico-e-la-strategia-navale-iraniana

[8] https://www.hdg.de/lemo/kapitel/deutsche-einheit/weg-zur-einheit/zwei-plus-vier-vertrag.html ; https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/de/aussenpolitik/themen/internationales-recht/-/240218

[9] SWP – Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik des Deutschen Instituts für Internationale Politik und Sicherheit, https://www.swp-berlin.org/

[10] https://www.swp-berlin.org/kurz-gesagt/2018/deutschland-sollte-zwischen-iran-und-israel-vermitteln/

[11] Horst Möller, Klaus Hildebrand, Gregor Schöllgen, „Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland – 1979“, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2010, pages 31-75

[12] Tim Geiger, Matthias Peter, Mechthild Lindemann, „Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland – 1983“, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2014, pages 1534-1539

[13] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/590558.stm ; https://daserste.ndr.de/panorama/archiv/1999/Kohl-und-der-Panzerdeal,erste7204.html ; https://gruene-jugend.de/deutsche-panzer-an-saudi-arabien/

[14] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWRDxtAuAJE

[15] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4BwqJ3a3ds ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqTGnumFhl8 ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZ4FLHTHB0M

[16] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcVBhYfZJpE ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAu-jq0lOvQ ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5EJosKHXdw

[17] https://www.polgeonow.com/2019/10/map-who-rules-yemen-southern-separatists.html

[18] https://idsa.in/specialfeature/YemeninMeltdown_talmizahmad120815

[19] https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/yemen/ ; https://www.amnesty.it/guerra-nello-yemen-made-in-europe/

[20] Jack Freeman, “The al Houthi Insurgency in the North of Yemen: An Analysis of the Shabab al Moumineen“, in “Studies in Conflict & Terrorism“, vol. 32, n. 11, Routledge/Taylor & Francis, Milton Park (UK) and New York 2009, pages 1008–1019 – see also in https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10576100903262716 ; Barak A. Salmoni, Bryce Loidolt, Madeleine Wells, “Regime and Periphery in Northern Yemen: The Huthi Phenomenon”, RAND Corporation – National Defense Research Institute, Santa Monica (California) and Arlington (Virginia) 2010 – see also in https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2010/RAND_MG962.pdf

[21] https://www.undispatch.com/one-way-to-stop-the-unrelenting-deaths-of-civilians-in-yemen-an-arms-embargo-on-saudi-arabia/

[22] https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201601191033358120-yemen-blackwater-contractors/ ; https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/dec/09/australian-mercenary-reportedly-killed-yemen-clashes

[23] https://www.ispionline.it/it/pubblicazione/al-qaedas-strategy-yemeni-war-22609

[24] https://web.archive.org/web/20150509030311/http://www.cfr.org/yemen/yemen-crisis/p36488

[25] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35001377 ; https://www.crossborderinformation.com/news/monitoring-news/saudi-arabia-german-intelligence-criticises-mbs-gets-slap-berlin

[26] https://www.dw.com/en/saudi-arabia-minister-tells-germany-it-will-find-weapons-elsewhere/a-42710510

[27] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-saudi-trade/saudi-arabia-to-exclude-german-firms-from-government-tenders-spiegel-idUSKCN1IQ2GF

[28] https://middle-east-online.com/en/berlin-riyadh-agree-enter-new-phase-ties

[29] https://www.dw.com/en/germany-saudi-arabia-end-diplomatic-row/a-45638974

[30] https://www.emirates247.com/news/government/mohamed-bin-zayed-visits-germany-2014-06-12-1.552657

[31] https://www.ilmattino.it/primopiano/esteri/emiro_maltratta_principessa_dubai-4590349.html

[32] https://www.bundeskanzlerin.de/bkin-en/news/chancellor-meets-with-the-crown-prince-of-abu-dhabi-1637116

[33] https://www.aa.com.tr/en/politics/merkel-meets-uae-crown-prince-ahead-of-libya-conference/1706945 ; https://www.agenzianova.com/a/5fa263c985e1c8.40605274/3171618/2020-11-04/emirati-germania-telefonata-principe-abu-dhabi-merkel-focus-su-relazioni-e-mediterraneo

[34] https://debriefer.net/en/news-8983.html

[35] https://www.ecssr.ae/en/lecturers/

[36] https://www.ecssr.ae/en/director-general-statement/

[37] https://www.thenational.ae/business/uae-armed-forces-places-dh1-8bn-weapons-order-with-tawazun-1.307778 ; https://www.thenational.ae/business/weapons-systems-plant-for-abu-dhabi-1.388139 ; https://www.arabianaerospace.aero/tawazun-creates-african-partnership-for-uae-s-precision-weapon-manufacture.html ; https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20191105005661/en/Mohamed-bin-Zayed-Inaugurates-EDGE-Advanced-Technology

[38] https://theintercept.com/2017/08/17/weapons-money-intended-for-economic-development-being-secretly-diverted-to-lobbying/

[39] https://vae.ahk.de/mitglieder/vorstand

[40] Matthias Küntzel, „Deutschland, Iran und die Bombe“, LIT Verlag, Münster 2012, pages 125-128

[41] https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/de/aussenpolitik/themen/internationales-recht/-/240218

[42] https://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/bundesregierung-merkel-laesst-die-ruestungslobby-mitfliegen/6685952.html ; https://www.lettera43.it/berlino-merkel-viaggia-armata/amp/

[43] https://www.influencewatch.org/non-profit/sunlight-foundation/

[44] https://www.ilgiornale.it/news/esteri/quella-lobby-tedesca-che-controlla-lamerica-1020880.html

[45] https://www.tagesspiegel.de/themen/agenda/konrad-adenauer-stiftung-ein-netzwerk-der-cdu-elite/10087016.html

[46] Parlamentariergruppe Arabischsprachige Staaten des Nahen und Mittleren Ostens

[47] https://www.bundestag.de/europa_internationales/parlamentariergruppen# ; https://web.archive.org/web/20140804033008/https://www.bundestag.de/bundestag/europa_internationales/parlamentariergruppen/parlamentariergruppen/281238

[48] https://www.michael-hennrich.de/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/CV-Hennrich-deutsch-WP19.pdf

[49] https://www.arabianbusiness.com/germany-re-examine-arms-exports-saudi-arabia-after-executions-617190.html

[50] https://www.teckbote.de/startseite_artikel,-kein-krieg-ohne-waffen-aber-gibt-es-frieden-ohne-waffen-_arid,203110.html

[51] https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Khalifa+receives+Germany%27s+President-a0274748180

[52] https://www.facebook.com/AHKuae/posts/muscat-his-majesty-sultan-qaboos-bin-said-has-received-german-president-christia/279590368759644/

[53] https://www.slideshare.net/adcemgperfil/13-01-16-beirut-conference-program

[54] https://www.uniapacla.org/documentos/Beirut%20Conf%20EN-ESPVF.pdf

[55] https://www.kas.de/de/einzeltitel/-/content/ruestungskooperation-eine-transatlantische-aufgabe1 ; https://www.kas.de/documents/252038/253252/7_dokument_dok_pdf_5455_1.pdf/1035c027-d01b-bade-b8ea-3383a5f44159?version=1.0&t=1539666485287 ; https://www.kas.de/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=2b1a9e67-22f8-ce1c-b398-41c5b17837c6&groupId=252038 ;  https://www.kas.de/documents/252038/253252/7_dokument_dok_pdf_52302_2.pdf/5e17899e-aed6-6291-b1be-8f909454c132?version=1.0&t=1539647539898

[56] https://www.kas.de/it/veranstaltungen/detail/-/content/deutschland-und-die-vereinigten-arabischen-emirate

[57] https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article115912607/Haarstraeubende-Personalpolitik-im-Innenministerium.html ; Stefan Loipfinger, „Die Spendenmafia. Schmutzige Geschäfte mit unserem Mitleid“, Droemer Knaur, München 2011

[58] Aljoscha Tillmanns, “Bundesregierung, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung und Inkatha 1985–94: Entwicklungshilfe oder Verfolgung strategischer Interessen?“, Verlag Dr. Kovač, Hamburg 2016

[59] https://www.kas.de/it/veranstaltungsberichte/detail/-/content/europa-als-solidarische-handlungsfaehige-und-gestaltende-kraft-weiterentwickeln ; https://www.kas.de/de/einzeltitel/-/content/three-reasons-why-angela-merkel-won-t-change-on-migration1 ; https://www.kas.de/it/einzeltitel/-/content/1P7NGjD4MkJj/document/id/10043712 ; https://www.kas.de/it/veranstaltungen/detail/-/content/aussen-und-sicherheitspolitik-in-der-deutschen-eu-ratsprasidentschaft ; https://www.kas.de/de/web/geschichte-der-cdu/personen/biogramm-detail/-/content/angela-merkel-1

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