dinsdag 24 januari 2017

Will the war in Yemen improve the Dutch arms export policy

Late October the Dutch parliament organised its annual debate with the government on arms exports of the previous year. The war in Yemen which was the main issue, like it is an important subject in many European countries. Dutch exports and trans-shipments to Saudi Arabia and the coalition are connected to other countries, like Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain and inescapable the US. 

Bron: http://defence-blog.com/army/m109-howitzer-emerged-in-southern-yemen.html

Report and investigation.

In November 2015 Stop Wapenhandel and Oxfam Novib published a report on Dutch exports to the countries participating in the Yemen war. The government promised to investigate the exports mentioned.

Until now no satisfactory answers were given. The Government defended its failed search by three arguments: hard to find the delivered small components; deliverances are far into the past; and countries participating in the war do not cooperate.

But facts in the report were mostly based on overviews provided by the Government itself, also the most recent. Components may be hard to find, but for finding exported howitzers parts it is better to look for the M-109 howitzer as a whole. Must be possible, it is the biggest land weapon around. When Stop Wapenhandel is able to find evidence they were used, the Government must be more capable with military attachés and embassy's in the region. When exporting radar equipment and fire control it is better to search for the French and US built vessels for the Egyptian navy on which they are fitted.

Although the explanation was rather clumsy, the end conclusion was remarkable. Lianne Ploumen, minister of foreign trade stated (according to the short hand notes): “The research is based on historical overviews and confidential information. Based on this information it cannot be confirmed the military materiel delivered by the Netherlands is part of the fight in Yemen, but the public list provides ample space to presume parts delivered by the Netherlands are used in Yemen. (…) We [the Government] deem it likely.” (Definitive report)

F-16 deliverances

The Dutch government sold 15 F-16's to Jordan. The issue was also part of the debat late October (again short hand notes): “We cannot exclude that the Jordanese air force at a moderate level was active in the air space above Yemen. We do not know in what exact role. But it seems to have been auxilary. As far as we know only the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia now is active in the Yemen air space.”

In November 2015 however a Dutch reporter specialised in Air Forces interviewed the commander of the Jordan air force general major Mansour S. Aljobour for a widely published article. The RJAF has deployed four F-16s for the effort but, says Aljobour, “this is a secondary target for the RJAF. The primary target remains [Daesh] in Syria.” The interview also mentioned a AC 235 gunship (based on Spanish Airbus plane, but adopted to this counterinsurgency role by US defence corporation ATK, now Orbital ATK) in use with the Special Forces of Jordan, which was based in Saudi Arabia in connection to the Yemen war.

Jordan's F-16's are delivered by the US, Belgium and the Netherlands. So it is hard to prove the Dutch versions are used, but that is not what is interesting. Interesting is that under the current Government major surplus weapon systems were transported which now may be used in a bloody war in which the population is suffering bombardments, war and famine. And there is no reason to downplay (“moderate”) the Kingdom's participation with five heavenly armed planes.

Dutch German armoured vehicles

The Dutch government follows a motion tabled spring 2016 to consider the war in Yemen and strictly follow the arms trade guidelines. But on the Dutch/German armoured Fennek vehicles sold to Qatar the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Koenders, was clear. They are unarmed and only useful in relatively safe environments. Thus the dessert fox (fennek) is not useful in the desert. That's pitiful for Qatar the only country which bought the German Dutch vehicle. But on the Dutch MoD website they are more capable of guiding grenades to the target, silent, discrete, sharp in making observations and when needed sharp and fierce although they need regular overhaul and spare parts (https://zoek.officielebekendmakingen.nl/kst-26396-90.html). In Germany criticism was countered by the Qatari Emir with the argument that the country is participating in the war against IS.

Rotterdam harbour for the Czech Republic

In January 2016 96 million small calibre bullets passed the Netherlands on there way to Saudi Arabia. The bullets came from the Czech republic to Rotterdam, the major Dutch harbour, to be shipped to Saudi Arabia. A shipment which can not be separated from the war in Yemen. Ploumen said the transport was in the category without trans-shipment, because it was part of a larger means of transport (a container) and it was not a complete system. Almost 100 million bullets is half a container at least. If a bullet is not a complete system, it is important and enables a war.

EU debate on transit

However the Minister said she would raise the issue with Prague. But also she wants to look in the issue of transits from allies in general, “without delaying container cargo ships for weeks” and raise it inside the EU. The debate focussed on this transit example, but more ammunition transits to countries participating in the Yemen war where at stake. So maybe the Netherlands will stop to turning a blind eye towards transit of military equipment and ammunition by EU and NATO partners not in line with a strict interpretation of arms export guidelines. The question remains why a war is necessary to improve the arms export policy.