Germany’s Militarised Foreign Policy

Monday, July 30, 2012

Global Stability and World Peace Will Not Come from the Barrel of a Gun

Arshin Adib-Moghaddam

Imagine Iran would be the target of an Israeli nuclear attack launched from submarines designed, built and delivered by Germany. This dystopia may seem unlikely, but it is now entirely possible. The German magazine Der Spiegel, not known for its critical stance towards Israeli policies, recently revealed how German officials facilitated the delivery of the so called dolphin submarines which were built in a shipyard in the northern German town of Kiel and which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Ever since the end of the Second World War, Der Spiegel, reports in an exclusive, German leaders have acted as a conduit for military deals with Israel circumventing German law and parliamentary approval. The late, former Defence Minister Franz-Josef Strauss, a member of the right-leaning Christian Social Union (CSU), did even go as far as to drop off explosive equipment personally when he ‘drove up to the Israeli mission in Cologne in a sedan car and handed an object wrapped in a coat to a Mossad liaison officer, saying it was “for the boys in Tel Aviv.” It was a new model of an armor-piercing grenade.’

The sixth submarine has just been delivered, ironically amidst the controversy about Iran’s nuclear energy programme and Germany’s involvement in the punitive sanctions regime against the country. The government of Germany seems comfortable to deliver nuclear capable submarines, but when it comes to Iran the Merkel administration is quick to join the chorus denouncing Iran’s ‘nuclear threat’ to the region.

Israel is not the only recipient of military hardware made in Germany. Amidst an uproar among parliamentarians and the potent German peace movement, the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to sell 200 Leopard 2A7+ tanks to Saudi Arabia in a deal worth  €1.5bn. This generation of the Leopard tank is specifically designed to operate in both high intensity combat and in low intensity conflicts, i.e. in urban settings

Reportedly, the ammunition for the tanks has already been delivered and the Germany military is on the ground providing training for the Saudi defence forces on how to operate the tank. As such, the pro-democracy demonstrators in Bahrain, who are faced by troops from Saudi Arabia, may soon be countered with the help of German tanks. Here as well, Iran is a convenient bogeyman for German arms sales. According to Chancellor Merkel, Saudi Arabia requires the tanks in order to counter the ‘nuclear threat’ from its neighbour.

There is a historical backdrop to German arms sales to the region. During the rule of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, German businesses were involved in delivering dual use equipment that ended up as components in the dictator’s WMD industry.

The German involvement in Iraq’s chemical weapons infrastructure initially was concentrated on the chemical plant in Samarra which was built by Iraq’s SEPP (‘State Establishing for Pesticides Production’). The companies involved in this project were and Water Preussag Heriger, Hammer, Rhein-Bayern, Karl Kolb/Pilot Plant Engineering Trading (WET), a company based in Hamburg.[1] The German weekly magazine Stern reported on 10 December, 1987, that Kolb/Pilot Plant exported a ‘gas chamber’ to Baghdad which was suitable to test chemical weapons on dogs and cats. The same company was involved in the second largest chemical weapons plant in Fallujah. All of this happened during a period when Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurds in northern Iraq and when he sanctioned using chemical weapons at the warfront against the Iranian army.

In 1990, a report submitted to the German parliament by the late German minister of Trade Jürgen Möllemann provided further insights about the involvement of Kolb/Pilot Plant in Iraq’s chemical weapons industry. On page 22 it is stated that the German government knew as early as in 1982 that German companies were involved in Saddam Hussein’s chemical war industry and that these allegations were verified in 1984. The German government subsequently offered ‘informal’ talks with the companies concerned which did not yield any results.[2] The Möllemann report also revealed that toxics such as Botulinus A und B were exported from Germany, without, however naming the perpetrating parties. Kolb/Pilot constructed a new chemical plant in Falluja in 1988 which featured in Colin Powell’s case for the invasion of Iraq which was presented to the UN Security Council in February 2003. It also featured in a September 2002 report by Britain’s joint intelligence committee to great avail of Tony Blair’s justification of the invasion of Iraq in the following year.

Today, Germany has the third largest arms exports in the world behind the United States and Russia. Most of the exports go to NATO allies such as Turkey and Greece but German weaponry is also contributing to the arms race in West Asia and South America. The European Union in general and Germany in particular have prided themselves in pursuing diplomatic solutions to major conflicts. The current German arms policy betrays that commitment and unnecessarily militarises the foreign policy of the country. Global stability and world peace will not come from the barrel of a gun.

Parts of this article were excerpted from Iran in World Politics: the Question of the Islamic Republic (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008).


[1] See further

[2] See Hans Branscheid (medico international), “Dokumentation über den deutschen Rüstungs- und Giftgas-Transfer: Die Akte Möllemann” and Ronal Offeringer, “Irakische Vernichtungswaffen und industriestaatliche Proliferation: Die UN Kommission für Irak (UNSCOM) und die Bundesrepublik.”

*Arshin Adib-Moghaddam is the author of The International Politics of the Persian Gulf: A cultural genealogy (Routledge, 2006, 2009), Iran in World Politics: The question of the Islamic Republic (Columbia University Press/Hurst, 2008, 2010) and over a dozen peer-reviewed research papers. His newest book is A Metahistory of the Clash of Civilisations: Us and them beyond Orientalism (Columbia/Hurst, 2011). Educated at the Universities of Hamburg, American (Washington DC) and Cambridge, he was the first Jarvis Doctorow Fellow in International Relations and Peace Studies at St. Edmund Hall and the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford. At Cambridge, where he obtained a MPhil and PhD, he was elected Honorary Fellow of the Cambridge European Trust Society.

Source: Veterans News Now

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