Up in arms
by Maurice Lemoine; Le Monde diplomatique; September 05, 2007United States armaments are pouring into the Middle East. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced on 2 August that deliveries over the next 10 years will reach $62bn. They will go to Bush's allies in the region: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. In case Israel is worried about Saudi Arabia receiving consignments of sensitive material, on 15 August the US increased military aid to Tel Aviv by almost 25%, to $30bn over a decade (1). All to swell the profits of the big three - Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon - and probably their contributions to the next election campaign.
On 7 December 2006 a UN General Assembly resolution adopted by 153 states authorised preparatory work on a treaty to control transfers of conventional weapons not previously subject to international rules. Twenty-four countries including China, Russia, India, Iran, Israel and Pakistan abstained. Only one, the US, voted against. The EU Council openly supported the resolution.
About the same time, France signed substantial deals with Libya: a $228m contract for the purchase of Milan anti-tank missiles (with which 41 countries' forces are already equipped) from MBDA (2), and a $173m contract for a Tetra radio communications system from EADS. President Nicolas Sarkozy protested his innocence: "Am I to be blamed for winning contracts? Creating work for French firms?" (3). Not necessarily. But he is certainly to blame for the secrecy with which these lethal deals were completed in circumstances over which the elected representatives of France had no control, and for maintaining the dangerous dynamics of war. According to a statement issued by the French defence procurement agency (Délégation générale pour l'armement) on 18 September 2006, France will export $8bn worth of arms in 2007, compared with $4.6bn in 2004.
Members of the EU are required in principle to comply with a code of conduct that prohibits them from fuelling existing conflicts. But productivity increases mean that few modern weapons are now produced in one place. So European undertakings, like EADS, and US companies supply parts and technology for the development of the new Chinese Z-10 attack helicopter without knowing anything about the export policy of China, which has already supplied Sudan with military equipment (4).
Provoked by US dealings in the Middle East, Syria and Iran may turn to China or Russia, which are both now a force in the market. Niger is worried about France's "gifts" to Libya - which has recently claimed about 30,000 square km of oil- and uranium-rich Niger territory. The White House favourite, Israel, is no longer content to import and is now the number one supplier of arms to Colombia. And Colombia's firepower, combined with US hostility, is a source of concern to Venezuela, which is turning to Russia for help in modernising its armaments. Other suppliers are emerging: India, South Korea, South Africa. The sector has never seen so much activity. By the end of 2006, expenditure on military equipment had reached an unprecedented $1,058.9bn (5).
And the moral? There is no moral. Yet the Pentagon has lost track of 110,000 AK-47 rifles and 80,000 pistols (plus 115,000 helmets and 135,000 items of body armour) supplied to the Iraqi government in 2004 and 2005 (6). These weapons may have ended up in the hands of insurgents and some are probably being used against US forces.
(1) AFP, 16 August 2007.
(2) Joint venture by EADS (37.5%), Italian arms firm Finmeccanica (25%) and Britain's BAE Systems (37.5%).
(3) AFP, 5 August 2007.
(4) Control Arms campaign, jointly run by Amnesty International, Oxfam and the International Action Network on Small Arms. http://controlarms.org/
(6) The Washington Post, 6 August 2007
Translated by Barbara Wilson