Opinion: No weapons for Riyadh, right for the wrong reason | Opinion | DW | 22.10.2018
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Opinion

Opinion: No weapons for Riyadh, right for the wrong reason

Germany should not be exporting weapons to Saudi Arabia, writes DW's Matthias von Hein. But it should be because of the war in Yemen, not the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Can anyone still keep track of the excuses and subterfuge, the developments and explanations in the case of Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist killed almost three weeks ago?

When Chancellor Angela Merkel declared on Sunday that German arms exports to Saudi Arabia would be put on hold because they "cannot take place in the current circumstances," Saudi Arabia had just offered its second version of how Khashoggi died at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Watch video 00:26

Maas questions Saudi account of Khashoggi's death

News of condolences by the Saudi royal family to the family of the deceased critic of Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salm hadn't even made the rounds.

The fact that Merkel put further arms exports to Saudi Arabia on hold is at least a step in the right direction. Sometimes, and above all in politics, the right move is made for the wrong reason. The German government's coalition agreement stipulates, after all, that German arms should not be sold to states involved in the war with Yemen.

German arms for country at war

Saudi Arabia is and has been the leading force in this war. All the same, German arms manufacturers have been doing brisk business with the oil sheikdom. In the first quarter of 2018, licenses for arms sales to Saudi Arabia had quadrupled to about €160 million ($184 million) compared to the first quarter of 2017. Just last month, the German government approved sales of four artillery locating systems to Saudi Arabia.

Jamal Khashoggi managed to do what the deaths of more than 10,000 Yemeni citizens in this war haven't achieved. His death has managed to do what the misery of millions of famished people — who are not reachable due to the Saudi blockade of the ports — has not achieved. His death finally put a spotlight on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the West's direct involvement in the Yemeni tragedy, which has been going on for the past three years.

As cynical as this may be, the West doesn't seem to have any problem with authoritarian rulers, only with incalculable rulers. The drama surrounding Jamal Khashoggi is — for the time being — just the last act in the play about the 33-year-old Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for whom "impulsive" is a friendly description.

Apart from the needless military intervention in Yemen, let's not forget the blockade of Qatar, which started more than a year ago. And Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who announced his resignation last November in a Saudi hotel, to the utter surprise of the international community, giving rise to speculation he was abducted.

DW editor Matthias von Hein

DW editor Matthias von Hein

'Sincere regret'

How ironic is it that less than a month ago, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas apologized to his Saudi counterpart, Adel al-Jubeir, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York for remarks his predecessor Sigmar Gabriel made last year about the Lebanon crisis. Without naming Saudi Arabia, Gabriel had denounced "foreign policy adventurism" in the Middle East. Riyadh reacted by recalling its ambassador from Berlin and systematically ignoring German companies vying for lucrative contracts in Saudi Arabia.

In the wake of Maas' "sincere regrets," the Saudi ambassador has returned to Berlin — a week after Khashoggi disappeared. By then, Maas probably regretted his apology.

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