Arms Sales: First Fallout Over Khashoggi Affair

Local Editor

Taken after opponent Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated in Istanbul in early October, Angela Merkel's decision to stop all arms sales to Saudi Arabia is likely to have repercussions in the very near future. According to our information, the project for Cairo's purchase of two Meko A200 frigates from German shipyard TKMS is being blocked by Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has penned to finance a large portion of the contract. Following the German chancellor's statements, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) and his teams decided to put the project on ice. The Saudi decision was announced when Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi was on a trip to Berlin.

While the world's media and politicians are focused on stopping the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, the country, as well as its Emirati ally, have been financing weapons programs in several countries across the region: Egypt, but also Jordan, Pakistan, and equipment program of countries of the military coalition in the Sahel orchestrated by Paris (G5 Sahel, IOL 814). These countries are concerned that boycotts to Saudi Arabia will be extended to them. This explains Sissi's support for MbS's case in Washington.

While Riyadh appreciated President Emmanuel Macron's reaction to Merkel's stance, which he qualified as "pure demagoguery", France has been hit with another setback in the country. According to our sources, in late October the Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF) picked Europe's MBDA to integrate the short-range Simbad missiles, primarily produced in France, on its frigates off the coast of Yemen. As Intelligence Online revealed, the European missile maker and the French electronics giant Thales, which traditionally equipped the vessels with its Crotale Shahine missiles, have been at loggerheads over the contract for over a year (IOL 776).

Other French projects however could be back on the cards: the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG) is thinking of buying new Caesar canons from Nexter(IOL 816). With Georges Francioli's firm Caesar International, which works with SANG, starting to recover, this could improve Nexter's prospects. While the arrest of SANG commander Mutaib bin Abdullah and the side-lining of his uncle Salah Fustok who oversaw the decision-making channels from afar (IOL 794), had taken its toll on the firm, Caesar managed to stay in business and has since been reassured by the new administration. MBS's anticorruption teams combed through the company's books a few months ago but found nothing and have left the firm alone, essentially giving it free rein.

While US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo affirmed America's position on Wednesday when he called for an end to the conflict in Yemen, Saudi Arabia still went through with the purchase of two Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircrafts from the US. The two Beechcraft, which will be installed by Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC), are equipped with MX-15 optronic systems, the flagship product of American electronics manufacturer L-3 Technologies.

Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of Arab and Gulf states launching a military campaign against, Yemen, the Arab world’s most impoverished country.

Source: Intelligence Online, Edited by Website Team