UK arms exports trump human rights

‘UK arms exports trump human rights’

Wed Aug 13, 2014 6:2PM GMT

Attention, unsurprisingly, is being focused on Britain’s role in supplying arms to Israel.

Since 2010, Britain has granted licenses to Israel worth £42 million for 131 defense industry manufacturers.

These range from components for drones to military radars, targeting systems and electronic warfare equipment.

MPs on four Commons committees asked the government last month to explain why it has approved arms exports to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories including for “anti-riot/ballistic shields,” components for combat vehicles, small arms, sniper rifles, and military communications equipment.

Campaigners have staged a protest at a UAV Engines’ factory in Lichfield, which they say supplies engines for drones being used in Gaza. The company is a subsidiary of the Israeli defense contractor Elbit, manufactures engines for “various size tactical UAV’s [unmanned aerial vehicles], target drones and single-mission platforms.”

Former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell has asked the government to take tougher action over Israel’s attacks on Gaza, after the resignation of Foreign Office minister, Lady Warsi. Liberal Democrat ministers, including business secretary, Vince Cable, responsible for arms exports, are said to be frustrated with the failure of the prime minister, David Cameron, foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, and chancellor George Osborne’s to take a tougher line on Israel.

Israel is not the only recipient of British arms approved by highly questionable decisions. Commons committees last month said more than 3,000 export licenses for weapons worth £12 billion were approved for 28 destinations described by the Foreign Office as “countries of human rights concern.”

High on the list is Saudi Arabia, the recipient of more British weapons than any other country. It is the biggest foreign customer, after the US, of BAE Systems, Britain’s largest arms company and biggest manufacturing employer. Export licenses worth £3.8 billion have been approved for British arms companies’ sales to Saudi Arabia under David Cameron’s premiership, according to CAAT.

Last year alone, the government approved the export of £1.6 billion of arms to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is vital to BAE, which this year signed a deal a deal worth well over £4 billion for 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets. The company is hoping for a further £1 billion-plus contract from the Saudis to upgrade the Typhoons.

While Israel continues to occupy the West Bank in breach of international law, Saudi Arabia has been funding the spread of that most intolerant brand of Islam, Wahabi absolutism.

“Saudi Arabia not only exports oil, but tanker-loads of quasi-totalitarian religious dogma …, even as it struggles to insulate itself from the blowback”, the Financial Times’ David Gardner, observed last week ….

Cameron has made it clear, in the [Persian] Gulf trips he has taken, that morality and principle – and even the UK’s long term security interests – have no place when it comes to selling arms.

It may be the same for other countries.

The trouble is British ministers regard weapons as an absolute priority, a vital export.

Leave a Reply