Share of global emissions (% world total 2010)
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By Frud Bezhan
Saudi Arabia’s support for Afghanistan has been steady but inconspicuous over the years. But that is about to change. The powerful Sunni-majority kingdom is embarking on a very public effort to carve out a bigger role in Afghanistan, pitting the oil-rich Gulf state directly against Shi’ite rival Iran in the race for influence as foreign forces leave. This became clear on October 29, when the Afghan government announced that Riyadh would build a multimillion-dollar Islamic complex in Kabul, marking its largest and most expensive foray into post-9/11 Afghanistan.
The project, which is expected to cost between $45 million and $100 million, was agreed between the two countries in Jeddah. Construction is expected to begin next year. The Islamic complex will cover 24 hectares on Maranjan Hill in central Kabul. It will feature a university, a hospital, a sports hall, and a mosque capable of holding around 15,000 worshippers at a time. When completed, it will become a rival to the massive Iranian-built Khatam al-Nabyeen Islamic University in western Kabul. The Shi’ite religious school, which was opened in 2006, was built at a cost of some $17 million by one of Afghanistan’s most Iran-leaning clerics. The campus has a mosque, classrooms, and dormitories for its 1,000 Afghan students.
Late on the Scene
Thomas Ruttig, a former UN and European diplomat and director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent research organization in Kabul, sees the Saudi move as part of the intensified competition for influence as U.S. and NATO troops look to draw down by 2014. Riyadh’s chief motivation is clearly to counter the significant sway of archrival Iran. But Ruttig says that Riyadh has its work cut out for it, considering its late arrival.
A view of Maranjan Hill in central Kabul where a multimillion-dollar Islamic complex is being built by Riyadh. (Photo: http://km.gov.af/fa/page/812)
Iran, in contrast, has had a highly visible presence for the past decade. Iran has built on its lingual and cultural links with Afghanistan by spending millions on infrastructure, including roads, power grids, and railway projects. Tehran also leaves its mark through its export of cultural and political views via its strong media presence and funding of religious schools.
Now the scene is set for an aggressive competition between Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia, which promotes the extremist Wahabbi sect of Islam, and Shi’ite-majority Iran. This raises the potential, Ruttig says, for sectarian tension in Afghanistan, whose population is estimated to be about 85 percent Sunni and 15 percent Shi’ite.
“There are very strained relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Both those countries will be competing for influence in Afghanistan, with the sectarian differences between both sides in the background,” Ruttig says. “So far, Sunni-Shi’ite relations in Afghanistan have been quite stable, but that can be undermined if both sides are much more aggressive than before in vying for influence in what they might perceive as a post-2014 [political] vacuum.”
The possibility of increased sectarian tension in Afghanistan would be cause for alarm in Central Asia and China, whose governments are wary of growing religious extremism. It could be argued that Saudi Arabia was always a major player in the competition for influence in Afghanistan: Riyadh was a key financier of the Afghan resistance to the Soviet occupation in the 1980s; it helped fund and arm the Taliban in the 1990s; and it has in recent years sought to broker behind-the-scenes peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Students crowded the garden of the Tawhid private school during a break in Herat province. The school was temporarily shut down by Afghan authorities because pro-Iranian leaflets were circulating among the students and many believe that it is supported by Iran. (Photo: Lorenzo Tugnoli/The Wall Street Journal)
But those efforts were always behind the scenes, and other than the provision of food and relief supplies and the occasional business venture, there were few obvious examples of Saudi involvement in Afghanistan. Adel Darwish, a British journalist and political commentator who specializes in Middle Eastern politics, says Saudi Arabia is poised to make an important contribution. He says the Saudis can convince the Taliban leadership to enter peace negotiations and to encourage Pakistan to cut its ties with the militant group.
That leverage comes in part because of Riyadh’s close ties to regional powerhouse Pakistan, which has long supported the Afghan Taliban, and the kingdom’s role as a spiritual authority in the Muslim world as the guardian of Islam’s two holiest shrines. Riyadh was also a staunch backer of the Taliban in the 1990s, when it was one of only three countries — along with Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates — to recognize the group during its rule in Afghanistan from 1996-2001. Darwish says although Riyadh severed ties with the Taliban after 2001 when the militant group failed to handover Osama bin Laden, who was a Saudi national at the time, the kingdom still has considerable leverage over the militant group.
Both Kabul and Washington have endorsed an expanded Saudi role in Afghanistan. Earlier this year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai reiterated that Saudi Arabia was “an important player” in Afghanistan and “has facilitated talks [with the Taliban] in the past and now.” U.S. President Barack Obama, meanwhile, has said Riyadh’s involvement in Afghanistan could shape the success of the NATO-led mission.
Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, the foreign-relations adviser for the Afghan High Peace Council, the presidentially appointed body tasked with negotiating with insurgents, says the Saudis have shown a genuine willingness to broker reconciliation talks. “We welcome the promises of Saudi Arabia and we hope that this friendly cooperation will lead to an effective outcome,” Qasimyar says. “We hope that we will witness these promises coming to fruition.”
Others, however, note that the Saudis have been active in behind-the-scenes peace negotiations between members of the Taliban and the Afghan government in the past. But those talks, which took place in recent years, have yielded no breakthroughs. Wahid Muzhda, a political analyst and former Taliban spokesman, is among the skeptics. He says many Taliban feel betrayed by Riyadh after Saudi authorities arrested and jailed a former Taliban representative, Mawlawi Shabir Ahmad. Ahmad was jailed with his four sons in Riyadh in 2001. He was released in 2011. “The Taliban say that Saudi Arabia has acted as an enemy toward us,” Muzdha says, suggesting the Saudis have taken the side of the West. “They have not been neutral. The Taliban doesn’t recognize Saudi Arabia as a [peace] broker.”
(Quelle: RAWA News.)
By Kevin Martin
My essay on the prospects for a Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone in the Middle East, in which I also take a whack at one of my favorite pinatas, deterrence theory. Thanks to Foreign Policy in Focus and its terrific co-director, John Feffer, for his editing and for publishing the article. (Be sure to click the link which takes you to a report by our Japanese friends Peace Boat, who did a citizen diplomacy boat tour in the Middle East in March to promote the idea of a nuclear-free zone).
Deterrence is the officially stated reason that the United States maintains a nuclear arsenal of over 9,000 total warheads. The other nuclear weapons states have more or less adopted deterrence theory as their own. The basic tenet of deterrence theory is that no rational leader would threaten the United States with a nuclear attack for fear that the United States would retaliate by obliterating its attacker.
Although the headlines coming out of the Middle East are about revolutions and repressions, nuclear weapons remain a key problem in the region. The nuclear issue that has gotten the most attention has been Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran shouldn’t have nuclear weapons any more than the current nuclear weapons states should. But military threats against Iran’s nuclear sites should be abandoned for a host of reasons (starting yet another war in the Middle East and killing more innocent civilians and further disrupting the world economy, just for starters).
However, Israel and the United States have consistently left open the threat of military action against Iran to stop its alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapons capacity. But if deterrence theory applies,
Israel’s nuclear arsenal of at least 200 weapons, not to mention the much larger U.S. arsenal, should dissuade Iran from launching any nuclear attacks of its own.
The only reason that deterrence theory might not apply is that Iran’s ruling mullahs are somehow irrational and therefore can’t be deterred like the ‘rational’ rulers of other countries. That’s just plain wrong. They, along with other allegedly ‘crazy’ regimes such as those in Libya, Burma, and North Korea) act rationally to maintain their power. We may not like the decisions they make, but they are quite rational actors of self-preservation.
Zoning Out Nukes
The point is not to somehow shore up deterrence theory but to make it obsolete by pursuing the global elimination of nuclear weapons. In the Middle East context, a 2012 conference will be under the auspices of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to establish a Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone in the region (similar zones are already in force in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific and Antarctica). South and Southwest Asia are the only portions of the Global South not currently part of a NWFZ.
Perhaps ironically given the current situation and the fact its nuclear program at the time was receiving U.S. assistance, Iran was the first country to call for a Middle East Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in 1974. It still advocates for one, as do all the other countries in the region except Israel. But Israel’s position is not entirely fixed. In September 2009, Israel supported an International Atomic Energy Agency resolution calling for such a zone. And rumors have arisen that Israel might participate in the conference, if only not to be seen as obstructionist. A WMD-Free Zone would surely benefit Israel, as it doesn’t want to see a nuclear arms buildup in the region.
The problem of nuclear weapons in the Middle East extends beyond just Israel and Iran. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and perhaps other countries in the region could go nuclear as well. A Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone, which appears unrealistic given Israel’s refusal to even officially acknowledge its nuclear arsenal and the U.S. support for this stance, would be much better than an unfettered nuclear arms race in the region. The new, more democratic governments that emerge from the current Arab Spring, to the extent that they are more transparent and accountable to their citizens than their predecessors, could help to address the challenging regional security issues.
Washington and the Zone
It’s unlikely that the United States, in a presidential election year, will engage the issue of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East in a frank manner. Indeed, the United States might set low expectations or provide leadership in convening the conference only to protect Israel. Still, international civil society groups and peace activists, including many from the region, are working to mobilize public support — either at the official conference or at a separate meeting — for establishing such a zone.
As the relative decline of U.S. power and the rise of other regional powers continue to shape a more multi-polar world, the United States and Israel cannot expect to continue to ignore the other countries in the region — and not just on this issue. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and regional security mechanisms must be strengthened, but not merely on U.S. and Israeli terms, as is now the case.
The establishment of a WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East might have ripple effects for regional peace. The zone could provide a regional security confidence boost for Israel via increased transparency (and perhaps a decreased sense of isolation on Israel’s part). It would also bolster the effort to abolish nuclear weapons worldwide. This month, the Obama administration submitted two protocols establishing similar zones in Africa and the South Pacific to the Senate. Now it’s time to turn to the Middle East, where a WMD-Free Zone could help avert awful alternatives — a potential Israel-Iran conflict, a regional arms race, or a catastrophic world war.
Kevin Martin is executive director of Peace Action and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus. Founded in 1957, Peace Action (formerly SANE/Freeze) is the largest U.S. peace and disarmament organization.”
(Quelle: Peace Action Blog.)
By Nick Turse
If you follow the words, one Middle East comes into view; if you follow the weapons, quite another.
This week, the words will take center stage. On Thursday, according to administration officials, President Obama will “reset” American policy in the Middle East with a major address offering a comprehensive look at the Arab Spring, “a unified theory about the popular uprisings from Tunisia to Bahrain,” and possibly a new administration approach to the region.
In the meantime, all signs indicate that the Pentagon will quietly maintain antithetical policies, just as it has throughout the Obama years. Barring an unprecedented and almost inconceivable policy shift, it will continue to broker lucrative deals to send weapons systems and military equipment to Arab despots. Nothing indicates that it will be deterred from its course, whatever the president says, which means that Barack Obama’s reset rhetoric is unlikely to translate into meaningful policy change in the region.
For months now, the world has watched as protesters have taken to the streets across the Middle East to demand a greater say in their lives. In Tunisia and Egypt, they toppled decades-old dictatorships. In Bahrain and Yemen, they were shot down in the streets as they demanded democracy. In the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, they called for reforms, free speech, and basic rights, and ended up bloodied and often in jail cells. In Iraq, they protested a lack of food and jobs, and in response got bullets and beatings.
As the world watched, trained eyes couldn’t help noticing something startling about the tools of repression in those countries. The armored personnel carriers, tanks, and helicopters used to intimidate or even kill peaceful protesters were often American models.
For decades, the U.S. has provided military aid, facilitated the sale of weaponry, and transferred vast quantities of arms to a host of Middle Eastern despots. Arming Arab autocrats, however, isn’t only the work of presidents past. A TomDispatch analysis of Pentagon documents finds that the Obama administration has sought to send billions of dollars in weapons systems — from advanced helicopters to fighter jets — to the very regimes that have beaten, jailed, and killed pro-democracy demonstrators, journalists, and reform activists throughout the Arab Spring.
The administration’s abiding support for the militaries of repressive regimes calls into question the president’s rhetoric about change. The arms deals of recent years also shed light on the shadowy, mutually supportive relationships among the U.S. military, top arms dealers, and Arab states that are of increasing importance to the Pentagon.
Since the summer of 2009, President Obama, by way of the Pentagon and with State Department approval, has regularly notified Congress of his intent to sell advanced weaponry to governments across the Middle East, including Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Under U.S. law, Congress then has 30 days to review the sale before the Pentagon and associated military contractors enter into more formal contract talks with individual nations.
In July 2009, according to an analysis of Pentagon documents by TomDispatch, notifications were sent to Congress regarding the sale to Kuwait of Browning machine guns, advanced targeting systems for armored vehicles, KC-130 aircraft, and technical support for F/A-18 attack aircraft. Later that summer, the White House announced plans to outfit both Bahrain’s and Jordan’s militaries with advanced air-to-air missiles to the tune of $74 million and $131 million, respectively, to equip the United Arab Emirates with $526 million worth of Hellfire missiles and other materiel, to send more than $2 billion worth of advanced surveillance and navigation equipment to aid Saudi Arabia’s air force, and to see to it that Egypt’s military received a shipment of new Chinook troop transport helicopters and other high-tech equipment valued at $308 million.
In the fall of 2009, Pentagon documents show a $220 million bid by the administration to outfit the Jordanian military with advanced rocket systems and tactical vehicles, a proposed sale of advanced fighter aircraft, parts, weapons, and equipment to Egypt worth as much as $3.2 billion, and another to equip Kuwait’s military with $410 million in Patriot missile technology. Then, in November and December of that year, Congress was notified of plans to sell helicopters to Iraq, Javelin guided missiles to Jordan, Hellfire missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, jet engines, and other military materiel to Egypt, and helicopters and thousands of advanced bombs, among other high-tech equipment, to the UAE.
Last year, notifications also went out concerning the sale of F-16 fighters, armored personnel carriers, tank ammunition, and advanced computer systems to Iraq, C-17 military transport aircraft for Kuwait, mobile missile systems for Bahrain, and Apache attack helicopters and tactical missile systems for the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia, however, was the big winner by far with a blockbuster $60 billion agreement for helicopters, fighter jets, radar equipment, and advanced smart bombs that will represent, if all purchases are made, the largest foreign arms deal in American history.
Deficits, Ducats, and Dictators
The agreement to broker the sale of tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia sheds light on the Pentagon’s efforts to shield itself — and its favored arms dealers — from the shakiness of the American economy, as well as President Obama’s stated goal of trimming $400 billion from projected national security spending of $10 trillion over the next 12 years. Last October, the Pentagon started secretly lobbying financial analysts and large institutional investors on behalf of weapons makers and other military contractors. The idea was to bolster their long-term financial viability in the face of a possible future slowdown in Defense Department spending.
Since then, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn and other Pentagon powerbrokers have made regular trips to New York City to shore up Wall Street’s support for weapons manufacturers. “We are in this for the long term. We need industrial partners and financial backers who think and act likewise,” Lynn told investors at a recent defense and aerospace conference in that city.
Along with Ashton Carter, the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, and Brett Lambert, the deputy assistant secretary for industrial policy, Lynn is creating a comprehensive plan to sustain and enrich weapons makers and other military contractors in the coming years. “We’re going sector by sector, tier by tier, and our goal is to develop a long-term policy to protect that base as we slow defense spending,” Lynn said. America’s Middle Eastern allies are seen as a significant partner in this effort.
It’s often said that the Pentagon is a “monopsony” — that is, the only buyer in town for its many giant contractors. As has been amply demonstrated since Barack Obama took office, however, it’s not true. When it comes to the Middle East, the Pentagon acts not as a buyer, but as a broker and shill, clearing the way for its Middle Eastern partners to buy some of the world’s most advanced weaponry.
And Arab allies have distinctly done their part for the Pentagon. From 2006 to 2009, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service issued late last year, the United States accounted for 52.4% of all arms agreements inked with Middle Eastern nations — to the tune of $47.3 billion. (By comparison, the United Kingdom, in second place in arms sales in the region, accounted for only 15.7% and third-place Russia just 12.8%.)
The purchases of the chief buyer in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, have been climbing steadily. From 2002 to 2005, Saudi Arabia inked $15.3 billion in arms-transfer agreements with the United States. From 2006 to 2009, that figure jumped to $29.5 billion. The multi-year $60 billion deal in 2010 signaled far more of the same and will help ensure the continuing health and profitability of Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, and other mega-defense contractors even if Pentagon spending goes slack or begins to shrink in the years to come.
The Pentagon’s reliance on the deep pockets of Arab partners across the Middle East, however, has a price, which may help to explain the Obama administration’s willingness to support dictators like Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak until their ousters were givens, and to essentially look the other way as security forces in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and elsewhere, sometimes using American-supplied equipment, suppressed pro-democracy activists. After all, the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, along with regional partner Jordan — are set to spend $70 billion on American weaponry and equipment this year, and as much as $80 billion per year by 2015.
“The Middle East Military Air Market: Revenue Opportunities and Stakeholder Mapping,” a recent analysis of just one sector of defense spending in the region by U.S.-based defense consultants Frost and Sullivan, projects yet more growth in the future. “[The] regional military air market is… set to generate revenues of $62.9 billion between 2010 and 2020,” it reports. Frost and Sullivan analysts add that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are likely to be the biggest spenders and will continue to buy most of their arms through the United States for the sake of “political influence.”
For his part, Deputy Secretary of Defense Lynn wants to make it ever easier to put sophisticated military technology in the hands of such deep-pocketed allies. On his recent trip to New York, he spoke of streamlining the process by which tanks, jets, and other advanced weapons systems are sold around the world. “To keep our base healthy, it is in our interest for defense companies to compete globally,” he explained, while deriding the current system for selling arms abroad as “archaic” and in need of an overhaul. “The barriers that we place at this point in the export control system look something like a marriage of the complexity of the Internal Revenue Service with the efficiency of the Department of Motor Vehicles,” he said. “It’s something we have to change.”
Sending a Message
In February, in Baghdad, Fallujah, Mosul, and Tikrit, Iraqi protesters took to the streets, focused on ending corruption and chronic shortages of food, water, electricity, and jobs. In response, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has in recent years consolidated power with U.S. military backing, unleashed government security forces. They arrested, beat, and shot protesters, leaving hundreds dead or wounded. In the weeks since, the Obama administration has not only failed to forcefully rebuke the Maliki regime, but has announced its intent to bolster those same security forces with another $360 million in military materiel ranging from radios to radar systems.
In March, the United Arab Emirates sent security forces into neighboring Bahrain to help put down pro-democracy protests. Early the next month, UAE security forces disappeared leading human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor and, in the days thereafter, detained at least four other prominent democracy activists. Before the month was out, however, the Obama administration announced its intention to arm the UAE with advanced Sidewinder tactical missiles.
Saudi Arabia also sent troops into Bahrain and has been cracking down on nonviolent activists at home with increasing vigor. At the beginning of this month, for example, Human Rights Watch reported the arrest of “at least 20 peaceful protesters, including two bloggers.” Within days, the Obama administration notified Congress of its intent to see the Saudi security forces receive $330 million worth of advanced night vision and thermal-imaging equipment.
This year, U.S.-coordinated arms sales have resulted in the delivery of helicopter gunships to Yemen, navy patrol boats to Iraq, and the first of six cargo aircraft to the UAE. At the moment, used armored personnel carriers are being refurbished for shipment to Iraq later this year.
Whatever “reset” may be in the works for Obama administration policies in the Middle East, the president and the Pentagon are already on the record. Since 2009, they have sought to arm some of the most anti-democratic regimes on the planet, while repeatedly highlighting the need for democratic reform and now for a fresh start in the region. Even as the “reset” begins, the Pentagon is leaning ever more heavily on rich rulers in the Arab world to prop up the military-corporate complex at home. If the Pentagon and the weapons makers have their way, the provisional successes of the demonstrators in Egypt and Tunisia will turn out to be outliers as an Arab Spring turns distinctly wintry.
In June 2009, President Obama traveled to Cairo University to give a heavily hyped and much-lauded speech (“On a New Beginning”) to “the Muslim world.” In his remarks, the president spoke of an American Cold-War-era attitude “in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.” Then came his first call for a reset of sorts in the region. “I’ve come here to Cairo,” he said, “to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” Before that summer was out, however, Obama notified Congress of his intent to send Cold War-era autocrat Hosni Mubarak a shipment of new helicopters to beef up his security forces.
During that speech, Obama talked of his “unyielding belief” that all people yearned for free speech, a say in their governance, the rule of law, freedom from corruption, and other basic civil liberties. These weren’t, the president insisted, just American ideals, they were human rights. “And that is why we will support them everywhere,” he said to waves of applause.
In its actions, however, the Obama administration almost immediately left its reset rhetoric in the dust. Whether the president does any better in the Arab Summer of 2011 will depend mightily on whether he can stand up to the Pentagon and its weapons-makers.
Nick Turse is a historian, essayist, investigative journalist, the associate editor of TomDispatch.com, and currently a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute. His latest book is The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso Books). You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, and on Facebook. This piece is part of Turse’s ongoing coverage on U.S. military impacts on the Arab Spring and the third in his TomDispatch series on the subject.
Copyright 2011 Nick Turse”
By LETTA TAYLER
EUOBSERVER / COMMENT – The text message from a Yemeni activist was desperate. Security forces had opened fire on a square occupied by anti-government protesters in the port city of Aden on 30 April, killing two and wounding dozens. “The shooting doesn’t stop,” she wrote. “Please, help us!”
Cries for help have been streaming out of Yemen since February, when security forces and pro-government assailants began brutal crackdowns on peaceful protesters seeking to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The attacks have killed at least 121 people and injured hundreds, many from gunfire. People are also pleading for help in Bahrain, where security forces shot dead at least a dozen protesters as well as several security agents during demonstrations in February and March.
Yet while European leaders deplore the violence in both Bahrain and Yemen, they have done precious little to stem the flow of weapons that both governments have used against their citizens. Each year, EU states export millions of euros worth of guns, teargas, and other arms to these repressive governments, with scant regard for how these sales make them complicit in the murders of ordinary people demanding their rights.
When EU ministers meet on Friday (13 May) in Brussels, they should ban all arms sales to Yemen, Bahrain, and any other country that is using excessive force to quash legitimate dissent.
EU members already have taken a few important steps, but they fall far short of what is needed to end the brutality. On 6 May, EU foreign ministers agreed to suspend weapons sales to Syria after security forces there killed hundreds of peaceful protesters.
In February, the UK revoked 156 licenses for weapons sales to Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain, and ordered a review of weapons sales to Yemen. France swiftly followed suit by announcing it was suspending arms sales to Bahrain and Libya.
This piecemeal approach, though, willfully ignores the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports of 1998, which calls on all member states not to sell weapons to countries or regions where there is a clear risk that they will be used for internal repression or other human rights abuses.
The code has been in place in its current form since 2008, when repression was already well documented in countries whose citizens ultimately rose up in this year’s so-called “Arab spring.”
Yet total EU arms exports to north Africa and the Middle East nearly doubled, from €5.8 billion in 2008 to €11.6 billion in 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, according to the EU’s annual report on arms exports.
That included weapons sales of €100 million in 2009 to Yemen. The biggest EU supplier that year was Bulgaria, which sold €85.9 million worth of firearms, ammunition, bombs, rockets or missiles, followed by the Czech Republic, with €7.4 million and France, with €4 million.
In 2008, the UK led the pack in weapons sales to Yemen, its sales that year valued at €17.8 million.
According to a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, the 2009 Bulgarian sale included 30,000 assault rifles as well as explosives and rocket propelled grenades. The cable expressed concerns that the deal, financed by the United Arab Emirates, would contribute to small arms proliferation in Yemen – a country with an active al-Qaeda branch and where the ratio of weapons to people already approaches 1:2.
The UK was a leading arms exporter to Bahrain in 2010, with £5.7 million [€6.4 million] in sales, according to the UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade. UK sales to Bahrain in the past five years include sub-machineguns, sniper rifles, smoke canisters, stun grenades, tear gas and riot shields.
In 2009, Bahrain received €39.8 million in weapons from EU member states; France sold it €28 million, Belgium €6.3 million, Sweden €2.4 million, and Germany €2 million, the EU arms report said.
The EU is hardly alone in selling arms to human rights violators. The US is the world’s leading supplier of conventional arms to the Middle East, and hundreds of people suffered severe reactions after security forces in Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen fired US-made tear gas at peaceful protesters. The US in April announced that it is reviewing arms sales to the region on a “case-by-case” basis. The EU can do far better.
The 27 EU member states immediately should ban exports of arms and security equipment to Yemen and Bahrain in response to their brutal repression of peaceful dissent until authorities in the two countries stop their violent crackdowns against citizens, conduct independent investigations into the attacks, prosecute suspected perpetrators, and recognize and compensate victims.
Until the EU matches its words with those actions, the blood of Arab spring protesters will stain its hands.
Letta Tayler is a Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch”
Überwachungssoftware ist in Zeiten der sogenannten Facebook-Revolutionen nicht nur in Afrika und im Mittleren Osten gefragt. Europäische Firmen sind auf dem Markt der Sicherheitstechnologie stark vertreten.
Von Matthias Monroy
Während in Nordafrika auf gegen autoritäre Regime Revoltierende geschossen wurde, lud ein Messeveranstalter im Februar nach Dubai zur angeblich größten Verkaufsausstellung für Spionagetechnologie. Die beim fast gleichzeitig veranstalteten Europäischen Polizeikongress angepriesenen Produkte zur digitalen Überwachung und Kontrolle erschienen dagegen fast schon moderat.
Die gegenwärtigen Aufstände in den arabischen Ländern demonstrieren die Nutzung zahlreicher IT-Werkzeuge zur digitalen Kontrolle von Protest und Widerstand: Die tunesische Internetbehörde ATI hatte beispielsweise per Phishing-Software die Login-Daten von sozialen Netzwerken ausgelesen, um kritische Postings auf Facebook entweder zu verhindern oder mit eigener Propaganda zu versehen. Die ägyptische Regierung hatte das Internet Ende Januar zeitweise ganz abgeschaltet. Bei der Stürmung der Geheimdienstzentrale in Kairo förderten Demonstranten im März Papiere zutage, die ein Angebot zur Lieferung von Spähsoftware dokumentieren. Zwischen geschredderten Aktenbergen hatte der ägyptische Arzt Mostafa Hussein ein Schreiben der britischen Firma Gamma gefunden, wonach der Verkauf von Trojaner-Programmen geplant war.
Eine kurze Internetrecherche ergibt, dass die von Gamma angebotene »Remote Intrusion Software« von der Münchner Firma Elaman vertrieben wird, die hierfür nach eigenen Angaben eine Lizenz erwarb. Beide Firmen mischen kräftig mit im weltweiten Markt der Homeland Security, dem nach einer Studie des Hamburger Instituts für Weltwirtschaft bis 2015 ein Umsatz von 180 Milliarden Dollar prognostiziert wird. Firmen und Anwender, also Polizei und Geheimdienste, treffen sich regelmäßig zu internationalen Ausstellungen. Produktbeschreibungen und Tagungsorte lassen auf lukrative Absatzmärkte in russischund arabischsprachigen Ländern schließen.
Im Februar kamen Anbieter und Anwender des gesamten Portfolios von Spionagetechnik, die zum Eindringen in Kommunikationssysteme verwendet wird, in Dubai zusammen. Die Messe mit dem Titel »Intelligence Support Systems« adressierte Märkte im Mittleren Osten und Afrika. Die Aufstände gegen die autoritären Regime in Nordafrika boten den Ausstellern die Gelegenheit, die angepriesenen Produkte quasi live zu präsentieren. Gezeigt wurden etwa Abhörwerkzeuge für alle Arten digitaler Kommunikation, darunter das Eindringen in Computer oder Funknetze, das Knacken von Passwörtern, das Mitschneiden von Mobilfunkgesprächen und SMS, das Aufspüren von Verbindungsdaten oder »Deep Package Inspection« auch verschlüsselter Verbindungen. Der Website der Münchener Firma Elaman zufolge hatte der Kooperationspartner Gamma einen Lieferwagen nach Dubai mitgebracht, der die Überwachungstechnologie auch mobil zum Einsatz bringt.
Eine Woche zuvor hatte in Berlin der Europäische Polizeikongress getagt. Der kommerzielle Charakter der Verkaufsmesse wurde durch eingestreute Vorträge kaschiert, zu denen sich auch Politiker einladen ließen. Ansonsten wurde die Interpretation der Weltlage Rüstungsfirmen überlassen, die als Sponsoren die Veranstaltung finanzierten. Vorstandsvorsitzende lobten die technische Aufrüstung zur Bekämpfung von Chaos und Terror und luden zum gemütlichen Plausch am Verkaufsstand. Dort fanden sich Anwendungen zur digitalen Vereinfachung polizeilicher Ermittlungen, zum Datenabgleich zwischen allerlei Polizeidatenbanken, zum Aufspüren von Flüchtlingsbooten per Satellit oder zur computergestützten Suche nach dem Klang des Wortes »al-Qaida« in abgehörten Telefonaten.
Aussteller in Dubai wie Berlin verkaufen Software, um die Schnüffelei im stetig wachsenden digitalen »polizeilichen Ereignisraum« zu erleichtern. Zudem wachsen die Begehrlichkeiten zur Einbeziehung neuer Datensammlungen. Der »Zukunftsgruppe«, einem Stammtisch europäischer Innenminister, zufolge existiert eine »Unmenge von Daten, die für Verfolgungsbehörden nützlich sein könnten«. Unter dem Vorsitz des damaligen deutschen Innenministers Wolfgang Schäuble wurde ein »Daten-Tsunami« konstatiert. Gemeint war keine Katastrophe, sondern aus der Perspektive der Überwacher das schiere Gegenteil: der Ausbau von Analysekapazitäten durch die verbesserte Auswertung von noch mehr digitalen Spuren. Automatisierte Verfahren bieten neue Wege zur Erschließung bislang unbeachteter Informationen. Dieses sogenannte data mining wird längst im kommerziellen Rahmen angewandt, etwa um Trends zu ermitteln oder Prognosen über Absatzmärkte zu erstellen. Übrigens hilft die Software auch im Falle abgekupferter wissenschaftlicher Arbeiten beim Auffinden ähnlicher Textstellen.
»Die größte Herausforderung besteht nicht mehr in der Sammlung von Information, sondern in ihrer Auswertung«, sagte auch der frühere Vizepräsident von EADS, Markus Hellenthal, vor zwei Jahren auf dem Europäischen Polizeikongress. In der Sprache von Polizei und Geheimdiensten heißen die in den Datenhalden analysierten Verknüpfungen »Risiken«. Je nach angeschlossenen Datenbanken wird ermittelt, wer Buchungen in verdächtigen Reisebüros vornimmt, identische Telefonnummern anruft oder vom gleichen Konto Zuwendungen erhält. Gleichzeitig können Informationen sogenannter open source intelligence miteinbezogen werden, also Einträge in öffentlich zugänglichen sozialen Netzwerken. Kombiniert mit Informationen aus Polizeidatenbanken entsteht eine Art digitales Abbild der Beziehungen zwischen Personen, Sachen und Ereignissen, dem in wissenschaftlichen Studien ein beträchtlicher Informationsgehalt zugesprochen wird. Die Software will zudem Kriminalitätstrends und sogar Straftaten vorhersagen. »Die Evolution in der Verbrechensbekämpfung« bewirbt die Softwarefirma SPSS: »Vom Reagieren über die Vorausschau zur Vorhersage«.
Spätestens wenn die computergestützte Suche im »Daten-Tsunami« nicht nur bei einzelnen Ermittlungen vorgenommen wird, sondern bei Polizei und Geheimdiensten dauerhaft im Hintergrund abläuft, kann von einer permanenten Rasterfahndung gesprochen werden. »Hierfür müssen die rechtlichen Voraussetzungen häufig erst noch geschaffen werden«, lamentierte Hellenthal auf dem Berliner Polizeikongress. Ungeachtet der häufig störenden Bestimmungen zu Datenschutz und Persönlichkeitsrechten bieten alle großen Rüstungsund Softwarefirmen entsprechende Lösungen an. Kein Wunder, denn es lockt die Aussicht auf beträchtliche Investitionen in Hardware, Datenbanken, Speichersysteme, Netzwerktechnik, Serversysteme und mobile Technologien.
Die polizeiliche Implementierung von Überwachungssoftware ist die zivile Übersetzung einer militärischen Doktrin. Diese »vernetzte Operationsführung« will die Überlegenheit über den Gegner erringen, indem eine größtmögliche Menge an Informationen verarbeitet wird. Beim Militär, der Polizei, der Feuerwehr oder beim Katastrophenschutz laufen eingehende Daten in Kontrollräumen (monitoring centres) zusammen und werden dort auf wandgroßen Monitoren visualisiert. Eine Software berechnet Entscheidungshilfen, deren Alternativen zuvor in Übungen oder Simulationen gesammelt wurden.
Die Relevanz dieser Kontrollzentren zur vorausschauenden Handhabung abweichenden Verhaltens wird beispielsweise beim Polizeiaufbau in der West Bank deutlich. In einem von der EU großzügig geförderten Programm werden in mehreren Städten operation rooms eingerichtet, die von einem EU-Ausbilder als das »Herz der Polizei« bezeichnet werden.
Auch die Polizei in Dubai nutzt längst ein deutsches »Police Command and Control Centre«, das 2006 von Siemens installiert wurde und von der Firma als eines der »weltweit fortgeschrittensten« bezeichnet wird. Mehr als 1 000 Videound Thermokameras können in dem Raum von der Größe eines Theaters gesteuert und ausgewertet werden. Journalisten zeigen sich beeindruckt von der Auflösung und der Zoomfunktion der Kameras. Polizeifahrzeuge, auch Fahrräder, sind mit GPS-Trackern ausgerüstet und werden auf einem zwölf Meter großen Bildschirm zusammen mit GPS-Positionsdaten abgebildet. Integriert werden auch Bilder aus der Satellitenüberwachung. Die Plattform bewerkstelligte vor einem Jahr die detaillierte Rückverfolgung der mutmaßlichen Mörder des Hamas-Kommandeurs Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
Zusammen mit dem finnischen Kommunikationskonzern Nokia hatte Siemens ein Kontrollzentrum aus dem Programm »Homeland Security Suite« in den Iran geliefert, das zum Instrument der Unterdrückung von Protest wurde. Der österreichische Journalist Erich Moechel beschrieb, wie im polizeilichen Kontrollraum in Teheran auch Daten von Mobilfunkbetreibern verarbeitet wurden. Damit konnten die Behörden jederzeit überwachen, ob sich auffällig viele Mobiltelefone in einer Funkzelle aufhielten und damit spontane Versammlungen anzeigten.
Die deutsche Polizei wird unter anderem mit monitoring centres der Schweizer Firma Ruag beliefert. Beim Nato-Gipfel 2009 kam deren Plattform »Panther Command« zum Einsatz, die seit Jahren die Einsatzleitung beim Weltwirtschaftsforum in Davos unterstützt.
Je nach Anoder Abwesenheit von Grundrechten können die computergestützten Informationszentralen indes jederzeit mit weiteren Funktionen ausgestattet werden. Skrupellos bewirbt beispielsweise die Firma Rola Security Solutions aus Oberhausen auf dem Europäischen Polizeikongress ihr »umfangreiches Software-Framework für die Informationsgewinnung und -verarbeitung«, das gleichermaßen von »Polizei, Militär, Nachrichtendiensten, Sicherheitsabteilungen von Unternehmen und mit Sicherheitsaufgaben betrauten Organisationen« eingesetzt werden kann. Weitere Überwachungs-Apps können »kundenspezifisch« mit einer »Vielzahl von Fachanwendungen, Modulen, Funktionen und Schnittstellen« hinzugefügt werden. So können auf der Basis von Gesichtern und Stimmen verdächtiger Personen Abhörprotokolle und Fotos durchsucht werden. In diese Richtung forscht etwa das EU-Vorhaben Indect, das verschiedene Spuren digitaler Überwachung im öffentlichen Raum – auch mit fliegenden Kameras – in einer einzigen Plattform vereinigen will. Neben der Universität Wuppertal sind die deutschen Firmen PSI Transcom und Innotec Data an Indect beteiligt.
In Kreisen kritischer Netzaktivisten kursiert nach den Funden beim ägyptischen Geheimdienst jetzt die Idee einer Kampagne zur weltweiten Ächtung von Trojaner-Programmen. So unwahrscheinlich die Erfüllung der Forderung ist, weist sie doch in die richtige Richtung: Vielfach bleibt die Brisanz der neuen polizeilichen Spionagetechniken unverstanden. Als ähnlich erfolglose, aber einsichtige Forderung könnte darauf gedrängt werden, den Quellcode polizeilich genutzter Data mining-Software offenzulegen: Individuen sollten immerhin in Kenntnis darüber gesetzt werden, mittels welcher technischer Verfahren und Algorithmen sie von der Rüstungs- und Softwareindustrie zu Risiken erklärt werden.
(Quelle: Jungle World.)