Bribery And Arms Deal In The Middle East


Secrecy is one of the defining characteristics of the business of armament sale deals. Only the few will know the full details of all deals particularly the Middle Eastern arms deals. Many specialists in such business strongly argued that the deals could well be rife with kick-backs and bribes to agents working for the countries such as Saudis and others.
Frank Vogl, the co-founder of Transparency International and author of “Waging War on Corruption: Inside the Movement Fighting the Abuse of Power” insists that the Saudi government prevents any form of external monitoring of arms contracts. The United States government could be more forceful in insisting on external inspections and transparency – it is not, it just wants to export arms. He argued that there is a Saudi kick-backs galore. The corrupt activity may center on the “offset” agreements that the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates insist be part of all major arms deals. These are side-arrangements that may not be related to the military sector at all. Instead, they often provide funds for business sectors selected by the Saudi and United Arab Emirates governments.
These deal-sweeteners can be very large, “worth a third, in the case of Saudi Arabia, to almost two-thirds in the case of United Arab Emirates of the defense contract itself,” according to a new report by scholar Jodi Vittori for Transparency International (TI). The report provides examples from some years back, such as a 5 billion dollar Mc Donnell Douglas sale to the Saudis where one of the offset agreements involved establishing a factory to refine oils into shampoo and paint. And, on another deal highlighted in the report, French arms manufacturers set-up a joint venture with a Saudi firm selected by the government to build greenhouses for fresh flowers.
According to Jodi Vittori, United States companies assert that they are sensitive to being in compliance with United States laws that criminalize bribes to foreign government officials. But, the intricacies of the offset deals are often directed by the Saudis, with some ventures involving senior defense officials, or new ventures where control is with a Saudi partner or Saudi agents and no doubt commissions, to finalize arrangements.
Melissa Block, arms export expert argued that there appears to be no global security or geo-political strategy behind President Trump’s embraced of the Saudis. The only motivation seems to be the desire to sell more and more United States arms. No wonder that President Trump has brushed aside all human rights concerns that came into sharp focus with the Saudi killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018. No wonder either that President Trump and the Saudis must be very happy that the Soleimani killing has put public attention in the United States almost completely on Iran, the Saudis’ nemesis.
Melissa Block noted that to his completely mercenary mindset, Donald Trump seems completely oblivious to the mounting risks of placing the most sophisticated United States weapons systems in Saudi hands. President Trump loves to sell United States arms and his favorite customer is Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. After the United States military killed Iraqi general Qassem Soleimani on January 3, Trump went into full arms sales mode. To him, that was obviously more important than conferring with NATO allies, or members of the Congress.
William Hartung, Director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation stated that no sooner had international security tensions soared, than a visit was swiftly arranged for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s brother, Vice Minister of Defense Khalid bin Salman Khalid, to visit Washington on January 6 and 7. He met with the United States Secretaries of State and Defense as well as with Trump at the White House. Stunningly, the meetings were first publicly disclosed by the Saudis, and were not, and have not been recorded on the official White House website.
William Hartung noted that when President Trump did acknowledge that he met with the Saudi Vice Defense Minister, he announced in his usual upbeat fashion in such situations – no doubt with the cash register in his mind ringing loudly – on Twitter: “Had a very good meeting with @kbsalsaud of Saudi Arabia. We discussed Trade, Military, Oil Prices, Security, and Stability in the Middle East!” (2.05p.m., January 7, 2020). The Middle Eastern powder keg is about to become still more explosive. No region of the world imports such a large volume of weapons and the Saudis are huge buyers.
According to William Hartung, total Saudi military spending in 2018 was 67 billion dollar, accounting for the third-biggest level of arms spending in the world, behind the United States and China, but slightly ahead of Russia. The new security tensions following the Soleimani assassination will likely ratchet up the stockpiles of arms in the region. The governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are not only boosting their arms imports but are also accelerating their plans to build their own large arms-manufacturing factories.
William Hartung further noted that the United States is the largest arms supplier and Trump is the top salesman. “President Trump and King Salman Sign Arms Deal,” ran the headline on the White House official website in May 2017 as Trump made his first overseas trip as president. The statement highlighted the fact that “President Trump and King Salman participated in the signing ceremony for almost $110 billion worth of defense capabilities.”
Frank Vogl stated that in May 2019, President Donald Trump sidestepped Congressional restrictions on some arms sales. He did so by declaring a national emergency regarding Iran as the means for approving 8 billion dollar in sales of United States precision-guided munitions and other weapons. Now, unquestionably, President Trump will be stressing that a new Iran-related national emergency has erupted and shipments of United States arms to United States allies in the Gulf are a vital priority. No doubt, the salesmen for Lockheed, Raytheon, Boeing and other United States arms manufacturers are engaged in new negotiations in the region.