States that increase Yemeni’s affliction: (part...
In 2017, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström told a conference that the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Yemen was one that "has far too long been neglected and forgotten by the global community" and what Yemeni people were going through was "difficult to imagine."
It is such statements that, besides leading various international peace efforts to help resolve major conflicts across the globe, including Saudi Arabia's deadly war on Yemen, have helped Sweden establish the image of a peace-loving country that cares for others.
However, a steady rise in the Scandinavian country's weapons business over the past years, including its major dealings with repressive Arab regimes in the Persian Gulf region, has cast doubt on Stockholm's true intentions. Sweden has become a major world supplier of weapons counting a number of regimes criticized for human rights abuses among its customers. Over the recent years, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have become some of the main customers for Swedish-made weapons.
At the heart of Sweden's weapons industry is Saab, a company that sold over $2.7 billion worth of weapons in 2016 alone, making its way into the world's top 30 arms producing companies according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
According to Svenska Freds, a 135-year-old Swedish anti-militarization group, the arms sales to Saudi Arabia reportedly approached six billion Swedish kronor ($741mn) between 2010 and 2016. That means the arms deals between the two sides have continued throughout Saudi Arabia's deadly war on Yemen, which began in March 2015 and has killed nearly 14,000 Yemeni civilians. Weapons and military equipment are often an important part of the instruments with which these regimes can stay in power.
The UAE, another Saudi ally in the bloody war, was able to secure a larger deal in 2016, when the Swedish administrative authority, the National Inspectorate of Strategic Products, authorized 11 billion Swedish kronor ($1.3bn) in arms sales to the Arab country. In a move that further proved Sweden's desire to expand military ties with repressive Arab regimes, Saab opened a new office in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi in late 2017.
While in late 2018, specifically after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, all of Sweden's neighbours like Norway, Germany, Denmark and Finland have stopped arms exports to Saudi Arabia, Stockholm stands out for its plans to maintain its military cooperation with the regional superpower citing its 'limited' scale. For Sweden's part, it is about follow-up deliveries to previous purchases, despite rising opposition from the Green and the Left Party.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, who is known for having unleashed a diplomatic spat with Riyadh by calling Saudi Arabia a 'medieval dictatorship', voiced concern about the perceived lack of human rights in the Middle Eastern country, while at the same time downplaying the importance of Swedish arms exports.
Wallström referenced the Inspectorate for Strategic Products (ISP), the authority supervising arms exports as the body that makes decisions on these matters. The ISP, in turn, reiterated that exports from Sweden are a consequence of previously concluded contracts and mostly involve spare parts and equipment maintenance. The ISP stressed that no new business licences for Saudi Arabia have been issued in the past five years.
In April 2018, Sweden introduced guidelines for arms exports in order to make it more difficult to provide countries that fail to meel meet democracy and human rights requirements with arms.
However, some parliamentary parties argue that these measures are insufficient and that all military cooperation with Ryadh must be disrupted. The Green Party has been pushing for a complete halt to arms deals with Saudi Arabia since 2015. The Left Party, currently in opposition, is in favour of an immediate stop of arms sales to dictatorships.
According to FlightGlobal , some military equipment are yet to be received by UAE. The $1.27bn launch contract for the airborne surveillance program was signed in November 2015, and 28 months later GlobalEye undertook its maiden flight. The first of three GlobalEye surveillance aircraft developed for the United Arab Emirates by Saab is on schedule to be delivered in April 2020, says Håkan Buskhe, Saab’s CEO. the second of the aircraft undertook its first flight January 2019 so the test program is on schedule and the third aircraft is under production. It seems that Sweden does not want to stop its deals.