Saudis Falling Out with Germany Over Berlin's Support for Preserving JCPOA with Iran
Six months ago Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Germany over German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel's criticism of 'adventurism' in the region, a dig at the Kingdom's aborted kidnapping of Lebanese politician and business partner Saad Hariri. After months of consultations, the Saudi Ambassador hasn't returned to Berlin yet. Adding to the strain in Saudi-German relations has been a reported halt by Berlin in arms sales to the Kingdom, which opposition parties like Die Linke (the Left) want to expand to cut off all arms trade with Turkey and the UAE over their occupations respectively of Syrian and Yemeni territory. But the worse irritant in bilateral relations is the Germans' outspoken support alongside their core EU French allies for preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal.
The Saudis and their Israeli allies heavy investment into cultivating President Trump and his advisers have not won them any favor in Paris or Berlin, who are already facing steel and aluminum tariffs from the Administration along with threats to Germany's world leading automotive industry. Consequently, German investments in the Kingdom are suffering and German media if not businessmen are surely more inclined to bring up the Yemen War's humanitarian horrors as a result:
[Detlef Daues'] Hannover-based virtual department store for original replacement parts, V-Line GmbH, services customers in countries like Mexico, the United States, Qatar and Oman in addition to others in East Asia. But 65 percent of Daues' revenues come from Saudi Arabia.
But currently, the once-positive relationship between Saudi Arabia and Germany has worsened. Six months ago, Riyadh withdrew its ambassador from Germany and he still hasn't returned. There has been little open discussion of the reasons behind the conflict, but for people like Daues in the business community, the rift is as plain as day. "For Germans, the doors in Riyadh have suddenly been closed," says one experienced businessman in the Saudi capital. Meetings with delegations from Germany that were set up before the crisis are being canceled. "That hurts," says Oliver Oehms of the German-Saudi Arabian Liaison Office for Economic Affairs in Riyadh.
Young crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS for short, appears to be "deeply offended" by the German government, says Daues, who adds that his information comes from confidants in Riyadh. Relations between the two countries began souring last November when then-German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel spoke of spreading "political adventurism" in the Middle East, a remark many thought was aimed at Saudi Arabia. The impression was widespread at the time that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was being held against his will in Riyadh and that he was being strong-armed by the rulers there to step down.
-- from Der Spiegel, May 25, 2018
Saudi Casualties and Other Hidden Costs of the Yemen War Now Coming to Light
Long time RogueMoney readers of the Russian Analyst may recall our article published two and a half years ago, stating that German intelligence identified the ambitious and virulently anti-Iranian Crown Prince as a destabilizing factor in the Middle East back in late 2015. At that time, we also reported that the Saudis had suffered several thousand casualties, including at least 2,000 combat deaths in the first few months of their disastrous and incompetent Yemen campaign. Since that time, with the help of their UAE allies, the Saudis have lost and taken back some ground alongside 'friendly' Yemeni mercenary forces, but the Zaidi Shi'a Houthis and the tribes supporting them have inflicted serious losses on the Saudi-led Coalition.
Uncharacteristic-ally for the secretive Kingdom, Riyadh recently admitted to a fraction of its actual losses, saying over 1,000 soldiers had been killed since the war started in spring 2015. This figure does not include Saudi hired mercenaries of Sudanese and other foreign extraction, nor likely border guards and policemen killed by Houthi raids that are amply documented by graphic videos from Najran and Jizan provinces. Al-Jazeera, the TV channel funded by the Saudis Gulf rivals the Qataris, recently aired a segment and posted it to their Youtube channel showing Saudi soldiers complaining about their losses, low wages and lack of logistics support on the ground in Yemen. The Al-Jazeera footage appears authentic and is consistent with the panic and low morale poorly trained Saudi soldiers display under Houthi attacks in the Ansar-allah movement's videos.
The Saudis have responded to their humiliating losses through terror bombing aka 'double tap' air strikes, which kill responders and civilians at weddings and funerals, as well as with a naval blockade. Seizing the Hodeida port, a longtime military objective, now seems to be within reach of Saudi forces. The Saudi-led coalition is convinced that the Houthis have been using the port to smuggle in Iranian anti-tank guided missiles and other weapons that the Yemeni resistance has been firing at the Kingdom. But the UK Guardian reports the Kingdom's Hodeidah offensive is provoking an international outcry, as the Red Sea harbor is a lifeline for humanitarian aid into the war and famine-ravaged country.
...an emboldened Saudi-led coalition has been making faster-than-expected progress towards the gates of the city over the past two months, largely ignoring western pleas that peace cannot be restored to Yemen though military means. The fighting has already displaced 100,000 people, and aid agencies predict another 200,000 will be displaced if fighting breaks out in the centre of Hodeidah.
Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy for Yemen, who is due to publish a peace proposal, said a battle over Hodeidah would “take peace off the table”.
Thanks to Yemen's porous border with Oman and rugged pirate and smuggler friendly coastline, the Hodeidah won't stop the flow of arms to the Houthis or end the war. Neither will the UAE's occupation of the Maritime Silk Road gateway Socotra Island, which has thus far been spared from the war's ravages. Nonetheless the Saudis are desperate to achieve some sort of face saving basis for a partial withdrawal from the Yemen quagmire, and keeping oil prices high enough (including by targeting U.S. oil shale) to stabilize the Kingdom's previously hemorrhaging finances. Whether they will be able to accomplish those goals with the Trump Administration's support and/or MBS will live to see them is unknown. Since 2015 the Russian Analyst has had his doubts that MBS can pull it off.