Spain OKs Saudi Arms Deals

The Spanish Parliament voted earlier this week in favor of the continuation of ongoing arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Reuters reported this week that the Spanish Parliament has voted against a measure that would block the sale of arms to the Saudi government. The Spanish government and opposition People’s Party came to agreement on the matter, though the government said in a statement that it was “dismayed” over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has confirmed that Khashoggi was killed in a “premeditated” operation conducted by Saudi agents earlier this month in Istanbul, Turkey, but has asserted the perpetrators were not acting on official orders and denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s death.

While many of Saudi Arabia’s allies in the Middle East rallied to its defense over Khashoggi’s killing, others — led by the Turkish government — have cast doubt on the Saudi story, which has gradually changed over time to acknowledge the journalist’s death at the hands of Saudi officials, taking aim particularly at the Crown Prince, who they say was aware of the plot, at the least, to kill Khashoggi.

Human rights agencies and activists have called for the U.S. and other countries to terminate arms sales to Saudi Arabia over the killing, but so far only Germany has announced that it will hold arms deals with Saudi Arabia in response to the journalist’s death. Members of both major U.S. political parties have suggested that the Congress should act to curtail sales to Riyadh, but U.S. President Donald Trump — who himself has called the murder the “worst cover-up ever” and threatened “severe consequences” — has advocated against ending arms sales to the Kingdom.

Spain’s decision ensures that a sale of hundreds of precision-guided munitions (PGMs) to Saudi Arabia will continue. Earlier this year, the Spanish government also inked an agreement with Riyadh for the $2 billion sale of five warships.

In September, Spain announced and then backtracked on a plan to end the export of PGMs to Saudi Arabia over its military campaign in Yemen. It is believed that Saudi pressure, including threatening the warship deal, contributed to Spain reversing the ban. Concern over the impact of losing the exports on the Spanish defense industry is a motivating factor in the Parliament choosing to continue exporting military equipment to Saudi Arabia.

About Derek Bisaccio

Military markets analyst, covering Eurasia, Middle East, and Africa.

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