NAVANTIA: THE PRIVATE WEAPONS DEALER FUELLING THE WAR ON YEMEN

Eiman A.K.

Saudi Arabia’s assault on Yemen has not shown any signs of termination since 2015 when the nine-nation coalition first formed. The Saudi Arabian led war efforts have received an influx of military assistance since its inception, primarily from the U.S. and the U.K. Saudi Arabia has been highly determined in undermining the positions of the Houthi militia and loyalists of the former President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Among the budding alliances between the KSA and world powers is a new partnership with Navantia; a private weapons dealer in Spain. 

Since the initiation of the KSA coalition led by Saudi Arabia, a surge in the global arms sales had become palpably evident. The increase in trade of weaponry by Saudi Arabia assisted in pushing global arms sales up by more than 10 percent since 2015. According to IHS Inc. in its ‘Global Defense Trade Report’, the world defence market rose to $65 billion in 2015; marking an increase of $6.6 billion from 2014. In early 2016, a report released by the Military think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) stated,

“In the last five years, it has seen weapons imports increase by 275% over the previous five-year period, largely to fuel its expanding wars.”

With Saudi Arabia’s purchases jumping by about 50 percent to $9.3 billion, The Englewood, a Colorado-based communication company, describes it as the most prevalent annual rise in the past decade. Saudi Arabia has imported a wide range of weaponry within the past year including Apache helicopters, Eurofighter Typhoon jets, F-15 Warplanes, drones, precision-guided weapons as well as surveillance equipment. Navantia is one of various weaponry suppliers to Saudi Arabia which assist in the continuation of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen. 

Navantia S.A. is a 270-year-old European military shipbuilder that provides its services to both the military and civil sector. Navantia currently plays a significant role to Saudi Arabia as its main weaponry supplier. This relationship became more public when the KSA refused the United States' offer to purchase four multi-mission warships based on Lockheed Martin’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) valued at $11.25 billion. Instead, Navantia had replaced the U.S. proposal with an estimated €2 billion ($2.1 billion) contract.

Riyadh had approved the production of five corvettes being versions of Navantia's Avante 2200 design in February 2016. However, a spokesman for Navantia on Sunday stated that “We can only confirm that negotiations are very advanced to build five warships which would be sold to the Saudi navy.”

These covert negotiations had been carried out during Felipe VI's visit to Saudi Arabia's King Salman. The EL Pais Spanish newspaper reports that the contract is "one of the imperatives of the visit". This would officially mark Navantia’s largest export contract to date. Although it is unknown how Royal Saudi Navy will configure and arm the new corvettes, these ships could potentially be equipped for anti-ship warfare (AShW) and anti-air warfare (AAW) via the Harpoon Block-II and Evolved Sea Sparrow (ESSM) if they are bought in lieu of LCS-based Multi-Mission surface Combatant (MMSC).6

Growing concern regarding Saudi Arabia’s weapon deal with Navantia is prominent amongst many non-government organisations; leading them to declare the potential sale illegal. Directors of Greenpeace, Amnesty International, the Peace Foundation (FundiPau) and Oxfam Intermón have expressed their disagreement regarding Navantia’s contract with Saudi Arabia, evident through the open letter they had sent to the Spanish Prime Minister and Navantia. In an NGO-funded report called "License to Kill," the following is stated about Navantia:

“nearly a third of Spanish arms exports in the first semester of 2015 was destined to the countries of the Saudi-led coalition operating in the war in Yemen since March 2015.”7

The Spanish King had been called upon by Amnesty International to halt the sale of warships to the Saudi navy, disputing the dangers of this trade as it could be used to undertake “serious violations of international humanitarian law” against Yemen. Esteban Beltrán, a director of Amnesty International (AI) in Spain, said,

“Any possible arms sales to Saudi Arabia that could be used in Yemen are illegal because it violates Spanish law and international arms trade.”

The main concern of these NGOs is the risk of Saudi exacerbating the naval blockade implemented on Yemen since 25 March, 2015. According to the UN, the death toll has reached 10,000 and over 8,100 wounded reported as a result of the conflict. Additionally, more than 21 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

It is concerning and undeniable that Saudi Arabia’s aggressive war crimes against Yemen are primarily fuelled by private weapon partnerships such as Navantia. Such deals provide fertile ground for terrorism and inhumane wars to be carried out wherever funders please, all in aims of fulfilling tyrannical agendas.