tagged w/ arming Arab emirates
By Hannah Gurman, June 8, 2011
The International Defense Exhibition, otherwise known as IDEX, has been held bi-annually in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since 1993. It is the largest defense expo in the Middle East and North Africa and one of the biggest in the world. But far from being a one-off, it highlights the UAE’s growing stature as a global arms buyer.
This year’s IDEX took place in the glistening Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. Its high ceilings and massive rooms displayed a diverse array of high-tech weaponry against the backdrop of heavily illuminated signboards like the ones you see in the showrooms of luxury car dealerships. All the big Western defense corporations were there — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Dyncorp, Northrup Grumman, European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. — as well as Chinese companies, including China North. There were also a host of local companies including Arabian Aerospace, Abu Dhabi Ship Building Company, and the state-owned Mubadala. Like all of these events, it was a heavily male enterprise. The exhibitors wore suits. The visitors wore either the military uniform of the UAE or traditional Arab dress.
Outside, the expo began with a parade and air show, and representatives from BAE Systems gave passersby a tour of the latest features of their all-terrain tank. Just inside the entry hall, visitors could check out a parked yellow Hummer on their way to the exhibits. At the U.S. pavilion, a representative from Boeing demonstrated the features of its integrated defense simulator, and General Dynamics showed off its latest MK- 47 machine gun. At the Lockheed Martin exhibit, you could get within inches of anti-aircraft missiles propped on plastic risers like pieces of modernist art — so shiny you could see your reflection in them.
Who Loses Out?
The rapid expansion of the UAE military has the tacit support, if not outright blessing, of the U.S. government. In response to the news that Blackwater had struck a deal with the UAE, an Obama administration official was quoted as saying, “The gulf countries, and the UAE in particular, don’t have a lot of military experience. It would make sense if they looked outside their borders for help…They might want to show that they are not to be messed with.” The Defense Department recently announced reforms that will make it easier for domestic defense companies to export their products to foreign buyers.
There are at least two reasons for the administration’s position. First and foremost, it regards the UAE as one of its most important allies in the region. The Emirates supported both Iraq Wars, and it currently is involved in cracking down on the protest movement in Bahrain — it sent 500 police officers to suppress the revolt in the tiny Gulf kingdom. In the midst of the crackdown, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed was welcomed by the White House with open arms.
Support for exporting U.S. arms to the UAE is also part of a larger move to accommodate the defense industry, which has repeatedly voiced concern about the threat of a shrinking defense budget, although the supposed 78 billion dollars in cuts represent little more than a cap on future growth and a reshuffling of the current budget.
In this broader context of both the U.S. willingness to provide arms for Gulf allies and the ongoing budget wars in the United States, direct contracts between the defense industry and the UAE appear to be a win-win situation for everyone — everyone, that is, except the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers and critics of the UAE regime who will be among the targets of the military’s beefed-up surveillance systems and the mercenary’s guns.
It is telling that the UAE government would rather hire mercenaries to suppress potential rebellions than improve the conditions of these workers, who are systemically abused by their bosses and forced to live in cramped slums with little or no access to basic infrastructure and services. In recent months, the UAE has arrested and jailed at least five democracy activists as well as disbanded the board of directors for the National Jurists Association and the Teacher’s Association, two of the country’s most eminent civil society organizations and supporters of democratic reform. The UAE’s enhanced military apparatus will likely suppress any potential protest movement that might develop as part of the Arab Spring.
The enhanced ties between the United States and the UAE raise important questions about who is actually responsible for the actions of the Emirati military. Currently, neither the U.S. government nor the defense industry has spoken out against the government’s crackdown. It would be delusional not to acknowledge the U.S. role in the UAE’s human rights abuses. If and when an atrocity is committed against the migrant workers and democracy activists by the UAE military, Erik Prince and the UAE government won’t be the only ones to blame.
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artist Nicola Bolla Swavorski crystal AK-47
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http://s3.amazonaws.com/data.tumblr.com/tumblr_ljxzjkAcxU1qzamioo1_1280.jpg?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ6IHWSU3BX3X7X3Q&Expires=1307675345&Signature=9BfCOov7QheG0OLenHEX6cuHX%2Bg%3DBy Hannah Gurman, June 8, 2011
The International Defense Exhibition, otherwise known... more