The British Wednesday newspapers were interested in a number of Middle East issues, on top of which are Saudi plans to increase the manufacture of weapons locally, the Interpol meeting in Istanbul and the accusations leveled against that international organization that it is being used by some authoritarian regimes to pursue opponents abroad, as well as Britain’s transfer of a military training base from Canada to the Middle East.
Beginning with the Financial Times, we read a report on Saudi Arabia’s efforts to strengthen its defense and military capabilities locally, and increase investment in the local manufacture of weapons.
In their report from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, Samer Al-Atrush and Andrew England said that Saudi officials are keen to promote the defense electronics factory, as one of the sovereign wealth fund’s latest investments in the field of military manufacturing, which comes on top of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plans to modernize the kingdom’s economy. .
The Advanced Electronics Company, whose factory in Riyadh produces parts for bombs and drones, is the “crown jewel” of Saudi Arabia’s fledgling military industry, Saudi officials say.
The Saudi Company for Military Industries (Sami), which was founded four years ago by the Public Investment Fund to localize defense production, bought the Advanced Electronics Company last year.
Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s largest defense budgets, and spent $57 billion on protecting the country last year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
AEC is at the center of the kingdom’s plan to increase domestic production to account for 50 percent of its defense spending within 10 years. Local production accounted for only 3 percent of the budget in 2017, when Sami was founded.
The military industrialization project is in line with Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s vision plan to diversify the oil-dependent economy, an ambitious project, but analysts said it would be a mistake to reject it.
Frances Tosa, a defense consultant and editor for Defense Analysis, says Saudi Arabia is spending a lot on weapons. “This budget can give you an industry if you want to,” he said.
The plan also reflects the Kingdom’s desire for self-reliance, especially as it is engaged in a war in neighboring Yemen, and its oil facilities and infrastructure are under attack by drones and missiles launched by Iranian-backed rebels, according to the newspaper.
And arms purchases from the United States, which is the main supplier of arms to the kingdom, often face opposition in Washington. The US Congress is discussing two proposals to prevent air-to-air missiles to Saudi Arabia, worth $650 million.
Walid Abu Khaled, CEO of Sami, said in an interview with the Financial Times, that one of the reasons for establishing the company is to achieve sovereignty, and we want this self-sufficiency. The other reason is “the time it sometimes takes to repair and maintain the product, waiting for replacement parts can take up to two years”.
The Saudi company is already looking to assemble Black Hawk helicopters, which are produced by the American Lockheed Martin, with local labor. As well as armored vehicles in partnership with an Emirati company.
The region is witnessing competition in the defense industries, as the UAE manufactures drones and armored fighting vehicles for use in conflict areas, and Israel also manufactures some of the most advanced weapons in the world. Even Iran, the kingdom’s regional rival, has an increasingly sophisticated domestic arms industry.
Iran is accused of being behind a 2019 drone and missile attack that destroyed two Saudi oil facilities and halted about 5 percent of global oil production.
Turkey and“Interpol corruption
In The Times, we read an article by Roger Boyce, in which he talks about what he describes as “the corruption of the International Police (Interpol)” and its use as a pressure card to pursue opponents abroad by some ruling regimes, including the regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Autocrats use the international police network to track down critics, not criminals, Boyce says, noting the lavish hospitality with which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met the annual meeting of Interpol officers in Istanbul this week.
But he added that the best gift (Erdogan) could give the officers in the delegations present would be to grant them temporary diplomatic immunity, to dissuade civil rights groups from initiating successful legal action against the blood-stained policemen.
He added that the international police network, whose objective is to exchange well-intentioned global information between more than 190 countries, has now become a tool in the hands of despots who want to hunt down opponents and critics living abroad, through a “red notice” issued in the names of those who are being pursued.
Russia, China, Venezuela and Tajikistan are among the countries that have made frequent use of Interpol’s tracking network. China uses it against Uyghur dissidents and Hong Kong residents who believe exile abroad may protect them from strict national security law.
The restrictions that were imposed on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have also been lifted from 2012, and the Syrian police can send or receive messages via Interpol.
Erdogan was keen to host the Interpol meeting as part of his moves to avenge the alleged conspirators against him and those he says were behind the alleged coup attempt against him in 2016.
Turkey has filed about 60,000 notices against supporters of the anti-Erdogan cleric Fethullah Gulen abroad. Erdogan’s regime also targets Kurds and political opponents, and the challenge facing Erdogan and other autocrats is to prevent any significant changes to Interpol, which they believe are working well.
The writer stresses that Interpol is not working, because its constitutional commitment to political neutrality is unenforceable. It can in no way be supported in the face of the subversive tactics of authoritarian regimes that are doing their best to empower their candidates for key positions at INTERPOL.
And Boyce mentions in his article that the main candidate for the presidency of the organization is the prominent legal official in the United Arab Emirates, Major General Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi. Which has question marks after the detention and torture of a British academic in the Emirates.
From Canada to the Middle East
And in the Telegraph we read a report under the title (British Army leaves Canada after 50 years for a new base in the Middle East), by Dominic Nichols, defense and security correspondent for the newspaper.
The report says that British military moves in the Middle East include plans to modernize and develop a training area in the Sultanate of Oman, which will also place British military hardware near potential adversaries, as its writer put it.
The British Army Training Unit Sufffield (BATOS) has operated in Alberta, western Canada, since 1972, training thousands of British soldiers, and more than 1,000 vehicles, including tanks and helicopters, are used regularly by the regiments for weeks in each training programme.
However, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace is expected to announce later this week that plans to modernize the army will include developing a training area in Oman.
A move to use the Omani desert, near the Duqm air base and port, as a main training ground for tanks and other armored vehicles, would mean the closure of Camp Patos, which houses more than 400 permanent British staff, and a smaller training area.
Defense sources said that the shift to the Gulf would enable British forces to position their services closer and more clearly to partner countries, such as Ukraine and Bahrain, and in the face of potential adversaries such as Iran.
This will reduce the time required to respond to any crisis in the region and allow the government to showcase British military technology to boost potential arms sales.
A defense source close to the plans told the newspaper: “If you only have 148 tanks and 22 of them are stuck in Canada, that’s 22 tanks that are not ready or available to do anything practical.”
“And if British soldiers are training in Poland or Duqm, the logic is that they have a more practical and deterrent effect.”
Britain is planning major exercises using tanks over the next two years. A Defense Ministry spokesperson said the Patos Center in Canada would not close before 2023, when major tank exercises have already been planned over the next two years.
Furthermore, small numbers of military personnel will remain in Canada, as defense attaches and liaison officers and in exchange with Canadian units.