Arms sales to Venezuela and Iraq, the most controversial in 2014
The Diplomat. Madrid
Arms sales to Venezuela and Iraq authorised by the Spanish Government caused the most controversy last year, according to the main opposition parties.
In the case of Venezuela, 11 prefabricated sections were authorised for the construction of a Venezuelan coastal patrol vessel. In addition, it was one of the top countries on the list on law enforcement and security equipment. In total they amounted to 9,7 million euros. The Secretary of State for Trade explained to parliament that these exports were made in accordance with current licences that had been authorised in 2013 and that no more were issued following the suspension, on 21 March 2014, of all the riot equipment licences, on the grounds of the existing violence in the country.
The Spanish Government, following a report by the Spanish Regulatory Board on overseas trade in defence and dual-use equipment (JIMDDU) agreed, in March 2014, to suspend export licences for riot and hunting equipment to Venezuela. In this respect, Spain was ahead of the majority of the European countries in the potential imposition of cautionary measures, extending the suspension to include 15 riot equipment licences and one hunting cartridges licence.
As for Iraq, there was a significant change in Spanish policy on exports to this country halfway through 2014, as a result of the appearance of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. A consequence of this was authorisation to send lethal weapons and ammunition destined for the Iraqi Government in support of their fight against IS. This was in compliance with the EU conclusions, in August last year, in which it authorised the supply of military equipment to Baghdad and the regional Kurdistan Government.
This was why 8 export licences for Iraq were approved, in November and December 2014, for an amount of 95,8 million euros, for 25 armoured mine clearing vehicles fitted with robotic arm, mortar shells, ammunition, gunshot, artillery fuses, and propelling charges, the end-user being the Iraqi Ministry of Defence.
The main concern of the Spanish political parties is that a considerable amount of this equipment ends up in the hands of the so-called Islamic State. “I understand the legitimate concerns that may arise from the possible use of this equipment”, acknowledged the Secretary of State for Trade, Jaime García-Legaz, in June, “but it should be obvious that we have all the necessary guarantees, in writing, that the only organisation that is going to make use of this equipment is the Iraqi Ministry of Defence”.