Struggling to balance its budget, the Dutch armed forces badly need cash from selling surplus stock weapons. The long list of available equipment includes armoured vehicles, helicopters, fighter aircraft and even the massive “Joint Logistic Support Ship” (JSS), already put for sale prior to delivery. So far sales have not come easily. In 2012 the planned export of 100 Leopard 2 tanks to Indonesia was blocked by parliament, because of human rights concerns. Generally, the market is congested, with many European countries downsizing their inventories and in need of cash.
The exception to the rule is Jordan, which has been a trusty customer over the past five years. In that time Jordan has bought a massive amount of weapons from Dutch surplus stocks, including a 2010 Dutch-Jordan deal for 121 M-109 canons, 441 YPR armoured vehicles, 69 M-577 armoured vehicles, 467 military trucks, ammunition and other items for a total sum of almost 30 million euro.
In 2009, Jordan had already received six former Netherlands air force F-16s worth 29 million euro. In September 2011, Tilburg-based Daedalus signed a contract with the Jordanian state to establish a joint company for the maintenance of military aircraft. Daedalus previously refurbished F-16s for Jordan.
Since Jordan has emerged as a major partner of the West in the fight against terrorism, arms export licences have been granted despite its poor human rights record. According to Human Rights Watch, torture, administrative detention and impunity are widespread in Jordan and there are few civil liberties. “Jordanian authorities increasingly resorted to force, arrests, and politicized charges to respond to continuing demonstrations for political and economic reform”, it says in its World Report 2013. Moreover, Jordan is neighbour to Syria, where the bloodiest current war is going on, with widespread fears that the conflict could expand across its borders.
So far neither the human rights situation, or tensions in the region have had an impact on Dutch arms sales to Jordan.
Earlier this year the Dutch government announced the sale of a major package of anti-aircraft weapons, including 60 ex-army Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns plus 350,000 shells and 22 Bofors 40L70 towed air-defence cannons together with 11 Thales Nederland Flycatcher fire control radars. Moreover, the deal comprised 5 Leopard I engineering tanks and 14 spare Leopard 1 and Gepard chassis. The total value of the deal is 21 million euro.
During an arms exports debate in February, the upcoming sale raised many questions among MPs, who demanded that the government would reconsider the sale in the context of evolving regional developments, including the Syrian war. The final word is expected before the end of this year.
And late September again Jordan reached agreement with the Dutch Ministry of Defence for the sale of another 15 surplus F-16 fighter aircraft together with 52 Maverick air-to-ground missiles. A sales contract is expected later this month. Apparently the deal has been long in the making, with a pre-licence assessment already done in January 2012. According to the government the proposed transfer does not conflict with the 8 criteria of the EU’s Common Position, seeing no objections with regards to the human rights situation, internal or regional stability.
That is a very daring, if not naive assessment of the very complex security situation in which Jordan currently finds itself.
[Frank Slijper, 3 October 2013]