German support for nuclear arms race?

While the world is holding its breath over Iranian provocations and nuclear plans, Germany decides to build a sixth Dolphin class submarine for Israel.

The deal is supported by the German tax payer with € 135 million Euro, which is a third of the total cost. For the German government, this subsidy is a very expensive job support program of which shipyard HDW in Kiel (north Germany) is the main profiteer. For the Israeli navy it is a free contribution to its budget, even more welcome now Israel has plans to cut 5% of its defense costs, thanks to the Israeli version of Occupy and leading to debate in the US. 

In total the German support for the Israeli submarine procurement over the last two decades will be more than € 1 billion once Germany’s share in the costs of the sixth warship is paid. Two other Israeli Dolphin submarines are still under construction at HDW in Germany. Delivery is scheduled for 2012 and 2013 respectively. They are also co-financed by Germany with one third of the price tag directly from the German budget and another third by procuring military goods from Israel. Thus Tel Aviv only has to pay a third of the costs. There is one small delivery problem however. The Government of Norway has informed HDW that for reasons of Norway’s restrictions on arms exports, it will not allow HDW to use Norwegian military infrastructure to test these boats in deep waters. Traditionally all submarines build at HDW undergo these tests in Norway.

HDW claims on its website that hardly any other yard is so experienced in building non-nuclear (powered) submarines.  The Federation of American Scientists, leaves no doubt about the nuclear possibilities of these ‘hunter, killer and patrol’ vessels. Its missiles are very well capable of reaching Iran and of containing nuclear warheads. It is not so strange Iran feels threatened. Still Israel, contrary to Iran, so far never had to face any sanctions because of its nuclear program.

It is unclear how the German submarine export can be brought in line with criterion 3 of the EU Common Position on Arms Exports which says that “EU Member States will not issue export licences if the internal situation in the country of final destination is characterised by tension or armed conflicts if such export could provoke or prolong armed conflicts or aggravate existing tensions or conflicts.”

But if you ask the common Israeli citizen, as the Saban Center for Middle East Policy did, they would prefer a nuclear-free Middle East over Israel and Iran endangering each others very existence.

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