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13 Apr 14. A sale of several hundred German battle tanks to Saudi Arabia is likely to be cancelled because of opposition from Social Democrat Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a German newspaper reported on Sunday.
German media have reported interest by Saudi Arabia in buying up to 800 Leopard 2 tanks from Germany. Such reports are never confirmed because of the sensitivity of arms deals. The newspaper said Saudi Arabia had tried for years to get the tanks from German firms Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall and had some 18bn euros ($25bn) available in its budget for the purchase. “The government will not approve the disputed export,” Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported, citing government sources. “Gabriel plays a key role in this, as he has positioned himself against a tanks delivery to the autocratic royal house, according to government sources.” Arms sales are a sensitive issue in Germany because of the country’s Nazi past and the role of arms makers in fuelling 19th and 20th century wars. Germany’s national security council, which includes conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and the ministers of economy, defense, development and foreign affairs, has to approve such deals but its decisions are not made public. Gabriel has told media in the past he thought it was a “shame” that Germany exported so many weapons. (Source: Reuters)
BATTLESPACE Comment: This is good news for General Dynamics which has been making strong efforts to sell its M1A2 Abrams tank to Saudi Arabia to fill crucial US production gaps. Saudi Arabia already has M1A1 tanks and has recently placed a multi-billion order with GD’s Canadian Land Systems business for new LAV APcs.

12 Apr 14. Reuters reported on Friday that Iranian oil exports “have surged to their highest in 20 months” – far above the “sanctions cap” outlined by the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA) that granted financial relief to the Islamic Republic – per revised estimates for February global crude imports published by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The outlet quoted Antoine Halff, the head of the IEA’s oil industry and markets division, emphasizing that “the question is whether they are going to continue to test the sanctions.” Tehran has now exceeded its allowable 1 million barrel-per-day limit for 5 consecutive months, and Reuters quoted Bob McNally – president of energy research group the Rapidan Group – worrying that “Iran’s customers have seen the writing on the wall and concluded they can import more Iranian oil at lower risk of being sanctioned by the State Department.” The description is in line with long-expressed fears that the JPA’s partial erosion of the sanctions regime would trigger a kind of gold rush that further undermined the rest of the regime. Foreign policy and energy analyst Aaron Menenberg had already last January outlined fears that a scramble to access Iranian energy – in which “no company wants to be the first one in, but none want to be the last” – could trigger such a downward spiral. Iran’s Fars news agency boasted on Friday that Iranian electricity swaps have been steadily growing, and that Iran’s electricity exports have increased 40% since late March. The news comes alongside deepening analyst concerns that the value of Iran’s allowable trade under the JPA – even putting aside cheating on export limits and the potential for further erosion – had already been dramatically underestimated by the Obama administration. (Source: theisraelproject.org)

10 Apr 14. En route home from his Asia-Pacific trip, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel placed an in-flight call to Ukraine’s Acting Minister of Defense Mykhaylo Koval, Assistant Press Secretary Carl Woog said in a statement. Woog’s statement reads as follows: Secretary Hagel spoke by phone with Ukraine’s Acting Minister of Defense Mykhaylo Koval on his return flight to Washington from Beijing. It was their first conversation since the minister took office last month. Secretary Hagel commended Minister Kova

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