Part 2

Potential Bases

Another issue is basing. The Dolphins cannot commute from the Indian Ocean to a home port in Israel say, Haifa and no submarine pens are reported in the area of Eilat. Rounding the Cape of Good Hope is a trip of 20,000 kilometers, an unsupportable strain on crews and machinery on any regular basis. A regional base for Israels flotilla is thus indispensable.

India or Sri Lanka suggest themselves immediately. The political links exist Israel is a major supplier of arms to both, girding Indias loins against Pakistan and helping Sri Lankas Sinhalese majority suppress the ambitions of the Tamil and Muslim minorities. India is geographically attractive Bombay or Surat are but 1,000 kilometers from the likely attack station. Israeli nuclear weapons in India would be hard to conceal, however, and feared as a casus belli, so it seems improbable that Delhi would risk the possible international repercussions. Sri Lanka, while more pliable, also is more distant a 2,000-kilometer run to any holding area off Karachi or the Musandam Peninsula.

The Dahlak Archipelago emerges as a prime suspect for a home away from home for Israels Dolphins. Located at the southern end of the Red Sea, some 100 kilometers offshore from Eritreas port of Massawa, one of the Dahlak Islands offers both convenience and a measure of anonymity. The Russians maintained a submarine base on Dahlak Kebir during the Cold War, and Israelis have been buzzing about the spot for several years. Indeed, the sub pen and harbor may already have been rehabilitated.

The location is not ideal; it is still 2,500 kilometers to a station just off the Musandam Peninsula, and the Bab al-Mandab is a known choke point. Unless the Dolphins were dispatched only for a quick strike, basing in the Dahlaks would require at-sea refueling capability. Diplomatically, the situation is fragile. The Archipelago redounded to Eritrea when the civil war with Ethiopia ended, but Asmara and Addis Ababa still are at loggerheads leaving Israel caught in the middle, and vulnerable to pressure from both sides. If, for example, it delivers new weapons to Ethiopia, Eritrea can retaliate by complicating access to the Dahlaks. Israel is trapped, since it needs both states back-country borders with the Sudan to pursue its support of the anti-Muslim movements there.

Who Paid and How?

Who paid for the submarines and how also is a touchy matter. The Israelis collect or cash in, but very rarely pay. The usual suspects here are the U.S. or the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) which raises the collateral questions of how and why. In the early 1990s the Israelis demanded new, nuclear-capable submarines but the U.S. is unable to supply conventional boats, since the last diesel electric submarine line was closed more than 20 years ago. Thus, a scheme was contrived where Ingalls Shipbuilding would serve as the front for moving Foreign Military Sales money restricted in principle for expenditure in the U.S. to Germany. Ingalls was to be the nominal prime contractor, but would subcontract the subs to Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) in Kiel, thereby circumventing U.S. regulations and creating welcome jobs in the German shipbuilding industry. It is unclear what happened even though the Israelis had lobbied successfully for the scheme and President George H.W. Bush had approved.

Germanys Role

The German role is clear, however albeit rife with anomalies. First, in direct contravention of its explicit restrictions on arms exports, the FRG delivered the submarines. Second, the German government paid for most or all of the bareboat costs.

Germanys applicable constraints on exports are unusually precise for diplomatic documents:

Respect for human rights is a key factor in the granting of licences. Israels unsavory record is voluminously documented, and the FRG recognizes not only reports by international organizations but also NGOs such as Amnesty International.

Consideration must be given to whether the recipient is involved in armed conflict or where exports may stir up, perpetuate or exacerbate latent tensions and conflicts. Facilitating the nuclearization of the Indian Ocean certainly applies here.

It must be weighed whether the recipient country complies with international obligations concerning the use of force and international humanitarian law. Israels history of flouting the Geneva Conventions is no less well documented.

The recipient shall have assumed obligations in the area of non-proliferation. Here, too, Israel fails the test.

The restrictions are not theoretical. They are often enforced, so that exceptions are all the more egregious. Germany actually does refuse sales to certain countries even when they are capable of paying which highlights the extraordinary circumstances of the gift of nuclear-capable Dolphins to Israel. The Saudis, for example, for many years persistently tried to buyand pay for Leopard tanks from Germany, and German governments no less persistently spurned the propositions. Indicating a quasi-consistency, Berlin has agreed to sell Turkey submarines but not tanks or other armor, which, it notes, could be used for internal repression.

The principles have been carried one step further: despite urging from Washington, which has decided to promote greater defense capability for Taiwan, Germany refuses to sell submarines to Taiwan, citing the labile political situation. Here other forces may be at play. According to the FRG policy statement Labor policy considerations must not be a decisive factor. Janes, however,opined that Germanys Ministry of Economy seriously feared trade reprisals from Beijing if it sold eight top-of-the-line subs to Taiwan.

Might there be reprisals from the Arab street if it were bruited that Germany had given Israel nuclear submarine capability? Might attacks on Mercedes agencies replace boycotts of McDonalds? Obviously, the German government discounted such repercussions.

It is not contested that the Dolphins were donated to Israel. The sum of DM 1.2 billion was reported in Einzelpost 60, a special account in the Ministry of Finance used for interest payments or ad hoc arrangements. This was subsumed bureaucratically within Germanys contribution to the Desert Storm begging bowl, even though the U.S. did not receive a penny of the amount.

Other factors also made the deal less painful. In the 1990s, when the subs were to be constructed, the German economy was staggering. Unemployment rates were high, and the shipbuilding industry in particular was suffering from aggressive competition, especially from Korea. The three submarines for Israel kept the HDW yard busy at a critical time when the German arms industry needed contracts to maintain capacity. The money in part was an alternative to additional support for the unemployed.

Why did Germany take the political risk of such high-profile exports, in violation of its own restrictions? The immediate media mantras are that it is an offset for guilt from World War II or compensation for the war materiél Germany supposedly delivered to Iraq during the 1980s. These are not convincing. Greater leverage was necessary.

The decision was made by Chancellor Helmut Kohl personally, and it is speculated that he was subject to blackmail over the matter of the covert funds which ultimately cost him his post. The transfer clearly was not in Germanys interest, and may indeed have been approved by the chancellor for the most personal of reasons.

Thomas R. Stauffer is a Washington, DC-based engineer and economist who has taught the economics of energy and the Middle East at Harvard University and Georgetown Universitys School of Foreign Service.

SOURCE: Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

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