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The French Connection to autocratic regimes

Emmanuel Macron, the French President and vociferously staunch defender of human rights, In his recent tour of the Persian Gulf, however, failed to broach the subject altogether.

Instead, Macron brought with him a large delegation of French ministers and top-level business executives to finalize lucrative arms deals with the United Arab Emirates and whitewash the image of Saudi Arabia; two of the worst countries in the world in terms of human rights.

Can France remain passive in the region? No, I don’t think so, I think we are a great balancing power, as I have had the opportunity to mention, our role is to act.

We cannot act for Lebanon, we cannot act for Iraq, we cannot act against terrorism in the region – which, I remind you, struck us in 2015 – if we do not put ourselves in a position to discuss with everyone and to have strategic and trusting relations with the partners who follow our agenda.

French President, Emmanuel Macron

Macron’s visit to the UAE in early December coincided with the country’s 50th national day anniversary and concluded with a controversial weapons deal.

The United Arab Emirates and France signed a $19bn arms deal for 80 Rafale fighter jets and 12 military helicopters. 

It was the biggest international order ever made for the warplanes. The deal came despite opposition from rights organizations for the prominent role of Abu Dhabi in the bloody Saudi-led campaign against Yemen.

We have been making Rafale offers to this country for years. As you can remember, we have sold Mirage 2000 planes in the 2000s, these planes have been delivered throughout the 2000s. They are now becoming old, and it’s time to update them and move towards the next generation, which is the Rafale.

Eric Trappier,  Dassault CEO

Abu Dhabi has also been embroiled in the Libyan crisis where it has civilian blood on its hands. In just one case on November 18, 2019, the UAE carried out an unlawful drone attack on the Al-Sunbulah biscuit factory in Wadi al-Rabie, Libya that killed 8 and wounded 27 civilians. 

We received this morning at around 11 am, 33 injured people after the air raid on the biscuit factory in Wadi Rabi as well as seven people who were killed, four of them were Libyans, one Nigerian and two from Bangladesh and we have, of course, proceeded with the necessary medical treatment for the wounded in the National Heart Centre.

Abd al-Fattah al-Sayes,  Spokesperson, National Heart Center Hospital

After a visit to the United Arab Emirates and a short stop in Qatar, Macron landed in Jeddah to be the first major Western leader visiting the Saudi Crown Prince since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

In the words of Lina al-Hathloul, the sister of prominent Saudi women’s’ rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, “Macron is trying to rehabilitate the man who tortured my sister, killed Khashoggi, cut his body into pieces, [and] created the worst humanitarian crisis in a neighboring country.” “But all good, Macron has upcoming elections and needs his deals done.” 

With his visit to the Saudi kingdom, Macron has been accused of putting ‘deals’ before human rights, though he seems not to be disturbed at all by the accusation. 

Actually, they are supporting groups like the Saudis who are killing people in Yemen. So France, like the rest of the, west is using these organizations like Amnesty or Human Rights Watch when it suits them.

So when they think okay we will tell something, but actually they commit atrocities in the name of human rights, you can say, especially in Yemen now, but the whole of the Middle East they did; still do.

Sonja Van Den Ende, Covert Action Magazine

During his visit to the Saudi Kingdom, the French president underscored the necessity of working for “stability in the region” while failing to mention that the road to stability cannot bypass freedom and human rights.

“Therefore, the strategic partnership, to which we give more power and meaning with the United Arab Emirates, follows this agenda: peace and stability in the region, fight against all extremes, fight against terrorism, and a very concrete cooperation on sensitive situations.”

Emmanuel Macron, French President

He also failed to mention the destabilizing role of France in the region, spurring an arms race through selling weapons to the regional autocratic states. 

Along with the UK and the US, France has faced scrutiny over its continued arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition; a coalition that has claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 Yemeni children and displaced nearly 700,000 Yemeni families while causing one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern history

The urgency at present is for France to stop these arms transfers to Saudi Arabia, to the United Arab Emirates, that it no longer contributes – through these transfers – to the commission of crimes against humanity in Yemen.

Aymeric Elluin, Human Rights Activist

All of these crimes never made the French think twice before signing arms deals with the coalition.

On December 3, the investigative website Disclose revealed that France authorized deliveries of tens of thousands of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in 2016, knowing that they could be used in Yemen. 

I think it’s good that it’s finally out in the open, that some people like, we know already for a long time that France is involved in the Middle East, actually, since 1948, when countries like Lebanon and Syria gained their independence, but they are still mingling around in the Middle East because they, as we know, already they are sending weapons it was already known in 2015, I think, that they were sending weapons to Yemen.

And we never forget what happened in Syria. They were, I think, one of the key players together with Britain to send weapons to Syria. So they always have this and of course,… In North Africa, you know, they had other colonies.

So yeah, it’s good it’s out in the open, that maybe the broad public knows now that France is a key player, still a key player in the Middle East, and trying to mingle around there [sic].

Sonja Van Den Ende, Covert Action Magazine

Documents obtained by Disclose show that, under former President François Hollande, the French State authorized the delivery of nearly 150,000 shells to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the heat of the Yemen war. 

They, they had the idea of getting back to border partition so they will want to establish their role for themselves in the region.

Now the US has a lot of, facing a lot of problems, and is more focused on the outcome on Australia and China, the Chinese South Sea so they are neglecting the Middle East.

And France sees a very big role for itself in the Middle East again, fortunately, so they will sell the weapons most likely also to Saudi Arabia, and hopefully it will not result in another war again, but let’s hope for the best.

Sonja Van Den Ende, Covert Action Magazine

Disclose confirmed that Paris sold the Saudi forces 41,500 shells made by Gongas Inc.; and sold the Emirati Army 3,000 anti-tank shells, 10,000 smoke shells, 50,000 explosive shells and 50,000 artillery rockets made by the Nexter Group. 

The majority of the victims in the conflict, related to the fighting, are cases of air strikes, air strikes committed by the coalition with French means.

The Mirage 2000-9 Emiriens (fighter planes) were sold by France, surely before the start of the conflict, but they are maintained in operational conditions by France, with laser-guiding systems, which are French, like those in Saudi Arabia.

These are systems that help in guiding bombs towards their targets.

Aymeric Elluin, Human Rights Activist

In the context of the Yemen War, France can be viewed as the embodiment of Western hypocrisy; preaching the virtues of human rights while in reality putting profits before anything else.

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