Canadian War Industries Flog their Wares at the Middle East’s Largest Arms Bazaar

Canadian war industries are flogging their wares at IDEX 2013, the largest weapons bazaar in the Middle East and North Africa.  Over 1,000 exhibitors from 52 countries and over 60,000 attendees have converged on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for IDEX 2013.  This huge arms show is a golden opportunity for Canadian military exporters to schmooze with procurement officials from the US client states that dominate this oil-rich region.  IDEX is also a great place to rub shoulders with many of the world’s most-profitable war industries.  For example, of the world’s 35 top-ranking military companies, 28 of them are exhibiting their deadly products at IDEX.1

“We’re excited to see such a large number of Canadian exhibitors,” said Arif Lalani, Canada’s ambassador to the UAE. “These companies represent the best Canadian capabilities and technologies in a number of areas of the defence and security sector.”2

This year, the Canadian companies exhibiting at IDEX are promoting everything from aerial drones and robotic land vehicles with weapons mounts, to armoured fighting vehicles ready for desert battles. Other vehicles on display are used by tactical urban SWAT teams. Canada’s so-called “defence and security” companies are also marketing a variety of gas masks, optical scopes for machine guns, night-vision sights for weapons targeting, and flight simulators used to train fighter pilots and for the rehearsal of bombing sorties.  Canadian-run training courses promoted at IDEX include everything from protecting VIPs, to smashing down doors and gates, and the firing of semi-automatic pistols, carbines and sniper rifles.3

But the largest display of Canadian military might is the HMCS Toronto.  This multi-billion dollar Canadian frigate docked in the UAE for NAVDEX, an international Navy exhibition that runs alongside IDEX. The HMCS Toronto is back in the Persian Gulf as part of a multinational, US-led armada called Coalition Task Force-150 (CTF-150).  It has been fighting the so-called “War on Terror” since 2002.  In 2003, when CTF-150 was commanded by Canadian Navy Commodore Roger Girouard, it escorted US warships safely into position so they could unleash devastating air strikes during the opening “shock-and-awe” salvoes of the Iraq War. For six months in 2004, the HMCS Toronto operated with the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group, which launched more than 1,500 warplane sorties that dropped 82 tons of ordnance on Iraqi targets.4

While loudly preaching peace and human rights, Canadian governments — both Conservative and Liberal alike — have quietly facilitating the steady flow of weapons, ammunition, tear gas, armoured vehicles and many other so-called “defence and security” products into the hands of repressive, undemocratic regimes in the Middle East and North Africa.5

Thanks to many decades of US-led coups, regime changes and wars in this region, US proxies have been empowered to carry out widespread, violent and systematic abuses of human rights, including the torture and extrajudicial killings of pro-democracy activists. The continued transfer of military and police equipment from the US, Canada and other supposedly “developed” countries to the repressive autocratic regimes is aided and abetted by massive arms trade shows like IDEX.

“Canada First”: New Government Plan Promotes Canadian Arms Exports

This year’s IDEX comes soon after the release of the Canadian government’s report called “Canada First: Leveraging Procurement Through Key Industrial Capabilities.”

This report enthusiastically promotes a new strategy for expanding Canada’s role as a global military producer and exporter.  The plan is to use government financing to boost specific military-industry sectors, based in part on their “success in penetrating global markets.” The report states that “Canadian defence-related industries must become even more export-oriented beyond their current 50% level” because “the key to sustainable long term growth lies in export markets.”

The report was overseen by Tom Jenkins, an Honourary Colonel in the Canadian Reserves who is the Executive Chairman of OpenText, Canada’s largest software company.  OpenText software is used by many armed forces around the world. In fact, military applications of OpenText products are glowingly highlighted on almost 600 webpages within the company’s website. And, the official website of the F-35 stealth fighter/bomber lists OpenText as one of its Canadian Partners.

While the Jenkins’ report sadly anticipates a reduction in US and European military spending on weapons systems, it looks with hope towards “the fastest growing markets… in the Middle East, South and East Asia and South America, with overall expected growth of over 40% from 2009 to 2016.”

In describing this new government report, a widely-published media article began by saying: “The federal government is examining ways to turn Canada into a major arms producer….”6

Unfortunately, the bad news is that Canada already is “a major arms producer.”  But the worse news is that the Harper government is aiming to give even more support to Canadian military export industries to aid them in their efforts to grab a greater share of the international arms market.

Another corporate media item about IDEX, is nothing short of an advertisement for Streit Group, a Canadian-owned company headquartered in the UAE which is showing off its military, police, SWAT-force and “private security” vehicles at the arms show.7

After glowingly describing each of the company’s 15 armoured assault, fighting and command vehicles being exhibited at IDEX, the article concludes: “There are currently more than 10,000 Streit Group vehicles operating internationally with a record of zero occupant casualties.”  While this may be true, it completely ignores the question of casualties caused by occupants of Streit Group vehicles.

Thanks largely to such corporate journalism, most Canadians have no idea that Canada is a significant military exporter to the Middle East or elsewhere.  And, whatever information Canadians do glean from the media about Canada’s role in the international arms trade is always couched in deceptive euphemisms like “defence and security,” which disguise the use of such Canadian products as if they were promoting world peace and public safety.

Canada Already IS a Major Arms Producer

Canadian military companies had $12.6 billion in annual revenues in 2011.  Of that, about half was exported.  This means that every year Canadian military industries are exporting more than $6 billion worth of products and services. Of that, about 75% — or some $4.5 billion worth of Canada’s military exports per year — are flowing south, and straight into the US war machine.8

Most Canadians don’t know that our country is also a significant arms exporter to so-called “developing nations.” For example, between 2004 and 2011, Canada was the world’s 9th largest arms exporter to the “developing world,” with $6.7 billion in direct sales to these countries.9

For many years, the second largest buyer of Canadian military products has been Saudi Arabia.  This repressive, undemocratic monarchy has purchased about $2 billion dollars worth of armoured vehicles from Canada.  The top Canadian culprit in this trade, General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), based in London, Ontario, is exhibiting its vehicles at IDEX again this year.  Canadian armoured fighting vehicles and accessories have also been sold to other countries in the region, including Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Turkey and the UAE.10

The Canadian government’s Jenkins’ report, which extols GDLS as “a world leader in the design, manufacture and support of wheeled Light Armoured Vehicles,” highlights this company’s global exports in a special section called “Canadian Defence Industry Success Stories.” In this section, GDLS is praised for having exported $17 billion worth of these Canadian-made battle vehicles around the world.  For example, the GDLS sale of 4,500 “Strykers” to the US army between 2001 and 2011 is valued at $9.5 billion.  (Canada First,  p.4)  As a result, the report’s authors seem to expect Canadians to be proud that our country has profited from building armoured fighting vehicles that have been used so extensively by US warfighters in the Afghan and Iraq wars.

How Canadian Military Products get to the Middle East

There are three main ways that Canadian military technology ends up in the Middle East.  The most obvious way is for Canadian arms companies to sell their products directly to governments in the region. IDEX is, of course, an excellent venue for facilitating such direct exports.

Another route is exemplified by the GDLS “Strykers.” Canadian-made weapons systems, like military vehicles, are sold to the US or other allies which then deploy them to wage wars in the Middle East.  Another example of this is Colt Canada in Kitchener Ontario which makes semi- and fully-automatic assault rifles, carbines and sniper weapons. Used by the UK and other European militaries, these Canadian small arms have made their way to killing fields of Iraq.

The third avenue by which Canadian military hardware gets to the Middle East is also indirect, and may be less obvious, but it is nonetheless probably the most significant. Because Canada’s military production is largely focused on serving the interests of the US war machine, the fact is that much of our military production is in the form of high-tech components destined for assembly into major US weapons systems.

In this way, a large portion of Canada’s military technology ends up being embedded in major American weapons systems that are then either used by US forces in Middle East wars, or sold by the US to its many proxy states in that region.

For example, between 2008 and 2011, the US sold about $21.8 billion worth of weapons to 10 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.  This was more than the rest of the world put together managed to sell to the region during that same period.  The largest recipients of US weapons in the region were Saudi Arabia ($5.9 billion), Egypt ($3.9 billion), Israel ($3.8 billion), Iraq ($2.6 billion), UAE ($2.2 billion) and Kuwait ($1.3 billion).11

The two largest recipients of US military aid in the world, are both in the Middle East, namely Israel and Egypt, which now receive annual handouts totaling $3.1 billion and $1.3 billion, respectively.  This $4.4 billion that they collectively receive as part of the US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program is used to purchase US-made weapons systems.  This amounts to about 85% of the total FMF program.12

But, although these and other FMF recipients must purchase US-made weapons, these virtually always contain many significant Canadian components.

For example, the US concluded arms transfer agreements with developing nations that totaled $56.3 billion in 2011. This was almost 83% of all such agreements reached by the world’s weapons-exporting nations.  Amazingly however, over half of all these US arms transfer agreements in 2011 were with one country, namely, Saudi Arabia.  These agreements, totaling $29 billion, were for the provision of 84 new F-15  warplanes, the upgrading of 70 F-15s already in the Saudi arsenal, and various weapons, ammunition and missiles used by these F-15s.

This is a huge boon for many Canadian military exporters who will be working hard to keep up with new orders for a wide variety of high-tech components that are featured within F-15s.  COAT research has found that at least 30 Canadian companies have supplied the US with products and services tailored to the F-15.13

Also included among the US arms transfer agreements with the Saudi autocracy in 2011, were dozens of AH-64 Apache helicopters and UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters.  This will also keep Canadian companies busy because, as COAT research has shown, at least 18 Canadian companies supply components for these military aircraft.14

Another significant US arms agreement in 2011 was with Oman, which agreed to purchase 18 F-16s for $1.4 billion.  COAT research has identified 40 companies that have exported parts to the US for assembly into these warplanes.15

This pattern repeats itself for every major US weapon system researched by COAT. Dozens of jet fighters and bombers, attack helicopters and other weapons systems used in the Iraq War are thoroughly embedded with Canadian hardware.16

This, to a very large extent, is how Canadian military products find their way to the Middle East and North Africa. They are embedded in US weapons that are either sold to the slew of repressive US client states in the region, or they have been used there by the US military itself during the litany of wars, invasions, regime changes and coups that have riddled the Middle East with repressive regimes.17

CADSI: Cheerleader for Canada’s War Industries

Representing about 945 corporations, the largest advocacy group lobbying for the profit-driven needs of Canada’s warmongers is the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI).

CADSI lobbyists meet regularly with leading Canadian politicians and have received generous federal government funding for their tireless promotion of Canada’s military exports.

As the top cheerleader for Canada’s war industries, CADSI has recently played a major role in influencing the Jenkins’ report on how the government should help to support Canadian military production, and increase arms exports.

CADSI has also been doing its level best to help promote this year’s IDEX weapons bazaar.  Speaking glowingly of IDEX as a forum for Canadian military exporters to get in on the action of selling their products to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), CADSI’s website proclaims: “The defence spending forecast across the MENA region for the 10 years 2010 – 2020 is US$1,233 billion…. With defence budgets declining in many countries, now is the time to focus your sales effort to this region.”

CADSI then goes on to excitedly tell its corporate members that “If you want to make an impact in a region where defence and security spending continues to be robust, IDEX is the place to be!”

To this end, CADSI has organised a Canadian pavilion at IDEX 2013 which is showcasing the products of six Canadian war industries.18

But besides lobbying for more government handouts to support Canada’s war exporters, and cheerleading for Canadian companies at IDEX, CADSI also organises its very own annual military trade show in Ottawa.  This arms exhibition, called CANSEC — which had about 270 exhibitors in 2012 — is Canada’s largest weapons bazaar.  CANSEC 2013 is scheduled for May 29-30.

CADSI’s arms bazaar is held in Ottawa because as the nation’s capital, this is the seat of Canadian political power.  And, as the location of Canada’s Department of National Defence, Ottawa is also the centre of Canadian military power, where thousands of users of military technology are based. But Ottawa is also the best location for CANSEC because this is where all of the foreign embassies and high commissions are located.  CADSI always makes sure to invite representatives of foreign governments to browse the Canadian war industry exhibits at the CANSEC trade show.  What better way to foster increased Canadian military production and exports than putting arms producers, dealers, users and buyers all together in one place?

  1. World’s Top War Industries at IDEX 2013. []
  2. Gulf News, February 17, 2013. []
  3. Canadian Companies exhibiting at IDEX 2013. []
  4. Operation SILENT PARTNER: Canada’s Quiet Complicity in the Iraq War. []
  5. Canada’s Military Exports to the Middle East and North Africa. []
  6. Report touts Canada as arms maker,” February 13, 2013. []
  7. Canadian Firm to Display 15 of its Armoured Vehicles at IDEX.” []
  8. Stoking the Tsunamis of War and Repression. []
  9. Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2004-2011, p.80. []
  10. Canadian Exports of Armoured Fighting Vehicles to the Middle East and North Africa. []
  11. Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2004-2011, p.59. []
  12. Foreign Military Financing Program, 2013. []
  13. Canadian War Industries Exporting Parts and/or Services to the USA for the F-15 “Eagle”. []
  14. Canadian War Industries Exporting Parts and/or Services to the USA for the AH-64 “Apache”
    Canadian War Industries Exporting Parts and/or Services to the USA for the UH-60. []
  15. Canadian War Industries Exporting Parts and/or Services to the USA for the F-16 “Fighting Falcon”. []
  16. Canada’s Top War Exporters at the CANSEC 2009 Weapons Bazaar. []
  17. See “The U.S. Role in Wars and Regime Changes in the Middle East and North Africa since World War II.” []
  18. IDEX 2013 — Showcase Your World Class Solutions to the Largest Defence & Security Show in the Middle East. []

Richard Sanders is the Editor of Press for Conversion! Read other articles by Richard, or visit Richard's website.