This would be bad news for France, the 4th world’s largest arms exporter, whose military industry just celebrated record sales for the year 2015. Saudi Arabia’s government allegedly announced it is disengaging from the financing of a $4-billion deal launched 1 year ago and of which at least $3 billion aimed at equipping Lebanon’s security forces with artillery and light weaponry made in France.
Beyond budgetary constraints due to the fall in oil prices, the ongoing showdown – quasi-war – between Saudi Arabia and Iran would be the main reason behind the decision. Saudi sources cited Lebanese government’s refusal to back Arab countries’ resolutions against Iran for its military involvement in both Syria and Yemen; and the destruction of the Saudi embassy in Tehran. The influence of pro-Iran Hezbollah within the Lebanese official circles may also explain the Saudi climb down.
Yet such a fact is nothing new in this multi-confessional country whose security needs are urgent in face of the growing terrorist threat originating from Iraq, Syria and Libya. French sources preferred to say that the Saudi-Lebanese deal has just been “suspended”, still hoping that it will eventually go through. Other Saudi sources said the deal was actually still active. The Saudi delays should, however, be assessed in light of France’s recent sales of arms to the kingdom and the Gulf countries. The recent rapprochement between Paris and Tehran certainly caused some discontent in Riyadh.