Questionable profits? Tory ministers back Lockheed’s sale of arms to Qatar

Qatar's army © Suhaib Salem
Conservative Ministers will “strongly support” arms firm Lockheed Martin’s sale of tank components to Qatar, despite its poor human rights record and role in sponsoring radical Islam.

Documents obtained by the Morning Star newspaper under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act reveal Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood met with Lockheed Martin UK at a time when the company was seeking to sell tank turrets, carrying guns or missiles, to Qatar.

In response to the meetings, the Foreign Office said it wanted to “strongly support Lockheed Martin UK in their [redacted] bid” to make the sale.

The documents also suggest the British government is interested in supporting Qatari military training, apparently in a bid to assist the arms trade.

They say the Foreign Office “is aware of Lockheed Martin UK’s requirement to formally sign the [redacted]. We continue to discuss Qatar’s training needs at senior levels.”

Qatari officers are already admitted for training to Sandhurst, the British Army’s top military academy.

Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) spokesman Andrew Smith said the revelations were a reminder of the “morally compromising relationship” between the arms trade and ministers.

The government has consistently pulled out all stops to maximize arms sales, with a particular focus on the Middle East,” he said.

This doesn’t just put arms into the hands of human rights abusers, like the Qatari government, it also sends the message that the human rights of Qatari people are of less concern than profits for Lockheed Martin.”

Qatar has been in the spotlight in recent years for its human rights abuses and alleged funding of radical Islam.

Amnesty International described the slave-like conditions in which workers building venues for the 2022 World Cup have been living and working in as “rampant migrant labor abuse” and a “human rights disaster” in a December 2015 report.

In October 2014, former British defense staff assistant chief General Jonathan Shaw said the spread of Wahhabi Salafism – an ultra-conservative branch of Islam – contributing to the rise of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) was “funded by Saudi and Qatari money and that must stop.

In a separate revelation, the Belfast Telegraph reports that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) was paid £60,000 by the Qatari government’s Interior Ministry for an initial training course of officers.

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton was flown business class to the Gulf state and put up in a luxury five-star hotel in Doha for two nights, the newspaper reports.

Amnesty International expressed concern about the agreement, given the country’s dubious human rights record.

Amnesty Northern Ireland program director Patrick Corrigan said: “We have concerns about PSNI training of police in countries which have poor human rights records.”

In recent years Qatari police have detained a number of journalists and human rights researchers investigating the abuse of migrant workers involved in preparing infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup.”

The PSNI said in a statement: “The request from Qatar to provide these services was considered by the PSNI based on our experience and in recognition of our human rights-based policing approach. Having agreed to a pilot program, approval was sought and received from the Northern Ireland Policing Board and Department of Justice.