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The ambassador who organizes the NATO summit in Spain supported the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia

The Spanish military industry has found a real gold mine in Saudi Arabia. In the heat of the attacks on Yemen, several companies in the sector managed to negotiate millions of dollars in agreements with the regime of Salman bin Abdulaziz. The deals were reached with the blessing of the ruling government in Madrid and with the support of the ambassador in Riyadh. Alvaro Iranzowho today has a different task: to organize a NATO summit.

Now it is his turn to talk about the war in Ukraine, but before that he had to talk about a military conflict with less media coverage, but with the same tragic consequences: Iranzo arrived in Riyadh in mid-March 2017, exactly two years after the Saudi Coalition under The leadership of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates launched Operation Decisive Storm against the Houthi militias in Yemen.

When he landed in the Saudi capital from Sydney, where he spent almost four years as Consul General, this diplomat, born in 1955 in Donostia, He found the consolidated script: Despite the serious human rights violations committed by Saudi forces in Yemen, the export of Spanish arms to Saudi Arabia has been gaining momentum.

According to data from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), between 2010 and 2014, no major sales of Spanish weapons materials to Saudi Arabia were recorded. The following year, coinciding with the start of attacks on Yemen, defense material worth 12 million euros was exported.

In 2017, already under Iranzo at the head of the embassy in Riyadh, sales of the Spanish military industry exceeded 24 million euros. The PP government gave wings to this trade from the Interministerial Council responsible for reviewing concessions of arms export licenses. Although Saudi Arabia was involved in the bombing of civilians at the time, the executive branch did not see sufficient reason at the time to stop this business.

Sales continued at a good pace after the arrival of Pedro Sánchez at La Moncloa. Whether it was with the socialist president or his popular predecessor, the debate has always been the same: the Spanish authorities assured in various forums that weapons sold to Saudi Arabia would not be used to violate international law.

However, the current government has repeatedly refused to provide (both to representatives of Parliament in Congress and to human rights groups active in Spain) the relevant documentation. In each of these cases, they claimed that the records are confidential under the protection of the Franco Dictatorship Law on State Secrets.

On February 4, 2021, Iranzo held a meeting with the major state-owned operators of Saudi Arabia that move this business: the diplomat met in Riyadh with top management Saudi Arabia Military Industries (SAMI)a true arms giant in the Middle East.

At that meeting, the Spanish representative and Saudi Arabian officials talked about “opportunities for cooperation in the field of defense industry with Spanish defense companies,” as SAMI explained at the time in a message posted on its official Twitter profile.

This Saudi public company has reached an agreement with Navantia to construction of five warships at the shipyard of San Fernando (Cádiz). This operation, still in progress, has been shrouded in the classic cloak of opacity that surrounds the gun business.

“I welcomed the Ambassador of Spain, Mr. Alvaro Iranzo and his delegation,” SAMI Executive Director wrote shortly after. valid bukhaledwho also explicitly mentioned “partnership opportunities with Spanish defense companies that could help achieve goals and objectives of Saudi Vision 2030“, alluding to the strategic program of the Saudi regime aimed at strengthening its power in the region.

The Spanish Embassy in Saudi Arabia, which is very active on Twitter, which usually details various events and diplomatic meetings, did not report this meeting. SAMI, on the contrary, published several photos of the meeting.

The diplomatic delegation also did not provide any details of the meeting that Iranzo held 13 days later with Khaled bin Hussein Al-BayariExecutive Assistant Ministry of Defense of Saudi Arabia. The two considered “a number of issues of mutual interest,” the Saudi regime’s official agency said in a brief statement.

Al-Bayari has a relevant role in the structure of the Saudi Ministry of Defense, mainly in matters related to the signing of contracts. This was demonstrated during the last release “World Defense Show”the big Saudi arms fair that took place in March last year, where this ministry official led by Mohammed bin Salman was in charge of signing 10 contracts with Saudi companies and other countries to improve the kingdom’s military capabilities.

The event, held in Riyadh, was attended by ten Spanish companies, accompanied by TEDAE, the lobby of the military industry of this country. The state organization ICEX, dependent on the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, subsidized the participation of these companies in this fair.

The arms business was encouraged by the Spanish delegation in Riyadh during the Iranzo period. In its various annual reports, the Spanish Economic and Commercial Authority in Saudi Arabia refers to the area of ​​defense. among “priority” business sectors who could find Spanish companies.

From Riyadh to NATO

Iranzo left the Spanish embassy in Riyadh last November. The government prepared other plans for him: Iranzo was appointed ambassador on a special mission to organization of the NATO summit which will be held in Madrid on 29 and 30 June. This meeting of the Atlantic Alliance gained particular urgency and interest after the start of the war in Ukraine in March last year.

The former ambassador to Riyadh has extensive experience working in a troubled area. According to his resume, from May 2004 to July 2008 he worked Director General for Foreign Policy for the Mediterranean, Middle East and Africawhere it caught fire in connection with delicate geopolitical scenarios.

Thus, his career in this area takes on significance in the current context of NATO, open conflict in Ukraine and a Europe concerned about the consequences of the crisis with Russia.

The professional path of Iranzo did not end there. He later moved to the Spanish Embassy in Israel, where he worked until June 2012. His next destination was Sydney, a few minutes before his landed in March 2017 in Riyadh. There he met with important officials in the field of defense, this gold mine that brings millions to the Spanish military industry.

diplomatic family

Silvia Iranzo, the ambassador’s sister, is currently on the board of directors of Indra, one of the largest Spanish companies in the arms sector. This economist is also an independent director of the Official Credit Institute (ICO), a member of the Plenum of the Spanish Court of Arbitration and a member of the Reflective Committee of the Exporters and Investors Club. From 2008 to 2010, she headed ICEX and was Secretary of State for Trade, and from 2010 to 2012 she served as the Spanish Ambassador to Belgium.


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