Confidential documents show Sweden is in the advanced planning stages of helping totalitarian state Saudi Arabia build an advanced weapons factory, Swedish Radio News has revealed.
The project, nicknamed Simoom (the word for a high-temperature desert wind, derived from the Arabic “smm”, which means “to poison”), began in 2007 and is being led by the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI), an administration subordinate to the Swedish government.
The documents, many classified as secret or top secret, show that a Swedish company created for the project has obtained the required licenses for missiles and torpedoes, among other military components.
Pressed on the issue this morning, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt told assembled media, “There is, as you know, no demand for democracy when we sign bilateral agreements.”
“We presuppose that Swedish authorities follow the rules,” he also said at the press conference which had originally been called for a different topic.
That has not stopped Green Party leader Gustaf Fridolin from announcing this morning, as the story broke, that he intends to report Defence Minister Sten Tolgfors to the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Affairs.
The roots of the project are found in 2005, when Social Democrat Defence Minister Leni Björling signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with her Saudi counterpart, Sultan Bin Abdulaziz.
In the intervening years, a series of meetings between government officials and Swedish companies took place with visiting Saudi delegations.
Swedes also visited the proposed location of the factory to assess whether it would be adequately protected topographically or need to be dug into the ground.
In 2008, Saudi Prince Khalid, deputy defence minister, wrote a letter to the Swedish government stating that developments were too slow.
In the notes of a Swedish Defence Department meeting dated March 17th, 2008, a point on the agenda read, “How can we repair the situation in Saudi Arabia, our entire operation in the region is at stake.”
By January 2009, a private company, Swedish Security Technology and Innovation (SSTI), was founded to distance FOI, which was deemed as “legally hindered” from pursuing the project according to Swedish Radio News sources, from Simoom although employees there became high level consultants to the new enterprise.
Later that year, SSTI was granted permission to buy ammunition and components for missiles, bombs, torpedoes and other equipment used in the production of arms. The permit came from the Swedish Non-Proliferation and Export Controls Agency (ISP), a government body which makes sure military sales follow national law.
According to Swedish Radio News sources, negotiations are still underway and a Swedish visit to Riyadh is planned for the near future.