AMMAN - King Abdullah II of Jordan personally tested one of the hand grenades during the opening ceremony of the brand-new Nashshab factory, built by the Jordan Russian Electronic Systems Co. The factory produces hand-grenades that were specially designed for Jordan by Russian specialists.
Although the opening ceremony was held last week, the factory had already begun production last February. Plans are to turn out up to 20,000 hand-held anti-tank grenades, and increase production incrementally to reach 60,000 per year. According to the terms of the contract, 80% of the grenade components will be provided by Rostehk, an exporter of Russian military goods, and the same military goods exporter will be in charge of controlling the work of local specialists.
According to the head of Rostekh, Sergei Chemezov, interest in Jordan has been growing for Russian flight and armor technology as well as in firearms –including establishing a Jordanian factory that would produce Kalashnikovs. Jordan is a poor country, so it does not have the resources for more major purchases, Chemezov explained.
This first joint project has been made possible by loans from Russia. According to the terms of the contract, Moscow can then decide whether or not to sell the production to Jordan, but Russia owns no less than 80 % of factory, which corresponds approximately to the proportion of the components provided by Russia. The Jordanians would eventually like to be able to control the entire production process, but experts say that that is a process that will take far longer than one year.
“We are interested in promoting our weapons, and we will look for buyers together. Considering the good relationship that the King has with neighboring countries and other Arab countries, it is easier for him to negotiate, than it is for us,” explained Chemezov.
Selling to Syria
That statement shows the real interest for Russians in opening the factory in Jordan – access to other markets. One of the most promising markets that partnership with Jordan will open is in the Persian Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia. Up till now, a military partnership with Saudi Arabia has proved elusive for Russia. But the Gulf countries are interested in Russian hand grenades, according to Basam Isa, the director of the new factory, who added that the Russian grenades has already been tested out there.
Chemezov couldn’t deny that those “tests” might have been done in Syria, one of Jordan’s neighbors, but he stressed that the Russian weapons would not fall into the hands of terrorists. “Russia is controlling who is the end buyer of our weapons and how they are using the military technology,” he said.
But experts that Kommersant spoke to said that if Russia sells grenades to the Gulf countries, it will probably not be totally able to control their use, and the weapons could very well end up in the hands of Islamic radicals or Arab monarchs – the main suppliers of weapons to the opponents of Bashar Assad.
Russian weapons deals in the Middle East have been causing Moscow a fair amount of grief lately. Although Russia has been a staunch supporter of Bashar al-Assad in Syria – one of his only international allies – Moscow was nonetheless uncomfortable with his televised statements that Russian anti-aircraft missile systems were already deployed and ready in Syria, as per a 2010 contract.
That put Russia in a delicate diplomatic situation, and although officials refused to confirm or deny Assad’s statements, one source who wished to remain anonymous said that the six anti-aircraft systems in question will not be delivered until the second quarter of 2014, and that even then it will take another six months to train Syrian personnel to use them.