Bush aims to counter Iran's growing influence by arming its neighbours, despite Israeli concerns
The Bush administration is expected to announce a massive series of arms deals in the Middle East tomorrow that are being seen as part of a diplomatic offensive against the growing influence of Iran in the volatile region.
The centrepiece of the deals is an agreement between the US and a group of Persian Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia, that could eventually be worth at least $20bn, according to news reports. At the same time, 10-year military aid packages will be renewed with Israel and Egypt.
The main thrust of the deal is the supply of advanced American weapons to long-term Arab allies in the Gulf. They include Saudi and five other Gulf states: the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. All those countries have been jittery over the growing power of Iran and the possibility that Tehran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb. The supply of American arms to the countries not only gives them greater military power to counter Iran's but also cements them further as American allies.
In fact, so great is the White House's fear over Iran's intentions that the deal appears to ride roughshod over other American strategic concerns - such as Israeli fears over arming Arab countries and concern that Saudi Arabia has been supporting Sunni militants in Iraq. A senior Pentagon official said the deals were being made 'to deal with what has been a changing strategic threat from Iran and other forces'.
The deal will focus on improvements to the countries' air and missile defence systems. It will also upgrade their navies and air forces, giving them a greater strike capability. However, the weapons being sold are mostly defensive and will not boost the countries' offensive military capabilities. Some of the sales will also cover technology that can turn standard bombs into so-called 'precision-guided' bombs of the type that have become common with US forces.
The deal is the culmination of months of diplomacy. Details will be announced ahead of trips this week to the Middle East by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defence Secretary Robert Gates. Exact figures and types of weapons involved have not been finalised.
The deal raises various strategic questions for America. The first is how to placate traditional allies Israel and Egypt, both of which have their own concerns about arming Gulf states. The salve to those concerns appears to be to give them fresh military aid packages of their own. Israel, according to the New York Times, is going to get a $30.5bn package over the next 10 years. That figure is much higher than had originally been planned. Egypt too will get a new 10-year deal, worth an estimated $13bn.
However, the huge flood of arms into the region is likely to cause serious concerns that Washington is supporting an arms race by sending hi-tech weapons to the rivals of Iran. Such a move will likely undermine diplomatic efforts in the region and spur Tehran even further in its quest for greater military power and the development of its nuclear programme. At the same time, others will criticise the White House for sending weapons to a region whose governments could easily collapse and thus leave American hardware in the hands of Islamic militants.
The flow of arms to Saudi Arabia is of particular concern. Not only are some Saudi factions suspected of being supporters of Sunni insurgents in neighbouring Iraq, there is also a fear that the Saudi royal family could one day fall prey to an Islamist revolution.
If that happens, the new weapons could end up being used by radicals against Western interests. Israeli officials and their supporters in Washington are reportedly lobbying against the Gulf deal but they have been overruled by an administration that has made countering Iranian interests its highest priority.
Bagelblogger: I can't even begin to understand the stupidity behind this decision... Lets face it the Saudi's have done a pretty good job at being an enemy of the US, why the hell would you give billions dollars in Arms to these lunatics?
If the Saudi's are representative of moderation in the Middle East then, we're all in trouble. Saudi Arabia has two main exports Oil and Terrorism, have we forgotten how many terrorists have originated from Saudi Arabia?
The Saudi's record on Human rights is appalling, why would the US decide to send billions of dollars of arms into the Middle East, is that not the equivalent of throwing more petrol on the fire?
Have we seen any progress of reform with regards Human rights?
Less than two months after the Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan billion dollar bribery fiasco, we see this? Unbelievable...
Guardian: America plans $20bn arms deal for allies in the Gulf.
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Sunday, 29 July 2007
Posted by Mr Bagel at Sunday, July 29, 2007