Wednesday, August 08, 2007

America Re-Arms The Middle East

Multi-Billion Dollar Arms Deals For Saudis, Israelis, Egyptians, Gulf States

Israel-US-Sunni Alliance Against Iran Becomes Reality

It was announced last week, and then it disappeared from the news. We're talking about the United States grand plan to pour more than $US60 billion into Israel and Sunni Middle East states so they can arm themselves for a future war against Iran.

The idea that the United States and Israel could form a Middle East military alliance with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, UAE and other Gulf states doesn't ring true if you believe the propaganda liberally dosed out by the US State Department. Why would Israel want to form military alliances with Sunni states that refuse to recognise its existence?

Simple. US cash to buy arms, build munitions factories, purchase new troop vehicles, jets, tanks and heavy weaponry.

The United States wants to improve the navies and air forces and upgrade the air and missile defence systems of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates , where appropriate.

This should be viewed as part of the worldwide implementation of the US' missile defence shield.

China and Russia are now tied to Iran through hundreds of billions of dollars in oil and natural gas deals, and plans for thousands of miles of pipelines snaking across East Asia. China and Russia have made it abundantly clear they will defend their "interests" in Iran, and Pakistan and Afghanistan, along with many of the local 'Stans around and between Russia and China's borders may eventually fall under a joint Russia-China military/security umbrella.

US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, kicked off the new Israel-Sunni alliance with a reasonably low key visit to America's Arab allies. While they have a massively vested interest in holding onto Iraq, and deposing the Iran-allied Maliki government, they are now looking at using the influence and pressure of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, primarily, to help stabilise Iraq :

"As security permits we hope more states would undertake more diplomatic missions to Iraq," Rice told journalists on her way to the Red Sea resort ofSharm el-Sheikh, appealing also for further Iraq debt forgiveness.

Arab diplomatic missions in Baghdad have scaled back their representation following a campaign of attacks and kidnappings.

The US officials' arrival was preceded by Washington's announcement on Monday of a multi-billion-dollar military aid bonanza for so-called moderate Arab states whose foreign ministers the US duo is due to meet.

"We will have a chance to talk about what initiatives we might undertake with our friends and allies in the security and political areas," Rice said. "We are very concerned to be able to provide for the security of our long-standing allies in the region."

The United States revealed new military pacts worth 20 billion dollars (14.6 billion euros) for Saudi Arabia, 13 billion dollars for Egypt and 30 billion for Israel in a bid to counter Iran.

"I think if there is a destabilisation of the region, that can be laid at the feet of an Iranian regime that is engaging in the kind of activities that I just outlined," she said.

Earlier, she accused Iran of fuelling terrorism in Lebanon; backing and providing technologies to Shiite militias in Iraq; aidingHamas in the Palestinian territories; and harbouring ambitions of acquiring nuclear weapons.

Reports have cited arms deals with the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said: "The United States has always had a special policy of spreading fear in the region and tarnishing existing good relations" between countries in the Middle East."

From :
"To support our continued diplomatic engagement in the region, we are forging new assistance agreements with the Gulf states, Israel, and Egypt," Rice said in a statement.

The move will "help bolster forces of moderation and support a broader strategy to counter the negative influences of Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran," she said.

Rice said before leaving that the United States had agreed a new 10-year, US$13 billion pact to bolster Egypt's capacity to address shared strategic goals.

A new US$30 billion pact with Israel over 10 years, will soon be concluded, which hikes the value of US military assistance to the Jewish state by US$600 million-a-year on average.

More on what the Saudis are likely to get from the arms deals from the New York Times :

The proposed package of advanced weaponry for Saudi Arabia, which includes advanced satellite-guided bombs, upgrades to its fighters and new naval vessels, has made Israel and some of its supporters in Congress nervous. Senior officials who described the package on Friday said they believed that the administration had resolved those concerns, in part by promising Israel $30.4 billion in military aid over the next decade, a significant increase over what Israel has received in the past 10 years.

But administration officials remained concerned that the size of the package and the advanced weaponry it contains, as well as broader concerns about Saudi Arabia’s role in Iraq, could prompt Saudi critics in Congress to oppose the package when Congress is formally notified about the deal this fall.

The officials said the plan to bolster the militaries of Persian Gulf countries is part of an American strategy to contain the growing power of Iran in the region and to demonstrate that, no matter what happens in Iraq, Washington remains committed to its longtime Arab allies.

In addition to promising an increase in American military aid to Israel, the Pentagon is seeking to ease Israel’s concerns over the proposed weapons sales to Saudi Arabia by asking the Saudis to accept restrictions on the range, size and location of the satellite-guided bombs, including a commitment not to store the weapons at air bases close to Israeli territory, the officials said.

Worried about the impression that the United States was starting an arms race in the region, State and Defense Department officials stressed that the arms deal was being proposed largely in response to improvements in Iran’s military capabilities and to counter the threat posed by its nuclear program, which the Bush administration contends is aimed at building nuclear weapons.

And more detail on what the Saudis hope to get from the United States can be found in this story from the Washington Post :

U.S. officials said the arms sales to Saudi Arabia are expected to include air-to-air missiles as well as Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which turn standard bombs into "smart" precision-guided bombs. Most, but not all, of the arms sales to the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries -- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman -- will be defensive, the officials said.

"This is a big development, because it's part of a larger regional strategy and the maintenance of a strong U.S. presence in the region. We're paying attention to the needs of our allies and what everyone in the region believes is a flexing of muscles by a more aggressive Iran. One way to deal with that is to make our allies and friends strong," said a senior administration official involved in the negotiations.

If the Saudis, and other oil-rich Arab states don't get their arms from the United States and Israel, they will get them elsewhere, probably Russia and China, and this will lead to a "loss of influence" for the United States in the region.

The Israel deal also confirms what the United States tried to deny during the war between Lebanon and Israel in 2006 : that the US had given tacit approval to Israel to go in hard against Hezbollah, and to destroy infrastructure in Southern Lebanon, with a plan already then in place to eventually re-supply Israel for its equipment losses during the war.

Sunni regimes across the Gulf region have been growing more and more nervous as Iraq's Maliki government increases ties with Iran.

No doubt, many of the Sunni states see an unofficial military alliance with the US and Israel as being the lesser of two evils.

But through all of this news, one simple fact must not be overlooked :

There is currently no threat of a war between the superpowers, or a wider war across the Middle East, and yet tens of billions of dollars will be spent on weapons in this new arms race. An exact mirror the kind of military build-up that occurred across the world during the 1930s, in the build-up to World War 2.

There is unlikely to be any provisions from the United States placed on Arab states like Egypt to implement full democratic elections, and human rights, and commitments to not torture or crush dissent, in order to receive the stream of new military funding.

Should the alliance between Iran and Iraq solidify, and Iraq increases pressure and demands for the United States to withdraw its forces, we could see the bizarre situation develop where, in a wider regional war, American forces, and Sunni regional allies, could go to war against theShia-dominated Iraq army trained, armed and funded by the United States.