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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Arming 'our friends the Saudis'

The Bush administration has proposed a huge new arms package for 'our friends the Saudis' and is trying to offset the outrage by increasing arms sales to Israel. All of this is being sold as a counter to Iran, although it is unclear to me how any of these weapons will help defend against Iranian nuclear weapons. The package will come to $20 billion over ten years:
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.

In talks about the package, the administration has not sought specific assurances from Saudi Arabia that it would be more supportive of the American effort in Iraq as a condition of receiving the arms package, the officials said.

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. Officials from the State Department and the Pentagon agreed to outline the terms of the deal after some details emerged from closed briefings this week on Capitol Hill.

The officials said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who are to make a joint visit to Saudi Arabia next week, still intended to use the trip to press the Saudis to do more to help Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government.

“The role of the Sunni Arab neighbors is to send a positive, affirmative message to moderates in Iraq in government that the neighbors are with you,” a senior State Department official told reporters in a conference call on Friday. More specifically, the official said, the United States wants the gulf states to make clear to Sunnis engaged in violence in Iraq that such actions are “killing your future.”

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.

...

Along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are likely to receive equipment and weaponry from the arms sales under consideration, officials said. In general, the United States is interested in upgrading the countries’ air and missile defense systems, improving their navies and making modest improvements in their air forces, administration officials said, though not all the packages would be the same.
'Our friends the Egyptians' are also going to have their arms package upgraded.
Along with the announcement of formal talks with Persian Gulf allies on the arms package, Ms. Rice is planning to outline the new agreement to provide military aid to Israel, as well as a similar accord with Egypt.

...

In defending the proposed sale to Saudi Arabia and other gulf states, the officials noted that the Saudis and several of the other countries were in talks with suppliers other than the United States. If the packages offered to them by the United States are blocked or come with too many conditions, the officials said, the Persian Gulf countries could turn elsewhere for similar equipment, reducing American influence in the region.
I don't buy that argument. As long as the US is selling arms to Israel, it has plenty of influence in the region. We're the only ones who do anything the US asks anyway.

Either you're with us or against us? Heh....

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