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Sunday, August 15, 2010

The US - Israel - Saudi Arabia axis?

I don't know about the rest of you, but I think Newsweek is reading a bit much into this week's muted Israeli reaction to the sale of F-15's and F-16's to Saudi Arabia.
The United States is preparing to sell 84 advanced F-15s to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Once upon a time, this might have meant upsetting a crucial ally—Israel. But this time, once the Obama administration told Israel that the F-15s destined for Riyadh were not equipped with certain long-range offensive capabilities, Jerusalem relented. The balance of power in the Middle East has changed and may yet change again before long. If Israel and Saudi Arabia aren’t exactly headed toward rapprochement, the old enmities are not what they used to be.
My sense is that's reading a bit much into the Israeli reaction. In a private email to me earlier this week, Mitchell Bard the Executive Director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise wrote,
There will be no opposition to the sale and it would not matter if there was. Israel doesn't bother to object to sales to the Saudis as they can't stop them. The withholding of components is meaningless as we learned when Carter said he wouldn't sell key components of F15s to the Saudis to get that sale through Congress and then Reagan gave them what they wanted and more. One irony is that administrations tell Israel the Saudis are too incompetent to use the weapons but then they tell Congress the Saudis need the arms to defend themselves vs first the Soviets, then Saddam and now Iran. This is also a bipartisan issue as every president sells arms regardless of Saudi actions. It's a way U.S. gets back some of our oil money and keeps the Pentagon and arms makers happy by lowering unit costs and keeping open production lines.
Well, at least Newsweek acknowledges that the planes are just a 'token of friendship' from the US. After all, no one seriously expects the Saudis to defend themselves. But if Israel could stop them, we probably would. You never know into whose hands those planes might fall.

Read the whole thing.

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