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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Who's afraid of arms sales to the Saudis?

Writing in the Washington Post, William Arkin argues that Israel has nothing to fear from arms sales to the Saudis, but the US might have something to fear.

Hat Tip: Nathan in Teaneck, New Jersey
Israel needn't worry. The Saudi military is even less dangerous than the gang who couldn't shoot straight. After gazillions in arms sales during the heyday of oil, when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia demonstrated that it was nt capable, even with its advanced American-supplied military, of defending its country. When Desert Storm unfolded in 1991, the Saudi military was well shielded behind the American armed forces: Saudi ground forces were given a sector to operate in where they wouldn't get in the way. Through terrorist attacks in the mid-1990s and the rise of terrorism, the Saudi "military" proved unable to protect itself, let alone the country.

And it's not just incompetence when it comes to the Saudi military. The Saudi monarchy has methodically focused its military on pomp and equipment and spiffy uniforms, ensuring that it not acquire any real offensive capacity or the ability to operate as a coherent force. It does not want a competent, independent military contemplating a coup. These toys are really for the battalions of princes to play with.

The sale comes at a time when the United States is expressing open frustration with the Saudi Kingdom. "Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries are not doing all they can to help us in Iraq," U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad said yesterday. "Several of Iraq's neighbors -- not only Syria and Iran but also some friends of the United States -- are pursuing destabilizing policies," Khalilzad acknowledged on CNN, saying he was referring to Saudi Arabia.

Want early warning of what will happen? Despite congressional opposition, Saudi Arabia will get its arms: the money is just too much and the lobbying will just be too intense. Israel will voice its concern but basically accept the deal; it knows fundamentally that there is no Saudi airplane that threatens it. The Saudis will pledge to rein in extremists supporting the insurgency and terror in Iraq, then basicallly do nothing. And Iran will protest (in fact, it already has), to no avail. Tehran, of course, needn't worry either, although American domination of the arms supply will solidify the American empire in the region, at least militarily.

And in the end, the Bush administration will crow about its diplomacy.

What comes with the deal, though, is far more subtle trouble: Saudi Arabia has demonstrated over decades that it has no interest in building up its own high-tech arms capabilities. American contractors will train, maintain and even operate the new Saudi equipment. American military personnel will follow. We will buy nothing in terms of security, and we will just put our own people in danger. But most important, we will once again renew the cycle of American penetration into the heart of Islam, one of Osama bin Laden's original and most compelling rallying points. That's why the Saudi deal is so dangerous.
Are the Saudis really that incompetent? I suppose if you look at them as being an entire country of spoiled princes trying to ensure that they stay in power, it makes sense. Is there anyone in Saudi Arabia who's not a member of the royal family? Are there any ordinary working stiffs? If there are, we never hear about them.


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