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14 September 2010


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Bill Wayne

I was checking online for some military surplus at http://bestmilitarysurplus.com when I stumbled on this post. I could say that these two countries are really spending much of their budget for military weapons. They should have just given it to millions of people who are dying of hunger.


Saudi arms sale has to be seen in three interrelated contexts, in my view.

1. Gates is way out in front of the Simpson-Bowles Commission on austerity cuts. He wants to define how the Defense Department budget is cut back, not rely on a Presidential commission or Congress. He has set three priorities, which I happen to think are sensible. First, scale back contractors. Second, reduce the size of the flag officer corps, starting at the top with the four and three stars (this will involve particular cut backs in European deployments, 20 years after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact). Third, scale back or cancel some big ticket Navy and Air Force systems.
Cuts in the big ticket items means that the defense industry, one of the last remaining bastions of our American industrial base, have to find foreign sales to offset anticipated Pentagon purchasing cuts and delays. Who better than the Saudis?

2. U.S. is now in a pretty intense competition with the Brits on a number of issues that have reached somewhat of a break point. Afghan policy has reached a point where Petraeus has figured out that the Brits were far more comfortable cutting a deal with the Taliban than he and others at the Pentagon and State Department are. When the U.S. took charge of Helmand province, they reversed many of the deals that the Brits had struck with Taliban regional commanders; and the U.S. definitely has a more aggressive policy towards eradication of the poppy. Now, the Brits have enjoyed a significant piece of the Saudi arms trade, dating back to the original Al Yamamah deal in 1985, and Tony Blair's last act as PM was to consolidate another five years of BAE/Saudi big ticket contracts. Clearly the US is trying to cut in more on this action. Higher oil prices mean the Saudis can afford to buy plenty of military hardware that they don't need and can't even deploy.

3. Iran. Israel is sending a signal that they will not object on blanket grounds to the US sales of F-15s and even Apache helicopters to Saudi Arabia, because the Kingdom and Jerusalem share a common enemy: Iran. Israel, in my view, is going as far as it has in the talks with the Palestinian Authority to give the Sunni Arab regimes, particularly in the Persian Gulf, reason to covertly ally with Israel against Iran. Ahmadinejad is smart enough to see this, and his recent statements that Israel, not Iran is the real nuclear weapons danger in the region, is aimed at countering the US efforts to forge an uneasy alliance between the Sunni Arabs (GCC) and Israel against Iran. So far, it is diplomacy, sanctions and other pressure, including the military buildup of Saudi Arabia, to squeeze Iran into making concessions on their nuclear program. Ultimately, if that doesn't work--by mid-2011--it will mean military confrontation.

This is a new situation and the Israelis are aware of the parameters of the new arrangement. Just as Israel was a defacto NATO member during the Cold War, with its arsenal of nuclear weapons, so now, Israel becomes a defacto participant in the Sunni alliance versus Shia Iran. In the past, Israel played Iran and Turkey against the Sunni Arabs. That was both during the Shah and even during the 1980s Iran-Contra affair.

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