Massive Arms Deals Sweep The Middle East
With Syria embroiled in its self-made carnage, the US continues pursuing a broad agenda throughout the Gulf. Its ultimate goal is using the pretext of an illegal clandestine nuclear weapons program to curb Iran’s ascent as a regional power.
This effort traces its origins to the latter half of the second Bush presidency and Obama’s first term. It continues to this day, flickering on and off in the never ending news cycle.
It recently crescendoed amid the noise over alleged chemical weapons use in Syria, where a grinding proxy war is underway.
Last month, the cold war with Iran became much less subtle as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel embarked on a six-day lightning tour of the Middle East. His purpose was simple: to formalize a series of new arms sales/transfers worth $10 billion.
This massive disbursement of offensive weapons and technical assistance for Israel and three Gulf countries is in addition to previous deals. As far back as 2010, for example, Saudi Arabia spent $29.5 billion for an armada of F-15s and helicopters. It was the biggest formal arms deal of all time.
The following year it paid billions more for 200 Leopard 2A7 tanks to augment its ground forces.
In the new agreements finalized last month, Saudi Arabia is expected to have its F-15E Strike Eagle fleet overhauled and upgraded to the F-15SA Strike Eagle, a specialized aircraft tailored by Boeing for its Saudi client.
Saudi Arabia isn’t the only recipient of lethal good will.
The Best of the Rest
Secretary Hagel’s odyssey began in April 19, a day before he was expected in Tel Aviv on the first stop of his tour. In April 19 the Pentagon announced that the US is providing $10 billion worth of arms, munitions, and various subsystems to its Middle Eastern allies.
The next day Hagel arrived in Israel where he would spend the ensuing weekend on official business. The eventual meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proved the last segment of his itinerary. Hagel’s visit green lighted transfers for KC-135 aerial refueling tankers, “a to-be-determined number” of V-22 Ospreys, anti radiation missiles, and new radars for fighter aircraft.
This package is the latest display of excessive generosity to Israel, whose armed forces received $3 billion in aid this year. Even the Iron Dome anti-rocket system is subsidized by the Pentagon. The Israeli Air Force is also in the short list for the F-35 in the near future.
On Monday, April 22, Hagel arrived in Riyadh Air Base where he was received by the newly minted head of the Saudi armed forces Prince Khaled bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud. The result of their day long tete-a-tete was to formalize the overhaul of Saudi Arabia’s F-15 fleet.
Hagel’s next stop was in Jordan where he coordinated with General Masha al Zaben and King Hussein’s brother Faisal. While official press release did not disclose the substance of their talks, Jordan is currently being used as a staging ground for US-trained Syrian rebels.
After Jordan came Egypt, whose military remains a bulwark against the ruling Muslim Brotherhood. As a major recipient of US military aid, Egypt had the courtesy of Hagel laying a wreath on a war memorial along the Nile.
Hagel’s last appearance was in the UAE on Thursday, April 25. It was in Abu Dhabi where he finalized a $5 billion deal for 26 F-16 Block 60’s and their precision stand off munitions.
Hagel no longer bothered mincing his words to explain the widespread sale of offensive weapons to Israel and the Gulf. It’s a clear signal to Iran.
“I don’t think there’s any question that that’s another very clear signal to Iran,” he told Reuters before disembarking from his plane in Israel.
Yet there’s a broader context behind this loosely defined grand alliance. As a result of the shifting balance of power between Arab states and Iran, the Middle East is now the hottest corner of the global arms market.
While Hagel was gearing up for his trip, for example, Qatar followed Saudi Arabia’s lead by placing orders for 62 Leopard 2 MBTs and 24 PZH 2000 self propelled guns worth $2.5 billion.
Troubled Iraq, on the other hand, is expecting 18 F-16 Block 52’s to augment its new air force, which already ordered 18 F-16s in 2011. Meanwhile, its army is getting a hundred more M1 Abrams tanks, a welcome addition to its existing Abrams fleet, brand new Eastern European T-72s plus US-made Humvees and AIFVs. Recent deals with Russia mean Iraq is a future operator of 40 Mi-28 gunships and the vaunted Pantsir air defense system.
Meanwhile, ascendant Turkey is moving ahead with its own substantial domestic production of MBTs, attack helicopters, and a fledgling ballistic missile program.