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Bush Pushing Major Mideast Arms Buildup

Bush’s Offer of Hi-Tech Weaponry For Saudis Has Israel is Up in Arms


By Richard Walker

As if the Middle East was not already armed to the teeth, President Bush on his recent trip to the region agreed to provide additional military aid to Israel and to Arab nations friendly to the U.S.

He even offered the Saudis a gift of U.S. smart bombs and told them they were free to buy $20 billion worth of weapons from U.S. arms manufacturers.

The pretext for the president’s generosity, which also included economic aid, was that he wanted to counter Iranian influence. The president first dispensed largesse in Israel where he guaranteed the government there that any weapons he gave its Arab neighbors would not be as technologically advanced as the ones Israel would get.

Israel is the biggest recipient of U.S. foreign aid and receives billions of dollars annually, some of it earmarked for military spending. Unlike other countries that receive money for weapons, Israel is not expected to spend it with U.S. weapons manufacturers. It uses the money to boost its own large arms industry, which frequently competes with U.S. companies in the global arms market.

In addition to money, the Israeli military regularly gets military hardware, bombs and missiles from the U.S. Israel also borrows heavily from the U.S. and, though it claims that it has never defaulted on those debts, Congress has often written off Israel’s debts.

In recent years, Tel Aviv has managed to extract even more money from Washington by complaining that the U.S. has been much too generous to its Arab neighbors, citing Egypt as an example. Egypt gets billions of dollars annually in military and economic aid in return for not opposing the U.S. occupation of Iraq and refusing to side with Iran.

Egypt also refrains from being overly critical of Israel. Economic aid to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars flows yearly into the government coffers in Cairo. In 2007, Egypt and Jordan complained to Washington that Israel was getting four times the combined aid given to six Arab nations in the region. The administration responded by promising the Arabs $20 billion in order to offset the image of Israel being America’s spoiled “child” in the Middle East.

Israel learned of the move and angrily demanded an increase in its financial aid package. Washington responded by promising to increase the Israel aid package to $30 billion.

During his trip, President Bush trumpeted the spread of democracy in the Gulf though there was little evidence of it in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar. In each of those places, he linked his generosity with his professed strategy that economic aid and guns were essential weapons in his plan to deter Iranian aggression. Some observers remarked that what he was really doing was arming countries that were already bristling with weapons, particularly Israel with its nuclear arsenal and Saudi Arabia, which has been spending a large percentage of its oil wealth on military hardware.

In a move that displeased the Israelis, the president offered the Saudis a gift of $123 million in smart bombs, an offer the Saudis did not turn down. He also promised there would be U.S.-funded upgrades to their navy, air force and early warning detections systems.

At the same time, he sealed the $20 billion arms deal with them. However, he made no mention of the fact that Washington had known for some time that the Saudis were shopping for weapons on the international market and if the Bush White House had not agreed to the deal, American arms manufacturers would have lost out to Russian, French or British competitors.

There was also no reaction from the White House to rumors that Israel had expressed serious concerns about the gift of smart weapons. One report claimed that Israel demanded and got an assurance from the president that when the weapons were handed over to the Saudi military, they would not be positioned within range of Israel’s territory. Israel has never been happy about the U.S. supplying any of its Arab neighbors with advanced military hardware but Washington has ignored Israeli objections when they have related to Saudi Arabia.

The Pentagon had always taken the view that it is vital to ensure that the Saudis, who are sitting on top of the world’s biggest oil reserves, have more than adequate means to defend their territory from a possible attack by Iran.

Some Democrats in Congress, among them Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), were puzzled by the president’s gift to the Saudis. Weiner warned that Congress might revisit the issue because the Saudis have not cooperated fully in the war on terror and the majority of 9-11 suicide bombers were Saudis. He neglected to mention that, since the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the Pentagon has been secretly pressuring the Saudis to stop funding Sunni insurgents, given that many of them have been involved in attacks on U.S. troops.

Weiner made no reference to a promise to Israel of a 25% increase in military aid for the next decade to give it an added military advantage in the region.

Richard Walker is the nom de plume of a former mainstream news producer who now writes for AFP so he can expose the kinds of subjects that he was forbidden to cover in the controlled press.

(Issue #5, February 4, 2008)

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