$60 billion-worth of arms—the largest such deal in U.S. history—are set to be sold to Saudi Arabia. The Obama
administration appears to be on board with the proposed sale, which may come before
Congress this week. Though the massive sale is attracting little media attention
overall, it is giving pause to individual journalists across the political spectrum.
- Makes the Cold War 'Seem Like a Rotten Appetizer,' writes Antony Adolf colorfully at Change.org, referring to the Saudi arms race with Iran. "The companies that stand to profit most from the deal are Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and General Electric. They claim the arms deal will support up to 75,000 jobs." As Adolf points out, though, "that's just a fraction of the number of people these weapons can potentially kill--in a few hours."
- 'The Sheer Size ... Makes It Worth Critical Reflection,' agrees conservative magazine Commentary's J. E. Dyer on the other side of the blogosphere.
- Succession Could Put Anti-Western Prince in Charge The Saudi king is elderly, note Irfan Al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz at The Weekly Standard. He "could be replaced by his designated successor and half-brother Crown Prince Sultan, who is also in his 80s and ill, and then by Prince Nayef, the most rigid and anti-Western of the heirs to Ibn Sa'ud," and "the first Saudi leader to declare that 9/11 was a Zionist conspiracy." Al-Alawi and Schwartz worry that the weapons, "by the law of unintended consequences," could "end up turned in a more dangerous direction."
- What Are These Arms Actually For? J. E. Dyer
isn't quite buying the line that the sale is about "bolstering
Saudi defenses and security confidence in the face of the threat from
Iran." Other nations with this goal "have been loading up on on
missile-defense systems and air-defense fighters. The proposed Saudi
sale, however, is weighted heavily toward strike aircraft (F-15s
configured for ground attack) and anti-tank attack helicopters." What are these for? Not to defend against Iraq, as they might have been "during
the Saddam Hussein years." Nor would it make sense for the Saudis to be
"contemplating the invasion of Iran, even as a counter to an Iranian
attack. Numbers and terrain are decisively arrayed against that as
well." He thinks, instead, they're "arming as a regional rival to
Iran--not for the defense of its own territory but as the leader of an
Arab coalition, formed to gain ascendancy over Iran as the power broker
in the Levant." So this, then, is why Dyer thinks Congress should look
this deal over carefully:
Western analysts tend to miss the fact that Iran’s moves against Israel constitute a plan to effectively occupy territory that the Arab nations consider theirs to fight for. ... The Saudis' military shopping list doesn’t match their defensive requirements against Iran, but if the strategic driver is a race to Jerusalem, it contains exactly what they need.
Reason for the Sale (and Why No One's Protesting) The sale would have
been "politically untenable several years ago," according to experts
talked to by The Christian Science Monitor's Stephen Kurczy.
Saudi Arabia was too closely linked with terrorism in the American
public consciousness. But now, "arming Saudi Arabia [is] seen as a way
to counter Iran." Meanwhile, "Israeli concerns about the newest deal
have been reportedly calmed by assurances that the jets will lack
long-range weapons systems and be of a lower grade than those sold to
Israel." But the real justification for the sale in the minds of
American policymakers may be this, according to Thomas Lippman of the
Council on Foreign Relations: "to convince the Saudis that we can take
care of their security concerns without them getting nuclear."