US Arms Sales: Source of Instability
Ardeshir Ommani , August 22, 2007
What a sharp contrast between Israel's opposition to the U.S. sale of arms to Saudi Arabia just a few years ago and its current support for the present plans of the U.S. to supply advanced weapons to that country. What a change in policy and what does the change actually reflect?
In a sharp and opportunistic turn around, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel said on Sunday, July 29, 2007, his country "understands" Washington 's plan to supply state of the art weapons to Riyadh . Could this change of attitude, if not color, be the result of the U.S. arms increase to the Jewish state? The proposed package of arms arsenals comes with a fat sweetener for the U.S. satellite state of Israel : a 25 percent rise in U.S. military gifts, from Congress's annual $2.4 billion at present to $3 billion a year guaranteed for another ten year period. Including civilian aid, Israel will receive $15 million each day for the next ten years. Not a bad deal for a mini-state serving as a military outpost for the U.S. Perhaps this is the mini-payment towards the service, casualties and sometimes deaths of Israeli servicemen and women.
During a weekly cabinet meeting, Olmert said that "we understand the need of the U.S. to support the Arab 'moderate' states" and the "need for a united front between the U.S. and us ( Israel ), regarding Iran ." Just what this 'front' entails is nothing short of fueling a huge militarization of the entire Middle East region. No wonder leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran have repeatedly stated that it is the U.S. which is the destabilizing force in the Persian Gulf area. The U.S. government has decided to dump a total of more than $63 Billion worth of advanced weaponry to Israel , Saudi Arabia , Egypt and other Arab Sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf .
Aside from the long-term military and political implications of the arms deal, according to Samer Shehata, a Middle East political analyst at Georgetown University , it is a "great business for the U.S. and this is a huge amount of money that benefits American corporations." On the other hand, Anthony Cordsman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based policy analyst group said, "These arms deals are a key mechanism for supporting our interests in the region. The basic element, which is to reassure Israel by providing an assured compensation package, has been taken care of."
The more than $20 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia and five other Persian Gulf states - the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman - is more than double what officials originally estimated this past spring and would be one of the largest arms sales promoted by the Bush White House.
The deal with Saudi Arabia is expected to include air-to-air missiles as well as Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), which turn regular bombs into precision (laser guided) bombs. As we are all aware, these so-called precision bombs are as destructive and indiscriminate as their former dumb bombs dropped on Vietnam , and those that now destroy civilian neighborhoods in Iraq and Afghanistan . These weapons were widely used by the U.S. in its most recent wars, as well. During the 1999 conflict in Yugoslavia , the U.S. dropped more than 650 of them randomly, some of which fell on the Chinese Embassy and residential neighborhoods, killing innocent civilians. In the war launched against Afghanistan in 2002, more than 4500 of these called "smart" bombs were dropped on the people of that country and during the invasion of Iraq in March-April 2003, over 6500 of them carpeted the entire industrial and infrastructure facilities of that country.
We should not forget a bit of history here. The blood had not yet dried up in the streets of Iraq when on March 24, 2003 the Army announced that Dick Cheney's "mop-up" company, Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) the engineering and construction arm of the Halliburton Company, had been awarded five task orders in Iraq potentially worth $7 billion to implement the reconstruction plan. Back in 1995, when the United States joined NATO forces in the Balkans it was again KBR who was deployed to the Balkans. It seems the Bush-Cheney motto should be: Bomb them, destroy them, then get paid to rebuild the country's destroyed infrastructure.
Once again the U.S. , in the name of free market capitalism, democracy, and human rights, is handing over massive guns and missiles to two governments well-known for their "respect" of human rights (especially women's rights) in Palestine and Saudi Arabia . The stunning results of weapon sales and militarization in Kosovo , Yugoslavia , Afghanistan and Iraq speak for themselves.
Not every statesman in the world succumbs to the military plans of the U.S. generals and the White House. Germany 's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a member of the Center-left Social Democrats who rule in coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel, criticized U.S. plans to dump more than $63 Billion worth of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East . Furthermore, he said, only diplomacy would solve the problems engulfing the region. "Military build-up is hardly the best solution to the unstable situation in the Middle East ," Steinmeier told the German daily Handelsblatt on Thursday, July 26. Chancellor Merkel has also been intensely critical of U.S. plans to deploy segments of a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic .
The basic question that the American people must ask the White House and the U.S. Congress is whose security these armaments are expected to ensure? Clearly, the peoples of those countries need better health care, quality education, housing, employment with decent pay, and among other things a retirement pension, rather than missiles and bombs or puppet regimes that use the people's resources to fill the bank accounts of the militarists and corporate interests' who sell this weaponry. It was not too long ago that the U.S. armed the Shah of Iran with $24 Billion worth of the then most sophisticated weapons. Did those weapons stop the Iranian people from overthrowing the tyrannical Shah? Apparently, the U.S. government, just like all aggressive, arrogant and exploitative social systems in history does not have the capacity to learn from its experience. Imperialism cannot conceive of any other way than throwing more arms to the belligerent and mercenary states to suppress their own people.
The fact is that the U.S. militarized socio-economic system last year provided nearly half of the weapons sold to militaries in the developing countries. According to the annual available assessment, prepared by the World Policy Institute's ' Arms Trade Resource Center ', using Pentagon and State Department arms transfer figures, the United States supplied the developing countries with more than $12.6 billion in arms in Fiscal year 2005. According to the Congressional Record Service's "Conventional Weapons Transfers to Developing Nations" report, writes Frida Berrigan on November 16, 2006 in Foreign Policy in Focus, "the United States led in global arms deliveries for the eighth year in a row." The United Kingdom trailed in second with $3.1 Billion and Russia was third, at $2.8 Billion in arms deliveries. Together, says Berrigan, these three weapons exporters were responsible for almost 70% of all arms delivered worldwide in 2005.
As a result of these arms deliveries, we must ask: "Is the world a safer place to live or have they added more fuel to the fires and conflicts around the world?" Perhaps the major objective of the weapons' industry is in fact to destabilize the countries and regions so that in turn they can sell more arms in the future.
About the author: Ardeshir Ommani is a writer and an activist in the anti-war and anti-imperialist struggle for many years, including against the Vietnam War. Ardeshir is a co-founder of the American-Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC) www.progressiveportals.com/aifc , where news of his most recent visit to Iran in March & April 2006 can be read. He helped launch the successful www.StopWarOnIran.org campaign . In the 1960's, he was a co-founder of the Iranian Students Association (ISA), which contributed to the struggle against the Shah of Iran, a U.S. puppet.
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