The Guardian 8 August, 2007

Huge US arms deal
signals major Middle East war

Rob Gowland

The US response to its disastrous predicament in Iraq has been to conclude a huge arms deal with various US allies in the region in a dangerous move to boost their strategic military power and at the same time to bolster their regimes against rising popular unrest.

Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and five small Persian Gulf states — Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman — will be supplied by the US with a total of US$63 billion in arms, including previously withheld hi-tech armaments such as missile defence systems, early warning radars and equipment for "smart" weapons.

At least US$20 billion in advanced weapons systems will go to the Saudis (and their close neighbours the Gulf states) alone.

In the past, the sale of such hi-tech weaponry has been embargoed to any of the Arab states at the behest of Israel, anxious to maintain its own military superiority in the region.

Israeli debacle

However, since the debacle of Israel’s destructive war last year against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon which failed either to defeat the Shiite militia or demonstrate Israeli military dominance, the Israeli lobby in the US has lost some of its previous clout.

With growing recognition on the part of Republican leaders, the Bush administration and US military strategists that the war in Iraq is becoming a strategic disaster, the US needs to shore up the strength and even the number of its remaining allies in the region. This is particularly urgent if US global strategic plans of gaining control of the world’s oil — as well as other major resources such as water — are to be brought to fruition.

Invading Iran and seizing its vast oil reserves is central to this strategic aim, and, despite the setbacks that US policy has suffered in Iraq, and despite the difficulties of persuading the Arab states, even the supposedly "friendly" ones, to wholeheartedly back a US-led war against Iran, that remains the central plank in US Middle-East policy.

Iranian "challenge"

In a flying visit to the region, US Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice faithfully talked up the "threat" from Iran and supposed US "concerns" over this. She even told the media that Iran was the "single most important" strategic challenge facing the US in the Middle East.

The curious contradiction inherent in this comment was not lost on US journalists. McClatchy Newspapers commented that "taken literally, Rice’s comments place US worries about Iran ahead of concerns over the war in Iraq".

At the same time Israel, although it has lost some of its clout, still remains the main US ally in the region. Although a no doubt chagrined Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stoutly declared, "We understand the need of the United States to support the Arab moderate states, and there is a need for a united front between the US and us regarding Iran", his government was understandably unhappy.

To obtain this Israeli support for the high-tech weapons sale to the Arab states, the Bush administration had to offer a 25 percent increase in the rate of US military subsidies to Israel and extend the period of the subsidies by ten years. Basically a US$30 billion bribe to buy Israeli support.

For their part, US Arab allies Egypt and Jordan received an additional US$13 billion in weapons and military aid.

Saudi oil despots

For all its new hi-tech weapons, Saudi Arabia — with or without the Gulf States — is a poor excuse for a powerful US ally capable of protecting US oil interests. For over sixty years — ever since successfully edging out the British — the US has protected the Saudi royals and the surrounding lesser oil sheiks in return for guaranteed US access to their petroleum reserves.

However, that arrangement is by no means guaranteed to last. Saudi Arabia is saddled with a grossly corrupt semi-feudal ruling family that survives only by terror and bribery.

Providing the military in these unstable monarchies with a huge volume of advanced weapons does not resolve the problems confronting them. It may even induce some of those military leaders to try their hand at overthrowing their feudal rulers, in which case the latter could well be replaced by regimes less willing to toe the US line.

Given the importance of control over Middle East oil to global US strategy, it is naďve and unsophisticated to think that the level of insurgency and the difficulties the US is experiencing in Iraq will cause it to pack up and go home any time soon.

Instability and civil war in Iraq is an Anglo-American objective

In fact, numerous Arab commentators in particular, but others as well, have remarked on the devious combined destabilisation efforts of Anglo-US, Israeli and Saudi intelligence services and special forces operating in Iraq.

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya wrote in the July 12 Global Research that "Day-by-day it is becoming more and more evident that the Anglo-American alliance, with the assistance of Saudi Arabia and Israel, has been orchestrating ethnic, sectarian, and religious conflict in Iraq.

"It has universally been proclaimed as such by Kurd, Arab, Assyrian, and Turcoman alike in Iraq. Christians, Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Yazdis, and Mandaeans in Iraq are all under attack by secretive units, including the Coalition-controlled forces of the Interior Ministry of Iraq.

"It is evident that stability is unwanted in Iraq. This has been the objective all along in Iraq. Only the stability of oil infrastructure matters to the Anglo-American alliance. Instability allows the US and Britain to craft their excuses for their long-term deployments in Iraq and to plunder Iraqi energy resources.

A deliberate state of chaos

"For the most part, the truth of the matter is that the US and Britain are deliberately fashioning a state of chaos in Iraq and turning brother and sister against brother and sister. Part of the Anglo-American objective is to divide Iraq and to arm Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims against one another and to disrupt all social order.

"The US and Britain have also desperately tried to portray Sunni Muslim groups as being behind the murder of leaders within the Sadrist Movement in Iraq. This is rejected by the Sadrists, who are Shiite Muslims. They know the strategy the US and Britain are playing by trying to blame Shiite Muslims for the murders of Sunni Muslims and by blaming Sunni Muslims for the death of Shiite Muslims."

The stakes are too high for the US to pull out just yet. Control must first be established over Iran’s huge oil reserves or US strategy will have failed.

Exit strategy

In the meantime, US officials tantalise their critics and even their allies with conflicting hints as to a possible timetable for "withdrawal" from Iraq. During his flying visit to Egypt, US Secretary of Defense Gates actually hinted at a gradual exit strategy.

"There clearly is concern on the part of the Egyptians, and I think it probably represents concern elsewhere in the region, that the United States will somehow withdraw precipitously from Iraq, or in some way that is destabilising to the entire region", Gates told reporters after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Gates reassured his listeners that the Bush administration would proceed with the "understanding that this needs to be done carefully and not leave Iraq in chaos". This remark astonished some observers, who saw it as an admission that the US was facing defeat in Iraq.

But that was not his meaning. The US has long had an exit strategy for Iraq: the restoration of a Ba’athist regime but without Saddam Hussein’s supporters.

Ba’athists without Saddam

What Gates was doing was reassuring the repressive regimes that the US props up in the region that the US would not quit the region in haste, leaving them to face the mounting wrath of their people alone.

The US, he was saying, would continue to support their regimes, regardless of the "democratic wishes" of their people. For, despite what US leaders are fond of saying, the important issue for the White House is not democracy but oil and global domination.

And, to only a slightly lesser extent, maintaining and increasing the profits of the USA’s military-industrial complex. As Iran’s Defence Minister, Brigadier General Mostaffa Mohammad Najjar, said referring to US accusations about Iran’s supposed weapons build-up, the US government was "trying to create a false arms race in order to keep their weapons factories up and running".

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