Good Question: Why Sell Saudi Arabia $20 Billion in Arms Now?

[While we’re on the subject of blowing taxpayer dollars:]

US Army Col (Ret) Daniel Smith asks some very provocative questions in a recent article on Foreign Policy In Focus:

The “headline-grabber” read: “U.S. Plans New Arms Sales to Gulf Allies.”

Nothing startling there. For decades the United States has routinely sold or transferred weapons and ammunition, sent military teams abroad or brought foreign military personnel to the United States for training, and transferred technology that allowed “friendly” governments to produce almost state-of-the-art copies of U.S. weapons.

What was a surprise were two details in the article’s subheading. The main recipient of Uncle Sam’s largesse was Saudi Arabia, and the value of the deal was said to be $20 billion.

Saudi Arabia? Isn’t that the country:

 

     

  • from which came 15 of the 19 men responsible for 9/11?
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  • that opposed the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and whose king, in March 2007, called the invasion an “illegal occupation”?
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  • that told the United States to remove its troops and find some other country for U.S. Central Command’s (CENTCOM) forward command post?
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  • whose border is so poorly monitored that 75% of all foreign fighters crossing into Iraq do so from Saudi territory, far more than from Syria?
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  • whose autocratic government either will not or cannot prevent its youth from going to Iraq – an estimated 40% of all foreigners fighting U.S. troops and Iraqi government forces are Saudi nationals – where they become bomb makers, snipers, and suicide bombers?
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  • that nearly 60 years after the creation of the modern state of Israel still refuses to extend diplomatic recognition to Tel Aviv?

 

It’s hard to argue that they’re anything more than fair-weather friends, and while the Saudis are either barely supporting US actions in the region or are quietly or not so quietly subverting US efforts there, you have to wonder what sort of cerebral ischemic event has led the Bush administration to want to sell them $20 Billions of advanced weapons.  More importantly, Col. Smith asks, why now?

In a word, leverage:

But looking at the Saudi record and Riyadh’s increasing propensity to act in its interests without coordinating with Washington, there is the suggestion that the Bush administration is suddenly wary of its “other” flank in the Persian Gulf – the one occupied by the Saudi-dominated six-member Gulf Cooperation Council. Militarily overcommitted in mid-summer 2007, the White House has only two cards to play: pump up fear of Iran acquiring enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear weapon, or bribe the regional allies.

That’s a mighty big bone to toss to a mighty big dog.  Since there’s much profit to be had, the sale will likely fly through Congress.  The real question is, once the weapons are in the hands of the Saudis, what then?  If recent history is any barometer, we’ll probably see that many of these weapons will wind up in the hands of enemy forces as we are now seeing in Iraq.