Having been denied the ability to control guns by the democratically-controlled Senate last Wednesday in the biggest slap to the administration’s face in a long time, Obama decided promptly to put as many guns as he possibly can in the hands of US soldiers and various non-Americans. First, it was the announcement that Obama would send more troops to Jordan to prepare for “stability operations” which is a euphemism for Syrian rebel support (much of it controlled by the otherwise dreaded Al Qaeda), and now we learn that Obama is set to announce the sale of $10 billion worth of weapons to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It appears that Obama, like a true expert of Sun Tzu, is well aware that the only way forward to a Nobel prize winning global peace, is under the barrel of a gun, or on the receiving end of a hot AGM-65 Maverick missile.
Bloomberg reports that the arms sold to Israel also will include an unspecified number of V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft, air defense radar and KC-135 refueling tankers; the U.A.E. will probably buy 26 F-16 jet fighters, and the Persian Gulf nation as well as Saudi Arabia will each buy precision missiles, said the official who provided details on condition of not being named before the deal is announced.
The missiles being discussed include an unspecified number of the U.S. Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile, a new weapon being bought by the U.S. Navy, the official said. The missile, made by Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK), is capable of attacking ground radar used by countries fielding sophisticated integrated air defenses, such as Syria and Iran.
If the transaction goes through, it will be the first foreign sale of the V-22 tilt-rotor made by Boeing Co. (BA) and Textron Inc. (TXT)’s Bell Helicopter unit. The U.A.E. already ordered 80 F-16s made by Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) in the late 1990s, and Saudi Arabia operates a fleet of Boeing-made F-15 jets.
The move to beef up the capabilities of allies in the Middle East began with President Barack Obama asking then- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to examine ways to boost Israel’s military edge in light of potential threats in the region, three U.S. defense officials told reporters today at a briefing. The U.S. suspects Iran of developing nuclear weapons and is concerned the Syrian regime led by Bashar al-Assad may use chemical weapons.
Following Obama’s direction, Panetta held a series of meetings with then-Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on weapons the country would need, the three officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss negotiations between countries. Bilateral discussions with Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. were held over the last nine months, according to the officials.
Plans for the arms package to Middle East allies comes as Hagel prepares his first trip to the region since taking his Cabinet post in February. The weapons sales will be a centerpiece of the visit, the U.S. official said.
Why the need to escalate the already heavily-armed Middle East and to paint America once more as the global supplier of precision-guided death to any corner in the world? Why the “immediate danger” that is Iran and Syria of course.
At a broader level, Hagel’s visit to Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. will probably focus on regional threats from Iran and Syria, said Aaron David Miller, a Middle East specialist at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.
In Israel, Hagel “has to make clear on the psychological and emotional side that he gets it that they’re in a very dangerous and uncertain neighborhood,” Miller said in a telephone interview before details of the arms sales were known.
To that end, the announcement of an additional arms deal with Israel will probably be a highlight of Hagel’s meetings with his counterpart Moshe Ya’alon, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
For Israel having the most modern military in the middle East is not enough. It needs to modernize it once more, courtesy of the US.
The deal also underscores Obama’s comments last month in Israel that the Jewish state must have the capacity to defend itself against potential threats from Iran and from Syria.
The Obama administration also has funded Israel’s Iron Dome system, designed to shoot down short-range rockets. In its 2014 budget request the Pentagon sought $220 million to buy additional batteries of the missile defense system for Israel. If approved by Congress, that spending will be on top of the $486 million the U.S. has added for the system in recent years.
And, as the movie The International laid out all too clearly, if Israel can’t fund the billions it needs to purchase more “deterrent” armaments, then HSBC (or Goldman, or JPM, or [insert bank name here]) will be delighted to provide any and all loans the country may need.
Which is not to say that Russia will be far behind providing Syria and Iran with all the MiG and AK-47s they may need in this time of crisis…. with loans provided once more by HSBC (or Goldman, or JPM, or [insert bank name here]) of course.