US fueling arms race in Mideast by lifting bans on arms sale to Arab states
The United States is planning to lift restrictions on the sale of advanced arms to its Arab allies in the Middle East since they have come in alliance with Israel against Iran, according to a new report.
“The United States has long put restrictions on the types of weapons that American defense firms can sell to Arab nations, meant to ensure that Israel keeps a military advantage against its traditional adversaries in the region,” The New York Times said in a report.
“But because Israel and the Arab states are now in a de facto alliance against Iran, the Obama administration has been far more willing to allow the sale of advanced weapons in the Persian Gulf, with few public objections from Israel,” the report pointed out.
Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said Israel’s strategic calculation is a simple one.
He said the Arab countries “do not represent a meaningful threat” to Tel Aviv, but “they do represent a meaningful counterbalance to Iran.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R), EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and US Secretary of State John Kerry after Iran talks finished on April 2, 2015 in Lausanne.
The report comes while the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany reached a framework nuclear agreement with Iran over the country’s nuclear program in the Swiss city of Lausanne on April 2. The two sides are expected to start drafting a final deal which they seek to sign by the end of June.
If a final deal is reached, it would lift all international sanctions imposed against the Islamic Republic in exchange for certain steps Tehran will take with regard to its nuclear program.
The framework agreement, however, prompted outrage among Right-wing elements in US Republican Party along with Israel and some of their allies who accuse Iran of pursuing military objectives in its civilian nuclear program.
Iran rejects the allegation, arguing that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
The Times reported “the determination” of the Arab nations “to battle Shia Iran for regional supremacy” will lead to a surge in new orders for the United States’ most high-tech hardware.
American intelligence agencies said the proxy wars in the Middle East could last for years and that will make the Arab governments more eager to purchase weapons such as the F-35 fighter jet, according to the report.
“F-35 fighter jet has not yet been peddled to Arab allies because of concerns about preserving Israel’s military edge,” the Times said.
It pointed out that a decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to sell S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Iran could increase demand for the warplane.
Military officials told Congress last week that they were expecting within days a request from Arab allies, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt to buy thousands of American-made missiles, bombs and other weapons.
The report said, “Boeing opened an office in Doha, Qatar, in 2011, and Lockheed Martin set up an office there this year.”
The Times also noted that Washington is getting closer to the approval of a final deal over providing the Emirates with unmanned Predator drones.
“If the sale goes through, it will be the first time that the drones will go to an American ally outside of NATO,” said the report.
Earlier this month, Obama announced that he would meet with the leaders of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain, at his Camp David retreat outside Washington this spring.
The president said he wanted to discuss with the Arab allies how to build more effective defense capabilities.