Why now?

Arms sales and military training in the Middle East have been increasing since the end of the US invasion of Iraq. The United States has delivered more weapons to this region than any other country in the world. Bush administration announced in 2007, unprecedented weapons deals worth at least $20 billion to Saudi Arabia and five other oil-rich Persian Gulf states, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

The arms deals, which include the sales of a variety of sophisticated weaponry, would be the largest negotiated by this administration. Furthermore, the military assistance agreements would provide $30 billion in new U.S. aid to Israel and $13 billion to Egypt over 10 years.

To ensure that the weapons for Arab neighbours would not pose a threat to Israel or weaken Israel’s qualitative regional military advantage, the US predicted a balance of a 25 percent rise in US military and defence aid to Israel to assure Israel’s concerns. Package to preserve Israel’s military superiority, or "qualitative edge" over its Arab neighbours, shows that Washington will increase its aid to Israel. Furthermore, Israel keeps the advantage of US engaging in joint military exercises, weapon research and development programmes, and exchanges of military scientists and engineers with the United States.

What the Bush administration wants from their Arab allies, in exchange for these deals, is to form political front against the IRI, not military front against Israel–like the anti-Soviet strategy consensus during the Cold War among US allied Arab states and Israel. Although, such a front has a high price for Arab nations, does not seem to bother the IRI at all.

No wonder that IRI’s seniors are not let down with the US arms sales, they even pretend to be glad to have US weapons but without troops in the region. For them, any weapons could be sooner or later pointed at “enemy of Islam”. They expressed their satisfaction through their state media, “One must consider the sale of American weapons to the Arab countries as a good omen, a divine gift offered to the Muslim fundamentalists by their enemies”, wrote Hossein Shariatmadari, a high-ranking intelligence officer appointed by the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran as Chief Editor of the radical daily Kayhan.

The militarization of the Middle East is a “God-given” argument for the IRI to focus on a more aggressive search for technologically advanced weaponry beyond their traditional sources of China and Russia, and could further invigorate IRI’s aspirations of reaching a nuclear arsenal.

What concerns Israel, while several lawmakers close to the Israel lobby attempted to block the arms sales to Saudi Arabia, or at least condition it on a number of changes in Saudi policy, Israeli government signalled its approval.

Indeed, the forged new political front seems to be against no particular state in the region. Despite the tensions between the IRI and the Persian Gulf states, none of these US client states is to join eventual US military strikes against the IRI. The Gulf Cooperation composed of Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are traditionally pro-US regimes, housing US military bases, linked to the largest US oil and financial houses and the biggest purchasers of military goods from the US military-industrial complex. However, they repeatedly called for the US to engage Iran diplomatically and not militarily or with economic sanctions.

The only beneficiaries of this militarization are both the corrupt Shiite Mullahs and Sunnite Sheiks, who find a pretext of “foreign enemy” to further curb their own people, and the US arms fabricators, close to Bush and Cheney, who will be pocketing colossal benefits at sale of weaponry to such states. The only state in the region which may use arms against other population is Israel.

The Bush administration has found a way to massively fill in both Israeli and Arab arsenals with destructive arms. It’s the same kind of logic as trying to put out a fire by pouring oil onto it. This provokes a new military race in a region which is already full of tension. The lucrative sales of the US military industry further weaken democratic movements, support military repressions, escalate arms races, exacerbate ongoing conflicts, be used to commit human rights abuses or support human rights abusers, and cause arms build-ups of the IRI.

IRI’s nuclear programmes and its support for terrorism provide the pretexts for the US to militarise the region. The 10-year business of weapons explains a pure lucrative goal rather than an immediate US aim of a new war in the region. The business can however be a demonstrative support for US Arab partners.

What concerns the previous rhetoric of democracy in the region, Bush administration has been considerably quiet for a long time about it, which used to be its miracle weapon against the malaise of an Islamic Arab world in which militant Islamism is fermenting. Now, delivery of weapons contradicts any “democracy” in the region.

Bush administration prefers to recognise that the term “democracy” is not an attractive word for the house of Saudi Wahhabi or the rich Sheiks of the Persian Gulf states. In this region, both allies and enemies of the US are doing nothing to promote democracy. The enemy of the US is the IRI, a brutal state which does not mind killing millions of people for its own survival. Among the Persian Gulf states, the biggest friend of the US is the house of Wahhabi, a corrupt house with a notorious reputation. Sunnite Islamic extremism and terrorism simply cannot be explained or understood without looking at the history and influence of Wahhabi Islam in the region.

One question posed by peace loving people and by concerned citizens is, why now? Why is a lame duck President seeking to gain more militarization in the region?

One answer may be the fact that after having toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Bush administration is now trying to control the rest of “moderate” Islamic world in the region. Their militarization does not necessarily mean a threat of military strikes on the IRI. US hegemony in the region is only possible when Bush can maintain links with the “moderate” allies by keeping the status quo with the IRI. It is to keep the IRI in perpetual check. Therefore for the Bush administration, the deals have, beside lucrative reasons, several geopolitical consequences:

– It increases Israel’s security — since Israel is in peace with Egypt and not in conflict with Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf countries, it is the biggest beneficial of the deals.

– It establishes long military race between oil Arab countries from one side and the IRI from the other side.

– It reinforces US hegemony by reducing the influence of the concurrent powers of China, Russia, and the EU in the region. In this perspective, Bush plans to coerce the “moderate” Arab countries to align themselves with the neo-conservative agenda of the present US hegemony.

Chinese influence in the Middle East has grown in the past decade. With the goal of securing oil and gas to fuel China’s economic growth, the Chinese government has actively cultivated its relations with the oil-rich Middle East, especially Iran and Saudi Arabia. China and Russia have also lucrative weapons deals with Saudi Arabia.

For Bush administration, these above points seem the main priorities. Therefore, its increasing military cooperation with a series of client countries in the region must guarantee both economic and geopolitical interests of the US and its regional base, Israel.

In fact, under the Bush administration, the Middle East is caught in a vicious cycle; it has become more insecure and explosive. While the region needs peace and democratisation, extremism, terrorism and political Islam, have their ground to emerge stronger than before.

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